OBSERVATIONS: Dead on Tools 250 at Martinsville Speedway

By: Ashley McCubbin

Through being aggressive since entering the sport, Noah Gragson has earned those who fully support him, while others question his behavior.

The best part is he does not shy away from it, or hide behind an excuse. Instead, he lived up the persona with a snow shovel-esque tweet during the week and saying pre-race, “We’re going to be in victory lane. We’re going to do what it takes. No prisoners today.”

Instead of taking the easy way out and following what the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series tried to teach us, Gragson earned a lot of respect and did it the right way so to speak.

He could have started behind Daniel Hemric on a late-race restart, and shoved him out of the way going into corner. However, he chose to start on the outside, put together one of the best, textbook restarts we have seen, and drive around him for the lead. He also could have shoved Austin Cindric up on the last lap, but gave his fellow competitor a lane to battle to the line.

Electing to win the race this way will earn more cheers, followers, and perhaps an opportunity down the road in the NASCAR Cup Series in seeing how he can drive with talent and fairly. It also should welcome respect in battling for the title next week at Phoenix Raceway.

Some may still fault Gragson, though, as there was some contact earlier between himself, Ty Gibbs, and Cindric. However, that was no where near intentional except desperation to get in a hole that maybe wasn’t fully open, and all three tapped each other.

The Dead on Tools 250 was a refreshing take after seeing essentially a demolition derby at times in the Truck Series. But that backs up Justin Allgaier saying pre-race, “I feel the respect level amongst competitors has been really well for us Xfinity competitors.” Respect, a little give and take, and a bit of space goes along way as less repairs, and more battles to be had.

Daniel Hemric will be asking himself a bunch of questions in the days moving forward. As he said, he made the right decision to start behind Gragson on the final restart for his Championship 4 chances. However, what if he started alongside, and made the move work? After all, he had been the quicker car through the run prior. He could have gotten his first career win, and a title bid.

Though seeing Justin Haley turned around backwards with seven to go, you have to say typical Hemric circumstances as it’s a repeat of his season thus far.

Four-wide is never a good idea at Martinsville Speedway, but somehow the driver who elected to stay out got blamed. Spencer Boyd did not take tires, and was holding up the leaders to a degree. So of course, he is getting flack for his decision, but let’s not forget that Riley Herbst and Jeb Burton went for a hole that wasn’t quite even fully open.

People may have brought up it was wrong the choice given the circumstances, but you can’t just expect everybody to lay over for the playoff contenders. As Dale Earnhardt Jr. said, they all have their own reasons for what they’re doing. Sometimes you can take a 30th-place car, hold onto track position without causing a headache, score a 20th-place finish. We’ve seen people do that before and was probably Boyd’s goal. If he knew it’d breakdown otherwise, wouldn’t done it, but you take the chance due to past success.

No doubt his decision hurt other players chance, but your placement in the Championship 4 isn’t based on one event alone. It’s a combination of three races, and your playoff points earned. Other drivers could’ve also changed their destiny by getting a win before tonight to not have to worry about this situation; you make your own luck / season, and that happens by locking yourself in before now.

No matter where you lie, though, a situation like this with Spencer Boyd / playoff drivers bring up questions we’ve seen asked in the Cup Series the past couple weeks. Do playoffs belong in #NASCAR due to other teams still competing & affecting the outcome? And how do you balance racing hard for your goals, versus battling those in the playoffs?

The #NeverGiveUp Award of the night goes to Sam Mayer, who fought back from three laps down after getting brake-checked to a top-five finish. But could we be seeing the next rivalry beginning to brew between Mayer and Gibbs?

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