OBSERVATIONS: Dead on Tools 250 at Martinsville Speedway

By: Ashley McCubbin

It seems when you’re going for a win, everything crosses the mind as they say all drivers should do whatever it takes – or at least that is what the saying tells you. However, is that really what should happen? Probably not.

Ty Gibbs already put himself into the Championship 4 virtue of consistency and points, and he was just chasing after a Grandfather Clock on Saturday afternoon at Martinsville Speedway. He will take home the prize for grabbing the checkered flag, but at what cost?

Racing has always been a contact sport – why do you think we have bumpers? They are meant to be used how they are called, but to a degree with respect for your fellow competitor, crew members, and those around you. There was a lot of contact throughout the Dead on Tools 250, which is expected being you’re on a half-mile short track. However, through those battles, each driver was able to carry forward, and chase a good solid finish, except for Brandon Jones.

Brandon Jones and Gibbs put on a stellar battle for the win through the final 20 laps, taking shots and trading contact back and forth. Three-wide is something you never thought you’d see at Martinsville, but yet we played witness to it on several occasions. Jones’ bump to get to the lead was fair game, in that he opened the door enough to get by and seize the opportunity, but allowed Gibbs to continue.

The trade-off in seeing Gibbs go flat into the corner and dump Jones for the win going into the corner is not what should have happened. A bump and run, allowing Jones to still score a top-five finish for his great racing, would have been fair. Side-by-side through the final lap would have exciting. However, seeing the back end of the No. 19 tore apart and taken out when he had worked hard for that position is not right or fair. Just ask the court of public opinion, which completely booed Gibbs post-race.

Gibbs also puts another target on his back, as well. As we mentioned, he was already ready to chase a championship. However, he will do so with skeletons in the closet courtesy of each driver he has gotten into and upset to date this season. Each of those, and now Jones included, will battle him harder next Saturday at Phoenix Raceway in hopes of not seeing him reach his dream. One of those may put in an end to those hopes with a bump of their own. Just look at Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott in 2017, or Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano for examples.

You would also expect the racing to be more fair with Jones and Gibbs’ both coming out of Joe Gibbs Racing, but Jones is no longer apart of the organization in 2023. It has already been announced he will drive for JR Motorsports, so Gibbs no longer views him as a teammate. However, what about the crew members that work on the No. 19 and prepare that car? Gibbs was now have to walk down the halls of JGR and look at each of them in knowing he gave them more work to do – even at his benefit. Is that something he is willing to accept and face?

These types of questions and discussions happen after each race at a short track it seems, with everyone judging the contact that happens. NASCAR took their own opinion and suspended Bubba Wallace for a week after his retaliation against Kyle Larson at Atlanta Motor Speedway, turning him at 170 mph. While Gibbs may say he did not intend to wreck Jones for the clock, the bumper straight into the No. 19 says otherwise – just like Wallace said his steering was broken but data proved him to be wrong. Should NASCAR rightfully step in and say something about what happened? Or are we becoming too judgmental in doing something? That said, by the sanctioning body not doing something, they are saying anything that happens at Phoenix is fair game in Jones returning the favor – as you cannot allow one without the other.

The flip side is respect between veterans. Justin Allgaier and AJ Allmendinger banged doors all day long, traded bumps throughout the race – but never once wrecked each other purposely. The No. 16 suffered a flat tire, but that was accidental through contact with the exhaust pipes. Allgaier gets to battle for a title, Allmendinger doesn’t, but Allmendinger walked down and shook Allgaier’s hand in a sign of respect.

That’s the way things should be – not completely torn up racecars, and people using the bumper to get their way.

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