The NASCAR Xfinity Series‘ Cook Out 250 and WrestleMania 37 have various similarities: they suffered weather delays, they took place over two days, and they featured a lot of brawling.
The Martinsville Speedway race was postponed from Friday night to Sunday after 91 laps due to rain. By the end, short track Josh Berry was celebrating his first career Xfinity win while the short track atmosphere resulted in fisticuffs and flaring among others.
When the race finally resumed after a day and a half on lap 97, it was in the middle of Stage #2 with Brandon Jones leading. At the restart, Ryan Vargas was collected in a stack-up that did not result in a caution and ended his day; his JD Motorsports team-mates would suffer misfortunes of their own throughout the final stage that resulted in all four drivers finishing in the bottom five. Between the green and the next yellow ten laps later for Josh Williams‘ spin, Jones’ Joe Gibbs Racing team-mate Daniel Hemric took the lead.
Jones elected to pit during the Williams-created caution while Hemric stayed out and led the field to the restart on lap 112. Hemric would lead the rest of the segment to take the stage win ahead of Noah Gragson, Jeb Burton, Michael Annett, Jeremy Clements, Tommy Joe Martins, Stefan Parsons, J.J. Yeley, George Gorham Jr., and Berry. Gorham was making his NASCAR début for DGM Racing.
Berry took the lead to begin the final stage. On lap 141, Colby Howard was turned by Kyle Weatherman to bring out the caution. Howard, the second JDM driver to be eliminated from the race, expressed his frustration over the radio and on social media.
“He doored me every lap we were side by side, he cleared me, and we both ended up back on the outside, I gave him a pop. Got around him and he drove me to the wall in 3-4. I popped him harder in 1-2 and he dumps us in 3. I thought he woulda learned don’t give what you can’t take,” Howard said in one tweet. Another added, “There’s a difference between short track racing and intentionally wrecking someone and laughing about it.”
Another caution occurred on lap 154 for Brandon Gdovic‘s spin, followed by a wreck on lap 177 involving Joe Graf Jr. and Blaine Perkins after Graf was clipped by Gray Gaulding.
After Bayley Currey led laps under caution and during the ensuing restart, Berry reassumed the lead on lap 187. Ty Gibbs took the spot on lap 194, leading until the final yellow on lap 206 for Alex Labbé‘s spin. During this stretch, the final two JDM drivers Landon Cassill and Jeffrey Earnhardt retired with mechanical issues.
Gibbs held the top position for the final green flag until lap 222, when Berry moved Gibbs aside to take it. Berry’s JR Motorsports ally Gragson overtook Gibbs for second and attempted to chase him down, but lapped traffic hindered his momentum. With Gragson too far back, Berry drove off to his first career Xfinity victory in his thirteenth start.
Berry, the reigning NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series national champion and winner of the 2019 ValleyStar Credit Union 300 late model race at Martinsville, is the third driver to score his maiden Xfinity win in 2021 after Gibbs and Myatt Snider. Gragson finished second to claim the $100,000 first leg of the Dash 4 Cash.
“I knew this would be a good opportunity to win,” Berry told FS1. “Taylor (Moyer, crew chief) called a perfect race. and the car was good. We just kept tweaking on it. The tyres were pretty wore out there at the end. I was struggling a little bit with wheelhop, kept going back and forth on the brake lever, trying to help it on one end. […]
“This is for all those (late model) guys. There’s a ton of them out there that are like me and have won here and all these great short tracks around here. We can do it, we just need the opportunities. Today, we proved it. Yeah, it’s a short track, but it’s still damn hard to win here and we did it.”
“Been a long time since I cried so hard,” JRM owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. tweeted. “It’s great to see my friend @joshberry live his dream.”
As Berry enjoyed his win, Graf and Gaulding confronted each other in the garage, resulting in both drivers on the ground before being pulled up and separated by crewmen.
Gaulding finished twenty-first while Graf was the lone non-JDM retiree in thirty-eighth due to terminal damage from the wreck. The two share a history together at SS-Green Light Racing with Graf replacing Gaulding in one of the full-time seats in 2020 before being team-mates together for sporadic races that year.
“You have to fight for respect out there,” Graf told SiriusXM. “If you don’t talk to someone, that doesn’t happen. […] There was no understanding. He tried to blame me.”
Gaulding retaliated by saying he’d do it “all over again. He’s a moving chicane. […] When I got there, he was holding up the line, and I had to go. It was getting late.
“I respect (SSGLR owner) Bobby Dotter and those guys. I hate it for those guys, though. After a while, when a guy chops you countless times, you just have to move him out of the way.”
“Jeez, listening to Gray talk @SiriusXMNASCAR he talks like he is Dale Earnhardt,” Graf retorted on Twitter. “Gray is 38th in points and has no top 20 finishes no lead lap finishes. And I am in his way…lol”.
Gorham ended his first NASCAR race in eighteenth, while Matt Jaskol finished twenty-eighth in his.
|1||29||8||Josh Berry||JR Motorsports||Chevrolet||250||Running|
|2||8||9||Noah Gragson||JR Motorsports||Chevrolet||250||Running|
|3||4||18||Daniel Hemric||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||250||Running|
|4||16||54||Ty Gibbs #||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||250||Running|
|5||24||19||Brandon Jones||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||250||Running|
|6||6||22||Austin Cindric||Team Penske||Ford||250||Running|
|7||1||20||Harrison Burton||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||250||Running|
|8||5||11||Justin Haley||Kaulig Racing||Chevrolet||250||Running|
|9||2||7||Justin Allgaier||JR Motorsports||Chevrolet||250||Running|
|10||10||1||Michael Annett||JR Motorsports||Chevrolet||250||Running|
|11||13||10||Jeb Burton||Kaulig Racing||Chevrolet||250||Running|
|12||27||02||Brett Moffitt*||Our Motorsports||Chevrolet||250||Running|
|13||3||16||A.J. Allmendinger||Kaulig Racing||Chevrolet||250||Running|
|14||11||51||Jeremy Clements||Jeremy Clements Racing||Chevrolet||250||Running|
|15||9||2||Myatt Snider||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||250||Running|
|16||15||92||Josh Williams||DGM Racing||Chevrolet||250||Running|
|17||25||26||Brandon Gdovic||Sam Hunt Racing||Toyota||250||Running|
|18||37||90||George Gorham Jr.||DGM Racing||Chevrolet||250||Running|
|19||30||48||Jade Buford||Big Machine Racing||Chevrolet||250||Running|
|20||38||99||Stefan Parsons||B.J. McLeod Motorsports||Toyota||249||Running|
|21||39||52||Gray Gaulding||Jimmy Means Racing||Chevrolet||249||Running|
|22||34||61||David Starr||MBM Motorsports||Toyota||249||Running|
|23||12||39||Ryan Sieg||RSS Racing||Ford||249||Running|
|24||33||17||J.J. Yeley||SS-Green Light Racing||Chevrolet||249||Running|
|25||31||47||Kyle Weatherman||Mike Harmon Racing||Chevrolet||249||Running|
|26||26||74||Bayley Currey||Mike Harmon Racing||Chevrolet||249||Running|
|27||19||68||Brandon Brown||Brandonbilt Motorsports||Chevrolet||248||Running|
|28||40||13||Matt Jaskol||MBM Motorsports||Toyota||248||Running|
|29||7||98||Riley Herbst||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||248||Running|
|30||20||66||Timmy Hill||MBM Motorsports||Toyota||248||Running|
|31||22||36||Alex Labbé||DGM Racing||Chevrolet||248||Running|
|32||21||78||Jesse Little||B.J. McLeod Motorsports||Chevrolet||245||Running|
|33||36||5||Matt Mills||B.J. McLeod Motorsports||Chevrolet||241||Running|
|34||17||44||Tommy Joe Martins||Martins Motorsports||Chevrolet||231||Running|
|35||32||23||Blaine Perkins||Our Motorsports||Chevrolet||226||Running|
|36||18||0||Jeffrey Earnhardt||JD Motorsports||Chevrolet||213||Suspension|
|37||14||4||Landon Cassill||JD Motorsports||Chevrolet||197||Engine|
|38||28||07||Joe Graf Jr.||SS-Green Light Racing||Chevrolet||179||Accident|
|39||23||15||Colby Howard||JD Motorsports||Chevrolet||153||Suspension|
|40||35||6||Ryan Vargas||JD Motorsports||Chevrolet||97||Accident|
* – Ineligible for Xfinity points