NASCUP Series winner Martin Truex Jr. dominated in his first Xfinity Series race in over a decade but his hopes for a win were cut short after a late speeding penalty which gave a chance to Xfinity Series regular Justin Allgaier to win his first race of the season.
This was however not the biggest story of the Saturday’s EchoPark 250 which was held in Atlanta Speedway. There was an incident on the pit road as teammates Noah Gragson and Daniel Hemric made contact in their cars which led to a brawl between the two drivers after the Saturday’s race.
Points leader Austin Cindric started on the pole for the race. A.J. Allmendinger failed pre-race inspection thrice and was sent to the rear, as were MBM Motorsports team-mates Chad Finchum and David Starr after switching cars. Truex began his first Xfinity event since 2010 in eighteenth.
Cindric led the first six laps before Truex sliced through the field to take the lead. The two-time Xfinity champion dominated the rest of the segment en route to the stage win, while cautions came out on laps 22 (competition yellow), 37 (Dexter Bean‘s spin), and the final lap. Bean’s spin set up a one-lap dash to the stage conclusion, during which Brandon Jones was clipped by Brett Moffitt on the backstretch. Jones spun up and wedged Moffitt into the wall, with Gragson also being sent into a spin while Timmy Hill brushed the wall.
Truex’s Joe Gibbs Racing team-mate Harrison Burton, Allgaier, Justin Haley, Michael Annett, Cindric, Jeremy Clements, Josh Berry (who ran the Camping World Truck Series race earlier in the day), Hemric, and Colby Howard rounded out the top ten. Being a Cup driver, Truex was the lone top-ten finisher to not receive stage points.
The second stage ran clean as Truex dominated the segment. Allgaier, Haley, Burton, Riley Herbst, Myatt Snider, Jeb Burton, Clements, and Brandon Brown also scored top-ten stage finishes.
Although Truex appeared poised to drive off to his fourteenth career Xfinity win, his prospects went out the window on lap 114 when Mason Massey‘s spin resulted in a caution, during which Truex was hit with a speeding penalty on pit road. The infraction gave Allgaier the lead as the race resumed. A wreck involving Burton and Clements on lap 119 resulted in another yellow, as did Berry and Ryan Sieg on lap 133. The latter caution allowed Howard to lead laps under yellow before Allgaier retook the spot for the restart.
Allgaier led the final 27 laps to win his first race of the season, the fifteenth of his career, and first at Atlanta. Truex was able to rebound from his penalty to finish second.
“We got back up there, but was kind of out of tyres at that point,” Truex said after the race. “We got close, but the last ten laps, the right rear was really smoked off. I just had to use too much to get there[.]”
However, the main headline of the race came when Truex’s JGR team-mate Hemric confronted Allgaier’s JR Motorsports brethren Gragson after the race, resulting in fisticuffs being thrown. The two had tangled on pit road earlier in the race when Gragson reversed into Hemric’s car. Hemric explained afterward that Gragson “crammed it into reverse and backed up. Punched a hole in the nose of our car.”
“(Gragson) had no idea what was going on out on the race track,” Hemric said. “We come down pit road and the guy pitted behind us when you accelerate when I was pulling into my box and it made me have to steer around the guy going to the #9’s box. I backed up and yes, it messed up both of our pit stops. I backed up and he decided to put it in reverse and cram into the right-front fender and knock a hole in our Poppy Bank Toyota Supra nose. We had to pit again and fix it. That was completely deliberate and it was absolutely ridiculous. Where I come from, you get your eye dotted when you do stuff like that. […]
“Like I said, there’s a hole in the front of my car and he got popped in the eye, so from where I stand we are in pretty good shape.”
“18 was in our pit box when I was turning into our pit stall,” Gragson tweeted. “He backed up into his. I was out of position in the box and had to back up to get into my box. Unintentional backing into him. If they’d show the full replay, you’d see I didn’t just back into him for no reason.”
He later tweeted a video of the pit road incident.
The 22-year-old has drawn considerable attention since the start of the season after tangling with various other drivers, effectively turning him into a heel. After a wreck with Starr while leading at Homestead, sparking a media storm that led to condemnation of his actions from those like Fox announcer Mike Joy, Gragson openly embraced his reputation by tweeting, “If you’re talking about me, I’m doing my job.”
|1||6||7||Justin Allgaier||JR Motorsports||Chevrolet||163||Running|
|2||18||54||Martin Truex Jr.*||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||163||Running|
|3||5||20||Harrison Burton||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||163||Running|
|4||30||9||Noah Gragson||JR Motorsports||Chevrolet||163||Running|
|5||3||16||A.J. Allmendinger||Kaulig Racing||Chevrolet||163||Running|
|6||7||98||Riley Herbst||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||163||Running|
|7||27||1||Michael Annett||JR Motorsports||Chevrolet||163||Running|
|8||13||11||Justin Haley||Kaulig Racing||Chevrolet||163||Running|
|9||11||18||Daniel Hemric||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||163||Running|
|10||35||39||Ryan Sieg||RSS Racing||Ford||163||Running|
|11||9||2||Myatt Snider||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||163||Running|
|12||10||51||Jeremy Clements||Jeremy Clements Racing||Chevrolet||163||Running|
|13||1||22||Austin Cindric||Team Penske||Ford||163||Running|
|14||20||4||Landon Cassill||JD Motorsports||Chevrolet||163||Running|
|15||12||26||Santino Ferrucci||Sam Hunt Racing||Toyota||163||Running|
|16||19||92||Josh Williams||DGM Racing||Chevrolet||163||Running|
|17||36||36||Alex Labbé||DGM Racing||Chevrolet||163||Running|
|18||15||44||Tommy Joe Martins||Martins Motorsports||Chevrolet||163||Running|
|19||26||0||Jeffrey Earnhardt||JD Motorsports||Chevrolet||163||Running|
|20||17||66||Timmy Hill||MBM Motorsports||Toyota||163||Running|
|21||23||15||Colby Howard||JD Motorsports||Chevrolet||163||Running|
|22||37||78||Jesse Little||B.J. McLeod Motorsports||Chevrolet||162||Running|
|23||28||17||Cody Ware||SS-Green Light Racing||Chevrolet||162||Running|
|24||14||74||Bayley Currey||Mike Harmon Racing||Chevrolet||162||Running|
|25||2||10||Jeb Burton||Kaulig Racing||Chevrolet||162||Running|
|26||21||48||Jade Buford||Big Machine Racing||Chevrolet||161||Running|
|27||38||61||David Starr||MBM Motorsports||Toyota||161||Running|
|28||31||47||Kyle Weatherman||Mike Harmon Racing||Chevrolet||161||Running|
|29||24||07||Joe Graf Jr.||SS-Green Light Racing||Chevrolet||161||Running|
|30||25||23||Blaine Perkins||Our Motorsports||Chevrolet||160||Running|
|31||34||6||Ryan Vargas||JD Motorsports||Chevrolet||160||Running|
|32||32||99||Mason Massey||B.J. McLeod Motorsports||Toyota||160||Running|
|33||4||68||Brandon Brown||Brandonbilt Motorsports||Chevrolet||160||Running|
|34||39||5||Matt Mills||B.J. McLeod Motorsports||Chevrolet||156||Running|
|35||29||90||Dexter Bean||DGM Racing||Chevrolet||156||Running|
|36||33||52||Gray Gaulding||Jimmy Means Racing||Chevrolet||150||Running|
|37||16||19||Brandon Jones||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||132||Running|
|38||22||8||Josh Berry||JR Motorsports||Chevrolet||130||Accident|
|39||40||13||Chad Finchum||MBM Motorsports||Chevrolet||59||Brakes|
|40||8||02||Brett Moffitt*||Our Motorsports||Chevrolet||39||Accident|
Italics – Competing for Rookie of the Year