Once again, rain put a damper on a NASCAR race weekend. The sad truth is that everyone saw it coming. The rain that postponed the races to Sunday was predicted three to four days in advance. It just bites. All three races, including Thursday night’s Whelen Modified Tour opener, were affected by rain. At least the Modified race got all 200 laps in that night.
Ultimately, we ended up with two races that were partially run on their original nights, then completed Sunday afternoon. They were both interesting in their own right.
Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500
Racing Saturday night seemed sketchy in general. I was operating under the opinion that they were not going to get the race started. Sure enough, they did. It was surprising that they did, but they did.
Had this race started on time, there would have been no pre-race coverage because the Oakland Athletics-Houston Astros game ran long. NASCAR RaceDay started 23 minutes late. Given the rain, pre-race coverage was comprised of analysis in the studio along with cut-ins to the broadcast booth at the track and the pits. They tried to talk to Daniel Suarez, but the Track Drying Team’s buzzy equipment is just not the best for that.
There were less than 20 minutes of racing Saturday night before the rains came during the first caution. I wasn’t shocked that it rained, but how quickly it came was a surprise.
The short 42-lap segment that ran Saturday night will be best remembered for James Davison getting spun into the wall by his own teammate, Cody Ware. This was a headscratcher. Clint Bowyer said that there had to be more to this incident, but it was said in a fashion that wouldn’t have been any different had the two drivers been competing for separate teams. As recently as the beginning of last year, they were separate teams. When Brennan Poole was driving the No. 15 with his Spartan Mosquito sponsorship, it was still Premium Motorsports. Not anymore. Intra-team strife along these lines is nearly unprecedented historically unless Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost are involved.
The thing is, this craziness continued on Sunday afternoon. The two drivers had contact multiple times and Ware apparently said on the radio at some point that he was going to turn Davison (again) because he didn’t want to deal with him.
For the most part, this is all stuff that you wouldn’t normally see on a broadcast because the Rick Ware Racing entries tend to be so far down the order. However, the wreck Saturday night put a spotlight on it because it made air. I suppose Mike Joy put it best here when he said, “Oh boy” while watching the replay.
Generally speaking, you don’t want to wreck your teammate. It’s happened before at Martinsville. Rick Hendrick found out what that looked like when his drivers collided there in 1990.
At the time of the wreck Saturday night, I tweeted this out.
Well, I think that @RickWareRacing will have a very interesting debrief after this race.
— Phil Allaway (@Critic84) April 11, 2021
After Sunday’s apparent contact and statements on the radio, I don’t know about this now. They have a full-fledged conflict of personalities at RWR that is bubbling over on the track. It’s going to take a little more than just a debrief to diffuse this situation.
Also, at the beginning of the broadcast on Sunday, Joy made reference to a potential scuffle between Ware and Davison during the red flag Saturday night. I have not seen any proof that this actually happened. At bare minimum, if it did, no one’s talking about it. Quite frankly, it doesn’t matter if it did or not. The mere specter of that going down between teammates is bad on all levels. I don’t expect to see any more shenaniganry here going forward.
Through all that strife, Davison managed to bring his No. 15 home 22nd. Not bad, to be honest. Ware was 28th, 10 laps down and four behind Davison.
The race ended up with 15 cautions. Most were of the single-car variety. However, there weren’t much in the way of replays Sunday. There were four separate wrecks that brought out yellows that didn’t have replays. Two involved Ware, but the others involved Chase Briscoe and Justin Haley. I’m not in Martinsville and I don’t have Larry McReynolds’ setup, so I can’t see everything. If you caught it on camera, show the viewers what happened. If you don’t, then you can make use of your digital stuff to fill in the gaps.
On the positive side, there was a lot of racing for position. Competition-wise, this race seemed calm early on, but really kicked it up a notch. According to NASCAR’s loop data, there were 44% more passes than in this race last year. Perhaps it was the cooler weather and the fact that NASCAR allowed teams to run partial side windows. If you’ve seen NASCAR RaceHub: Best of Radioactive, Martinsville as much as I have in the past four days, then you know that Austin Dillon couldn’t make it to the end last year and was forced to retire from the race due to the heat.
That racing for position wasn’t necessarily at the front of the pack. You saw a decent amount of racing for position throughout the lead lap on Sunday. Things narrowed up towards the end of the race, though.
Sunday’s race ended up working out not dissimilar to Atlanta. Denny Hamlin and Ryan Blaney were the dominant drivers all day, combining to lead 433 of 500 laps. Then, Blaney got busted for dragging his air gun out of the box on his final stop and Hamlin’s car had too long of a run setup at the end of the race. Without the penalty, Blaney probably wins, but you ended up with a different outcome than expected.
Since the Sunday broadcast ran long, post-race coverage was relatively brief. Viewers got interviews with the top three finishers, in addition to a point check before the broadcast ended. In all seriousness, I’m surprised that the race took that long. FOX Sports 1 gave the final 458 laps of the race a four-hour timeslot and the race couldn’t finish before that ended. This after the Cook Out 250 was given a two-hour slot and that finished in under 90 minutes despite all the yellows there.
Cook Out 250
The Xfinity Series was supposed to race 250 laps Friday night at Martinsville. Rain resulted in only 91 of those laps being completed before the whole thing was pushed back to Sunday. Luckily, they have this weekend off, or it could have caused logistical problems since NASCAR forced the teams to keep their cars in the garage after the race until after the Cup teams had already loaded up and left the facility. That meant that those in charge of loading up the trucks were stuck there doing nothing for eight hours, waiting for the Cup race to end so that they could bring their haulers in and load up.
Sebastian LeForge of MBM Motorsports was one of those people. At one point, he curled up in his truck after getting some grub at Clarence’s Steak House and relaxed in the shade.
Full belly, and found some shade.
Time for a nap. pic.twitter.com/1IQXHfuzJB
— broken racing wookie (@WookieAutomoTV) April 11, 2021
Friday night’s coverage started out with some fun pieces. First, Kaitlyn Vincie spent some time at GoPro Motorplex in North Carolina with Joe Gibbs Racing’s young guns (Ty Gibbs, Brandon Jones, Harrison Burton and Daniel Hemric).
Meanwhile, Shannon Spake did a sit-down interview with Justin Allgaier. Topics here include his family being able to be at Atlanta for his victory, and his drive to succeed after having been in the Xfinity Series for so long (Friday night was his 346th career start, tied for 16th all-time; Jeremy Clements has the most starts by an active driver with 372).
Friday night’s race coverage was interrupted by what was an apparent power outage in the TV compound. The feed went down on lap 15, not just for FOX Sports 1, but for the jumbotrons and the TVs in the press box. Not good. Thankfully, that only lasted for a little over three minutes.
Friday night also started the Xfinity Dash 4 Cash. There was some coverage given to it prior to the race, but next to nothing during the event before the rain came. It got a decent amount of coverage when the race resumed on Sunday, though.
Unlike the Cup race, there were quite a few mechanical issues that affected the race in Xfinity. Michael Annett wiped out because he wheel-hopped going into turn 1. I don’t recall this happening during the entire Cup race.
For the guest analysts Friday (and Sunday), Blaney and Austin Dillon were in the house. Knowing that Blaney was able to parlay his stint in the booth into paydirt in Atlanta, the two paid significant attention to the on-track action, more so than most of the guest analysts. Also, Team Penske was apparently paying a lot of attention to what Blaney was saying and relaying that to Austin Cindric. Could that be construed as an unfair advantage? If so, I have no idea how you could police that, if at all.
As noted earlier, Sunday’s Xfinity action was scheduled until 2 p.m. (according to my cable system, TV Guide and other sources). The race finished up around 1:20. Viewers ended up with an abbreviated post-race, with interviews only with winner Josh Berry and Noah Gragson before FOX Sports 1 left Martinsville for another Radioactive repeat.
The fight between Gray Gaulding and Joe Graf Jr. did not make air. For all I know, it happened after the broadcast ended. I only found out about it right before the Cup race restarted when NASCAR posted a clip of the fracas on their YouTube page.
I find it interesting that Gaulding was being held back by a bunch of Mike Harmon’s crewmembers knowing that Harmon and his guys are third parties here. Gaulding has driven for the team exactly once in the past (last year’s soaking wet Drive For The Cure 250k in Charlotte). Neither Gaulding’s or Graf’s crews were involved. Since then, Gaulding said that the wreck was intentional in a radio interview, then posted a thread on his Twitter feed about the crash.
I want to make it clear that Joe Graf Jr hit my bumper on lap 110 & almost wrecked me. Therefore, I also bumped him towards the end of the race to get back at him. (Just like any driver would) I never intended to cause a wreck & especially hate that 23 car got mixed up into it
— Gray Gaulding (@graygaulding) April 12, 2021
With some luck, this won’t continue beyond Sunday. Remember. Talladega is next for the Xfinity Series. You don’t need that stupidity going down at 190.
Overall, I did enjoy the Xfinity race. I can’t do anything about technical problems, but there are things that I think are within the control of the production. For example, figuring out who Ryan Vargas plowed into the back of Sunday when the race restarted and why. I only know what happened because of Twitter. Apparently, Vargas’ brake pedal went to the floor and he wiped out his front end. That stinks.
Regardless, this race will be remembered as a feel-good story. In Berry’s case, he’s the short track expert coming into his own. That used to be a regular thing at Martinsville, but that’s so old now that it’s new again.
That’s all for this week. Next weekend is shaping up to be very busy. The NASCAR Cup and Camping World Truck Series will be in action at Richmond. Meanwhile, the INDYCAR season starts up at Barber Park in Alabama. Formula 1 returns to Imola in Italy, while the European Le Mans Series starts their season as well. TV listings can be found above.
I will provide critiques of the Cup and Truck races from Richmond in next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch. I want to cover the INDYCAR race in some capacity as well, but that will be airing up against the Cup race, so we’ll see how it goes.
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About the author
Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.
Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.
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