Early this month, I had the opportunity to travel to Martinsville, Virginia, for two NASCAR races on April 8 and 9. Before heading to the race track, I stopped by Liberty University to pick up a friend, and then we were off to the races.
We arrived at the racetrack early Friday afternoon and decided to walk around the midway, which is where fans congregate before the races. The area was full of fans and entertainment, including a stage for performances, food trucks, merchandise haulers for the drivers. While we were in the midway, professional NASCAR racer Noah Gragson walked by and took a picture with us, which was a great way to start the night.
That weekend, NASCAR debuted a series of new cars for the Cup Series, which made the race much louder than before. Drivers were shifting between third and fourth gear in the corners, which is a rare occurrence on oval tracks like Martinsville. After practice and qualifying concluded, we were able to get some food and relax before the Xfinity Series race began. After driver introductions, the invocation (prayer), national anthem, and flyover, the command to start engines was given, and it started raining! Everyone quickly found shelter for the brief shower, and the track crew dried the track so the race could begin.
Nineteen-year-old Ty Gibbs dominated most of this race. Within the last 50 laps, drivers became more aggressive, which led to more caution flags and restarts. On the final restart, Gibbs was moved out of the way by his teammate Brandon Jones, who went on to win the race. Then, Sam Mayer bumped into Gibbs in the final corner, and the two made contact with the wall. Gibbs was not happy with Mayer, so after the race, he ran into Mayer’s car two or three times before parking right behind him on pit road.
I got my phone out and began to record, because I knew things were about to get interesting. Sure enough, Gibbs and Mayer began to talk. Then a few shoves were exchanged. Then it happened: Gibbs threw a punch at Mayer, which sparked a fight between the two on pit road. A few more punches and shoves were thrown before the two were split up by crew members and officials. This was easily the highlight of our weekend at the track.
The race was also delayed on Saturday (4/9) due to rain. Before we entered the grandstands, we met with Bob Pockrass, who is arguably the most popular NASCAR reporter. He hosted a meet-and-greet/Q&A session outside the track and also invited NASCAR driver Todd Gilliland to participate. Fans asked racing questions and took pictures with them before the crowds dispersed. As previously mentioned, rain came once again and delayed the race from beginning on time.
Once the race began, Hendrick Motorsports’s teammates Chase Elliott and William Byron dominated the race. Elliott and Byron finished 1-2 in both stages and collected points. Then Byron took over. He needed to hold off drivers such as Joey Logano, Austin Dillon, and Ryan Blaney in an overtime restart (2 lap shootout), but Byron went on to win his second race of the season. Overall, the experience was super neat and Martinsville is a fantastic track to attend in person because fans can see the entire track from almost anywhere. My full weekend experience is also in a YouTube video here for those interested.
Featured image from NASCAR.