MARTINSVILLE, Va. – In true, short-track fashion, tempers flared and then overflowed into the garage area during the conclusion to the NASCAR Xfinity Series Cook Out 250 Sunday at Martinsville Speedway.
An incident between Gray Gaulding and Joe Graf Jr., where Gaulding got into the back of Graf’s car entering turn three and sent both Graf and Blaine Perkins spinning into the outside wall, drew the 11th of 12 cautions in the 250-lap event.
Gaulding went on to finish 21st, while the wreck ended Graf’s day and left him 38th in the rundown.
After the race, Graf sought out Gaulding and the confrontation led to a physical scuffle, with Graf taking Gaulding to the ground before NASCAR officials separated the duo.
Both Graf and Gaulding were summoned to the Xfinity Series hauler to meet with series director Wayne Auton and then gave their sides of the story to SiriusXM NASCAR Radio following those meetings.
Gaulding didn’t mince words when admitting he got into Graf’s car on purpose at lap 176.
“Oh yeah, I 100 percent wrecked him, and I’d do it again all over again,” Gaulding said. “I might have to do it again when we get back to Talladega. He’s just a moving chicane every week. Just like today, I’m not trying to throw any shots. Talking about him is pointless because the poor kid can’t get out of his [own] way.
“I think for me, it’s just like early in the race, we get the green. He starts behind me. We’re just trying to settle in and on a restart he absolutely bulldozes through me, puts me up three lanes and I lost like 15 spots. It’s funny how he forgets that,” Gaulding continued. “His memory ain’t all there, I guess.”
Graf, not happy that Gaulding viewed the incident on the race track as payback, confirmed he “landed a couple” blows during the altercation in the garage area after the race.
“There with about 75 laps to go, Gray just wrecked us and (Perkins), drove us off into the corner and flat out-wrecked us, ending our day,” Graf explained. “I went to have words with him afterward and then he mouthed off to me and there were some punches thrown. I landed a couple.
“The garage is just loaded with drivers who pretend they’re tough, but they’re going to find out how tough they are if they race me like that and then run their mouth at me. Just ask Gray how he’s doing now. I’m sure he needs some ice packs.”
As far as the fight was concerned, Graf minced no words when recalling that he instigated the affair.
“I went up to him,” Graf said. “I was still pretty upset. I asked him why he wrecked us. He tried to say he was just paying us back for earlier in the race. I don’t recall any time earlier in the race where I drove him like that or wrecked him like that. I just wasn’t having it.
“He tried to blame it on me. That was definitely not my fault.”