Short-track racing and short fuses boiled over post-race as Joe Graf Jr. and Gray Gaulding — a pair of former teammates — tussled after Sunday’s completion of the NASCAR Xfinity Series event at Martinsville Speedway.
The altercation stemmed from an on-track incident in the final stage, sparked by a Gaulding nudge to Graf’s back bumper. That contact sent Graf’s No. 07 SS Green Light Racing Chevrolet spinning and into the No. 23 Our Motorsports Chevy of Blaine Perkins. Gaulding drove his Means Motorsports No. 52 Chevrolet to a 21st-place finish in the Cook Out 250, and Perkins took 35th with Graf 38th.
Graf told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio after the race he walked over to discuss the incident with Gaulding in the garage. Graf said a remark from Gaulding escalated their confrontation and he had thrown multiple punches before they wound up wrestling on the ground.
NASCAR officials separated the two. Both drivers indicated they had gone to the officials’ hauler to discuss the incident. Afterward, both drivers further explained their cases on SiriusXM’s “Dialed In” program before Sunday’s resumption of the rain-delayed Cup Series race (4 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
“There, with about 75 laps to go, though, Gray just wrecked us and the 23, drove us off into the corner and just flat-out wrecked us and ended our day,” Graf said. “I went to have words with him after the race and he mouthed off to me and there were some punches thrown. I landed a couple.
“I think the garage is just loaded with drivers who pretend they’re tough. Like, 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’s needing some ice packs.”
Gaulding said that his on-track actions were intentional, and his only apology was to the Bobby Dotter-owned SS Green Light team that he drove for full-time in 2019 and part-time as a teammate with Graf for five races last season. His issue with Graf stemmed from contact between the two earlier in the race.
“I 100 percent wrecked him on purpose because I’m tired of dealing with his nonsense. The reason why I stand by that is because earlier in the race, about 30 laps in, I was just running on the outside (line), there’s nowhere to go, and I just get body-slammed, and it was the 07. And then when he was going by me, he door-slammed me. So I told my spotter, I said when I get back to the 07, he’s done, and I stood by that. I’m not going to stand by here and sugar-coat it, I 100 percent wrecked him and I don’t regret one thing I did.
“I’d do it all over again because the way that guy races, it’s actually comical watching him drive because his equipment is very good. I drove that equipment, and I think there’s a lot of jealousy there. I personally think so because he hasn’t sniffed the results that I had with Bobby Dotter and SS Green Light Racing since he’s been there. I think it’s kind of funny that he’s got that chip on his shoulder with me and you can tell with the way he races on the race track.”
As for their conversation, Gaulding recounted how it escalated from words to a physical confrontation.
“I was just walking back to the hauler and he starts cussing me out and just … I literally started laughing. I think that’s what made him upset,” Gaulding said. “I was laughing because he’s very awkward, and I didn’t know if he was serious or not, so when we were done talking, he started swinging. …
“The poor kid has got a lot to learn, and when you drive the way he’s currently driving, he’s going to get wrecked, and I’m very, very happy that I was the one to wreck him today.”
As for Graf, he said that the two drivers did not reach a resolution in their brief talk before their scuffle. The series resumes April 24 at Talladega Superspeedway.
“There was no understanding. He tried to blame me,” Graf said. “Just a major lack of respect, and I won’t have it. I won’t be raced like that and I won’t be disrespected like that.”