NORTH WILKESBORO, N.C. — Ty Gibbs advanced to the NASCAR All-Star Race on Sunday, putting another rookie into the main event at North Wilkesboro Speedway. But transferring as the Open’s runner-up came at the expense of veteran Michael McDowell, who expressed his frustration — with fenders and words.
Gibbs finished second behind Open race winner Josh Berry, who subbed in for the injured Alex Bowman for the fourth straight week. But the 100-lap preliminary fireworks helped Berry’s No. 48 Chevrolet slip by for the checkered flag.
Gibbs had ignited a crash with McDowell, sending his Joe Gibbs Racing No. 54 Toyota into the back of the veteran’s No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford. McDowell slipped out of the groove and made contact with Justin Haley’s No. 31 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet, causing significant damage to both cars.
McDowell told his crew to fix his car “so I can take care of it,” he said on the No. 34 radio. When Gibbs encountered McDowell on the backstretch to put him another lap down, McDowell squeezed Gibbs toward the inside wall. Their contact allowed Berry to sneak past in the 78th lap and lead the rest of the way.
McDowell — who finished three laps down in 13th — said he showed “100% restraint” and made sure that his message to Gibbs wouldn’t impact Berry’s day.
“I wasn’t going to ruin anybody else’s race, and I just wasn’t going to wave them by,” McDowell said. “I was going to make him go around on the outside, and he still wanted to try to go through the bottom, which he was setting himself up. I should’ve ran him into the barrels and called it good.”
Gibbs’ crew chief Chris Gayle told Gibbs on the No. 54 radio post-race: “Good job staying level-headed and consistent when others weren’t.” The Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate said the two had a run-in last month at Martinsville Speedway, an incident that he had let slide.
“I was just setting him up to pass him and try to get away from him as fast as I can. I feel like that’s the best thing I could have done …,” said Gibbs, who led a race-high 53 laps. “I understand it, but at the same time, we got clobbered for 18th at Martinsville and completely wrecked across the frontstretch, and I never said or did anything afterward. I got it back kind of a little much, but it was him and the 31 getting connected. Everybody’s pushing each other down in an LCQ (last-chance qualifier) race. So it’s a mess.”
McDowell suggested that there was no real history between the two, and he acknowledged Gibbs’ aggressive style as he talked about their on-track relationship.
“It wouldn’t matter who it is. I mean, when you get run over, you’re gonna be upset,” McDowell said. “I mean, I haven’t had any issues with Ty really, previously. It’s not like this is building up. But it wouldn’t matter if it was the 10, the 41 or the 48 (Aric Almirola, Ryan Preece, Berry). If you get run over, you’ve got to expect that I’m not going to just wave them by the next time I see him. So it’s just racing.”