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John Hunter Nemechek Edges Benjamin For Truck Series Win at Martinsville

MARTINSVILLE, Va. — In a race delayed for two days by a freak snowstorm in southern Virginia, John Hunter Nemechek charged to the front on a restart with 31 laps left on Monday and held off Kyle Benjamin to win the Alpha Energy Solutions 250 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race by a mere .106 seconds.

The victory was the first at Martinsville for Nemechek, who had two previous runner-up finishes at the .526-mile short track. This time, despite Benjamin pounding his rear bumper in the final corner, Nemechek earned the grandfather clock trophy that goes to the race winner.

“I’ve finished second here multiple times so, tick, tock – we finally got a clock,” Nemechek said. “It’s going to be awesome to take that thing home.”

Nemechek picked up his sixth career win in the Truck Series in his third start of the season, and he did it with a skeleton staff at the race shop owned by his father, Joe Nemechek.

“I can’t thank everyone on our staff enough – everyone who pours their heart and soul into this deal,” Nemechek said. “There’s only four guys in our shop this year, so it’s really cool to be able to come back over here to the Truck Series …

“Congrats to all these guys – these guys deserve it.”

After Nemechek grabbed the top spot on Lap 220 of 250, he held it through three subsequent cautions. Nemechek cleared Benjamin after the final restart on Lap 244, and though Benjamin closed on the No. 8 Chevrolet over the last seven laps, finally getting to the bumper in the final corner, he needed a few more laps to make a concerted run at the victory.

“We had a really good truck, mostly for long runs, and unfortunately, it came down to a short run,” said Benjamin, who was making his Martinsville debut. “It’s Martinsville, so I figured I had to give him a run for his money in the last corner.”

Benjamin had a lead of more than one second over Todd Gilliland when a debris caution slowed the race on Lap 214 and gave Nemechek the chance he needed on the subsequent restart. The shuffling of the order, at least, alleviated one case of divided loyalties.

David Gilliland was co-owner of the No. 54 Toyota Benjamin was driving, and his son Todd was behind the wheel of the No. 4 Toyota of Kyle Busch Motorsports. After the restart on Lap 220, Todd Gilliland brushed the wall and lost track position with a pit stop under caution on Lap 234. He finished 14th.

Pole winner Ben Rhodes led the first 23 laps on Saturday before rain and snow halted the race. With heavy snow falling Saturday night and early Sunday morning, NASCAR was forced to postpone the finish until Monday.

Rhodes won both the first and second stages of the race, collecting two playoff points, but severe trouble with his right front tire on a Lap 145 pit stop after the second stage dropped him to 15th in the running order.

Rhodes never recovered from the loss of track position and came home 12th.

Johnny Sauter lost two laps changing a battery after losing power on Lap 224 and getting rear-ended by Matt Crafton. Sauter finished 19th but retained the series lead by 29 points over Grant Enfinger, who ran fourth on Monday.

Brett Moffitt, who pitted late for new tires, fought his way up to third at the finish and is third in points, 31 behind Sauter.

Noah Gragson, Myatt Snider, Timothy Peters, Harrison Burton, Austin Hill and Justin Haley completed the top 10 in Monday’s race. 

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Trucks

OBSERVATIONS: Alpha Energy Solutions 250 at Martinsville Speedway

“Tick Tock, We Got A Clock.”

Four races in the books for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, and the fans haven’t been left disappointed yet by the action on track. 

As typically expected with Martinsville Speedway, the Alpha Energy Solutions 250 was filled with close quarter action and even if the final stretch of the event had run without a caution, it was bound to be a barn burner as Todd Gilliland had began to close the gap on Kyle Benjamin. That said, thanks to a big piece of pipe laying on the track, the yellow flag flew with less than 40 laps to go.

The result? Pure chaos. Three-wide competition throughout the whole field, bumping and banging off each other – but with nobody actually getting turned around. 

John Hunter Nemechek has shown that he can get the job done in the clutch of the moment and snag an unexpected win – recall Canadian Tire Motorsports Park anybody? He once again proved his ability as a driver, as his attack on the restart with 31 laps to go was everything. While Gilliland and Benjamin looked set to battle, Nemechek snuck underneath both drivers going into the turn, eventually passing them both. From being well-timed to set-up and executed, it was the perfect move that you can’t discount no matter how you look at it.

Nemechek’s situation is unique this year. He is splitting a ride in the NASCAR XFINITY Series with Kyle Larson, while running whatever truck races do not conflict. Despite showing countless talent, sponsorship hasn’t ever come easy for the 20-year-old. If he was able to get some funding to a full schedule – whether XFINITY or Truck, there’s no question he’d be a championship contender.

You can’t discount Nemechek’s closest competition, either. Benjamin was able to get back to Nemechek’s bumper and certainly a little harder hit or couple more laps and we may have a different story on our hands. You have to credit Benjamin for his poise shown, as he could’ve just wrecked the No. 8 Chevrolet to get himself to victory lane – but chose the respectful route instead.

By the way, Monday’s race was Benjamin’s series debut with a first year team – DGR-Crosby Racing. Not a bad beginning for either party. The 20-year-old said he hoped he earned himself more chances behind the wheel with his performance – don’t worry, you did. 

While the youngsters impressed, the veterans were unable to be up front as expected. Past winners Matt Crafton and Johnny Sauter each ran inside the top-10, but neither were a factor for the victory and ultimately found themselves out of winning contention due to other problems. Sauter suffered from battery issues with the No. 21 truck stalling off the corner at one point, with Crafton getting heavy damage as he ran into the back of Sauter then. 

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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XFINITY

John Hunter Nemechek Gets XFINITY Series Opportunity

John Hunter Nemechek will get the chance to move up a step on the NASCAR ladder, getting the opportunity to run multiple NASCAR XFINITY Series races in 2008 behind the wheel of the No. 42 Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing.

“We are happy to have John Hunter join our organization and also announce the relationship with Fire Alarm Services,” Chip Ganassi said. “We had a very successful 2017 with our XFINITY program and look to improve upon that. We feel that John Hunter has the talent to be a future star in the sport and can’t wait to get him behind the wheel.”

The 20-year-old raced part-time in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series the past three seasons, before running the full schedule the past two years. Nemechek has scored five victories, and 38 top-10’s in 76 starts, placing eighth in the standings in 2016 and 2017. 

“I couldn’t be more excited to join Chip Ganassi Racing,” Nemechek said. “I feel like their cars and organization were the talk of the garage in 2017 and I hope to play a part in continuing their run of success in 2018 and beyond. Also, Fire Alarm Services has been a supporter of my career since 2016 at our family-owned team, and I am looking forward to continuing that partnership at Chip Ganassi Racing. I am extremely grateful to Shannon and Connie Smith, owners of Fire Alarm Services, Inc. I also want to thank my father for all that he has done to help grow my passion for racing.”

Mike Shiplett will serve as the team’s crew chief, with sponsorship from Fire Alarm Services, Incorporated.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement

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Trucks

Mistakes Prove Costly for Playoff Contenders

Entering any points battle, drivers typically harp on a single thought – don’t take yourself out of contention with a mistake. Ultimately, some contenders failed to adhere to old saying on Friday night in the Jag Metals 350 at Texas Motor Speedway, now finding themselves on the cusp of elimination.

John Hunter Nemechek entered the second event of the Round of 6 already behind, after hitting the wall at Martinsville Speedway due to no brakes. While poised for a solid top-10 to put himself on the edge of possibly being able to make it on points, he ran out of fuel with 13  laps to go and spent time stalled on pit road, finishing 19th. Now he enters next weekend sitting 39 markers behind the cut-line, ultimately in a win or bust scenario.

For Ben Rhodes, it was a pit road mistake that leaves him sitting five points behind the cut line. After making his final stop, he had to come back down due to missing a lug nut on the right front wheel. As a result, he finished 18th rather than inside the top-10 where he had run much of the night.

“We had a couple of bad pit stops, we had a loose wheel, and a pit gun broke and miscommunication on pit road, so we had to come back in so we ended up however many laps down,” Rhodes said post-race. “Just a tough night, now we’re on the outside of the Playoffs looking in, and we’ll just have to make something happen at Phoenix.”

Matt Crafton also experienced trouble on pit road with his crew jumping over the wall too soon on Lap 73, forcing him to drop from the top-10 to the tail end of the field on the restart. He fought hard to make up ground, finishing ninth. Without the penalty, he felt they could have scored a top-five.

Unlike Nemechek and Rhodes, though, Crafton is sitting pretty safe in points right now with a 24 marker cushion back to the cut line, thanks to stage points and a runner-up last week at Martinsville. 

“It hurt us, and that put us far behind right there at the end,” Crafton said. “The truck was the best it was all night there on that last run. Just a guy came over the wall too soon and had to go to the back. Just can’t pass here, it’s next to impossible right now.”

Next weekend at Phoenix, everything is on the line for these three competitors, along with Christopher Bell and Austin Cindric, as they try to join Johnny Sauter in the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. With the pressure ramping up, the possibility for more mistakes increases as noticed at Texas, and at Martinsville with a slow pit stop for Sauter causing him valuable track position. 

While putting themselves in contention up front will be vital to gaining valuable points, avoiding making a mistake will be critical in making sure they’re not eliminated.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement

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Trucks

John Hunter Nemechek Forced to Make Up Ground

John Hunter Nemechek is going to have his work cut out for him if he wants to make it to the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Kicking off the Round of 6 at Martinsville Speedway, Nemechek lost his brakes on Lap 37, backing the No. 8 Chevrolet into the outside retaining wall. With massive rear-end damage, he was forced behind the wall and out of the event.

“Just no brakes,” Nemechek said. “It didn’t give any warning; it didn’t get mushy. We were just riding around, biding our time, and I drove into (turn) one normal and hit the brake pedal, and it went straight to the floor. It sucks for our guys, sucks for our Fire Alarm Services truck. We had a fast truck in race trim, and I felt like we had a race contending truck and could’ve gotten some track position.”

He will now enter the next two events 23 points behind the cut-off line.

The next two tracks have produced a mix of results for the second generation racer, as well. Nemechek has only one top-10 (seventh in June 2016) in four races at Texas Motor Speedway, compared to three top-10’s in his last three starts at Phoenix Raceway, including a runner-up in November 2015.

Being near the cut-off line is something Nemechek has grown used to this year, though. He barely made the Round of 6 following a 20th-place finish in Las Vegas and surviving a crash at Talladega to post a top-10.

“It sucks to be out of the race this early, but we dug ourselves out of one hole in the first round,” Nemechek added. “So hopefully they  won’t know what hit them next week at Texas.”

Fighting back has been the theme for this season, as he started 2017 with five finishes outside of the top-20 in the first seven races before back-to-back victories locked him into the playoffs. 

Nemechek has experience in this situation, but when do you take too many chances at fate and fail to transfer? The next two weeks could prove to be too much, or show the perseverance that may propel the 20-year-old to his first championship. 

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement

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Trucks

Camping World Truck Series Playoffs Down to Six Drivers

Then there were just six drivers remaining.

Following the Fred’s 250 at Talladega Superspeedway, Chase Briscoe and Kaz Grala were eliminated from the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series drivers, leaving just six drivers to fight for the championship over the next four races.

The remaining competitors will look to perform at Martinsville Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway and Phoenix Raceway in hopes of being in the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

So how do they stack up against each other? Let’s have a look.

1. Christopher Bell – 2195 points

Season to Date: 5 wins, 13 top-fives, 17 top-10’s. 

Of Note: The Kyle Busch Motorsports driver has finished in the top-three in his last four starts.

Martinsville: In three starts, Bell has two top-fives, including a third in April, for an average finish of 8.7

Texas: In four races, he has scored a victory and two top-10’s. The win, by the way, came this past June.

Phoenix: Bell placed seventh in his lone career appearance there last year.

Chance of Being in Final Four: Highly likely based on how he has ran all year, but mostly the past four races.

Homestead-Miami: Bell ran out of his fuel late in his first trip in 2015 to the Florida oval, placing 25th, before scoring an eighth last year.

2. Johnny Sauter – 2143 points (-52)

Season to Date: 2 wins, 9 top-fives, 15 top-10’s. 

Of Note: The GMS Racing driver has finished in the top-10 in five of his last six starts.

Martinsville: In 19 starts, Sauter has three wins and 10 top-10’s. His last two appearances have produced a victory and a runner-up.

Texas: In 18 races, he has scored three victories and 14 top-10’s. A victory last year in November propelled him to the final four en route to the championship. 

Phoenix: Although he has never won there, he has six top-10’s in eight starts.

Chance of Being in Final Four: Highly likely based on solid consistency this year, and his history at each track in the Round of 6.

Homestead-Miami: In 10 starts, he has a win and seven top-10’s, including the third last year which was enough for the title.

3. Matt Crafton – 2140 points (-55)

Season to Date: 1 wins, 4 top-fives, 13 top-10’s. 

Of Note: The ThorSport Racing driver has finished in the top-10 in the last three consecutive races.

Martinsville: In 31 starts, Crafton has two wins and 18 top-10’s. Although he won in October 2015, his best result since is a seventh. 

Texas: In 33 races, he has scored two victories and 22 top-10’s. He has finished in the top-10 in his last 12 appearances there, including both of those aforementioned wins. 

Phoenix: Although he has never won there, he has 11 top-10’s in 16 starts, including a third last year.

Chance of Being in Final Four: Highly likely based on solid consistency, and his history at each track in the Round of 6 – although Martinsville could pose a concern if he finds himself in a late race incident like he has the past couple of trips. 

Homestead-Miami: In 16 starts, he has a win (2015) and eight top-10’s – including his last three appearances.

4. Ben Rhodes – 2124 points (-71)

Season to Date: 1 wins, 6 top-fives, 11 top-10’s. 

Of Note: The ThorSport Racing driver has finished in the top-10 in five of the last six races.

Martinsville: In four starts, Rhodes has only posted one top-10.

Texas: In three races, he has scored a single top-10, which came in June with a fifth.

Phoenix: In two appearances, he has finished 14th and fifth. 

Chance of Being in Final Four: Likely, despite the past track results being concerning. This year has been about Rhodes exceeding expectations and running better than he has in previous seasons. He does not have much room to play with, being just three points ahead of the cut-off line entering the Round of 6.  

Homestead-Miami: Rhodes qualified 11th and finished 20th in his first trip to the Florida oval last year.

5. Austin Cindric – 2121 points (-74)

Season to Date: 1 wins, 6 top-fives, 12 top-10’s. 

Of Note: The Brad Keselowski Racing driver has finished in the top-10 in the last three races.

Martinsville: In two starts, Cindric has failed to post a top-20 finish. 

Texas: Cindric placed 25th in his lone appearance.

Phoenix: In two races, he has finished 14th and 15th. 

Chance of Being in Final Four: Not likely. With points to make up and a lack of strength at the tracks, it looks as though his hopes will be dashed over the next three events. However, Cindric should not be counted out as like Rhodes, he has been exceeding expectations all year. 

Homestead-Miami: He has never raced there before.

6. John Hunter Nemechek – 2107 points (-88)

Season to Date: 2 wins, 7 top-fives, 10 top-10’s. 

Of Note: The NEMCO Motorsports enters the Round of 6 after back-to-back eighth-place finishes.

Martinsville: In eight starts, he has three top-fives – with those coming in his last four appearances. 

Texas: In four races, he has a single top-10, placing seventh in June 2016.

Phoenix: While he placed 21st in his debut, he has finished in the top-10 in the three races since, including a runner-up in November 2015.

Chance of Being in Final Four: Not likely. He has a lot of ground to make up, and has not shown the speed to contend for top-fives over the past month. 

Homestead-Miami: In a pair of starts, he has placed second and 11th.

Photos Courtesy of Nigel Kinrade Photography

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement

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Trucks

John Hunter Nemechek Goes Back-To-Back with Truck Win at Iowa

NEWTON, Iowa – With six laps to go, John Hunter Nemechek made his bold, last-gasp move.

Again.

Nemechek, who charged to a Father’s Day win for his dad, Joe, last week at Gateway Motorsports Park, reprised his stirring comeback role in Friday’s pulse-pounding NASCAR Camping World Series M&M’s 200 presented by Casey’s General Store at Iowa Speedway.

“Every one of these guys who works on this team, this is awesome,” said John Hunter Nemechek, who passed Johnny Sauter on the high-side with six circuits left.

The dramatic ending to a race that ran remarkably clean for most of the first two stages was set up by an incident involving ThorSport teammates Grant Enfinger and Matt Crafton with 15 laps to go.

Nemechek and all the other contenders – except for Sauter – used the caution to head to pit road. Nemechek’s crew chief, Gere Kennon, outfitted the No. 8 NEMCO Motorsports Chevrolet with four fresh tires.

Sound strategy?

Sure.

The reason the team won?

Not necessarily.

“He drove his butt off tonight,” Kennon said of Nemechek, who had notched one top-10 finish previously at Iowa. “He was awesome. It’s awesome for the (Nemechek) family.”

Sauter settled for second after leading for 72 laps. The series points leader said being passed by Chase Briscoe – who led seven laps before sliding to seventh – had likely already relegated him to a second-at-best finish.

“I got taken to school by Chase Briscoe,” Sauter said. “I think tonight was a second-place finish regardless.”

Sauter retains a 42-point lead over Christopher Bell, who finished fifth after dominating roughly two-thirds of the race.

Nemechek notched his fifth career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win. He stood in the fourth position when he and several others emerged from that final, fateful pit stop.

“Somehow it all worked out,” Nemechek said. “The last strategy call, taking four tires instead of two, there at the end, we kind of had that strategy if a caution came out towards the end we were going to come no matter what, and no matter who came, just because tires were such a big factor.”

Noah Gragson earned the pole – his second of the season – held off Bell for the first 16 laps. Bell rode the high-line to surge ahead one lap later. The Kyle Busch Motorsports teammates remained 1-2 the remainder of the 60-lap opening stage, which Bell won by building a 3.2-seconds lead by the time the stint ended.

“Drove like a dream,” Bell said at the time.

That blissful state lingered for the 22-year-old Oklahoman – until it was interrupted.

While the trucks directly behind Bell shuffled, his No. 4 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota continued to shine.

But dreams of any type rarely last long and Bell saw his diminished by a gamble that didn’t pay off.

With eight laps remaining in the second stage, Bell stayed on the race track while most of the other leaders pitted and added fresh tires following a caution precipitated by Mike Senica’s spin in Turn 2.

The gamble cost him. Sauter swept high to pass Bell with five laps remaining in stage two, but another caution waved after an incident involving Kaz Grala, Cody Coughlin and Ben Rhodes.

Bell remained optimistic despite his rapid drop to 12th that preceded the final stage.

“It wouldn’t be fun if it was easy,” Bell said shortly before the race resumed.

Friday proved to be anything but – for everyone but the Nemecheks, who reveled in another dream-like Victory Lane celebration after spending all night getting the truck ready.

“It feels really good,” said Nemechek, who earned the pole at Iowa last season and felt a measure of redemption after surging to the win this time. “This is unbelievable for sure. … Restarting fourth there and pushing Johnny into Turn 1, I was kind of in the catbird seat.”

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Trucks

John Hunter Nemechek passes Matt Crafton late for the win at Gateway

ST. LOUIS, Mo. – “Happy Father’s Day!” a crew member shouted at team owner Joe Nemechek Saturday night as track workers put together the Victory Lane stage behind them. Nemechek had already passed out a half dozen hugs and handshakes to other members of the team he owns, NEMCO Motorsports. “Incredible,” was all Nemechek could muster in response after watching his son, John Hunter Nemechek, pass Matt Crafton late in the race and win the NASCAR Camping World Trucks Series Drivin’ for Linemen 200 at Gateway Motorsports Park.

It was the fourth win of John Hunter’s trucks series career, all of them driving for his father. But it was the first in which his father was also a participant. The win puts John Hunter Nemechek in elite company. Other sons to win a NASCAR national series race against their father include Richard Petty, Kyle Petty, Davey Allison and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

The elder Nemechek completed just two laps and finished 28th out of 30 cars and watched the rest of the race from atop his son’s pit box. As the laps wound down, he tried, not terribly successfully, to remain calm as his son diced through the front of the field. He keyed the mic a couple times and told his son, “Be smart.”

It was advice the younger Nemechek took to heart. His trucks have been far faster than his results have shown so far this season, and the last thing he wanted to do was be impatient and drive himself out of a good finish. He crashed in the two previous races and had only finished on the lead lap twice all season.

John Hunter Nemechek led all 35 laps of the first stage of the race and 46 overall. Chase Briscoe led all of the second stage. Matt Crafton seized control of the race when he took zero tires on a green flag pit stop at Lap 138 of 160.

The first and only caution that wasn’t related to the end of a stage didn’t come until there were 13 laps left-an unusually long stretch of green flag racing considering how difficult of a track Gateway is to navigate. The caution bunched the field back up, and Nemechek, who had two fresher tires, squeezed by Crafton for the final time with five to go.

“I felt like we had the truck to beat if we had track position,” Nemechek said. “Track position was everything. Clean air was everything.”

When John Hunter pulled into Victory Lane, his dad ran over and stuck his head in the window. They shared a moment about all of the struggles they overcame together to win this race on Father’s Day eve. They can’t outspend other teams, so they have to out think and out drive them.

“It’s taken everything that I have to get here,” Joe Nemechek said. “Our future in this deal is not certain. Hopefully this can spark some interest in sponsorship.”

Joe knew his son would be emotional in Victory Lane, and he wanted to tell him he was proud of him before the chaos of the celebration began. “He’s the man. He drove his butt off tonight,” he said.

John Hunter’s emotions poured out in the post-race celebration. “To give him a Father’s Day gift, something like this, is very special. As a boss, as a mentor, as a dad, pretty much everything he is to me, it’s definitely inspiring. I won’t ever be able to thank him enough.”

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Trucks

Nemechek Fights Back at Kansas

After two finishes outside the top-25 at Atlanta and Martinsville, a third place Friday night at Kansas comes as a step in the right direction for John Hunter Nemechek.

Starting the day in 14th, the 19-year-old worked his way to the front to finish fourth in Stage 1, and seventh in Stage 2.

“It started out pretty good,” Nemechek said. “We didn’t qualify like we wanted to. We ended up qualifying 14th and I think it was Lap 5, we were running sixth or fifth there and we had made it up to the front pretty good. We struggled all night fighting tight conditions center off, and my guys never gave up on me so, I can’t thank them enough,”

It was late in the race though where he ran his best. After restarting fourth on Lap 138, Nemechek was able to move to third and keep close to leaders Ben Rhodes and Kyle Busch.

“We made good adjustments all night, and we went a little bit further at the end and needed just a little bit more I think to hang with the 51 (Busch). The 27 (Rhodes) and the 51 were so fast at the end it was hard to keep up,” Nemechek said. “After the last couple of races that we’ve had, having two mechanical failures, to come back and get a third, definitely is great for our team and hopefully we can keep that momentum rolling.”

Despite the solid run, Nemechek admits there is still a “little bit of work to do” for his team moving forward after mechanical failures in two of the first four races have put them behind. The second-generation racer also expressed that the team needs to work on their strategy prior to each race weekend. As with no top-10 starts yet this year, he has found himself playing catch up come time for the green flag.

“We have to keep finishing races and have to work on our speed a little bit,” Nemechek said. “We have to work on our unload speed. It makes it way easier when you unload fast and don’t have to change a bunch. I feel like that’s where were getting beat.”

After four events, he sits 11th in the standings, 16 points behind eighth heading into Charlotte, where he has a 12th place finish in one start.

Mitchell Breuer is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Commentary

Stealing the Spotlight – 5 Drivers You’ll Hear About Next

NASCAR has done a lot – and rightfully so – to showcase the youth movement that is currently underway. As Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and (possibly) Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle move onto the next chapter of their lives, talented youngsters like Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson, Erik Jones and William Byron have arrived on the scene.

The roster of young drivers is indeed impressive as another wave could be set to arrive in the wake of Elliott, Larson, Jones and Byron. 

Check out five drivers – only two of which have Cup team affiliations – who may be appearing more in the headlines as they win races and compete for championships.

John Hunter Nemechek

When people hear the name Nemechek, they still think of former Cup star, Joe Nemechek. But that is changing as son John Hunter Nemechek continues to make his name in the Camping World Truck Series. Racing since the age of five, John Hunter has a resume that includes the 2012 Allison Legacy Series Championship, a victory in the 2014 Snowball Derby and experience in a variety of series including ASA, UNOH and NASCAR’s K&N Pro Series East.

Nemechek began competing in the Camping World Truck Series in 2014 and, a year later, captured his first of three wins in the Truck Series at Chicagoland, coming 16 years to the day after father Joe won his first Cup race.

Voted the Truck Series Most Popular Driver in 2015, he found himself mired in controversy a year later. After a win at Atlanta, Nemechek won his second race at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park. Nemechek bumped Cole Custer for the lead, and the two battled door-to-door and off-track to cross the finish line, resulting in a post-race brawl.     

Nemechek made the Truck Series’ inaugural Chase but was eliminated in the Round of 8. At the age of 19, Nemechek has already collected 28 top 10 finishes to go with three wins in the Truck series.      

Spencer Gallagher

No less than Dale Earnhardt, Jr has commented on Spencer Gallagher’s entertaining interviews, and the 27-year-old XFINITY Series rookie who drives for GMS Racing has the on-track skills to back it up.  After coming up through the ranks of Bandoleros, Legends and Late Models, Gallagher has also competed in the K&N Pro Series West and East and ARCA series.

The 2014 ARCA 98.9 at Kansas Speedway was the last race of the season, but it served as Gallagher’s first win. Meanwhile, sharing a truck ride with Max Gresham at GMS Racing, Gallagher finished third at Talladega.

After full seasons in the Camping World Truck Series in 2015 and 2016, Gallagher also ran select XFINITY Series races. He scored five straight top 10 finishes and a second-place finish at Talladega but failed to make the inaugural Truck Chase.

While he will still run in the Truck Series part-time, Gallagher has graduated to the XFINITY Series, driving the No. 23 for GMS Racing. Currently best known for a scuffle with John Wes Townley during last year’s Camping World Truck Series race at Gateway (a rematch from a 2014 battle at Iowa), Gallagher is ready to grab the spotlight away from his competitors on and off the track.   

Ryan Sieg

Rarely has any driver done so much with so little than Ryan Sieg. Driving No. 39 for a family-owned team with limited sponsorship, Sieg continues to compete in the XFINITY and Truck Series.

He began his NASCAR career in 2009 in trucks, running nine races for his family’s team following a one-off with Gunbroker Racing. He finished in the top 20 in six of those races, including a ninth-place finish at Gateway.

A year later, he competed in all 25 races in the Truck Series, finishing in the top 10 at Kentucky and Dover and finishing 15th in the points. All this despite no major sponsorship.

In 2013, while still running a full schedule in trucks, Sieg made his XFINITY debut, substituting for the suspended Jeremy Clements. A year later, he began to focus on NASCAR’s second-tier division, scoring two top 10 finishes at Daytona: a ninth and a third. 

In 2015, he finished eleventh in the points, the highest ranked driver not affiliated with a Cup team. Consistently running in the top 20, Sieg’s best result was an eighth-place result at Kansas.

In 2016, he made the XFINITY Series Chase. Eliminated in the Round of 12, he finished ninth in the point standings.

Brennan Poole

Brennan Poole almost won the XFINITY race at Talladega in 2016.  As Joey Logano wrecked behind him, Poole crossed the finish line first but was told Elliott Sadler had been leading when the caution flag flew. Despite the disappointing outcome, the race helped put Poole on the map.

Poole, a 2002 National Champion in quarter-midgets and 2011 UARA Late Model Champion, made a major splash with a win in his ARCA debut in 2011 at Salem Speedway.  He ran a full schedule in 2012 for Venturini with two wins and a third-place finish in points. After running two years on a part-time schedule, Poole left ARCA for NASCAR, having secured six wins in 35 career starts.

Moving to NASCAR’s XFINITY Series in 2015, Poole shared driving duties on HScott Motorsports No. 42 with Ganassi Racing’s Larson. Including a ninth-place finish in his debut at Las Vegas, Poole scored two top 10s and ten top 15s in 17 starts.

His results were good enough to score a full-time ride with Ganassi in 2016.  To date, the win has eluded him, but he has scored 19 top 10s.

Chase Briscoe

Chase Briscoe is following up his 2016 ARCA Championship with a ride in Brad Keselowski Racing No. 29 Ford in the Camping World Truck Series.

Briscoe competed in quarter-midgets and 410 sprint cars growing up and competed in the K&N Pro Series West in 2013. After contacting his friend Christopher Bell in 2015 about a contract with Roush Fenway Racing, Briscoe completed some ARCA tests for Cunningham Motorsports at Mobile International Speedway and Fairgrounds Speedway in Tennessee.

Briscoe ran a pair of ARCA races later that year, finishing tenth at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis and fifth at Salem Speedway. In 2016, he all but dominated the ARCA series with six wins including four consecutive, en route to winning the championship.

In his Truck Series debut, Briscoe finished third at Daytona.

These are just five drivers out of the many competing in the XFINITY and Truck Series. Aglance at the other development to series, you could say the future is bright for NASCAR, but there may be even more youngsters to come. 

 

EMAIL: john.milner@popularspeed.com

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