John Hunter Nemechek wins in rough and wild finish at Atlanta
This time, John Hunter Nemechek got to celebrate his victory in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
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Nemechek survived a wild race at Atlanta Motor Speedway that saw Christopher Bell take out two drivers – Matt Crafton and Daniel Suarez – racing for the lead and then wreck himself while he appeared ready to capture the victory.
Instead, Nemechek was left battling Cameron Hayley for the victory in a two-lap dash to the finish.
The win is Nemechek’s second in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. His first came last season at Chicagoland Speedway, an intermediate track much like Atlanta.
Nemechek wasn’t able to properly celebrate his win last season as the fuel-mileage race left him with no gas in his No. 8 Chevrolet after the race.
He had no such issues on Saturday.
“The pit crew won us this race. I can’t thank those guys enough,” Nemechek said in Victory Lane. “They gained me over 13 spots on pit road and I can’t thank them enough.”
The pit crew of Sprint Cup Series driver Jimmie Johnson worked as Nemechek’s pit crew in Saturday’s race. They also served in the same capacity for driver Justin Allgaier earlier in the Xfinity Series race in the day.
Just as in his win last season at Chicagoland, Nemechek drove an unsponsored black-colored truck in the race. The underfunded team he drives for is owned by his father, NASCAR veteran Joe Nemechek.
“I tried to tell him to slow down because he was burning the tires off of it,” Joe said of the advice he gave to his son in the race. “We just kept working. It’s a lot of good people. For a small team with very limited resources, we’re getting our stuff figured out.”
John Hunter said he debated whether to start on the inside or outside on the final restart when his crew chief, Gere Kennon, offered up some advice.
“He kept saying ‘bottom, bottom, bottom. Do not start on the outside,’ ” Nemechek said.
While Nemechek started on the inside, John Wes Townley spun on his tires while starting on the outside line and held up much of the field going into Turn 1. Nemechek was able to put a sizable gap between himself and Hayley.
The win also virtually ensures Nemechek will compete for this season’s Truck series championship. NASCAR adapted a Chase format for both the Xfinity and Truck series this season.
Timothy Peters finished third, Daniel Hemric was fourth and Grant Enfinger ended up fifth. Parker Kligerman, who also does some broadcast work for NBC Sports, leads the Truck series standings by one point over Hemric.
Crafton and Bell combined to lead 118 of the 130 laps but neither made it to the finish.
On a restart with 19 laps to go, Suarez drove to the outside of Crafton in an attempt to take the lead but was hit in the left-rear by Bell. Suarez then turned into Crafton and both drivers slammed into the backstretch wall.
Hayley inherited the race lead and on a restart with 15 laps to go, Bell drove into the lead. Just as it appeared he may win the race, he blew a tire and slammed the wall as Nemechek took over the lead.
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