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Nemechek avoiding "extra noise" as Xfinity playoffs begin

John Hunter Nemechek has a lot on his plate right now but a very singular purpose – winning the 2023 NASCAR Xfinity Series championship.

John Hunter Nemechek, Joe Gibbs Racing, Persil Toyota Supra

With a fulltime move to the Cup series on deck for 2024 at Legacy Motor Club, this year is likely Nemechek’s last best opportunity to win a title in NASCAR’s lower tier series.

Nemechek, driving Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 20 Toyota, enters the opening playoff race Friday night at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway with a series-leading six victories, including a dominating performance in last weekend’s regular season finale at Kansas.

Nemechek leads all drivers in wins and laps led on the way to finishing second in the regular season standings behind Austin Hill.

While the repeated trips to Victory Lane have promoted many to label him the championship favorite, the 26-year-old son of NASCAR veteran Joe Nemechek isn’t having it.

“To be honest, that’s just extra noise to us. We’re not focused on being the favorite to win the championship or not,” John Hunter said. “We’re focused on running every race how we do and going out and race every single race track every single week.

“Putting an emphasis on trying to win, but also coming out with good weeks to not let bad ones affect your playoff run. I don’t think the standpoint of being a favorite or not really affects us or the mental side of things.”

That’s doesn’t mean Nemechek doesn’t believe he and his team have found themselves with a unique opportunity.

Asked if anything less than advancing to the championship race at Phoenix would be a disappointment, Nemechek said, “I think so. I think the way we’ve run this year and with the speed we’ve had, we want to make the final four and definitely feel we have a shot to do so.

“We just can’t beat ourselves to get there.”

John Hunter Nemechek, Joe Gibbs Racing, Pye Barker Fire & Safety Toyota Supra

John Hunter Nemechek, Joe Gibbs Racing, Pye Barker Fire & Safety Toyota Supra

Photo by: Matthew T. Thacker / NKP / Motorsport Images

The first test at Bristol will be a difficult one.

Nemechek has never won in any NASCAR series at the high-banked short track, but he does own a pair of top-five finishes in three Xfinity starts. His best finish – third – came in his most recent start at the track in August 2019.

Rather than nit-pick at individual tracks in the title battle, Nemechek believes there is one thing he and his team can focus on to improve their chances at reaching the championship race.

“Just execute. Road courses haven’t been our greatest strength, but they’re not our worst race track,” he said. “We’ve had some really good runs and some not-so-great runs, but execution.

“Not beating ourselves, not getting ahead of ourselves, and staying in contention every single week. That’s the key.”

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