Nemechek scores first top-10 finish in NASCAR’s return

Photo by NKP / NKP Photo

By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer

NASCAR’s return to racing at Darlington Raceway was a successful one for John Hunter Nemechek.

The Front Row Motorsports driver ran inside the top-15 in the late stages of The Real Heroes 400. As the laps wound down, Nemechek powered his No. 38 Scag Power Equipment Ford Mustang into the top-10.

The NASCAR Cup Series rookie of the year contender found himself battling fellow rookie contender Tyler Reddick. Nemechek chased Reddick around the track as the duo battled to be the rookie of the race. On the final lap, Reddick snuck by Erik Jones to seal his accolade while Nemechek took the checkered flag in ninth for his first career top-10 finish in the Cup Series.

“A solid day, very excited, an awesome day coming home P9,” explained Nemechek. “An amazing job by my team and the pit crew. Everybody executed all day with no mistakes. We made the right adjustments. Seth Barbour (crew chief) and the engineers did a great job. The pit crew was flawless, and I couldn’t have asked for a better day. 

“It was great to get kicked off on the right foot for these races coming up. Hopefully, we can continue to build on this and create some momentum and continue to get our cars faster each and every week. It’s great to be back and I’m so excited to be able to race again next week.”

NASCAR’s return to racing was highlighted by social distancing, no practice and qualifying, and zero race fans in attendance. As NASCAR and the rest of the sports world continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, they became the first major sport to return to action. However, that came at the sacrifice of having no fans in attendance.

Nemechek was quick to acknowledge and thank his fans and sponsors that make the sport possible:

“Thank you to all the fans that are out there supporting. We miss you at the racetrack. It’s definitely different without you guys there and I can’t wait until the day that you guys are back, but I have to give the glory to God and thank him for this plan and the life that I live. It’s amazing and I’m looking forward to the future. 

“Thank you, Scag Power Equipment, Ford, everyone for helping out this weekend. Every sponsor that we have, thank you for getting us to the racetrack. None of this would be possible without you guys.”

Nemechek started 34th after a random draw set the starting grid. The Mooresville, N.C. native spent the entire race climbing through the field. Although he did not earn any stage points, Nemechek’s ability to adapt to ‘The Track Too Tough to Tame’ was put on display.

The ninth-place finish moved Nemechek to 22nd in the point standings, 16-points behind Chris Buescher, who currently holds the final playoff berth. The 22-year-old is 127-points behind fellow Ford Performance driver, Darlington race winner, and points leader Kevin Harvick.

The top-10 finish for Nemechek is the first at a non-Superspeedway track for Front Row Motorsports in three years. The organization’s most recent top-10 finish away from Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway was with Buescher at Bristol Motor Speedway. It’s the organization’s 20th top-10 finish.

Nemechek will start the Toyota 500k at Darlington on Wednesday, May 20, from the 12th position. The first 20 starting positions were determined by an invert of the top-20 finishing positions in the Real Heroes 400.

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