By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
John Hunter Nemechek rebounded from a late-race ‘big one’ for a top-10 finish at Daytona International Speedway.
As the laps wound down, the intensity at the front of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series field ratcheted up. Timothy Peters attempted to move down in front of Drew Dollar with six laps to go in the scheduled distance. However, Peters was not clear of the Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) driver. The contact sent the No. 25 Rackley W.A.R. Chevrolet Silverado spinning up the track and into the field.
In the chaos, Nemechek’s No. 4 Fire Alarm Services Toyota Tundra was swept up in the incident. He was further back in the pack after a strategy call saw the Eric Phillips-led team change tires. Although the damage to his KBM machine was minor, he lined up in the back coming to an overtime restart in the NextEra Energy Resources 250.
In overtime, Nemechek followed Jordan Anderson, Ryan Truex, and Carson Hocevar through the pack. When the white flag waved, the four drivers were outside the top-10. In turn four, Spencer Boyd, Matt Crafton, Grant Enfinger, and Zane Smith collided. The ensuing wreck opened a gap on the inside that Nemechek and others used to avoid the mayhem. As the caution waved, the Mooresville, N.C. native crossed the line in seventh.
“In Stage 3, we did a strategy call,” explained Nemechek. “We took tires and it put us behind a little bit and never could get back to the front. I felt like we got trapped back there. We were making our way back up there towards the end and then we ended up getting caught up in the second-to-last wreck. It kind of sandwiched the truck, and I got tagged in the left rear and spun out.
“We started in the back on the final restart on the green-white-checkered. I was able to somehow get a pretty good suck going down the back and made it to the bottom lane in (turns) three and four. They all started wrecking almost to the tri-oval. Somehow, we managed to make it through that without getting in the grass and wrecking and came home seventh. Overall, really solid points day. I’m looking forward to the rest of the year, and this is just a start of what we can do.”
Nemechek ran up front for much of his return to the Truck Series. The last time he competed full-time in the series was 2017. In his return, Nemechek led 14 laps, trading the top spot back and forth at Daytona. The speed in his Toyota Tundra was evident as the 23-year-old finished fourth in Stage 1 and won Stage 2, netting an additional 17-points.
“I felt like our race was okay – or decent at least,” admitted Nemechek. “We had a really fast Fire Alarm Services Toyota Tundra, made gains through the weekend. I felt like we were pretty good right off of the truck. Eric (Phillips, crew chief) and all of the guys at KBM gave us a really good truck that we could contend with. We stayed up there in Stage 1 and ended up winning Stage 2.”
The seventh-place finish is the 51st in Nemechek’s Truck Series career and came in his 103rd series start. It was his best finish at Daytona since a fourth-place finish in the 2017 season opener. The seventh-place finish and stage points leaves Nemechek third in the points standings.
The top-10 was his 84th across all of NASCAR’s National series. The top-10 extends Nemechek’s streak of earning at least one top-10 finish a year dating back to 2014.
Next up for Nemechek is a return to the Daytona International Speedway Road Course. He finished 35th on the road course in the NASCAR Cup Series last year after a crash.
Feature Photo Credit: NKP / NKP Photo