By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
DARLINGTON, S.C. – A late-race caution ended John Hunter Nemechek’s chances to battle for a NASCAR Xfinity Series victory.
With 12 laps to go in the Mahindra ROXOR 200 Nemechek’s No. 26 Stillhouse 1111 Toyota TRD Supra was running down race leader Justin Allgaier. The duo had separated themselves from Noah Gragson, Ryan Truex, and others. However, the caution waved when Joe Graf Jr was spun into the inside wall by Anthony Alfredo.
On the ensuing restart nine drivers opted to stay on track at Darlington Raceway. Nemechek also had minor contact on pit road with Riley Herbst. A quick two lap run was followed by another caution. That allowed Nemechek to move the Sam Hunt Racing machine back into the top-10.
“I didn’t want to see (that caution),” admitted Nemechek. “We maintained all day on pit road, which was really good. We lost a couple spots there on that last big stop. I don’t know exactly what happened, but the pit crew’s been working hard. Thought we had a shot if the caution wouldn’t have come out. I thought the 7 would have been too loose there.
“Was going to have one shot at him, felt like we were pulling away from the 9. We put ourselves in contention, that’s all that you can ask for. Super proud everyone at Sam Hunt Racing. Thank you, Sam, Stillhouse 1111 for giving me the opportunity to come and do this Toyota TRD Supra. It’s been fun.”
The final restart allowed the 24-year-old to maneuver into the top-five. Nemechek followed Riley Herbst around those on older tires. However, the short run didn’t give the Mooresville, N.C. native much chance to run down the leaders. The lack of a white flag waving also left him questioning if they had only one lap to go. When the checkered flag waved, Nemechek was fourth.
“I noticed it,” stated Nemechek. “(My spotter) said we were coming back to the checkered and I asked him, ‘Are you sure?’ I didn’t know if we actually had two to go or a caution coming back to the checkered. I didn’t see the flag, so I’m glad he told me.”
Though Nemechek is not earning NASCAR Xfinity Series points, his team is building a foundation. In the first Stage he finished 10th after starting 23rd. Though the second Stage ended under caution, Nemechek was fourth. That netted Sam Hunt Racing an additional eight points.
The fourth-place finish is Nemechek’s fourth top-five in six Xfinity starts this season. It’s also the 18th top-five in his Xfinity career.
The top-five finish moved Sam Hunt Racing up from 18th to 15th in the Xfinity owner’s points standings.
Featured Photo Credit: Photo by NKP / NKP Photo.