By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
John Hunter Nemechek scored a top-five finish for Sam Hunt Racing (SHR) at Richmond Raceway, validating the organization’s speed in the process.
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series playoff driver joined SHR during an off weekend for the Truck Series. Nemechek ran inside the top-10 throughout much of the Go Bowling 250. In the final Stage, the No. 26 Safeway Toyota Supra marched up the running order. Nemechek followed fellow Toyota Racing drivers Harrison Burton, Ty Gibbs, and Brandon Jones, until he worked his way by the Joe Gibbs Racing powerhouses.
Two late-race cautions put Nemechek in position to gain track position. While differing strategies jumbled the running order, the 24-year-old utilized the restarts to his advantage. He jumped to the outside, passing Burton, Jones, Sam Mayer, and others. When the checkered flag waved, Nemechek crossed the line in third.
“We were able to drive from the back there to the top-10,” explained Nemechek. “We ran top-10 pretty much all day. I don’t think we had enough of a car to win there, but we definitely made the most out of the day. Just validating Sam Hunt Racing’s equipment and it’s definitely fast. I wish we wouldn’t have got off on the first adjustment. I made the wrong call or asked for the wrong thing, thinking that is what I needed, and it put us a little bit behind the eight ball, but overall, really solid day for our Safeway Toyota Supra.
“Racing was crazy. We were able to take a couple gambles I felt like and I’m glad the two cautions at the end there came out or we probably wouldn’t have finished where we did. Thankful for the opportunity. Looking forward to whatever is next. I don’t have any more with Sam this year, but who knows what the future holds.”
Nemechek started the race in 27th due to NASCAR’s metric qualifying format. Like Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Sam Mayer, he climbed into the top-20 before the competition caution on lap 35. The Mooresville, N.C. native finished the first Stage just outside the top-10.
In the second Stage, Nemechek battled with Earnhardt for a spot inside the top-10. With 10 laps to go in the Stage, he passed the 15-Time NASCAR Cup Series Most Popular Driver. Before Earnhardt could respond, a caution waved, ending the Stage with Nemechek in 10th.
“It was overall a really solid day for our Safeway Toyota Supra for Sam Hunt,” stated Nemechek. “Just thankful for the opportunity from Sam, Toyota, all of our great partners that help us get to the racetrack. It was an off weekend for me in the Truck side, so good for me to put myself back in the seat. I felt like I learned a lot today for myself. In these Playoffs, it’s more about staying mentally tough. We were able to do so today.”
The top-five finish is Nemechek’s first in the Xfinity Series this season and the 13th in his career. The top-five is also the first for SHR in the team’s existence. The best finish for the Sam Hunt-owned team previously was Brandon Gdovic’s eighth-place finish in the season opener earlier this year.
“I think the emotion [I have] stems from years of doing this the unconventional way, the hard way,” admitted Hunt. “To finally put it all together and see the product and to just really be a part of this thing and be a competitor is everything I’ve worked for. It’s surreal.”
Gdovic is scheduled to be in the No. 26 SHR Toyota Supra at Bristol Motor Speedway for the Food City 300 on Friday, Sept 17.
Featured Photo Credit: Photo by NKP / NKP Photo