RICHMOND, Va. – When John Hunter Nemechek bet on himself by dropping back down to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, his singular goal was to win as many races as possible.
He met that goal for the second time this season with a dominant victory Saturday afternoon at Richmond Raceway – holding off his boss, Kyle Busch, in the process.
Nemechek led three times for 114 of 250 laps in the ToyotaCare 250, taking command for the final time with 17 to go after using fresher tires to pass his Kyle Busch Motorsports teammate, Chandler Smith.
From there, Nemechek stayed clear of Busch’s advances down the home stretch en route to the eighth win of his Truck Series career – as well as the fourth in a row for KBM as an organization.
Though he was shuffled back to ninth during a pit sequence with 52 to go, after several drivers who pitted earlier in the final stage stayed out for track position, Nemechek fought through traffic methodically to get back to the front when it mattered most.
“That was a never-give-up attitude,” tipped Nemechek in victory lane. “I just can’t thank Kyle (Busch, team owner), everyone at Toyota, all of our great partners. It’s pretty cool to be able to come out here and do what we were able to do. We had a really fast truck. I’m super proud of all of my guys and thankful for them. Thankful for our partners, Safeway, ACME … I know the president is here from Safeway and ACME, so that’s pretty cool to get them a win on their own turf. It’s pretty cool.”
Nemechek called Saturday’s win “the icing on the cake,” after he and wife Taylor welcomed a daughter, Aspen, into the world on March 31.
“Taylor and Aspen are actually here in the motorhome, so hopefully we can get to celebrate with them [later on],” Nemechek noted. “It’s been an amazing time with Aspen so far. This puts a lot of different things in perspective, but I just can’t thank all of my guys, all of our partners, everyone enough for believing in me and giving me this opportunity. Two wins; we’re here for wins. Let’s go get more.”
A crash in turn one involving Codie Rohrbaugh set up the day’s penultimate restart with 41 laps left, where ThorSport Racing teammates Matt Crafton and Johnny Sauter lined up on the front row with roughly 20-lap older tires than Nemechek, Busch and others deeper in the field.
Crafton drove deep into turn one after the green flag and washed up into Sauter, sending both Toyota Tundras out of the groove and opening the door for Smith to take the lead on the inside.
Smith led the next five laps uncontested before Kris Wright crashed on the backstretch to bring out the final caution, then darted away when the green flag waved for the final time with 29 laps left as his teammates – Nemechek and Busch – came forward on the top lane to second and third, respectively.
From there, Smith tried desperately to hold the duo at bay, but once Nemechek made the winning pass with 17 to go and brought Busch along with him, the die was cast and there was little Smith could do.
Busch lamented the handling of his truck during the final stage as a key factor that kept him from challenging for the victory, but lauded Nemechek’s performance in winning for the organization.
“We were definitely not good enough in the long run; it would just overheat the tires. We tried to free it up and we got loose … and that helped us last another five laps, but as soon as I felt tight and saw the 4 (Nemechek) wiggle loose, I was like, ’Oh, we don’t have a shot to pass him,’” explained Busch. “We hung with him at least. But the most discouraging thing about today is that KBM ran 1-2-4 with three entirely different setups, so what do we come back here with? That’s what’s most confusing now to me is the next time back, what do we do?
“I think the 4 was just overall better than us,” Busch added. “It was fun to race up there with him and fun to race up there with the rest of the guys. I’m glad we could kind of get single-filed out at the end a little bit to where we could race amongst ourselves, but they were just better than us there.”
Tyler Ankrum broke up a potential KBM sweep of the top-three finishing positions by passing Smith in the closing laps, but Smith hung on for fourth – easily his best finish of the Truck Series season so far.
Sauter faded to fifth at the finish, followed by Todd Gilliland, polesitter Ben Rhodes, Grant Enfinger, Sam Mayer and Austin Hill.
Mayer advanced 31 positions from last on the grid to finish ninth, making him the day’s biggest mover.
Saturday’s race saw the entire 70-lap opening stage go caution-free, marking the longest green-flag stint to kick off a Truck Series race since 2014.
However, from the first stage break on, 11 yellow flags slowed the pace for 79 laps and made for a somewhat segmented feel to the event. The longest uninterrupted run after lap 70 was 36 circuits.
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season continues May 1 at Kansas Speedway.
Race results from the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series ToyotaCare 250, held April 17, 2021 at Richmond (Va.) Raceway:
- (18) John Hunter Nemechek, Toyota, 250.
- (12) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 250.
- (30) Tyler Ankrum, Chevrolet, 250.
- (23) Chandler Smith, Toyota, 250.
- (19) Johnny Sauter, Toyota, 250.
- (8) Todd Gilliland, Ford, 250.
- (1) Ben Rhodes, Toyota, 250.
- (3) Grant Enfinger, Toyota, 250.
- (40) Sam Mayer, Chevrolet, 250.
- (2) Austin Hill, Toyota, 250.
- (9) Sheldon Creed, Chevrolet, 250.
- (13) Carson Hocevar, Chevrolet, 250.
- (4) Stewart Friesen, Toyota, 250.
- (6) Zane Smith, Chevrolet, 250.
- (29) Derek Kraus, Toyota, 250.
- (25) Spencer Davis, Toyota, 250.
- (14) Hailie Deegan, Ford, 250.
- (7) Matt Crafton, Toyota, 250.
- (10) Austin Wayne Self, Chevrolet, 250.
- (28) Danny Bohn, Toyota, 250.
- (34) Timmy Hill, Chevrolet, 250.
- (27) Timothy Peters, Chevrolet, 250.
- (5) Raphael Lessard, Chevrolet, 249.
- (11) Tanner Gray, Ford, 249.
- (31) Dawson Cram, Chevrolet, 248.
- (36) Jett Noland, Chevrolet, 247.
- (26) Spencer Boyd, Chevrolet, 247.
- (15) Chase Purdy, Chevrolet, 245.
- (39) Ryan Reed, Chevrolet, 245.
- (32) Keith McGee, Chevrolet, 244.
- (21) Cory Roper, Ford, 243.
- (38) Norm Benning, Chevrolet, 240.
- (37) Josh Reaume, Toyota, 240.
- (35) Howie Disavino III, Chevrolet, 221.
- (22) Kris Wright, Chevrolet, Accident, 212.
- (20) Codie Rohrbaugh, Chevrolet, Accident, 195.
- (17) Brett Moffitt, Chevrolet, Handling, 186.
- (33) Jennifer Jo Cobb, Chevrolet, DVP, 168.
- (24) Tate Fogleman, Chevrolet, Accident, 82.
- (16) Ryan Truex, Chevrolet, Rear Gear, 44.