MADISON, Ill. (AP) – John Hunter Nemechek gave his dad and truck owner Joe Nemechek an early Father’s Day present.
The 20-year-old driver took the lead with four laps remaining and pulled away to win the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race Saturday night at Gateway Motorsports Park.
“Today was a very special day for us,” Joe Nemechek said. “I’ve tutored him the best I know how and tried to teach him all the right values and it’s up to him to do it on the race track. He’s been able to take it and take it to the next level.”
The younger Nemechek, who qualified second, grabbed the top spot from Matt Crafton in Turns 1 and 2 on the 156th lap and held off pole-sitter Chase Briscoe.
Nemechek, driving the No. 8 Chevrolet, raced to his first victory of the season and fourth in the series. Joe Nemechek is a former NASCAR driver, who raced Saturday night but finished 28th in the field of 30 trucks.
“I was hoping there would be a caution there with 10 or 12 laps remaining because I thought we had the truck to beat if we had track position,” Nemechek said. “We made the call on the green flag pit stop to take two tires and I felt like that was the call to make when the guys in front of us took no tires and we were right behind them. We were running them down.”
Nemechek made his final pit stop of the night on Lap 131 and took two tires and fuel even though the team had a minor problem with their jack release during the stop.
That didn’t prevent Nemechek from making his eventual winning move although he had to work for his way through the field as he came out in fifth place.
Nemechek slowly worked his way to the front moving into fourth with 20 laps left. He was third when the only caution flag of the night came out when Josh Reaume stopped on pit lane after running out of fuel.
On the restart on lap 155, Nemechek took the lead over Crafton and never looked back.
“I got a run on Crafton and was able to get by him,” Nemechek said. “I just tried to run a smart race. We’ve had really fast trucks this year. Hopefully our luck has changed now.”
Nemechek led 48 of the 160 laps and beat Briscoe by 1.635 seconds. Series points leader Johnny Sauter finished third, followed by Crafton and Grant Enfinger. Defending race champion Christopher Bell wound up sixth.
Briscoe, who won the second of the two stages and led the most laps at 88, made a pit stop on lap 150 during the caution and took on four tires and fuel.
That stop pushed the rookie back to 13th but he ran out of time as he tried to catch Nemechek.
“The first two laps after the restart I had too much front brake in it and it kept locking the wheels up getting into (Turn) 1,” Briscoe said. “The amount of distance I lost cost us there in the end. It was tough and it would have been tough even with those first two laps (on the restart).
“I don’t know if we would have gotten the 8 (Nemechek), but I feel like we would have been so much closer than we were.”
Nemechek dominated the first part of the race lead the first 39 laps and he won the first of the two stages. But a slow pitstop dropped him to fifth as he gave up the lead to Briscoe as the second stage began.
Briscoe won the second stage, holding off Crafton, Nemechek, Grant Enfinger and Bell. After that only two drivers – Crafton (16 laps) and Justin Haley (three laps) held the point. Everything else belonged to either Nemechek or Briscoe.
There was only one official caution period in the race, on Lap 148 when Josh Reaume stopped on pit lane after running out of fuel. The race took 1 hour, 47 minutes, 18 seconds to complete and the average speed was 111.836 mph.
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