By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
AVONDALE, Ariz. – As the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series campaign ran into the sunset, John Hunter Nemechek’s dream season turned into a nightmare.
Friday’s Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix Raceway went clean to the surprise of many people with only four cautions. Half of them being for stage breaks. Nemechek didn’t get that luxury of having a clean race as Stage 1 went horrendously wrong.
Nemechek was losing spots entering Turn 2 when Kris Wright came from out of nowhere and door slammed him. The season defining contact damaged the left side of his No. 4 Toyota Tundra and cut down his left front tire. NASCAR didn’t wave a caution as the wounded truck limped to pit road, dropping him two laps off the pace in the process.
As the race came down to the final stage, Nemechek finally got the break he needed, returning to the lead lap after Tate Fogleman’s truck stopped on the front stretch on Lap 102.
The Kyle Busch Motorsports competitor was ready to pounce but without another caution, he crossed the line in seventh and finished third in the final standings. When the dust finally settled, Nemechek’s 2021 season consisted of five victories, 12 top-fives, and 16 top-10s.
After the race, Nemechek was gutted about losing out at a championship after having a superb campaign until the final two races of the season. Last week with Austin Wayne Self at Martinsville and now primarily with Wright at Phoenix.
“I got run in to the first corner, got into the fence, somebody else ran in to us on the left side and this thing is killed pretty much,” Nemechek said of the incident with Wright.
“Had a left front tire go flat, went down two laps, got both of our laps back, but just needed more laps, I guess. After all, felt we had the best truck tonight Playoff wise for sure. Drove from pretty much last to seventh there and running down Ben (Rhodes) and Zane (Smith) for the championship, just not enough. That’s what’s frustrating.”
Wright wasn’t the only one that was blasted by Nemechek as Jack Wood wasn’t safe from escaping Arizona without controversy.
“Wood is a dumb ass and Wright doesn’t have any business out there,” Nemechek said afterwards. “Season was great, but it doesn’t matter. We didn’t take home the hardware. They better watch out because we’re coming to win (next season).”
During the post-race press conference, TRD President David Wilson added his comments on the night Nemechek had just endured.
“(John Hunter) had a rocket ship underneath him. He just didn’t have enough laps,” said Wilson.