By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Using techniques from fellow Chip Ganassi Racing driver Kyle Larson, John Hunter Nemechek made his return in the Camping World Series and didn’t disappoint. Through adversity and taking advantage of other’s shortcomings on fuel, Nemechek came home in fourth during Friday’s 37 Kind Days 250 at Kansas Speedway.
Nemechek said he fought a tight truck all night and came up short of scoring a win at the venue his father Joe’s last Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory in 2004. Despite this, he gave props to his team after scoring his 24th career top-5.
“We fought too tight all night. We couldn’t get on the free side on anything that we did, but my guys gave me a good truck,” Nemechek said. “Huge shout out to Chevy and Fleetwing for all their help and coming onboard. Huge shout out to all of my guys. There’s only four of them at the shop, so it’s pretty cool to be able to come out here and contend for top-5s.”
Making his first start since scoring a win at Martinsville in April, Nemechek was one of four drivers (Kyle Busch, Johnny Sauter and Darrell “Bubba” Wallace, Jr.) who entered the 1.5-mile circuit looking for their second straight victory.
Before the 167-lap battle even started, Nemechek had to give up his 14th starting position and dropped to the rear for unapproved adjustments on the ECU after qualifying. However, that didn’t phase the 20-year-old and quickly motored his way up into the top-10 after 15 laps.
On Lap 35, Nemechek passed Matt Crafton, who lead early in the going, for sixth and stayed there once Stage 1 wrapped up. Nemechek faced another hurdle after his pit crew cost him five spots on pit road and had to start Stage 2 in 11th.
Once again, Nemechek didn’t waste any time to crack the top-10 and moved up to eighth. Eventually, he regained sixth where he settled after the stage concluded.
The next round of stops fared better for Nemechek’s crew, keeping him in sixth for the final stage. Once the field went back under green, Nemechek finally cracked the top-5 and with 75 laps to go, he passed Brett Moffitt for third.
A debris caution bunched up the field once again, giving Nemechek a sense of urgency to put his No. 8 Fleetwing/D.A.B. Constructors Chevrolet Silverado in the front. Right out of the gate, Nemechek pushed Noah Gragson and moved up to second. He lost his spot to Stewart Friesen, who later took the lead.
Bo LeMastus brought the fourth and final caution after spinning through the grass at the frontstretch. Fuel became the focal point of the contest as the field pushed their luck of trying to make it by only pitting once.
A broken shifter knob by Friesen propelled Nemechek up to second with the final restart taking place with 58 laps to go. A lap later, Nemechek lost second to a hard charging Friesen a lap later. For a short period of time, it was a three truck battle for the lead, but Nemechek fell out of the battle as his eyes focused on Kyle Busch to hang on for second.
Nemechek used the top line for several laps, but lost second to Busch with 39 laps to go. The lapped truck of Moffitt assisted Busch to get by Nemechek for second.
“I kind of felt like Kyle Larson out there,” Nemechek on running the high lane, “I said that on the radio up against the fence. I definitely talked to him today about running the fence and it definitely helped having Derek (Kneeland) up on the spotter stands.”
With 29 laps to go, Nemechek made his last pit stop, reporting his truck was too tight to run down the leaders. His crew changed four tires and made a wedge adjustment, whereas Friesen and Busch opted for two tires.
The last 13 laps became a game of survival as Nemechek was running in eighth, but when it was all set and done, he gained four more spots after Wallace, Austin Hill and Myatt Snider didn’t have the right fuel economy to make the distance without consequences on their results.
For Nemechek, he was pleased that running on four fresh tires paid off, but wished he had one outcome come into his favor.
“I wish we would’ve had a caution there at the end,” said Nemechek. “I felt like the last run was one of our best ones and we were really fast there. Who knows what we could’ve done if would’ve been closer.”
Nemechek is scheduled to run the Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway May 27th, driving Ganassi’s No. 42 Chevrolet Camaro. In six starts, he has scored two top-10s and sits 16th in points despite not running in four events.