By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service
HAMPTON, Ga. — Grabbing the lead on an overtime restart as Saturday night’s Alsco Uniforms 250 went six laps past its posted distance, John Hunter Nemechek streaked to his third NASCAR Xfinity Series victory of the season.
The only time Nemechek led was during the overtime, after a push from Daniel Hemric powered him into the lead on the final restart.
Nemechek won for the first time at Atlanta Motor Speedway and for the fifth time in his career, finishing .245 seconds ahead of Hemric. Cole Custer came home third, followed by Kaulig Racing’s Justin Haley, who held the lead for the final restart.
At the start of the race, Nemechek’s car suffered from handling issues, particularly in traffic. But his team made the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota progressively better as the race unfolded.
“I got a huge push from the 11 (Hemric) there, so thanks to Daniel for giving me that huge push,” Nemechek said. “Early on, if you had said we would have won the race, I definitely would have told you that wasn’t going to be the case.
“We didn’t have the fastest car tonight, but I’m really proud of this 20 team… Man, this is special. I don’t know if the track changed a ton. We just had to make our car better all night. It came down to an overtime finish, and luckily, we were able to execute on that restart.”
Kaulig drivers Haley and Chandler Smith were running 1-2 when Austin Hill spun in Turn 4 on Lap 161 to cause the eighth caution and send the race to overtime. Haley chose the outside lane for the restart, with Nemechek to his inside and Smith behind him.
But Haley didn’t get the push he needed as Smith faded back through the field. Haley, who led 80 straight laps from the green-flag start of the final stage, dipped below Hemric on the final lap, rather than pushing his teammate, saying later that he was running out of fuel.
Hill’s late spin and an earlier pileup on the backstretch eliminated a handful of potential contenders for the win.
A massive wreck on Lap 88, involving 10 cars, ruined the chances of Stage 2 winner Sheldon Creed and the competitive car of Ryan Sieg, who had led twice for 15 laps.
In the middle of the pack after a Lap 87 restart, the Ford of Riley Herbst slowed with a tire down. Brandon Jones, running behind Herbst, took evasive action, but in moving down the track, Jones’ Chevrolet turned Sieg’s Ford nose-first into the outside wall.
Creed, who had an issue getting fuel into his Chevrolet under caution at the end of Stage 2, had to return to pit road and restarted near the back of the field. Collected in the Lap 88 wreck, Creed exited the race.
Joining Creed on the sidelines were Herbst, Sieg, Jones and Anthony Alfredo.
“We did everything right,” said Sieg, bemoaning his ill fortune after a mandatory trip to the infield care center. “It just sucks to be on this side of it. We’ve been fast in all of four of these (Atlanta) races.”