John Hunter Nemechek dominated the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Friday night, leading 94 of the race’s 134 laps and holding off a late-race charge from his teammate, team owner and the series’ winningest driver, Kyle Busch.
Nemechek, who emphasized the use of #Here4Wins on social media platforms during the offseason, moved from the NASCAR Cup Series back to the Camping World Truck Series for 2021 in hopes of showing just how competitive he can be.
“Coming back to the Truck Series, that was the plan, that was the goal,” Nemechek said. “I definitely think experience paid off tonight.”
Kyle Busch, who owns Nemechek’s no. 4 truck, was a favorite to win but had a flat tire put him a lap down. Busch was able to race his was back to second to secure a 1-2 finish for Kyle Busch Motorsports.
“It was all about using our truck to the best we could,” Nemechek said. “[Busch] had to run up and it created more lap time for him.”
Joe Nemechek, John Hunter Nemechek’s father, won the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Las Vegas in 2003, which makes the father-son duo the first to both capture wins at the speedway in any of NASCAR’s national touring divisions.
Toyota swept the top-five finishing positions as well as both stages and, with John Hunter Nemechek’s win tonight, Toyota has also swept all of the Truck Series races in 2021 so far.
The race had nine lead changes between five drivers and was run under caution nine times for a total of 48 laps.
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will take another week off before racing at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Saturday, March 20 at 2:30 p.m. ET.
Stage 1 – 30 laps
The green flag came out with Ben Rhodes in front, but Sheldon Creed took the lead and Cory Roper spun, provoking a caution to come out on the first lap of the race.
Creed led the field back to the green flag lap six, but John Hunter Nemechek took the lead almost immediately and ran away from the rest of the field. No one came close to Nemechek for the remainder of the stage as he cruised to an easy stage win.
The top-10 finishers in stage 1 were Nemechek, Creed, Matt Crafton, Kyle Busch, Stewart Friesen, Christian Eckes, David Gilliland, Rhodes, Chandler Smith and Grant Enfinger.
Stage 2 – 30 laps
During the stage-end caution, drivers elected to come down pit road for service. Nemechek came out first and retained his lead with Creed behind him. Kyle Busch was now in third after a quick stop.
Just before the stage’s halfway point, Creed was reporting a loss of oil pressure. He began to drop through the field and was quickly removed from the top-10. The issue was later diagnosed as a loose spark plug wire, so Creed was able to continue.
With 13 to go in the stage, Busch was able to catch up and easily pass Nemechek for the lead, putting his Toyota Tundra out front. That ended up being the pass that won Busch the stage.
In stage 2, the top-10 finishers were Busch, Nemechek, Friesen, Crafton, Rhodes, Austin Hill, Enfinger, Gilliland, Eckes and Tyler Ankrum.
Race to the finish – 74 laps
More pit stops occurred during the stage-end caution, but this time, Stewart Friesen was able to get service completed first, which helped him jump to the lead.
Friesen led the field back to the green flag on lap 68, but Nemechek got a push from Busch to take the lead away into turn 1, but just a lap after the restart, Conor Daly, a full-time NTT IndyCar Series driver, lost control of his truck and spun into the outside wall, destroying his truck and bringing out the caution. Creed didn’t make contact with Daly, but he brushed the outside wall while trying to avoid Daly, damaging his truck.
Nemechek led the field back to green on lap 76, but this time, Kyle Busch wasn’t able to clear his competitors and was under fire from Austin Hill, who had been getting progressively better throughout the race.
On lap 80, another caution came out when Chandler Smith’s Toyota snapped loose and hit the wall, putting drivers right on the edge of their fuel windows to make it to the end of the race. Only a handful of drivers pitted, including Johnny Sauter, Ben Rhodes and Brett Moffitt while most of the field stayed on track.
Once again, Nemechek led the field when the green flag came back out on lap 84 and began to pull away from the field, but his teammate and team owner started having issues. Just laps after the restart, Busch lost a left-rear tire and spun onto the apron coming out of turn 2, bringing the caution out yet again. The drivers who didn’t pit under the previous yellow had to come get tires and gas to get them to the end of the race, leaving the field in the hands of Brett Moffitt.
Moffitt led the field to the restart and was able to stay in front, but Nemechek, who pitted and had fresh tires, charged into second, but another wreck in the middle of the pack, involving David Gilliland, Raphael Lessard, Ryan Truex and Hailie Deegan brought the caution right back out with 36 laps to go. The caution also allowed Kyle Busch to get back on the lead lap after losing a lap under the last caution.
Moffitt led back to the green, but only until turn 1. Austin Hill took Moffitt and Nemechek three-wide for the lead, but it was Nemechek that cleared the chaos and took the lead. Hill’s aggressive move secured him second place at that moment and Moffitt fell back to eighth.
With 22 laps to go, Kyle Busch passed Tyler Ankrum to rejoin the top-10 in the running order, but he was still nearly eight seconds behind Nemechek in the lead, and the only hope to get back to the front would be if a caution came out. Two laps later, that’s exactly what happened.
Cory Roper and Tyler Hill wrecked on the frontstretch, bringing the field back together. After a lengthy clean-up, Nemechek led Hill and the rest of the field back to the green flag with just 13 laps left in the race. Kyle Busch was able to jump from eighth to third in a single lap, but a four-wide battle at the back of the top-10 brought another yellow out with 12 laps to go after Chase Purdy got into Jordan Anderson, who crashed and collected Tyler Ankrum along the way.
Nemechek led the field to the green flag for a six-lap shootout. Busch pushed Nemechek until they were both clear of the field and running first and second. Busch made a hard charge against Nemechek, but he just couldn’t catch him, allowing Nemechek to collect his first checkered flag of the season.
Featured photo credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images