John Hunter Nemechek was the class of the field during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series wreck-filled ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond Raceway on Saturday, just two weeks after he became a dad.
Two days after the series’ last race, Nemechek was in the hospital welcoming his daughter, Aspen, into the world. Aspen was in the motorhome lot at Richmond with Nemechek’s wife, Taylor, as they watched John Hunter lead 114 of the race’s 250 laps and win one of the stages before securing the race victory over his teammate and team owner, Kyle Busch.
“Before I walked out of the motorhome, Taylor said ‘You brought me home a trophy from Vegas, now this is Aspen’s first race, so bring her one,” Nemechek said. “We did it.”
The 1-2 finish for Kyle Busch Motorsports was only sweetened by the fourth-place finish of their other teammate, Chandler Smith.
Kyle Busch Motorsports has now won the last four races in the Camping World Truck Series with three different drivers and has a total of nine stage wins this season, with six of those stage wins coming from Nemechek. Additionally, the Nemechek’s win extended Toyota’s winning streak in the series, which is now up to six races in a row
The race had nine lead changes between six drivers and was run under caution 11 times for a total of 79 laps. Six of those cautions came out in stage 3 between laps 154 and 197, averaging one caution about every seven laps during that period of time.
Nemechek still held the points lead after the race, with a 20-point advantage over Ben Rhodes in second and a 54-point advantage over reigning series champion Sheldon Creed in third. Johnny Sauter sat tenth in the points after the race, holding onto the final playoff spot by only two points over Carson Hocevar.
The Camping World Truck Series will visit Kansas Speedway after another week off. The race at Kansas is scheduled for Saturday, May 1 at 7:30 p.m. ET.
Stage 1 – 70 laps
Ben Rhodes led the field to the green flag, but he lost it on just the third lap when his ThorSport Racing teammate, Grant Enfinger, passed him.
As Enfinger began to distance the field, NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch was working his way through the field from his 12th-place starting spot. By the end of lap 31, Busch was fourth. By lap 50, he was second.
Around lap 40, Ryan Truex’s truck began leaking fluid, and on lap 45, Truex reported that the rear gear had failed, which sent the no. 40 team out of the race.
As the run continued, John Hunter Nemechek’s no. 4 truck held great speed and after he passed Busch, his teammate and team owner, he set his sights on Enfinger. Nemechek got to Enfinger’s bumper with three laps to go in the stage, but couldn’t make the pass.
The top-10 finishers in stage 1 were Enfinger, Nemechek, Busch, Rhodes, Austin Hill, Carson Hocevar, Raphael Lessard, Todd Gilliland, Derek Kraus and Stewart Friesen.
Stage 2 – 70 laps
All of the lead-lap drivers pitted under the stage-end caution. Enfinger and Nemechek came out side-by-side, but Busch beat both drivers off pit road, putting him in the lead.
Busch led the restart on lap 80 as Enfinger and Nemechek fell in line behind him. Zane Smith, with a great restart, passed multiple cars in the first few laps to climb up to fourth, but his run toward the front was paused when Tate Fogleman hit the wall, bringing the caution back out on lap 84.
Most teams elected to stay out of the pits, but Matt Crafton elected to pit because his truck was hitting the ground.
Busch brought the field back to green on the 29th lap of the stage, but Nemechek passed Busch just before Jennifer Jo Cobb spun and brought the caution out again on the very next lap.
When the race restarted, Enfinger and Rhodes made quick, bold moves to put Busch three-wide. Busch fell to fourth behind the ThorSport Racing teammates. Back in 17th, Stewart Friesen was struggling. He reported that by getting on the brake pedal, his truck felt like it was going to spin.
Nothing ever came of Friesen’s reports, and he kept his truck straight the rest of the stage. Nemechek pulled away to a lead of over four seconds to score the stage 2 win.
In stage 2, the top-10 finishers were Nemechek, Enfinger, Rhodes, Hill, Busch, Zane Smith, Lessard, Gilliland, Kraus and Chandler Smith.
Race to the finish – 110 laps
The stage-end caution brought all the lead-lap cars down pit road. Nemechek, Rhodes and Enfinger came out as the first three, putting them back at the front of the field. Nemechek led the restart on lap 151. Rhodes bumped Nemechek and lost his momentum, and much Like he did to Busch earlier, he was swallowed up and dropped back to sixth.
Derek Kraus had a tire go down and spun in turn 2, bringing the caution out just one lap after the restart. On the next restart, Chase Purdy made contact with Hailie Deegan and Danny Bohn and smacked the turn 2 outside wall. After restarting again with 84 laps to go, Cobb spun out off the bumper of Norm Benning and hit the inside wall, bringing out another caution in a very short period of laps. Cobb brought another caution out by retaliating against Benning after the next restart.
With 63 laps to go, the race restarted for what would become another short green-flag run. Codie Rohrbaugh spun after making contact with Austin Wayne Self, and the yellow with 55 to go brought the leaders down pit road. Nemechek came out first with Busch behind him, but they wouldn’t line up at the front of the field.
Matt Crafton, Johnny Sauter, Chandler Smith, Danny Bohn, Tyler Ankrum, Austin Wayne Self, Timmy Hill and Spencer Davis stayed out after having made pit stops on some of the prior cautions, making them the top drivers for the restart with 41 laps to go, but he slipped up the track and into Sauter, giving Chandler Smith the lead.
Another caution came out when Kris Wright slammed the inside wall on the backstretch with 37 laps remaining.
Chandler Smith led the field to the green with just under 30 to go and was joined in the top-three by his teammates, Nemechek and Busch, on their newer tires.
With 17 laps to go, Nemechek found his way to the inside of Chandler Smith to take the lead, and Busch then took over second. The battle for the win was now underway between Nemechek and Busch. The gap between the two drivers was consistently between .4 and .5 seconds. In the final turn, Busch made a last-ditch effort to get to Nemechek’s bumper to move him out of the way, but Busch couldn’t get there, allowing Nemechek to score his second win of the year.
Featured photo credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images