FORT WORTH, Texas — A day after celebrating his 24th birthday, John Hunter Nemechek celebrated his Camping World Truck Series best fourth win of the season and first of his career at Texas Motor Speedway in Saturday‘s Speedycash.com 220 — easily earning the win by a full 3.361 seconds over hard-charging NASCAR Cup Series regular Chase Elliott.
Moments after taking the checkered flag, an elated Nemechek was told to offer his sponsor audience at-track some love with a high-velocity celebration in his No. 4 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota.
“You don‘t have to tell me twice,‘‘ a thrilled Nemechek yelled to his crew.
While the final chase to the trophy came down to Nemechek and reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion Elliott, the win had really been Nemechek‘s to lose. He earned a series-best eighth stage victory (Stage 1), led a race-high 65 of the 147 laps on the afternoon, pulling away from the field and spending the last 22 laps out front.
“Unfortunately, I felt like I was in the same boat I always put myself in here,‘‘ said Elliott, who led 45 laps in the No. 24 GMS Racing Chevrolet.
“John Hunter got the better of me and making time when we pitted so congrats to him and that team.”
Ross Chastain was a full 10 seconds behind Elliott in third place when the checkered flag fell. However, the No. 45 truck was disqualified in post-race inspection under Rule 22.214.171.124.a that states the throttle body must be used as supplied by the NT1 engine supplier without modification and scored last in the 36-truck field.
Grant Enfinger, Austin Hill and Chandler Smith rounded out the top five, followed by Zane Smith, Todd Gilliland, Tyler Ankrum, Tanner Gray and Josh Berry.
Two-race winner Ben Rhodes, who is second to Nemechek in the championship, had been running seventh with only 14 laps remaining when he had to pit after making contact with the wall. A pit-road penalty followed, and Rhodes ended up 26th on the afternoon — his worst showing of the season and only the second time he has finished outside the top 10 on the year.
Another pair of weekly race favorites, reigning series champion Sheldon Creed — who won at Texas last October — and Stewart Friesen also suffered bad luck Saturday. Creed wrecked twice and finished 35th in the 36-truck field. Friesen was also in accident and finished 34th.
The continued positive results and the career-high season win total for Nemechek resonated deeply for the young driver, who moved to the truck series this season after racing full-time in the NASCAR Cup Series last year. His work in two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch‘s Toyotas — a series-best four wins and seven top-five finishes through 11 races — has given him a firm grip on the championship. His 28 Playoff points are more than twice that of any other driver in the field.
The results haven‘t just been good for his title run, but a well-timed confidence boost as well.
“There‘s going to be haters, people that doubt your ability, question your ability and as a person, you have to know what you are capable of,‘‘ Nemechek said. “I took that as a challenge. A lot of media, probably a lot of drivers, too, questioned my moving from the NASCAR Cup Series to the Camping World Truck Series — but I do feel like the Camping World Truck Series is one of the best series in NASCAR, it‘s super competitive every single week and you have to push yourself over the limit and push for more.
“I‘m not a guy that just wants to ride around and say I‘m a Cup Series driver, I strive for more than that. I want to win races. I want to win championships.‘‘
Nemechek now holds a 79-point advantage over Rhodes heading to the series’ next race at Nashville Superspeedway, the Rackley Roofing 200 (Friday, 8 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).