John Hunter Nemechek plays playoff spoiler, wins Andy’s 335

John Hunter Nemechek might not be moving up to the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2022, but that is not stopping the Camping World Truck Series points leader from winning in the second tier. Nemechek led the final twenty laps to win Saturday’s Andy’s Frozen Custard 335 at Texas Motor Speedway, throwing many playoff contenders’ hopes of advancing to the final round into flux.

Championship rivals A.J. Allmendinger and Austin Cindric started on the front row, and the former led the first thirteen laps before being passed by the latter. Cindric would lead to the stage win ahead of Noah Gragson, Allmendinger, Justin Allgaier, Michael Annett, Justin Haley, Harrison Burton, Jeremy Clements, Brett Moffitt, and Brandon Brown. Three yellow flags were waved for a competition caution (lap 20), Landon Cassill suffering damage in contact with Sam Mayer (25), and J.J. Yeley‘s car stopping due to a broken crankshaft (39). Cassill would rejoin and re-exit the race multiple times as mechanical issues from the damage interfered with his day.

Daniel Hemric assumed the lead to start Stage #2. Ryan Sieg brought out the lone caution of the segment when he spun on lap 63. Hemric and Joe Gibbs Racing team-mate Nemechek trade the lead but the latter would secure the lead and stage victory. Hemric, Mayer, Jeb Burton, Haley, Riley Herbst, Annett, Allgaier, Gragson, and Allmendinger rounded out the top ten.

Nemechek continued to lead to start the final stage. On lap 100, Dylan Lupton and Tanner Berryhill slammed into the turn two wall and collected Jade Buford. C.J. McLaughlin spun on lap 141 for another caution, and Hemric took the top spot for the restart. Harrison Burton, also a JGR driver, became the new leader following Brown’s wreck on lap 172, but was passed by Nemechek on lap 181.

Despite being penalised after the McLaughlin caution for having a crewman over the pit wall too soon, Nemechek was able to complete his drive from the back and hold off Hemric to win his second career Xfinity race and first since 2018 at Kansas.

He is the first driver to win an Xfinity race despite declaring for Truck points since Ross Chastain in 2019, though Chastain had switched from Xfinity to Truck standings midseason. If the qualifier is narrowed to those who were running an entire Truck season, the last driver to do so and win in the Xfinity Series was Ryan Blaney in 2014, and he also achieved the feat the previous year. Nemechek also joins Allmendinger as the only drivers in 2021 to win a national series race in a higher tier than the one that they had declared points for, with Allmendinger winning the Indianapolis Cup race as an Xfinity regular.

Although he is not eligible for Xfinity points, Nemechek’s win clinches a spot in the final round of the owner’s championship for the #54 JGR car.

“(Spotter) Stevie Reeves and (crew chief) Chris Gayle kept me calm. I think this year, I’ve grown a lot as a driver and got put in position in the Truck Series as well,” said Nemechek. “I can’t say enough about this whole team. The #54 has been fast every single week. My goal coming in was to win. I had to win to prove to myself that I can do this.

“It’s just like taking that step back to the Truck Series. I wanted to get back to Victory Lane. […] It’s an amazing accomplishment to get this done, beating a teammate as well. We’re racing for an owners championship. I’m back in the #54 in Phoenix, so double championships for us when we go.”

Race results

Finish Start Number Driver Team Manufacturer Laps Status
1 10 54 John Hunter Nemechek* Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 200 Running
2 3 18 Daniel Hemric Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 200 Running
3 5 9 Noah Gragson JR Motorsports Chevrolet 200 Running
4 6 7 Justin Allgaier JR Motorsports Chevrolet 200 Running
5 2 22 Austin Cindric Team Penske Ford 200 Running
6 1 16 A.J. Allmendinger Kaulig Racing Chevrolet 200 Running
7 4 11 Justin Haley Kaulig Racing Chevrolet 200 Running
8 8 20 Harrison Burton Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 200 Running
9 9 1 Michael Annett JR Motorsports Chevrolet 200 Running
10 7 19 Brandon Jones Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 200 Running
11 13 10 Jeb Burton Kaulig Racing Chevrolet 200 Running
12 20 98 Riley Herbst Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 200 Running
13 11 8 Sam Mayer JR Motorsports Chevrolet 200 Running
14 22 39 Ryan Sieg RSS Racing Ford 200 Running
15 32 31 Kaz Grala* Jordan Anderson Racing Chevrolet 200 Running
16 26 02 Brett Moffitt Our Motorsports Chevrolet 200 Running
17 39 15 Bayley Currey* JD Motorsports Chevrolet 200 Running
18 24 44 Tommy Joe Martins Martins Motorsports Chevrolet 200 Running
19 15 92 Josh Williams DGM Racing Chevrolet 200 Running
20 21 61 Austin Hill* Hattori Racing Enterprises Toyota 199 Running
21 12 2 Myatt Snider Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet 199 Running
22 30 6 Ryan Vargas JD Motorsports Chevrolet 199 Running
23 23 0 Jeffrey Earnhardt JD Motorsports Chevrolet 199 Running
24 16 36 Alex Labbé DGM Racing Chevrolet 199 Running
25 25 47 Kyle Weatherman Mike Harmon Racing Chevrolet 199 Running
26 38 07 Joe Graf Jr. SS-Green Light Racing Chevrolet 198 Running
27 35 5 Mason Massey B.J. McLeod Motorsports Toyota 196 Running
28 28 90 Spencer Boyd* DGM Racing Chevrolet 196 Running
29 14 51 Jeremy Clements Jeremy Clements Racing Chevrolet 196 Running
30 37 52 Joey Gase Jimmy Means Racing Chevrolet 195 Running
31 34 78 Jesse Little B.J. McLeod Motorsports Chevrolet 195 Running
32 31 99 Matt Mills B.J. McLeod Motorsports Chevrolet 193 Running
33 18 68 Brandon Brown Brandonbilt Motorsports Chevrolet 171 Accident
34 36 66 David Starr MBM Motorsports Toyota 152 Engine
35 40 74 C.J. McLaughlin Mike Harmon Racing Chevrolet 145 Suspension
36 19 4 Landon Cassill JD Motorsports Chevrolet 108 Electrical
37 27 23 Tanner Berryhill Our Motorsports Chevrolet 100 Accident
38 29 26 Dylan Lupton Sam Hunt Racing Toyota 100 Accident
39 17 48 Jade Buford Big Machine Racing Chevrolet 81 Accident
40 33 17 J.J. Yeley SS-Green Light Racing Chevrolet 37 Engine
Bold – Currently in playoffs
Italics – Competing for Rookie of the Year
* – Ineligible for Xfinity points

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