John Hunter Nemechek scores 3rd Truck win in 2021 with NCEL 200 victory

After a long winless dry spell that lasted a whopping three races, John Hunter Nemechek is back in Victory Lane. Although GMS Racing‘s Sheldon Creed and Zane Smith won the first two stages, the points leader dominated the final stage en route to his third win of the season in Friday’s North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Although practice was held earlier in the day (led by fellow Toyota driver Austin Hill with Nemechek in second), qualifying was cancelled due to rain and the grid was set by formula. Consequently, last week’s winner Todd Gilliland started on the pole ahead of Creed.

Creed led the entire, caution-free first stage en route to the segment win. Gilliland, Nemechek, Hill, Smith, Tyler Ankrum, Derek Kraus, Matt Crafton, Ben Rhodes, and Hailie Deegan rounded out the top ten.

Nemechek took the lead early in the second stage and led until Tanner Gray spun and was impacted by Bret Holmes for the caution. Creed fell victim to his own incident when he collided with a loose Gilliland, sending him into the wall and a spin before being hit by GMS team-mate Chase Purdy. The Creed wreck set up a one-lap dash to the finish that Smith won ahead of Hill, Ty Majeski, Kraus, Ryan Truex, Crafton, Carson Hocevar, Stewart Friesen, and Nemechek.

The final stage began with Nemechek once again in front. On lap 116, during green-flag pit stops, Crafton sped down pit road due to smoke; on the track, Trey Hutchens cut a tyre and hit the wall. Johnny Sauter and Drew Dollar attempted to race by him but there was insufficient room to squeeze by, resulting in the two slamming into Hutchens and shearing Sauter’s right side off.

The ensuing caution raised great concern from fans and media as safety crews had a prolonged response to Sauter while NASCAR elected to keep the race under yellow instead of switching to red-flag conditions.

“At the exact time the 14 (Hutchens) had its incident, the 88 (Crafton) was smoking and speeding down pit road,” explained NASCAR. “The focus was on that and whether there was any oil on the track that needed cleaning to avoid any further incidents. Once the collision occurred with the 13 (Sauter), we threw the caution.”

The race resumed on lap 125 as Nemechek continued to lead. Despite a concerted effort by Hocevar, he could not catch Nemechek as he stormed off to his series-leading third win of the year. It marks Toyota’s eighth victory in ten races in 2021.

“I completed two laps and wrecked on lap three (in practice),” Nemechek commented. “Huge shoutout to all my guys, Eric Phillips (crew chief) and all our guys here and back at the shop. The pit crew pretty much won the race tonight I feel like on pit road. We were able to jump some guys there after the first stage. It was so hard to pass. It was amazing. Eric did a great job making adjustments all night and I was telling him what we needed. This was our baby truck, this one has won three races for me this year and sadly, it’s going to have to get fixed with that crazy crash. […]

“(The practice wreck) might be a speed secret, I don’t know.”

Hocevar’s runner-up finish marks the rookie’s best career run to date. Majeski finished seventh in his first Truck start of the year.

Race results

Finish Start Number Driver Team Manufacturer Laps Status
1 4 4 John Hunter Nemechek Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota 134 Running
2 9 42 Carson Hocevar Niece Motorsports Chevrolet 134 Running
3 5 99 Ben Rhodes ThorSport Racing Toyota 134 Running
4 11 52 Stewart Friesen Halmar Friesen Racing Toyota 134 Running
5 1 38 Todd Gilliland Front Row Motorsports Ford 134 Running
6 23 18 Chandler Smith Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota 134 Running
7 31 66 Ty Majeski ThorSport Racing Toyota 134 Running
8 15 19 Derek Kraus McAnally-Hilgemann Racing Toyota 134 Running
9 3 16 Austin Hill Hattori Racing Enterprises Toyota 134 Running
10 6 21 Zane Smith GMS Racing Chevrolet 134 Running
11 22 98 Christian Eckes ThorSport Racing Toyota 134 Running
12 16 40 Ryan Truex Niece Motorsports Chevrolet 134 Running
13 12 1 Hailie Deegan David Gilliland Racing Ford 133 Running
14 8 9 Grant Enfinger CR7 Motorsports Chevrolet 133 Running
15 20 24 Jack Wood GMS Racing Chevrolet 133 Running
16 7 26 Tyler Ankrum GMS Racing Chevrolet 133 Running
17 13 22 Austin Wayne Self AM Racing Chevrolet 133 Running
18 18 56 Timmy Hill Hill Motorsports Chevrolet 133 Running
19 19 45 Bayley Currey Niece Motorsports Chevrolet 133 Running
20 17 51 Drew Dollar Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota 133 Running
21 36 41 Dawson Cram Cram Racing Enterprises Chevrolet 133 Running
22 25 15 Tanner Gray David Gilliland Racing Ford 133 Running
23 21 02 Kris Wright Young’s Motorsports Chevrolet 132 Running
24 32 30 Danny Bohn On Point Motorsports Toyota 131 Running
25 27 04 Cory Roper Roper Racing Ford 129 Running
26 35 20 Spencer Boyd Young’s Motorsports Chevrolet 128 Running
27 30 34 C.J. McLaughlin Reaume Brothers Racing Toyota 127 Running
28 34 33 Akinori Ogata Reaume Brothers Racing Chevrolet 125 Running
29 33 3 Keith McGee Jordan Anderson Racing Chevrolet 123 Running
30 10 88 Matt Crafton ThorSport Racing Toyota 114 Engine
31 14 13 Johnny Sauter ThorSport Racing Toyota 111 Accident
32 38 14 Trey Hutchens Trey Hutchens Racing Chevrolet 108 Accident
33 37 10 Jennifer Jo Cobb Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing Ford 71 Suspension
34 26 23 Chase Purdy GMS Racing Chevrolet 59 DVP
35 2 2 Sheldon Creed GMS Racing Chevrolet 55 Accident
36 28 32 Bret Holmes Bret Holmes Racing Chevrolet 49 Accident
37 24 12 Tate Fogleman Young’s Motorsports Chevrolet 38 Rear Gear
38 29 25 Timothy Peters Rackley WAR Chevrolet 13 Steering
Italics – Competing for Rookie of the Year

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