September 28, 2023

Nemechek takes first career back-to-back with dominant Loudon Xfinity win

John Hunter Nemechek completed the first back-to-back victory attempt of his career, convincingly winning Saturday’s Ambetter Health 200 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, following a big win last week at Atlanta Motor Speedway .

Nemechek trailed rookie Chandler Smith by 0.424 seconds on an overtime restart, led a race-best 137 laps in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota and became the winningest driver in the series this season with four wins – bringing his career total to six came . The 26-year-old second-generation NASCAR star now leads the championship by 33 points over Richard Childress Racing driver Austin Hill, a three-time 2023 race winner and third-place finisher on Saturday.

“They’ve had dominant JGR Supras for the past few years and I had to keep my part of the bargain,” said a smiling Nemechek, who at one point led the field by more than four seconds.

“It’s definitely nerve wracking (the last restart) so I’m so proud of this No. 20 team and everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing,” added Nemechek, “I think (it was) our first clean race of the year and hats off to all our boys.

“I like to come here and shout out to a driver who is one of the masters here,” he said with a smile, admitting that tomorrow “The Master” was NASCAR Cup Series pole sitter and JGR teammate Christopher Bell.

“I was a little worried there about the last restarts. We kept getting really good launches and were able to clear them, but I didn’t know who was saving what. I was trying to save for Cole (Custer), he really pushed us there.

Runner-up finisher Smith, who took his first career NASCAR Xfinity Series pole position on Friday, led only the first lap but stayed in contention and kept the front pack fair all day. Unfortunately for the 21-year-old Kaulig Racing driver, there was a malfunction with his cool suit on the steamy New England summer afternoon and he was treated with IVs at the care center after the race, but reported that he was in good shape overall.

The race on the 1,058 mile oval included 10 caution periods – the last one forcing an overtime. Nemechek had just rolled under the white flag when a pair of his closest challengers on the day—Cole Custer and Sheldon Creed—crashed behind him in a duel for third. The incident ended the race.

Stewart-Haas Racing’s Custer — the youngest winner in NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series history when he won at New Hampshire in 2014 at age 16 — collided with RCR driver Creed while battling for third place. Custer, a two-time winner this season, ran in the top three for much of the race. Creed is still chasing his first win of the season.

Behind Nemechek, Smith and Hill, Kaulig Racing’s Daniel Hemric and JGR rookie driver Sammy Smith rounded out the top five. Smith took his first career stage win, taking the Stage 2 flag and leading 18 laps on the day.

JR Motorsports’ Justin Allgaier finished sixth after leading 27 laps early in the race and winning stage 1, giving Nemechek the most stage wins (five) of the season.

Jeb Burton, who won at Talladega earlier in the season, finished seventh, followed by Josh Williams, the owner-driver who recorded a career 11th top-10 finish and first back-to-back top-10s of the season. Brett Moffitt and Mason Massey rounded out New Hampshire’s top 10. It also marked Massey’s first top-10 of 2023.

Parker Kligerman, a New Englander and fan favorite, was caught in a 12-car accident on a restart just 71 laps into the event and had to settle for 31st. He entered the race in 13th, just six points out of 12, with the top 12 drivers qualifying for the Playoff. Despite being involved in the multi-car accident, the race claimed enough caution casualties that Kligerman leaves his ‘hometown’ job, now ranked 12th – 16 points ahead of 13th-place Burton.

As for Nemechek, he is currently riding a huge streak of career achievements.

“Now it’s time to keep clucking these wins,” Nemechek said.

The NASCAR Xfinity Series returns to action this Saturday with the Pocono 225 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway (5:30 p.m. ET, USA Network, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Noah Gragson — now a rookie in the NASCAR Cup Series — is the defending winner of the Xfinity Series race.


Story originally appeared on Racer

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