Nemechek grabs 1st career Truck Series victory by saving gas
JOLIET, Ill. (AP) John Hunter Nemechek grabbed his first career victory by capitalizing in the Truck Series race at Chicagoland Speedway when others didn't have the fuel to make it to the finish.
The second-generation NASCAR driver was running second Saturday morning behind Kyle Larson when Larson ran out of gas two laps from the finish. With Larson coasting on the bottom of the track, Nemechek cruised past him to grab his first national series victory.
Nemechek turned 18 in June and drives for a team fielded by his father, journeyman Joe Nemechek. The team has nine full-time employees for Nemechek's truck team, and his father said his son would be at the North Carolina shop by 8 a.m. on Sunday morning to work on the truck he'll race next weekend at New Hampshire.
''The one thing I do give John Hunter credit for is he does have the want-to,'' Joe Nemechek said. ''It's determination, it's focus and he knows what he wants. You don't see that a lot in the sport anymore.''
John Hunter praised his father, who has 1,115 starts across NASCAR's three national series. Although Joe Nemechek has 20 career victories, none were in the Truck Series.
''He has everything invested in me and he believes in me. Without him, none of this would be possible today,'' John Hunter said.
His father noted that John Hunter beat him to victory lane in the Truck Series. John Hunter won in his 23rd career race, and is the fourth youngest winner in series history.
''He's won his first truck race, I haven't been able to win a truck race yet, and it's his first of many to come,'' Joe Nemechek said. ''He's such a talented driver. For what we've had to work with ... he's accomplished a lot. I am so proud of him because we have such a small group of guys on a very limited budget.''
The race, postponed from Friday night because of a severe thunderstorm at Chicagoland Speedway, quickly developed into a test to see which team had the right strategy and ability to conserve enough fuel to the finish. Veteran crew chief Gere Kennon calculated Nemechek was four laps shy of making it, but coaxed the young driver into saving.
He worried, though, that Nemechek didn't have enough experience to ''know how to save.''
Nemechek admitted it wasn't easy to save gas in the closing laps.
''It was definitely difficult to see all the trucks running out of fuel in front of me, but Gene Kennon just kept telling me to save. He just kept telling me to coast,'' Nemechek said.
Tyler Reddick finished second and was followed by Timothy Peters and Daniel Suarez.
Johnny Sauter was fifth, points leader Erik Jones was sixth and Kyle Larson faded to seventh after dominating the race.
Reddick cut the deficit to Jones to 10 points, while two-time defending series champion Crafton is third and 12 points back.