Welcome to the playoffs and Victory Lane, Jeremy Clements.
With some of the most experienced hands in the XFINITY Series, a race win had been against reality for one of the sport’s smaller teams. However, when he was put behind one car with one lap to go in Sunday’s Johnsonville 180 at Road America, he refused to lose.
Making contact with leader Matt Tifft coming to the white flag, the two spun in the final corner, quickly straightening out and continuing on.
Clements came out on top and held off Michael Annett for his first career XFINITY win in his 256th start. The victory is only his second top five finish of his career and second top 10 of 2017.
“I’m so shocked,” Clements said. “It’s just crazy. Our budget is a fraction of the big teams. This is a dream come true. I try to keep doing this to keep my name out there.
“I want to say sorry to Matt Tifft. I got in hot, he came down. we collided.”
For Tifft, the Joe Gibbs Racing rookie missed out on his first win after Clements’ dive-bomb move. Still, the 21-year-old tied his career-best finish in third.
“No matter what, it’s tough,” Tifft said. “You see [Clements] got free underneath me. I wish we could’ve raced it out till the last lap. its tough to come that close.”
The finish summed up most of the afternoon Sunday at Road America, as eight drivers led the rain-expected race. Additionally, off-road excursions were plenty, with Ryan Reed, Justin Marks, Austin Cindric, James Davison and others finding the grass in the 45-lapper.
Annett grabbed a career-best finish of his own, as he sneaked by to claim second. Marks came back for fourth while Brendan Gaughan completed the top five. William Byron got sixth with Blake Koch, Cole Custer, Casey Mears and Parker Kligerman comprising the top 10.
NASCAR nation was full of congratulatory remarks toward Clements and the single-car team.
What a performance by @JClements51 congrats man well deserved
— Jeffrey Earnhardt (@JEarnhardt1) August 27, 2017
Dang that was fun to watch. Congrats @JCR_Clements51
— Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) August 27, 2017
Wow congrats to @JCR_Clements51 wild race congratulations
— Austin Dillon (@austindillon3) August 27, 2017
— Mark Martin (@markmartin) August 27, 2017