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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Tracking the Trucks: John Hunter Nemechek Beats Kyle Busch for Las Vegas Win

Frontstretch’s Truck Series content is presented by American Trucks

In a Nutshell: John Hunter Nemechek scored his first win since returning to the Camping World Truck Series after spending a year running in the NASCAR Cup Series at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He led a race-high 94 of 134 laps and endured three late-race restarts in the final 30 laps en route to his first victory with Kyle Busch Motorsports. KBM owner Kyle Busch finished second ahead of Austin Hill in third. Stewart Friesen and Matt Crafton rounded out the top five.

“It’s an awesome day. The goal here for us was to come here and win,” Nemechek said. “We’ve been close the last two weeks and we have fast race trucks. I can’t thank everyone enough – Jack Irving (TRD) from Toyota, Mobil 1, Fire Alarm Services, Kyle (Busch, team owner) for giving me this opportunity. The opportunity to come here and race in the Truck Series for Kyle Busch Motorsports is an amazing opportunity and we’re capitalizing on that.

“We want to be the dominant one this year and we want to win as many races as we can. It’s awesome to get it kicked off here in Vegas and beat the boss.”

The Win That Could’ve Been

In the end, the dominant truck ended up winning the race, but if you had to pick another driver that was capable, it’s easy to point at Busch. Starting in the back of the field, Busch was inside the top five by the end of stage one before following that up with a stage two victory.

Throughout much of stage two and stage three, the No. 51 Toyota had a left rear tire rub that periodically sent smoke flying, and finally, on lap 90, he had a tire failure. Moving down on the apron and limping his way back to pit road, Busch spun, bringing out the sixth caution. Immediately, there was speculation the spin was intentional to minimize the damage done by an unscheduled pit stop, something Busch didn’t really address in his post-race comments.

After losing a lap and restarting outside the top 20, Busch was the recipient of the free pass when Raphael Lessard triggered a wreck that involved seven trucks and worked his way back through the field. The speed in the No. 51, combined with a trio of restarts put Busch in position to make a run at Nemechek. Ultimately, it wasn’t enough and he came up short with a runner-up finish.

“We just didn’t have enough in our Cessna Tundra. They were a little bit better than us so not sure what differences they had,” Busch said. “I was just really tight and really rough over the bumps, trying to get through the bumps. Looking at the splitter wear, it was really rough on the splitter and wearing through it. We were battling some little things, but overall our truck was still fast. It was cool to come home one-two.

“Anytime you finish second to a team truck, you know how good the equipment is and it’s nice to see the equipment getting full potential and running up front. I hate I finished second obviously, I want to win, but as a team owner, I get paid the same whether they win or I win and it’s nothing so I’m all good.”

RECAP: NEMECHEK HOLDS OFF BUSCH TO WIN IN LAS VEGAS

Austin Hill Scores Top 5 in 100th Career Start

After opening the season with finishes of 22nd and 33rd at Daytona International Speedway and the Daytona road course, respectively, Austin Hill made his 100th career Truck Series start Friday night (March 5).

Starting 31st, Hill methodically marched his way through the field and finished stage two in sixth. Though he flirted with the front of the field, the driver of the No. 16 Toyota never led a lap and took the checkered flag third, a finish that helped him jump from 23rd to 12th in the championship standings.

“You can see right there, our left front (tire) is corded really bad. We had a good night,” Hill explained. “We finally got on the right track. Those first two races didn’t go the way we wanted them to so this is a good way to bounce back, but it always stings a little bit when you come to a place that you’ve had success at and you don’t get the job done.

“All in all, we just came up short tonight. We just got too tight when the tires started cording and started chattering the left front. Can’t thank everybody at Ibraraki Toyopet enough for coming on board. Everything that all these guys do in Japan for us is a really big deal with everything going on. It’s really cool to see that.”

After a weekend off Hill heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway where he has five starts, including a pair of top 10s. Last season, he led 36 laps and finished runner-up to Grant Enfinger after an overtime restart.

Race Notes:

  • Zane Smith started 32nd, courtesy a 40th-place finish at the Daytona road course two weeks ago, and as he worked his way through the field, contact on the track forced him down pit road with a tire down. The unscheduled green flag stop was damaging enough to his run, but to add insult to injury, he got busted for speeding and had to serve a pass through penalty as well. Smith restarted stage three in 34th but was the recipient of the free pass under the fourth caution and was able to work himself back to an eventual sixth-place finish.
  • Conor Daly made his second career Truck Series start and made it through the first two stages unscathed, despite the four-wide racing throughout the field. But at the beginning of stage three, he suffered a hard hit which ended his night in 40th. While it was a disappointing finish, it was a relief to see him emerge from the No. 44 Chevrolet under his own power.

  • After a flurry of race week wraps being put on several trucks throughout the field, including one in the wee hours of Friday morning in Las Vegas, 10 drivers took Camping World CEO Marcus Lemonis up on an offer of a minimum $15,000 just for racing with those wraps. By the time the checkered flag flew, only two drivers remained inside the top 10. Enfinger and Parker Kligerman finished seventh and eighth, respectively, each earning an additional $10,000 for finishing inside the top 10.

MASSIE: KLIGERMAN, ENFINGER CAPITALIZE ON TOP 10 CAMPING WORLD BONUS

2021 Rookie Report

No. 1 – Hailie Deegan
No. 02 – Kris Wright
No. 18 – Chandler Smith
No. 23 – Chase Purdy
No. 42 – Carson Hocevar

No. of rookies in the race: 5
No. of rookies in the top 10: 0

Rookie of the Race: Chandler Smith, finished 19th

Point Report: Nemechek sits atop the standings by 14 markers over Ben Rhodes, who scored back-to-back wins to open the 2021 season. Sheldon Creed remains third, followed by Crafton, who moved up one spot after a fifth-place finish. Chandler Smith dropped to fifth.

Friesen jumped 10 positions in the standings and sits sixth, followed by Enfinger, who moved up seven spots to seventh, despite missing the Daytona road course. Todd Gilliland and Johnny Sauter sit tied for eighth, 81 points behind the leader. Carson Hocevar dropped four spots and is tied with Austin Wayne Self to round out the top 10.

Series regular winners: Ben Rhodes (Daytona, Daytona road course); John Hunter Nemechek (Las Vegas)

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Up Next: The Truck Series takes a weekend off before heading to Atlanta Motor Speedway for the FR8 Auctions 200. Enfinger won the 2020 Vet Tix/Camping World 200, which was postponed from its original March date to June. Coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1.