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Tracking the Trucks: John Hunter Nemechek Victorious at Richmond

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In a Nutshell: John Hunter Nemechek dominated, leading 114 of 250 laps in Saturday’s (April 17) ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond Raceway to score his second NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win of the 2021 season. Nemechek’s teammate and Kyle Busch Motorsports owner Kyle Busch finished second, followed by Tyler Ankrum, who scored his season-best finish. KBM rookie Chandler Smith ended up fourth after leading 24 laps late in stage two, while Johnny Sauter rounded out the top five.

After going caution free for the entirety of the 70-lap stage one, the field was slowed 11 times for 79 of the final 180 circuits. Only six trucks failed to finish the race, despite multiple incidents.

See also
John Hunter Nemechek Wins Richmond, Leads KBM Dominance

The Win That Could’ve Been

Grant Enfinger, who has something to prove every time he’s behind the wheel in his part-time schedule this season, started third and spent just two laps before taking the top spot from teammate Ben Rhodes after the green flag flew. He led the next 71 laps until the field made pit stops under the stage one ending caution but didn’t take the top spot for the remainder of the 250 lap race.

Though he remained inside the top 10 for the rest of the race, Enfinger didn’t quite have the speed to contend with eventual winner Nemechek. He never led again and ultimately settled into an eighth-place finish after getting shuffled back through multiple restarts in the final 50 laps.

Race Notes:

After an abysmal start to 2021 that included three DNFs and a best finish of 18th in the first five races, Ankrum posted a much-needed top five run. After racing his way into the top 10 from a 30th-place starting position, he got hit with an uncontrolled tire penalty and was dropped to the rear of the field where he essentially had to start over again. But patience, combined with pit road strategy that saw Ankrum, along with a handful of other drivers, stay out under a late-race caution while others pitted for fresh tires put him in position to score his season-best third-place finish, even if that did mean muscling third from Chandler Smith.

See also
Tyler Ankrum Living For a Run Like This

Shortly after stage two started, the first of what turned out to be nine cautions for incidents on the track flew when Hailie Deegan and Tate Fogleman got together, sending Fogleman into the outside wall. A replay showed the rookie Deegan moving up the track before the two made contact. Needless to say, Fogleman wasn’t pleased with the contact that ended his day.

Mistakes certainly happen, especially for a rookie driver, but what stood out to me was that FOX Sports 1 commentator Michael Waltrip tried to clear Deegan of the blame in this situation. The replay told a different story, though, as it showed Deegan sliding up the track and into Fogleman before sending him into the outside wall. FS1 did not speak to either driver to get their take on the contact, though.

Despite late-race contact with Sheldon Creed, Austin Hill’s 10th-place run marks his fourth straight top 10 after starting the season with finishes of 22nd and 33rd at Daytona International Speedway and the Daytona road course, respectively. He’s moved from a season-low 23rd in the point standings to fourth where he currently sits more than 70 points behind leader Nemechek.

After missing two races following a positive COVID-19 test, Kris Wright returned to the No. 02 Young’s Motorsports Chevrolet. He started 22nd but didn’t get the race he wanted when it ended in a DNF with a wreck inside 40 laps to go. Wright finished 35th.

Nemechek’s second win this season also marks the fourth in a row for Kyle Busch Motorsports. The driver of the No. 4 Toyota holds the first and fourth wins in the streak, while Busch (Atlanta) and Martin Truex Jr. (Bristol dirt) have the other two.

Taylor Gray was originally slated to make his Truck Series debut behind the wheel of the No. 17 David Gilliland Racing Ford, but that debut was postponed after Gray was involved in a single-car road accident on April 7.

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: 1; Chandler Smith, finished fourth

Rookie of the Race: Smith

Point Report: Nemechek holds a 20-point advantage over Rhodes, while Creed remains third. Austin Hill moved up two spots and entered the top five for the first time this season; he sits fourth, 74 markers behind the leader. Matt Crafton, who dropped one position rounds out the top five.

Stewart Friesen dropped one spot to sixth, while Enfinger moved up one position to seventh, despite missing the Daytona road course due to sponsorship. Zane Smith dropped one spot to eighth and is followed by Todd Gilliland who remains ninth. Johnny Sauter moved up a position and rounds out the top 10.

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

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Up Next: The Truck Series takes a weekend off before heading to Kansas Speedway on Saturday, May 1. Coverage for the Wise Power 200 begins at 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1.

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