CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — John Hunter Nemechek made it through a late crash, then held on to the lead on a restart 10 laps from the end to win the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Friday night.
Winning for the third time this season, Nemechek showed once again this season why he gave up his seat in the Cup Series last year to join Kyle Busch Motorsports.
“I’m smiling. I’m winning races,” he said. “What could better than that?”
Nemechek has a season of thrills in his run around Charlotte.
He used a three-wide pass to gain the lead with 65 laps to go and was cruising to victory until the most severe crash of the race nearly spoiled things.
Trey Hutchins III had slowed after hitting the wall and drifted down the track as Johnny Sauter and Drew Dollar hit Hutchins’ vehicle with great force.
Nemechek was the next racer through before the caution came out as flying debris appeared to damage his roof and knock out the car’s onboard camera.
He remembers hearing a ‘Thunk,’ as what looked like a tire caught his roof and left what Nemechek said was a pretty big hole.
Nemechek wasn’t sure what was ahead as he approached the crash at full speed and used his skill to react the best way he knew how.
“I kind of just shot for the middle, kind of ‘Days of Thunder’ moment, and hoped for the best,” said Nemechek, referencing the Tom Cruise film from three decades ago.
After a lengthy cleanup, Nemechek again moved out front and finished in front of Hocevar.
Hocevar said he needed two more laps to run down Nemechek. “I just got beat today,” said Hocevar, in his rookie season.
It was the ninth truck win of Nemechek’s career. He gained control with a dramatic, daring dash from third as he moved from the up near to the wall to close to the apron before moving past leader Stewart Friesen and second-place Carson Hocevar.
Nemechek gave up the lead for a final green-flag pit stop about 30 laps from the end. Soon enough, the Kyle Busch Racing driver shuffled back up to the top and closed out the victory.
It was the fourth consecutive win on tracks of a 1 1/2 miles in length this season, following Nemechek’s victory at Las Vegas, owner Kyle Busch’s wins at Atlanta and Kansas.
Sauter, Hutchins and Dollar all walked out of their trucks after the scary crash.
Sheldon Creed, who won two races ago at Darlington, led 33 of the first 34 laps to take stage one. His chances, though, ended when he tangled with Todd Gilliland, winner at the Circuit of the Americas last week, at the start of the second stage.
Zane Smith, the second stage winner, fell back after picking up a penalty for having a crew member move out for a change too early.
Ben Rhodes finished third, followed by Friesen and Gilliland.
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