CONCORD, NC (AP) – John Hunter Nemechek survived a late crash, then held the lead in a restart 10 laps from time to win the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Friday evening.
A winner for the third time this season, Nemechek has shown once again this season why he gave up his Cup Series seat last year to join Kyle Busch Motorsports.
“I smile. I win races,” he said. “What’s better than that?”
Nemechek has a season of thrills in his run around Charlotte.
He used a three-wide pass to take the lead with 65 laps to go and was cruising for victory until the most serious crash in the race almost ruined things.
Trey Hutchins III had slowed down after hitting the wall and drifting onto the track as Johnny Sauter and Drew Dollar hit Hutchins’ vehicle with great force.
Nemechek was the next racer before the warning was issued, 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 grabbed its roof and left what Nemechek said was a pretty big hole.
Nemechek wasn’t sure what to expect as he neared the crash at full speed and used his skill to react in the best way he knew how.
“I kind of shot just for the central moment, like ‘Days of Thunder’, and I was hoping for the best,” Nemechek said, referring to the Tom Cruise movie from three decades ago.
After a long cleaning, Nemechek again moved in front and finished in front of Hocevar.
Hocevar said he needed two more laps to hurtle down Nemechek. “I just got beaten today,” Hocevar said during his rookie season.
It was the ninth truck victory of Nemechek’s career. He took control with a spectacular and daring third-place draw as he went from high near the wall to near the apron before passing front leader Stewart Friesen of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., And the second Carson Hocevar. .
Nemechek gave up the lead for a final green flag pit stop about 30 laps from time. Soon the Kyle Busch Racing rider rose to the top and closed the victory.
It was the fourth straight victory on 1 1/2 mile tracks this season, following Nemechek’s victory in Las Vegas, victories for owner Kyle Busch in Atlanta and Kansas.
Jump, Hutchins and Dollar all got out of their trucks after the spooky crash.
Sheldon Creed, who won two races ago at Darlington, led 33 of the first 34 laps to take the first stage. His chances, however, ended when he mingled with last week’s Circuit of the Americas winner Todd Gilliland at the start of stage two.
Stage 2 winner Zane Smith backed off after taking a penalty for relocating a crew member for a change too early.
Ben Rhodes was third, followed by Friesen and Gilliland.
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