By: Toby Christie, Editor – Follow on twitter @Toby_Christie
FORT WORTH, Texas — Friday night, in the JAG Metals 350 at Texas Motor Speedway John Hunter Nemechek and his NEMCO Motorsports team rolled the dice in an effort to get him into the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. While the rest of the field cycled through pit stops, Nemechek stayed on track and gained the lead at lap 127.
Nemechek, who had an average running position of 12th on the night, chose to gamble for the win because his truck wasn’t good enough to win the race on it’s own.
“We were off a little bit all night,” Nemechek said. “It’s not for a lack of work and dedication I can tell you that.”
The plan was for Nemechek to conserve fuel and easily coast home to the victory. However, it turns out the crew miscalculated how much fuel was left in the No. 8 Chevy Silverado’s tank, as Nemechek’s truck sputtered on lap 135. To add insult to injury, Nemechek received a pit road speeding penalty as he came in for fuel to finish the race.
“We gambled and it didn’t work out,” Nemechek explained. “I don’t know what the deal was. I was running half throttle, out of the gas coasting and clutching it as much as I could trying to save fuel. They told me we were only a lap short so our calculations were off somewhere.”
Nemechek would finish a disappointing 19th, which will now put him 39 points behind the playoffs cutoff for Homestead, with just one race – Phoenix — remaining. This essentially means that Nemechek needs a win, or he needs to maximize his points in each stage next weekend and hope that Ben Rhodes and Austin Cindric have some severe issues in the race.
“Can you say deja vu all over again? We are pretty much in the same spot we were in going into Talladega before we advanced to the round of 6, we just have a deeper hole to dig ourselves out of now,” a disappointed Nemechek said after the race.
It has been a magical season for the 20-year-old driver. After struggling out of the gates, Nemechek was able to win back-to-back races at Gateway and Iowa just as his team was pondering sidelining him until sponsorship could be found.
In the round of 8, Nemechek started off with a disappointing 20th-place finish at New Hampshire. However, he climbed out of the hole with back-to-back top-10 runs at Las Vegas and Talladega.
What this driver and his team — which has six full-time employees working on their trucks at the shop in North Carolina — have done this season is nothing short of remarkable. But their season is now on the line at Phoenix Raceway.
Photo: Sean Gardner/Getty Images