NXS: Nemechek Dominates New Hampshire, Secures Second Straight Win

John Hunter Nemechek clearly had the best car. He led 137 of the 206 laps that made up Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series Ambetter Health 200 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, but to close the performance off? It was not easy, that is for certain.

After an eventful first half of the race, the drivers settled down for a long green flag run in Stage 3. There, Nemechek slowly built his lead over teammate Sammy Smith, Sheldon Creed, Cole Custer, and Chandler Smith. Nemechek weathered a green flag pit cycle with no issues, and extended his lead as the laps wound down towards the end of the race.

Then, with 9 laps left, Parker Retzlaff spun and brought out the caution.

Fortunately for Nemechek and the leaders, a majority of the field had already used their final set of fresh Goodyear tires. Still, the threat of a restart can derail the most dominant of days in NASCAR, as Nemechek noted in his post race press conference. 

“I knew that we had a good enough Toyota GR Supra to hold them off but at the same time, when it comes down to a restart, anything can happen,” Nemechek said. “Cole [Custer] was probably one of the other best cars, and they got wrecked there so there’s so many different things that can happen on restarts. You can buzz tires, someone can get into you, so restarts are always nerve wracking when you have a 3.5, 4 second lead and you’re clear sailing. That definitely feels a lot better than having to have multiple restarts at the end”

Nemechek’s win is his fourth of the year. Last week, he took advantage of an overtime restart at the end of the Xfinity Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway to steal a win. This week, the win also went through an overtime restart, and Nemechek once again delivered. 

Joe Gibbs Racing, for whom Nemechek drives for, has a history of success at the Magic Mile in the Xfinity Series. Since 2008, when they won at the track for the first time with Tony Stewart, a team other than JGR has won the annual trip to New Hampshire Motor Speedway only 3 times– in 2012, 2014, and 2021. Nemechek acknowledged the dominance of the team and taking care of the opportunity he had to win post race. 

“It’s very important when you have a dominant car and expect to win that race,” said Nemechek “I think when you have a car like we did today and everything gels, when you have those final restarts it’s like ‘man, what is going to go wrong that’s going to take me out of contention here’. But, I think from a driver perspective, it’s not overextending what your car is capable of on those restarts and just letting the car do the work.”

Nemechek wasn’t without some challengers throughout the race, however. 

The race started off looking like Justin Allgaier was the one to beat. The JR Motorsports driver made a quick charge towards the front when the race went green, and was soon engaged in a thrilling battle with Nemechek that saw the two side-by-side for numerous laps in a row. The battle was thrilling, and the two cars running side by side allowed third place Cole Custer to close in. The top 3 put on a show battling for the stage win, and Justin Allgaier ended up on top in the first stage. 

Allgaier’s good vibes didn’t last long when he came in to change tires and add fuel under caution. Allgaier slid through his pit stall and the rear tire changer for the car didn’t notice, causing the 7 team to incur a penalty for pitting outside of the pit box. He was sent to the tail of the field, which put him directly in harm’s way.

After a the restart of the race, a quick caution flew for Chad Finchum’s #66 machine, which was stopped on pit road. On the ensuing restart, chaos broke out. 

The control car for the restart waited longer than usual to fire off. The rest of the pack was not expecting the move, and cars plowed into the back of each other in a 9 car melee that sent 3 cars to the garage. Parker Kligerman, Ryan Sieg, and Anthony Alfredo all sustained too much damage to continue. And Justin Allgaier? His prior penalty put him right in the crosshairs of the wreck– and his car sustained damage that left the win unobtainable. He was able to continue, but with a wounded race car. 

Stage 2 resumed and soon afterwards went back under yellow due to Parker Chase making contact with the wall. Due to the stage being short, there were only a few laps remaining, presenting an interesting strategy call. Sammy Smith, Parker Retzlaff, and others stayed out while many of the leaders pitted for tires and fuel. Staying out proved to be the best call to win the stage when Sammy Smith captured the green-and-checkered-flag to conclude Stage 2. 

Stage 3 ran cleanly until the aforementioned overtime bonanza, with Nemechek in control. On the first restart following the late spin, Justin Allgaier made a lunge up the apron into turn one. He made contact with Sammy Smith, who hit Sam Mayer and spun him around, with a few others collected. Another restart was coming. 

This time, in a true overtime restart, the field made it to the white flag. Nemechek entered the final lap, but behind him, Cole Custer and Sheldon Creed tangled at the start/finish line, bringing out the caution. Since it came on the final lap, the race was official and Nemechek finally claimed his win. 

Chandler Smith finished the race in second as he continues a strong rookie season for Kaulig Racing. Austin Hill placed third. Daniel Hemric and Sammy Smith closed out the top 5 in fourth and fifth, respectively. 

The back half of the top 10 features a fantastic bevy of good stories. First, there’s Justin Allgaier, who nursed his battered JRM Camaro to a sixth place finish. Jeb Burton, who won at Talladega in the spring, came home in seventh. Josh Williams scored his second straight top ten with his eighth place run, and Brett Moffitt brought AM Racing a much-needed top 10 in ninth. Mason Massey, for SS-Greenlight Racing, finished in tenth and claimed the third top 10 of his NASCAR Xfinity Series career. His last one? New Hampshire, last summer! 

With his win, John Hunter Nemechek extended his points lead over Austin Hill in second to 33 points with 8 races to go in the Xfinity Series regular season. Justin Allgaier, Cole Custer, and Chandler Smith make up the rest of the top 5 in points

The NASCAR Xfinity Series will be back in action next weekend at Pocono Raceway. The race is on Saturday, July 22nd at 5 PM Eastern on the USA network. 

Ethan Miller
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