Nemechek’s 10th Xfinity Win Marks Next Step in Development

By Cole Cusumano, Staff Writer

Projected gusts up to 70 mph had the NASCAR Xfinity Series on notice entering the LiUNA! at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but they should’ve been more concerned with John Hunter Nemechek, who was gone with the wind when it was all said and done.

After taking the green flag from 12th, the second-generation racer played second fiddle to Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Chandler Smith for about half of the 200-lap event. The driver of the No. 81 swept both stages, while Nemechek was hot on his heels at the end of each segment in the runner-up spot.

Once the final caution flew on Lap 124, Nemechek’s No. 20 crew set him and his Safeway-sponsored Toyota GR Supra up for success with a blistering-fast pit stop and the adjustments needed to sustain long-run pace and one, final green-flag stop.

This all culminated to a race-high 99 laps led for Nemechek in what wound up being his 10th Xfinity Series win.

“It’s big,” Nemechek said. “I love winning races, but to be able to win 10 Xfinity races is a pretty big accomplishment. I really enjoy being able to race in the NASCAR Xfinity series. These cars are so fun to drive, Toyota’s GR Supras are really fast … it means a lot.”

Nemechek’s Vegas win also marked a huge milestone in his development.

Since losing his ride in the NASCAR Cup Series at the end of his rookie season in 2020, Nemechek had been on a hellbent mission to prove his worth and earn his way back up to the sport’s premier level.

The Toyota Racing Development driver had racked up a combined 15 victories between the Xfinity and NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series since 2021.

Between two full-time Truck campaigns, Nemechek scored seven wins and made a Championship 4 appearance in his first season following the demotion from Cup. He earned eight Xfinity wins, including a series-best seven with most laps led last year, which ultimately led to him landing a ride back at the top level with Legacy Motor Club.

“Man, you get humbled pretty quickly going from the top down to the Truck Series (and) Xfinity Series,” Nemechek said. “It’s a big ordeal to step back and be able to have a shot to revamp your career; show that you can win, show that you can be the best driver that you can be, and that your talent can help you land a ride for Sundays. 

“I learned a few things the hard way over those last couple years racing for a championship. I think just being able to win races; figuring out how to be consistent, not putting yourself in bad situations and bad spots to take you out of contention.”

In the short time Nemechek has been back in Cup, he’s already made his presence known.

Beginning with the Daytona 500, Nemechek wheeled his No. 42 to a top-10. While the results may not have been as flashy the following weekend in Atlanta, a 21st-place finish was enough to keep him out of serious trouble and on the lead lap in what was a wild event.

While he isn’t quite lighting up the stat sheets by any means, especially considering the season opened up with two drafting tracks, Nemechek has already made impressive strides in the right direction for both his and Legacy M.C’s progression.

Now going into the Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas, Nemechek enters a Cup race with something he’s never brought with him before – winner’s confidence. 

In 23 developmental series victories, this is the first time Nemechek will be racing on Sunday following a win in the same weekend.

“I mean, yeah, it’s definitely a confidence booster,” Nemechek said. “If we don’t run great right off the bat at Legacy Motor Club, then if we’re over here winning races on Saturday, it keeps my confidence up for sure. 

“I wouldn’t say that that’s the reason why I’m doing these Xfinity races. Being in competitive equipment on Saturday to have the shot to win every time I go out is something truly special. Not a lot of drivers get a shot like this and for myself to be able to be in those shoes and to be able to capitalize on it is huge.

“‘One-percent better every single day’ is my motto and what I strive for. If you can do that, that’s a huge accomplishment and it should set you up very well in life.”

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