Nemechek wins Truck race in Atlanta after 2 late wrecks
HAMPTON, Ga. (AP) — John Hunter Nemechek emerged from the carnage that took out the front runners to win the NASCAR Truck series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Saturday.
Nemechek, the son of longtime Cup driver Joe Nemechek, held off Cameron Hayley by 0.31 seconds to capture his second career Truck victory.
On a restart with two laps to go, the 18-year-old came through the trioval side by side with John Wes Townley. When Townley got loose, Nemechek pulled away to win for a team that lacks a major sponsor.
Matt Crafton led much of the race, only to get taken out in a huge wreck caused by Christopher Bell with 19 laps to go. The wreck also claimed Bell’s teammate, Daniel Suarez, who was running second.
Bell surged to the lead after the race was briefly halted and the wreckage cleared. But he cut a tire with seven laps remaining and slammed into the wall.
Nemechek credited his pit crew for continually helping him move through the field during pit stops.
Not bad for a low-budget team run by his father.
“We’ve put in a lot of hard work with just a little funding,” the teenager said, “and we’ve come out and contended for wins.”
Crafton led 76 of 130 laps. After a restart, Suarez attempted to slide around Crafton on the outside coming out of turn two.
Suarez couldn’t get by and Bell clipped the Mexican driver, which sent him spinning into Crafton, who slammed head-on into the outside wall while Suarez’s truck skidded hard into the inside wall. Fortunately for Crafton, he hit the wall at a spot where extra padding was added over the past year, cushioning the blow. Both drivers were able to walk away.
“We were so, so fast,” Crafton said. “We definitely felt like we had a truck to win this race.”
Suarez was peeved at his teammate. It was the second week in a row that Bell was involved in a major crash, having endured a frightening barrel roll on the final lap of the season-opening Truck race at Daytona.
“We’ve got to take care of each other,” Suarez said.
CAUTION CLOCK: The 20-minute caution clock was used for the first time in the Truck series.
It wasn’t needed at Daytona; there were too many wrecks and yellow flags. But the drivers made it through the first 20 minutes Saturday without bringing out the yellow flag, prompting a caution period at the end of the 38th lap.
The 20-minute timer is now used in the Truck series on each green-flag run. If no caution period occurs before time expires, the yellow flag comes out and teams have a chance to make pit stops and adjustments under caution.
DAYTONA WINNER: Johnny Sauter had a rough day on the heels of his season-opening victory at Daytona.
Sauter had to go behind the wall to change a faulty ignition box. He finished nine laps down in 28th.