JOLIET, Ill. — Recap by Race Chaser Online Managing Editor Jacob Seelman — Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images for NASCAR photo —
As trucks ran out of fuel left and right around him, 18-year-old John Hunter Nemechek stayed the course and kept his foot in the gas just as hard as he needed to.
The result? His first-career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory on Saturday at Chicagoland Speedway.
Nemechek soared around the outside of Kyle Larson as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular ran out of fuel with a lap and a half to go in the American Ethanol E15 225 and never looked back, coasting to the finish 12.015 seconds ahead of fellow young gun Tyler Reddick and becoming just the second driver in NEMCO Motorsports’ history to score a Truck Series win.
Joining Ron Fellows, who won at Watkins Glen International on June 26, 1999, Nemechek’s victory came in just his 23rd career NCWTS start and made him the fourth first-time winner of the 2015 season.
“Gere [Kennon, crew chief] just kept saying ‘Save, save, save,’ on the radio as far as fuel,” Nemechek grinned in Victory Lane. “We kept doing that and somehow we ended up here. I can’t thank all these guys [on the crew] enough for helping to make this happen. It’s amazing really.”
Nemechek, who also serves as one of the shop engineers on his No. 8 Chevrolet Silverado, added that a win means a lot to the group that is made up of just six people working full-time in the shop.
“It’s definitely rewarding,” the teenager added. “It makes all the hard work pay off in this deal. We work as hard as we can in the shop, 24/7. For us to win and finally get one means a ton. We’ve been close a few times, but this one’s been coming and again, I can’t thank everyone enough.”
The young driver’s father, former Sprint Cup regular Joe Nemechek, found himself a winner as an owner for the first time in 16 years and said to have his son go to victory lane was gratifying for him as both family and team owner.
“It’s just an incredible day,” the elder Nemechek said. “We’ve had such a tough year. We don’t have a lot of sponsorship and we’re doing this with … six guys on our team. We’ve worked so many hours a day so it’s just incredible.”
“I knew we were going to be good. We came up here and tested — that was the first time we could test with John Hunter, to let him feel what was going on. He did an awesome job driving and saving gas. We just need some sponsorship.”
Larson led off the initial start and paced 30 of the first 31 laps before a competition caution and penalties on pit road swept multiple front-running trucks to the tail end of the lead lap. Larson (speeding), Daniel Suarez (speeding) and points leader Matt Crafton (crew over the wall too soon) were all shuffled into traffic and had to charge their way back to the front as Johnny Sauter assumed the point at lap 34 and led 52 consecutive circuits around the 1.5-mile Chicago oval.
A caution at lap 82 for a violent crash that saw Mason Mingus ramp up and go airborne after contact with the pit road commitment cone and the wet infield grass brought the leaders down for service and saw Sauter stall his truck after running out of fuel. That handed the lead to Larson again, who held the top spot for nine circuits under an extended caution before pitting to top off his fuel cell with 56 laps remaining.
The gas gambles handed the lead to Timothy Peters, who — in his 200th career Truck start — led from the lap 95 restart all the way until his final pit stop with 15 laps to go. That sparked a sequence of gas-and-go stops as first Larson assumed the lead, then gave it up to Daniel Suarez with 12 laps remaining before taking it back when Suarez finally had to pit for his splash with eight circuits left.
From there, it looked as if Larson would have a clear path to victory, as both he and John Hunter Nemechek pitted under caution with 56 laps to go. However, the No. 00 JR Motorsports Chevrolet sputtered, and the die was cast — leaving a frustrated Larson one lap down in seventh at the checkered flag.
Reddick’s runner-up result came despite being black-flagged at lap 92 by NASCAR for a suspected fluid leak. The California native restarted 13th, at the tail end of the lead lap, but rallied to the podium and took over second place in the championship standings as a result of a day he called “not bad.”
“As much as we thought [being on the front row] at the time we had to come down pit road was going to mess us up, probably coming down and topping off actually did us a lot of good,” Reddick admitted. “We ended up running second. I was battling [John Hunter] really hard on the opening laps of the run and could just never get around him. That probably ended up being the race for the win, but we did our best.”
“This was my first fuel mileage race and I didn’t run out, so I’m happy about that.”
Peters rallied on two tires to round out the podium in third, his 43rd career top five effort in 200 starts.
“You can’t change [the fuel mileage] unless a caution comes out, and believe me, I saw rain, debris, whatever I could see and was radioing it back to [crew chief] Marcus [Richmond],” Peters quipped. “What a great effort for our Red Horse Tundra today though. Pit road was awesome. This is what this team is all about. We’ve been hit or miss this year and now we’ve come into our zone. We’ll see if we can’t get on a roll here, and we’ve got seven more chances to put it in victory lane.”
Suarez finished fourth with Sauter, who led the most laps on the day at 52, rounding out the top five. Erik Jones followed that duo in sixth, the last car on the lead lap, to extend his points lead to 10 over Reddick.
Matt Crafton, who came into the day second in the standings, floundered in mid-pack after being caught a lap down under the lap 82 caution for Mason Mingus. Crafton had just come down pit road and elected to take four tires, but incurred a penalty for driving through too many pit boxes on exit and could never recover.
The two-time series champion finished 14th, three laps in arrears.
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series returns to action on Saturday, Sept. 26 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the UNOH 175 (1 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1). Cole Custer is the defending winner of the event, and Race Chaser Online will have live at-track coverage of the event courtesy of New England correspondent Kyle Souza.
RESULTS: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series; American Ethanol E15 225; Chicagoland Speedway; September 19, 2015
- John Hunter Nemechek
- Tyler Reddick
- Timothy Peters
- Daniel Suarez
- Johnny Sauter
- Erik Jones
- Kyle Larson
- Spencer Gallagher
- Matt Tifft
- John Wes Townley
- Ray Black Jr.
- Ben Kennedy
- Austin Theriault
- Matt Crafton
- Tyler Young
- Cameron Hayley
- Brandon Jones
- Timmy Hill
- Justin Jennings
- Jordan Anderson
- Chad Finley
- Norm Benning
- Jennifer Jo Cobb
- Travis Kvapil
- Daniel Hemric
- Mason Mingus
- Korbin Forrister
- B.J. McLeod
- Ryan Ellis
- Jesse Little
- Caleb Roark
- Tyler Tanner
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network. Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 21-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for both the United Sprint Car Series and the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
Email Jacob at: email@example.com