It was by no means pretty or an easy day for John Hunter Nemechek, but the youngster made it through the madness at Talladega Superspeedway to qualify for the Round of 6 in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series playoffs.
Nemechek entered the day 14 points behind a playoff position. Knowing he needed to race offensively and earn stage points, he did just that in both of the first two stages. However, it’s what he and his team didn’t do that advanced him further in the playoffs – the No. 8 team didn’t crack under pressure.
Two of Nemechek’s competitors, one of which had a point advantage on the bottom two positions going into Talladega, suffered problems early.
Chase Briscoe, who came into the race fifth in points, had a costly oil line come loose during the race’s first stage. It ultimately sent Briscoe to the garage, but a quick fix had the team back on the track within 10 laps, and just soon enough to see another competitor have trouble.
When trucks began checking up in front of him near the end of Stage 1, Kaz Grala hit the brakes, too. Grala ended up getting into the truck in front of him sustaining minor damage, but it was the truck behind him, Ryan Truex, who jacked the No. 33 up, and sent him spinning hard into the wall. Grala, who like Nemechek was behind the top-six in points when the race began, ended his day early.
While Nemechek’s competitors had their days hurt by incidents, the day wasn’t all rosey for himself. Nemechek was involved in a wreck in Stage 3 when Clay Greenfield spun in front of him. With nowhere to go, Nemechek piled in and got major damage. The team immediately went to work on the truck to fix it, and while it wasn’t perfect, the NEMCO Motorsports crew kept the truck on the lead lap and in contention, bear bond and all.
Another near miss with a late accident cemented Nemechek’s playoff hopes.
For Nemechek and the No. 8 team, the day was all about minimizing mistakes. While they were involved in an incident, they kept the internal damage relatively clean. A sixth-place finish when all was said and done had the truck eight points above the cutline where Briscoe sat in seventh.