John Hunter Nemechek earned his second NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win in the last four races and had to hold off his boss Kyle Busch to do so Saturday afternoon. Nemechek scored the victory by a slim .307 seconds over Busch in the ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond Raceway.
Nemechek, 23, led a race best 114 of the 250 laps in his No. 4 KBM Toyota, reclaiming the lead for good with 17 laps remaining after racing back from a late-race pit stop. Busch, who has 12 wins overall at Richmond – six in the NASCAR Cup Series and six in the NASCAR Xfinity Series – was pushing for his first truck series win at the three-quarter mile track.
The KBM truck team has now won four consecutive races – two for Nemechek (Las Vegas Motor Speedway also), Busch (Atlanta Motor Speedway) and Martin Truex Jr. (Bristol Motor Speedway).
For a while, it looked like KBM may earn a sweep – with Nemechek, Busch and teammate Chandler Smith running 1-2-3 in the waning laps, but Tyler Ankrum got around Smith with a handful of laps remaining to take third place. Smith held on for fourth place – the 18-year-old’s best finish of the season.
Former series champion Johnny Sauter finished fifth, followed by Todd Gilliland, Ben Rhodes and last year’s Richmond winner Grant Enfinger. Sam Mayer and Austin Hill rounded out the top 10. Reigning series champion Sheldon Creed was 11th.
The victory for Nemechek comes just three weeks after his wife gave birth to their first child, daughter Aspen, and they were trackside in the family motorhome for Nemechek’s first win as a dad.
“It’s a never-give-up attitude,” a smiling Nemechek said after the race. “I just can’t thank Kyle, everyone at Toyota and all our great partners. It’s pretty cool to be able to come out and here do what we did. We had a really fast truck and I’m super proud of all my guys and thankful for them.”
The race featured two very different halves. Defending winner Enfinger led 71 of the first 73 laps and earned the Stage 1 victory – his first of the year – in a clean opening to the event. The first caution was the stage break.
Busch’s team got his truck out first from that opening stage caution period, but Nemechek took the lead from his team owner on a restart at Lap 100 and held it for most of the duration of the event. Nemechek won Stage 2, finishing just ahead of Enfinger and claiming his series best sixth stage win.
Nemechek had to really earn the top position from there on out – holding off the field again and again and again. There were seven cautions in the last 110 laps of the race.
Matt Crafton and his ThorSport Racing teammate Johnny Sauter – along with Smith – gambled not to pit late on a caution with 55 laps remaining in the race. Nemechek and Busch and most of the frontrunners opted to pit. The KBM teammates restarted ninth and 10th with Nemechek reclaiming the lead with 17 laps to go.
Busch made a run at Nemechek after getting around Smith but was ultimately unable to get close enough to attempt a winning pass.
“It’s awesome,” Busch said of his truck team’s streak. “I joked with John Hunter at the beginning of the year that if you win one and then I win one and you win one and then I win one – it would be pretty good to go back and forth.
“I didn’t think he was serious, but so far that’s kind of the way it’s going so I guess I get Kansas (win).”
The two-win tally equals the second-generation NASCAR driver’s season best – and this is only the sixth race of 2021. Nemechek now holds a 20-point advantage over fellow two-race winner Rhodes in the championship standings with the next race set for May 1 at Kansas Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
NOTE: The race winning No. 4 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota of John Hunter Nemechek passed NASCAR’s post-race inspection. It had one lug nut not safe and secure, though.