John Hunter Nemechek grabs wild last lap Truck Series victory at Kansas

John Hunter Nemechek denied an opportunity for Carson Hocevar to win and race his way into the Round of 8 in the 2022 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs by executing a final lap pass to win the Kansas Lottery 200 at Kansas Speedway on Friday, September 9.

The 25-year-old Nemechek from Mooresville, North Carolina, led five times for a race-high 88 of 134-scheduled laps as he started the day sweeping the first two stages. After opting to surrender the lead and pit under green for four fresh tires and fuel with 32 laps remaining, Nemechek spent the next 31 laps bolting his way through lapped traffic and the field to catch Hocevar, who topped off on fuel on Lap 80 and was trying to stretch his fuel tank to the finish and with an opportunity to both win and advance in the Playoffs. Hocevar’s gamble, however, did not pay off on the final lap as he was overtaken by Nemechek, who proceeded to claim his second checkered flag of the 2022 Truck Series season and secure a spot for the Round of 8 in the Playoffs.

With on-track qualifying that determined the starting lineup occurring on Friday, John Hunter Nemechek claimed his sixth pole position of the 2022 season after posting a pole-winning lap at 175.444 mph in 30.779 seconds. Joining him on the front row was Ty Majeski, who clocked in the second-fastest lap at 175.182 mph in 30.825 seconds.

Prior to the event, names like Brett Moffitt, Mason Maggio, Armani Williams and Brennan Poole dropped to the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustments made to their respective trucks.

When the green flag waved and the race started, Nemechek received a push from teammates Corey Heim and Chandler Smith to assume an early advantage as he went on to lead the first lap. Meanwhile, Majeski retained the runner-up spot ahead of Heim, Christian Eckes and Chandler Smith as the field fanned out and jostled early for positions.

Through the first five scheduled laps, Nemechek was ahead by four-tenths of a second over Majeski and more than a second over Eckes while Heim fell back to fourth in front of teammate Chandler Smith’s No. 18 Safelite AutoGlass Toyota Tundra TRD Pro. Matt Crafton was in sixth while Ben Rhodes, Zane Smith, Ryan Preece and Matt DiBenedetto were in the top 10.

At the Lap 10 mark, Majeski, who inherited the lead from Nemechek three laps earlier, was leading in his No. 66 Road Ranger Toyota Tundra TRD Pro by eight-tenths of a second over Nemechek while Eckes, Heim and Chandler Smith remained in the top five. Meanwhile, Playoff contenders Stewart Friesen, Carson Hocevar and Grant Enfinger were in 13th, 15th and 16th, respectively.

By Lap 20, Majeski continued to lead by a tenth of a second over Nemechek, who relaunched and eventually overtook Majeski for the lead, followed by Eckes and Heim while Zane Smith moved his No. 38 Hamsters USA Ford F-150 into the top five. Ryan Preece also moved his No. 17 Morton Buildings Ford F-150 up to sixth while Chandler Smith fell back to seventh in front of Derek Kraus, Crafton and Rhodes.

When the first stage concluded on Lap 30, Nemechek, who reclaimed the lead on Lap 21, captured his fifth stage victory of the 2022 season. Majeski settled in second while Eckes, Heim, Zane Smith, Preece, Kraus, Chandler Smith, Crafton and Tanner Gray were scored in the top 10. With their results at the conclusion of the first stage, Nemechek and Zane Smith clinched spots for the Round of 8 in the Playoffs, joining Chandler Smith and Grant Enfinger.

Under the stage break, the leaders led by Nemechek pitted and Nemechek exited with the lead followed by Eckes, Majeski, Heim, Preece and Gray.

The second stage started on Lap 37 as Nemechek and Eckes occupied the front row. At the start, Nemechek rocketed with another strong start on the inside lane to retain the lead followed by Majeski while Eckes and Preece battled for third place. Behind, Heim muscled his way into fifth after overtaking Rhodes and Zane Smith through Turns 3 and 4 as the field jostled for positions.

At the Lap 45 mark, Nemechek was leading by eight-tenths of a second over Eckes while Zane Smith, Preece and Majeski were in the top five. Heim fell back to sixth followed by Tyler Ankrum, Ben Rhodes, Crafton and Kraus while Carson Hocevar, Tanner Gray, Enfinger, Chandler Smith, Parker Kligerman, Bret Holmes, Matt DiBenedetto, Brett Moffitt, Colby Howard and Chase Purdy were in the top 20. Meanwhile, Friesen was mired back in 22nd in front of Hailie Deegan.

Then with four laps remaining in the second stage, the caution flew when Bayley Currey spun the No. 44 Niece Motorsports Chevrolet Silverado RST below the apron on the frontstretch entering Turn 1. Currey’s incident was enough for the second stage scheduled to conclude on Lap 60 to conclude under caution as Nemechek captured his sixth stage victory of the season. Zane Smith settled in second followed by Preece, Eckes, Heim, Majeski, Ankrum, Kraus, Crafton and Hocevar were scored in the top 10. With his result in the second stage, Majeski secured a spot for the Playoff’s Round of 8.

Under the stage break, the leaders led by Nemechek returned to pit road and Nemechek retained the lead following another quick pit service from his pit crew followed by Preece, Heim, Zane Smith, Kraus and Enfinger. Following the pit stops, Friesen pitted for a second time for adjustments to his spoiler.

With 70 laps remaining, the final stage started as Nemechek and Preece occupied the front row. At the start, Nemechek retained the lead followed by teammate Heim and Preece as the field fanned out entering the first two turns and through the backstretch. Not long after, the caution returned when Kaden Honeycutt made contact with rookie Dean Thompson before spinning in the backstretch.

During the following restart with 65 laps remaining, Nemechek received a push from teammate Heim to retain the lead while Preece, who restarted as the first competitor on the outside lane, was being overtaken by Heim and Zane Smith. While the field fanned out for positions amid Derek Kraus barely scrapping the outside wall in the frontstretch, Nemechek retained a steady advantage followed by Zane Smith, Heim, Preece and Enfinger while Christian Eckes, who was battling above the top-eight cutline to make the Round of 8 in his No. 98 CMR Construction & Roof Toyota Tundra TRD Pro was in sixth.

Four laps later, the caution returned when the No. 22 AM Racing Chevrolet Silverado RST piloted by Brett Moffitt went up in smoke due to an engine loss entering the frontstretch. As Timmy Hill spun through the frontstretch grass after getting into the spilled oil, Moffitt’s truck erupted in flames as the driver quickly stopped below the apron in the frontstretch and retired. During the caution period, some like Hocevar, DiBenedetto, Colby Howard, Bailey Currey, Kaz Grala, Kaden Honeycutt and rookie Lawless Alan pitted while the rest led by Nemechek remained on the track. Following the pit stops, Hocevar pitted for a second time to top off on fuel.

With 53 laps remaining, the race proceeded under green. At the start, Nemechek received another strong push from teammate Heim’s No. 51 JBL Toyota Tundra TRD Pro to retain the lead as Eckes launched a brief attack on Heim for the runner-up spot before the latter prevailed. With Heim in second, Eckes retained third ahead of Zane Smith, Preece and Enfinger.

Thirteen laps later and with 40 laps remaining, Nemechek was out in front by more than a second over Zane Smith followed by Preece, Heim and Enfinger while Chandler Smith, Eckes, Majeski, Ankrum and Chase Purdy were in the top 10. By then, Playoff contenders Rhodes, Crafton, Hocevar and Friesen were in 12th, 14th, 16th and 17th, respectively.

Then with 32 laps remaining, green flag pit stops ensued as the leader Nemechek pitted his No. 4 Mobil 1 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro followed by teammate Chandler Smith, who won the previous Truck event at Richmond Raceway to secure his spot into the Round of 8. Zane Smith soon followed along with Majeski, Chase Purdy, Rhodes, Preece, Tyler Ankrum, Parker Kligerman, Friesen, Enfinger, Heim, Bret Holmes, Eckes and Crafton. During the pit stops, Purdy was penalized for speeding on pit road.

Back on the track and with 28 laps remaining, Hocevar, who last pitted on Lap 80 to top off on fuel and opted to stretch his fuel tank to the finish, was in the lead followed by teammate Currey while Colby Howard, DiBenedetto and Hailie Deegan were in the top five.

Down to the final 20 laps of the event, Hocevar continued to lead by more than six seconds over teammate Currey while Colby Howard and DiBenedetto retained third and fourth, respectively. Meanwhile, Nemechek, the first competitor racing on four fresh tires and a full tank of gas, was in fifth, trailing Hocevar by 12 seconds but blazing his way through the leaderboard with a fast truck.

Six laps later, Nemechek navigated his way into the runner-up spot after zipping by Currey. By then, he was scored eight seconds behind Hocevar’s No. 42 Worldwide Express Chevrolet Silverado RST.

With 10 laps remaining, Hocevar, who continued to run strong in spite of a low gas tank, retained the lead by five seconds over Nemechek while Zane Smith, Currey and Preece were in the top five.

With five laps remaining, Hocevar, who was carving his way through lapped traffic, was still out in front by nearly two seconds over Nemechek, who was also mired in the lapped traffic, among which included Crafton’s No. 88 Menards Toyota Tundra TRD Pro.

When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Hocevar was leading by a tenth of a second over a hard-charging Nemechek, who cleared the lapped traffic and was right on Hocevar’s bumper. Then entering Turn 1, Nemechek bolted his truck beneath Hocevar and reassumed the lead entering the backstretch. With Hocevar shaking his truck after running out of fuel and losing ground entering the backstretch, Nemechek was able to cruise away with an increasing advantage through the final two turns and cycle back to the frontstretch to capture his second checkered flag of the 2022 season.

With the victory that took him another step closer to achieving his first NASCAR national touring series championship, Nemechek grabbed his second Camping World Truck Series victory of the season, his first since winning at Darlington Raceway in May and his 13th career win in his 143rd series start. He also recorded his second NASCAR national touring series victory at Kansas since winning the Xfinity Kansas event in 2018 and the eighth victory of the season for Kyle Busch Motorsports.

“It’s huge,” Nemechek said on FS1. “I can’t thank [the crew] enough for the truck they gave me tonight. The Toyota Tundra TRD Pro was absolutely on rails. Qualified on the pole, led a ton of laps, won both stages and won the race. We came here really good points-wise. It played out in our favor to go get some more Playoff points going into the next round. [It] Puts us in a good spot. We have some momentum on our side going into Bristol [Motor Speedway]. I think this one is even sweeter. It’s been a really tough week for myself, mentally, emotionally, things you just can’t control. It feels good to come out here and cap it off with a win and show who I am…Just proud of all my guys, proud to get back to Victory Lane. Second [win] of the year. We’re behind from last year, but I said I would rather win five races in the Playoffs and go win a championship than win five in the regular season. We’re gonna try and do that.”

While Nemechek was left smiling on the frontstretch, Hocevar, who ran out of fuel on the final lap while trying to execute his late strategy but managed to coast across the finish line in second place, was left heartbroken on pit road for two reasons: the first was falling one lap short of claiming his first elusive Truck career win and the second was being one of two competitors to be eliminated from the 2022 Truck Series Playoffs. The final standings showed Hocevar missing the cutline to the Round of 8 by three points over Christian Eckes, who finished 10th.

“I don’t know how you’re supposed to handle these,” Hocevar, who led 28 laps compared to Nemechek’s 88, said. “As many times as I’ve come and close, I should be used to this. I’m gonna be my bridesmaid at my own wedding. I don’t know. I thought I saved too much [fuel]. I could have gone harder and built a gap, but into [Turn] 3 coming to take the white flag, I started sputtering. I knew it was game over. [Kraus] had an issue [earlier] and I lost three seconds there. Looking back, I wished I would’ve gotten those back, but [crew chief] Phil Gould made a hell of a call. Even I didn’t see it. Fifty-six [laps] to go. There’s gonna be a yellow [flag], right? Cutoff race. It’s the Truck Series of all things…Just got beat. [I] Had the winning strategy. Just, obviously, didn’t work out.”

Meanwhile, Ryan Preece came home in third place while Zane Smith and Enfinger finished in the top five. Chandler Smith settled in sixth place while teammate, Heim, then, Majeski, Colby Howard and Eckes completed the top 10 on the track.

Zane Smith, Chandler Smith, John Hunter Nemechek, Ben Rhodes, Stewart Friesen, Ty Majeski, Grant Enfinger and Christian Eckes have transferred to the Round of 8 in the 2022 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs. Carson Hocevar and Matt Crafton have been eliminated from Playoff and championship contention for this season.

“It’s just part of it,” Crafton, who missed the cutline by 10 points, said. “We sucked all year. To even get to the Playoffs was a feat in itself. To be in going into this race, just by three [points], that says a lot. It’s only the second race I’ve worked with [crew chief] Shane [Wilson]. We made the mistake. I’ve never ran some of the setup stuff that we ran tonight and I had [Wilson] jump the fence. I just had him tighten [the truck] up or free it up a little bit too much on the second run, and then we ended up going to the back and tightening it too much.

“Just him learning some of my lingo of what I’m saying and what he’s doing. Put in our notebook and keeping working on it because the truck had a lot of speed earlier today and in qualifying. It is what it is. We were terrible all year. To even get to where we were, I just can’t thank these guys enough for how hard they’ve worked and how hard they’ve been kicked because it’s the baddest we’ve been. We have four of five more [races] to go. We can go out and don’t worry about points anymore and go about worry about wins.”

There were 11 lead changes for six different leaders. The race featured four cautions for 25 laps.

Results.

1. John Hunter Nemechek, 88 laps led, Stage 1 & 2 winner

2. Carson Hocevar, 28 laps led

3. Ryan Preece

4. Zane Smith, two laps led

5. Grant Enfinger, one lap led

6. Chandler Smith

7. Corey Heim

8. Ty Majeski, 14 laps led

9. Colby Howard

10. Christian Eckes, one lap led

11. Parker Kligerman

12. Matt DiBenedetto

13. Ben Rhodes

14. Tyler Ankrum

15. Matt Crafton, one lap down

16. Tanner Gray, one lap down

17. Bret Holmes, one lap down

18. Kaz Grala, one lap down

19. Timmy Hill, one lap down

20. Stewart Friesen, one lap down

21. Derek Kraus, one lap down

22. Hailie Deegan, one lap down

23. Dean Thompson, one lap down

24. Kaden Honeycutt, one lap down

25. Chase Purdy, two laps down

26. Jack Wood, two laps down

27. Bayley Currey, two laps down

28. Jesse Little, two laps down

29. Tyler Hill, four laps down

30. Blaine Perkins, four laps down

31. Lawless Alan, four laps down

32. Mason Maggio, eight laps down

33. Spencer Boyd, 10 laps down

34. Brennan Poole, 11 laps down

35. Armani Williams – OUT, Too slow

36. Brett Moffitt – OUT, Engine

Bold indicates Playoff contenders

Playoff standings

1. Zane Smith – Advanced

2. Chandler Smith – Advanced

3. John Hunter Nemechek – Advanced

4. Ben Rhodes – Advanced

5. Stewart Friesen – Advanced

6. Ty Majeski – Advanced

7. Grant Enfinger – Advanced

8. Christian Eckes – Advanced

9. Carson Hocevar – Eliminated

10. Matt Crafton – Eliminated

The Round of 8 in the 2022 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs is set to commence next Thursday, September 15, at Bristol Motor Speedway. The event’s coverage is scheduled to occur at 9 p.m. ET on FS1.



The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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