John Hunter Nemechek clocks in for dominant Xfinity victory at Martinsville

Two weeks after having a victory at Richmond Raceway slip out of his grasp in the late stages, John Hunter Nemechek doubled down with resilience and rose to the occasion after scoring a dominant victory in the Call811.com Before You Dig. 250 at Martinsville Speedway on Saturday, April 15.

The 25-year-old Nemechek from Mooresville, North Carolina, led three times for a race-high 198 of 250-scheduled laps, including the final 33, as he also capitalized on the final restart with 18 laps remaining to beat teammate Sammy Smith and Cole Custer by more than a second to claim his second checkered flag of the 2023 NASCAR Xfinity Series season in an event where he swept both stages. As an added bonus, Nemechek claimed the second Dash 4 Cash bonus with his victory at the Paperclip-shaped short track.

With on-track qualifying that determined the starting lineup occurring on Friday, Cole Custer notched his second Xfinity pole of the season after posting a pole-winning lap at 94.411 mph in 20.057 seconds. Joining him on the front row was John Hunter Nemechek, who posted the second-best qualifying lap at 94.331 mph in 20.074 seconds.

Prior to the event, names that included Sheldon Creed, Jeremy Clements, Kaden Honeycutt, Anthony Alfredo and Alex Labbe dropped to the rear due to unapproved adjustments made to their respective entries.

When the green flag waved and the race commenced, Custer launched ahead with a strong jump on the inside lane as he cleared Nemechek and assumed the lead for a full circuit, where he proceeded to lead the first lap. Behind, the field fanned out to three tight-packed lanes as rookie Parker Retzlaff, who qualified fourth, was getting shuffled out of the racing groove while rookie Sammy Smith and Samy Mayer moved up and battled for third in front of Riley Herbst and Josh Berry.

Three laps later, Nemechek launched his bid for the lead as he drew his No. 20 Pye Barker Fire & Safety Toyota Supra beneath Custer’s No. 00 Haas Ford Mustang through Turns 1 and 2. After dueling with Custer amid a tight side-by-side battle during the following lap, Nemechek became the new leader of the event on the sixth lap after clearing Custer in Turns 3 and 4 while Sammy Smith trailed behind in close distance.

Through the first 10 scheduled laps, Nemechek was leading by more than half a second over Custer followed by Sammy Smith, Sam Mayer and Riley Herbst while Berry, rookie Chandler Smith, Justin Allgaier, Daniel Hemric and Parker Retzlaff were in the top 10. Behind, Austin Hill was in 11th over Brandon Jones, Ryan Sieg, Brett Moffitt and Derek Kraus in the top 15 while Ryan Truex, Connor Mosack, Parker Kligerman, Kaz Grala and Josh Williams occupied the top 20.

Fifteen laps later, Nemechek continued to lead by half a second over Custer while third-place Sammy Smith trailed by more than a second. With Herbst and Mayer remaining in the top five, Berry also remained in sixth followed by Chandler Smith, Allgaier, Hemric and Retzlaff.

Another 11 laps later, the first caution of the event flew when Moffitt got loose while battling Austin Hill through Turns 3 and 4 as he spun without getting hit by the oncoming field. By then, Nemechek and Custer had reignited their early battle for the lead amid lapped traffic while 30 of 38 starters were scored on the lead lap. During the caution period, some like Josh Berry, Hill, Jeb Burton, Brennan Poole, Dawson Cram, Kaden Honeycutt, Gray Gaulding and Anthony Alfredo pitted while the rest led by Nemechek remained on the track.

During the following restart on Lap 43, Nemechek retained the lead and pulled ahead of Custer after receiving a bump and shove from teammate Sammy Smith on the inside lane amid a stacked-up restart. With Nemechek out in front, teammate Sammy Smith battled and fended off Custer to assume second while the field behind jostled amid tight-quarter lanes for positions.

At the Lap 50 mark, Nemechek was leading by half a second over teammate Sammy Smith while third-place Custer trailed by more than a second along with Mayer and Herbst.

When the first stage concluded on Lap 60, Nemechek captured his second stage victory of the 2023 Xfinity season after fending off teammate Sammy Smith by more than six-tenths of a second. Custer trailed the two Joe Gibbs Racing competitors in third while Mayer, Herbst, Allgaier, Hemric, Chandler Smith, Retzlaff and Brandon Jones were scored in the top 10.

Under the stage break, a majority of the field led by Nemechek pitted while others led by Hill and Berry, both of whom pitted on Lap 39, remained on the track. Following the pit stops, Nemechek exited pit road first followed by Sammy Smith, Hemric, Chandler Smith and Herbst.

The second stage started on Lap 71 as Hill and Berry occupied the front row followed by Dawson Cram and Jeb Burton. At the start, Hill rocketed with the lead on the inside lane followed by Berry as the field fanned out and stacked up through the turns and the straightaways. With Berry trying to close back towards Hill’s rear bumper for the lead, Nemechek shoved his way up to fourth on fresh tires behind Jeb Burton while Cram was shuffled out and falling below the leaderboard. In the process, Hemric carved his way up into the top five while Sammy Smith was mired in sixth as he battled Custer to retain the spot.

Three laps later, Berry moved his No. 8 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet Camaro into the lead as the front-runners settled in a single-file line. This kept Nemechek in fourth behind Jeb Burton while Hemric was in fifth ahead of Custer and Sammy Smith. By Lap 78, however, Nemechek navigated his way into second as Hemric and Custer joined the battle while Berry continued to lead.

Nearing the Lap 85 mark, the second caution of the event flew when smoke billowed out of the No. 74 entry piloted by Kaden Honeycutt exiting the frontstretch and entering Turn 1, with the driver proceeding to park his car towards the outside wall in Turn 1 as he became the first retiree of the event. During the pit stops, names that included Moffitt, Parker Kligerman, Josh Williams, Joe Graf Jr., Ryan Ellis and Brennan Poole pitted while the rest led by Nemechek opted to remain on the track.

Following an extensive caution period amid Honeycutt’s mechanical issue, the race restarted on Lap 100. At the start, Berry and Nemechek dueled for the lead entering Turn 1 before the former managed to pull ahead of the latter. Then entering Turn 3, Sammy Smith vaulted his No. 18 Pilot Flying J Toyota Supra past Nemechek as he challenged Berry for the lead on the outside lane, which he succeeded. During the following lap, Berry made contact with Smith in Turn 1, but Smith returned the favor entering Turn 3 as he bumped and moved Berry out of his path, which moved Smith back into the lead after Berry got loose and slipped up. In the process, teammate Nemechek moved into second while Berry fell back to third in front of Custer and Hemric. Meanwhile, Hill, who was stuck on the outside lane, was also locked in a side-by-side battle with Brandon Jones for sixth.

Not long after, a side-by-side battle for the lead ignited between teammates Nemechek and Sammy Smith as Nemechek, who drew himself beneath Smith, peeked ahead to lead Lap 107. Nemechek then managed to pull ahead of Smith and assume full control of both lanes with the top spot while Berry tried to close in on Smith for second.

Just past the Lap 110 mark, Berry and Sammy Smith were locked in a tight side-by-side battle for second in front of Custer through every corner and straightaway. This, however, allowed Nemechek to pull away by nearly a second with the lead.

When the second stage concluded on Lap 120, Nemechek, who extended his advantage to more than two seconds, claimed the second stage victory of the night and the third of this season. Berry muscled his way into second followed by Custer, Sammy Smith and Hemric while Brandon Jones, Ryan Truex, Herbst, Chandler Smith and Derek Kraus were scored in the top 10. By then, 32 of 38 starters were scored on the lead lap.

Under the stage break, nearly the entire field led by Nemechek pitted while Brennan Poole remained on the track. Following the pit stops, Nemechek exited first followed by teammate Sammy Smith, Brandon Jones, Custer, Berry and Hemric.

With 119 laps remaining, the final stage started as teammates Nemechek and Sammy Smith occupied the front row. At the start, Nemechek, who restarted on the outside lane, rocketed ahead with a strong start entering Turn 1 while Sammy Smith, who restarted on the inside lane, engaged in a side-by-side duel with Custer, who battled Smith hard on the outside lane, for second. In the process, JR Motorsports’ Brandon Jones and Berry battled for fourth in front of Kaulig Racing’s Hemric and Chandler Smith. It would only take three laps, however, for the caution to return when Joe Graf Jr. and Ryan Ellis made contact and wrecked up against the Turn 1 outside wall. During the caution period, Berry, who initially reported his spoiler was delaminated pitted as his pit crew later determined he had a right-front tire going down.

During the following restart with 108 laps remaining, Nemechek, who restarted on the inside lane on this occasion, muscled away from teammate Sammy Smith with the lead while Custer drew himself alongside Sammy Smith in his bid for second. It would only take one lap for the caution to return for a multi-car wreck that erupted on the backstretch that involved Dawson Cram, Ryan Ellis, Alex Labbe and Kyle Sieg.

At the start of the following restart with 95 laps remaining, Nemechek retained the lead on the inside lane while Sammy Smith and Custer reignited their side-by-side battle for second in front of Hemric and Brandon Jones. Following a heated side-by-side battle for second for two laps, Custer made contact with Smith and moved him up the track as he managed to peek ahead and grab second place. Sammy Smith, however, came under attack from Hemric and Herbst for third while Nemechek was pulling away with the lead. Then as Hemric battled and cleared Sammy Smith for third place with Herbst joining the battle, the caution returned with 89 laps remaining when Josh Williams spun between Turns 1 and 2 after cutting a right-rear tire.

During the following restart with 82 laps remaining, Nemechek pulled ahead of Custer on the inside lane to retain the lead through the first two turns. In the process, Custer, who restarted on the outside lane, fended off Hemric for second while Sammy Smith trailed in fourth in front of Chandler Smith and Herbst.

With less than 75 laps remaining, Nemechek was leading by six-tenths of a second over Custer followed by Sammy Smith, Hemric and Herbst while Chandler Smith, Brandon Jones, Kraus, Jeb Burton and Mayer were in the top 10. Behind, Creed, Retzlaff, Ryan Truex, Grala and Ryan Sieg were in the top 15 while Berry and Hill were mired back in 17th and 19th.

Down to the final 60 laps of the event, Nemechek continued to lead by a second over Custer while Sammy Smith Hemric and Brandon Jones trailed in the top five. By then, Creed cracked the top 10 in 10th, Berry moved his way up in 12th and Hill had fallen back to 20th.

Ten laps later, Nemechek stabilized his advantage to seven-tenths of a second over Custer while third-place Sammy Smith trailed by more than two seconds.

Then with 42 laps remaining, the caution flew when Jeremy Clements, who nearly made contact with the wall a few laps earlier, slapped the outside wall between Turns 1 and 2. By then, Nemechek retained the lead by a second over Custer despite encountering lapped traffic while Berry had worked his way up to eighth, though he had no fresh sets of tires for another pit stop for the remainder of the event. During the pit stops, the leaders led by Nemechek pitted and Nemechek retained the lead after exiting first followed by Custer, Hemric, Sammy Smith and Berry, who pitted for scuffed tires. Back on the track, however, a handful of competitors led by Patrick Emerling and Allgaier, who was also out of fresh tires, remained on the track. While Emerling would eventually surrender the lead to pit, Allgaier remained on the track alongside Labbe while Nemechek lined up in third place and as the first competitor on fresh tires.

During the following restart with 33 laps remaining, Allgaier, Nemechek and Custer launched ahead on the inside lane while Labbe, who restarted on the front row and on the outside lane, struggled to launch ahead of Hemric on old tires as the field stacked up. With the field fanning out to three lanes amid a stacked-up restart, Nemechek dueled and overtook Allgaier during the following lap. Sammy Smith quickly followed suit in second while Custer battled Allgaier for third. Then as Sammy Smith tried to close in on teammate Nemechek for the lead, the caution returned with 29 laps remaining when Ryan Truex turned and sent Mayer into Herbst as the latter two spun. While Herbst backed his No. 98 Monster Energy Ford Mustang into the Turn 1 outside wall, Mayer came back down the track and collided with Jeb Burton as he emerged with extensive nose damage. The incident prompted Mayer to display an obscene gesture to Truex after emerging from his wrecked car.

Following an extensive caution period for the wreckage to be cleared, the race restarted with 18 laps remaining. At the start, Nemechek, who restarted alongside Custer on the front row, rocketed away with the lead as teammate Sammy Smith quickly vaulted himself into second. Behind, Custer battled and fended off Allgaier for third with Berry joining the battle.

Down to the final 10 laps of the event, Nemechek was leading by six-tenths of a second over Custer, who overtook Sammy Smith for the runner-up spot four laps earlier, while Berry moved his way up to fourth. Meanwhile, Allgaier settled in fifth as he was locked in a battle with teammate Brandon Jones for the spot while Creed, Hemric, Kraus and Moffitt were mired back in the top 10.

With five laps remaining, Nemechek retained the lead by six-tenths of a second over a hard-charging Custer, who continued to try and close in for his bid for the victory while third-place Sammy Smith trailed by a second. By then, fourth-place Berry trailed by two seconds while Brandon Jones was in fifth ahead of Allgaier and Hemric.

When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Nemechek remained as the leader by nearly a second over Custer as Sammy Smith tried to close in on Custer for second. Amid the battles within the field, Nemechek was able to cycle his way around the Paperclip-shaped circuit for a final time and claim the checkered flag for his second victory of the season just as the caution flew when Sheldon Creed wrecked on the backstretch while vying for a top-15 finish.

With the victory, Nemechek, who delivered the third victory of the season for Joe Gibbs Racing, claimed his fourth career victory in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, his first since winning at Auto Club Speedway in February and his second national touring series win at Martinsville after winning the Truck Martinsville race in 2018. He also became the second multi-race winner of this year’s Xfinity season as he pocketed the second Dash 4 Cash bonus of $100,000, which was also his first in the series, to go along with the race-winning grandfather clock trophy.

“I’m just grateful for [sponsor] Pye Barker Fire & Safety,” Nemechek, whose car caught on fire while performing his victorious burnout across the frontstretch wall, said on FS1. “Martinsville Speedway, actually, uses Pye Barker Fire & Safety fire extinguishers. Thank you to them for all the safety equipment, for that amazing burnout that caught on fire. I can’t say enough about this whole team. If you would’ve asked me yesterday if we would’ve won, I thought we were a 10th-place car in practice, didn’t think we were very good. Just grateful that the guys made the right adjustments and gave me a Pye Barker Toyota GR Supra as fast as Xfinity 10G. Let’s celebrate. We’ll go celebrate with [family]. [Wife] Taylor, we got another grandfather clock to bring home.”

Behind, Sammy Smith pulled a bump-and-run move on Custer on the final turn to claim second place as Custer fell back to third. Berry navigated his way through the scuffed tires to finish fourth while Brandon Jones claimed his first top-five finish of the season by finishing fifth. The top-four finishers that include Nemechek, Sammy Smith, Custer and Berry will contend for the third Dash 4 Cash bonus next weekend at Talladega Superspeedway.

“[I] Just a little bit more drive off,” Smith said. “Congrats to [Nemechek]. They were the best car all night. We just needed a couple more adjustments to get our Pilot Flying J Toyota GR Supra in Victory Lane, but close. We’ll get’em next week.”

Like Berry, teammate Allgaier navigated his way through worn tires to finish sixth while Hemric, Kraus, Moffitt and Chandler Smith finished in the top 10.

There were seven lead changes for six different leaders. The race featured 10 cautions for 82 laps. In total, 27 of 38 starters finished on the lead lap.

Following the eighth event of the 2023 Xfinity Series season, John Hunter Nemechek leads the regular-season standings by 21 points over Austin Hill, 34 over Chandler Smith, 38 over Riley Herbst and 43 over Josh Berry.

Results.

1. John Hunter Nemechek, 198 laps led, Stage 1 & 2 winner

2. Sammy Smith, six laps led

3. Cole Custer, five laps led

4. Josh Berry, 27 laps led

5. Brandon Jones

6. Justin Allgaier, six laps led

7. Daniel Hemric

8. Derek Kraus

9. Brett Moffitt

10. Chandler Smith

11. Parker Retzlaff

12. Ryan Truex

13. Blaine Perkins

14. Jeb Burton

15. Kaz Grala

16. Austin Hill, eight laps led

17. Parker Kligerman

18. Ryan Sieg

19. Josh Williams

20. Jeffrey Earnhardt

21. Patrick Emerling

22. Matt Mills

23. Gray Gaulding

24. Anthony Alfredo

25. Leland Honeyman

26. Alex Labbe

27. Sheldon Creed

28. Ryan Ellis, one lap down

29. Brennan Poole, four laps down

30. Riley Herbst – OUT, Accident

31. Sam Mayer – OUT, Accident

32. Jeremy Clements – OUT, Accident

33. Connor Mosack, 45 laps down

34. Kyle Weatherman – OUT, Suspension

35. Kyle Sieg – OUT, Accident

36. Dawson Cram – OUT, Accident

37. Joe Graf Jr. – OUT, Accident

38. Kaden Honeycutt – OUT, Engine

Next on the 2023 NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule is the series’ lone visit of the season to Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Alabama, which will serve as the site of the third Dash 4 Cash event of this season. The event is scheduled to occur next Saturday, April 22, at 4 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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