A week after capturing a thrilling overtime victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway, John Hunter Nemechek doubled down with a second consecutive NASCAR Xfinity Series win in overtime after marching away from the field and winning the Ambetter Health 200 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Saturday, July 15.
Compared to a week ago where he led the final three laps en route to victory, the 26-year-old Nemechek from Mooresville, North Carolina, led four times for a race-high 137 of 206 over-scheduled laps at the Magic Mile. After assuming the lead for the first time on the ninth lap before spending the majority of the event as the leader, Nemechek assumed the lead for good with 36 laps remaining during a late caution period.
Amid two late restarts and two caution periods due to on-track incidents, the latter of which sent the event into overtime, Nemechek capitalized in overtime by muscling away from rookie Chandler Smith and Cole Custer and started the final lap under green flag conditions just before a two-car wreck on the final lap involving Custer and Sheldon Creed concluded the event under caution and handed Nemechek his fourth Xfinity victory of the 2023 season.
With on-track qualifying that determined the starting lineup occurring on Friday, July 14, rookie Chandler Smith scored his second consecutive Xfinity pole and third of his career after posting a pole-winning lap at 126.291 mph in 30.159 seconds. Joining him on the front row was John Hunter Nemechek, who posted the second-best qualifying lap at 126.123 mph in 30.199 seconds.
Prior to the event, the following names that included rookie Sammy Smith, Jeb Burton, Patrick Emerling, Ryan Sieg and Greg Val Alst dropped to the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustments made to their respective entries. Rajah Caruth also dropped to the rear of the field due to a tire change along with Kaz Grala, who started the event in a backup car after being involved in a two-car wreck with Ryan Sieg during Friday’s practice session.
When the green flag waved and the race commenced, Chandler Smith rocketed ahead with the lead on the outside lane while Justin Allgaier and Josh Berry attempted to go three wide on John Hunter Nemechek for the runner-up spot entering the first two turns. As the field fanned out and jostled early for positions through the backstretch and entering Turns 3 and 4, Smith fended off Allgaier to lead the first lap.
During the second lap and amid a series of on-track battles, Allgaier made his move beneath Chandler Smith through the backstretch and claimed the lead entering Turn 3. Nemechek would then move into the runner-up spot two laps later while Berry and Cole Custer battled for fourth behind Chandler Smith. As Brandon Jones and Daniel Hemric tried to close in on the top-five runners, Allgaier was leading by two-tenths of a second over Nemechek during the fifth lap mark.
A lap later, however, an early battle for the lead ignited between Allgaier and Nemechek as both dueled and rubbed for the top spot while the former fended off the latter for the top spot. Despite Allgaier’s efforts in retaining the lead while running the second lane and to Nemechek’s outside during the proceeding laps, Nemechek was able to assume the lead for himself by the ninth lap after Allgaier got loose in Turn 2. All in the process, Custer kept the two leaders in front of him followed by Chandler Smith and Berry while Jones and Hemric battled for sixth.
Through the first 10 scheduled laps, Nemechek was leading by half a second over Allgaier followed by Cole Custer, Chandler Smith and Berry while Jones, Hemric, Austin Hill, Austin Dillon and Sam Mayer were in the top 10. Meanwhile, Parker Kligerman was in 11th ahead of Sheldon Creed, rookie Parker Retzlaff, Riley Herbst and Brett Moffitt while Jeremy Clements, Anthony Alfredo, Josh Williams, Sammy Smith and Joe Graf Jr. were in the top 20.
Ten laps later, Nemechek stabilized his advantage to four-tenths of a second over Allgaier, who started to regain ground on the former for the lead, while Custer, Chandler Smith and Berry remained in the top five. In addition, Jones, Hemric, Hill, Austin Dillon and Mayer continued to run sixth through 10th, respectively.
Another 10 laps later, Allgaier, who reassumed the lead from Nemechek on Lap 27 amid another on-track battle and contact while navigating through lapped traffic, was leading by three-tenths of a second over Nemechek. Meanwhile, third-place Custer trailed by half a second as he tried to join the battle while Chandler Smith and Berry were in the top five. Allgaier would then slowly stretch his advantage to eight-tenths of a second by Lap 35 and to more than a second by Lap 40 while Nemechek retained second.
On Lap 41, the first caution of the event flew when Chris Hacker spun on the backstretch. Not long after, Rajah Caruth ran into early issues after his car emerged with heavy smoke and was leaking fuel. Hacker’s incident was enough for the first stage period set to conclude on Lap 45 to conclude under caution as Allgaier claimed his fifth stage victory of the 2023 season. Nemechek ended up second while Custer, Chandler Smith, Berry, Brandon Jones, Austin Dillon, Mayer, Hemric and Hill were scored in the top 10.
Under the stage break, the lead lap field led by Allgaier pitted. Following the pit stops, Chandler Smith exited first followed by Allgaier, Nemechek, Hill, Jones and Berry. Amid the pit stops, Sammy Smith and Joe Graf Jr. were penalized for speeding on pit road. In addition, Allgaier, who opted for two fresh tires after sliding through his pit box and reversing his car followed by the audible two-tire service, would then be penalized for pitting outside his pit box while having a right-rear lug nut removed when the car was over the pit line.
The second stage started on Lap 54 as Chandler Smith and Nemechek occupied the front row. At the start, Chandler Smith received a push from Hill from the outside lane to briefly retain the lead over Nemechek through the first two turns before Nemechek made his move beneath Smith and reassumed the lead through Turns 3 and 4. With Nemechek leading Chandler Smith, the following competitors that included Hill, Brandon Jones, Berry and Custer battled for top-six spots in front of Herbst while Hemric, Austin Dillon and Mayer started to fan out and battle for eighth.
Just past the Lap 60 mark, Nemechek was leading by seven-tenths of a second over Chandler Smith while third-place Hill trailed by more than a second. Behind, Custer and Berry were running in the top five while Brandon Jones, Herbst, Mayer, Hemric and Dillon were in the top 10.
Five laps later and as Nemechek continued to lead ahead over Chandler Smith, Custer, Berry, Hill and Herbst, the event’s second caution flew when Chad Finchum stalled in the middle of pit road.
Then as the field attempted to restart under green on Lap 70, the caution quickly returned when the front-runners did not launch early and stacked the field behind as Parker Kligerman sustained heavy front nose damage after running into the rear of Hemric. A multi-car wreck would then ensue on the frontstretch amid the stack up and within the middle of the pack after Allgaier rear-ended Ryan Sieg and Jeremy Clements while Anthony Alfredo collided into Allgaier as more including Blaine Perkins, Mason Massey, Parker Retzlaff, Chris Hacker, Patrick Emerling, Ryan Ellis and Alex Labbe wrecked.
During the caution period, some including Brandon Jones, Joe Graf Jr., Creed, Sammy Smith and Dillon pitted while the rest led by Nemechek remained on the track.
When the event restarted under green on Lap 81, Nemechek rocketed ahead with the lead from the outside lane as he retained the top spot through the first two turns while Berry battled and overtook Chandler Smith for second. In addition, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Custer and Herbst started to close in on Chandler Smith for third while Mayer and Hill battled for sixth in front of Jeb Burton and Hemric. In the process, Nemechek stretched his advantage to more than a second over Berry. The caution, however, would return on Lap 84 when Connor Mosack slipped sideways and slapped the outside wall between Turns 1 and 2.
During the caution period, some led by Nemechek pitted while others led by Retzlaff remained on the track. Following the pit stops, Nemechek exited first followed by Berry, Chandler Smith, Herbst, Custer, Hemric and Hill.
As the event restarted with two laps remaining in the second stage, Retzlaff and Sammy Smith dueled for the lead followed by Creed, Josh Williams and Brandon Jones while Allgaier and Joe Graf Jr. battled for sixth. Then prior to the final lap of the second stage, Sammy Smith muscled his No. 18 TMC Toyota Supra into the lead while Retzlaff battled Creed for second.
When the second stage concluded on Lap 90, Sammy Smith claimed his first stage victory of the 2023 season. Retzlaff settled in second followed by Creed while Brandon Jones, Williams, Allgaier, Graf, Nemechek, Dillon and Chandler Smith were scored in the top 10.
During the stage break, some led by Retzlaff and including Josh Williams, Kyle Weatherman, Clements, Blaine Perkins and Ryan Ellis pitted while the rest led by Sammy Smith remained on the track.
With 103 laps remaining, the final stage started as Sammy Smith and Creed occupied the front row. At the start, Smith and Creed briefly dueled for the lead through the first two turns until Smith gained the advantage from the outside lane and retained the lead. With Sammy Smith out in front, Nemechek battled Brandon Jones for third, and he succeeded in gaining the spot during the following lap as Nemechek battled Creed for second. Behind, Allgaier was in fifth ahead of a multi-car battle ensuing behind that involved Graf, Berry, Chandler Smith, Custer, Herbst and Dillon.
Then with 99 laps remaining, the caution flew when Herbst, who was battling Dillon for a top-10 spot, drove across the front left-front fender of Dillon’s No. 10 LA Golf Chevrolet Camaro entering the frontstretch as Herbst squeezed and forced Dillon into the outside wall. Dillon then proceeded to turn and send Herbst spinning sideways and into the wall with Herbst sustaining damage to his No. 98 Monster Energy Ford Mustang.
When the event restarted with 93 laps remaining, Nemechek fended off teammate Sammy Smith, who briefly got loose after receiving a push from Creed, to assume the lead as the field fanned out through the first two turns and the backstretch. As Nemechek stabilized his advantage over teammate Sammy Smith, Creed was in third followed by a four-car battle that included Graf, Berry, Allgaier and Custer. Behind more battles ensued as Hemric was fighting to remain in 10th ahead of Mayer, Hill, Grala, Moffitt, Retzlaff, Williams and Jeb Burton.
With 85 laps remaining, Nemechek was leading by eight-tenths of a second over teammate Sammy Smith as Creed, Brandon Jones and Graf were in the top five. Nemechek would proceed to stretch his advantage to more than a second over Smith with 80 laps remaining and to nine-tenths of a second with 75 laps remaining.
Down to the final 60 laps of the event, Nemechek extended his advantage to more than three seconds over teammate Sammy Smith while third-place Jones trailed by more than six seconds. By then, Creed also trailed by more than six seconds in fourth while Custer and Chandler Smith were in fifth and sixth.
Six laps later, green flag pit stops started to ensue as Creed pitted along with Kyle Weatherman, Connor Mosack and Sammy Smith pitted. Berry would also pit not long after along with teammate Jones and Custer. Then with 50 laps remaining, the race leader Nemechek pitted along with Hill, Kaz Grala and Mayer. Following his pit stop, Nemechek managed to exit pit road and blend back on the track ahead of teammate Sammy Smith while the green flag pit stops ensued.
Then with 41 laps remaining, the caution flew when Kyle Sieg spun in front of Berry through Turns 3 and 4. By then, Austin Dillon, who had yet to pit, was leading ahead of Graf, Allgaier and Josh Williams, all of whom had yet to pit, while Nemechek, the first competitor who pitted, was in fifth followed by teammate Sammy Smith. During the caution period, however, some including Graf and Dillon pitted while the rest led by Nemechek remained on the track as Nemechek cycled his way back to the lead.
During the proceeding restart with 33 laps remaining, Nemechek rocketed ahead with the lead as the field fanned out entering the first two turns. Behind, smoke emerged out of the left-front fender of Berry’s No. 8 Jarrett Logistics Systems Chevrolet Camaro amid contact from Creed and Jones after Jones nearly got turned by Chandler Smith in Turn 1. With the race remaining under green flag conditions and the field fanning out while jostling for late positions, Nemechek retained the lead over Custer followed by Sammy Smith, Mayer and Chandler Smith.
With 25 laps remaining, Nemechek was leading by more than a second over Custer while Sammy Smith, Chandler Smith and Mayer continued to run in the top five. Nemechek would retain the lead by nearly a second and a half over Custer while third-place Sammy Smith trailed by more than two seconds with 20 laps remaining.
Down to the final 10 laps of the event, Nemechek continued to lead by a second and a half over Custer while Chandler Smith trailed in third by more than two seconds in his No. 16 Quick Tie Products Inc. Chevrolet Camaro. Behind, Sammy Smith trailed in fourth by more than seven seconds while fifth-place Mayer trailed by more than 10 seconds. A lap later, however, the caution flew when Retzlaff spun and smacked the outside wall in Turn 1 after losing a right-rear tire.
As the event attempted to restart under green with four laps remaining, the caution quickly returned when Mayer was tapped in the rear end by Sammy Smith as he spun before getting hit by Dillon and Graf, whose car caught on fire amid heavy front nose damage to his No. 19 Rocky’s ACE Hardware Toyota Supra. The incident, which also collected Brandon Jones and Connor Mosack, was enough to send the event into overtime as Nemechek had retained the lead over Chandler Smith, Custer, Creed and Hill.
At the start of the first overtime attempt, Nemechek received a huge push from Chandler Smith, who elected to restart on the outside lane behind Nemechek instead of next to Nemechek on the front row. Smith’s push enabled Nemechek to drive away in his No. 20 Persil Toyota Supra from the field while Chandler Smith was left to battle Creed, Custer and Hill for second as the field fanned out.
When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Nemechek remained as the leader by four-tenths of a second over Chandler Smith. Shortly after, Custer turned Creed across the frontstretch and into the outside wall as Custer was also sent spinning in the middle of the frontstretch, which caused the field to scatter to avoid both competitors. The incident was enough to conclude the event under caution as Nemechek cycled back to the frontstretch and claimed his fourth checkered flag of the 2023 season.
With the victory, Nemechek became the first four-time winner of this year’s Xfinity season. He also recorded his sixth career victory in the Xfinity circuit, his first at New Hampshire, the sixth of the season for Toyota and the 199th Xfinity career win for Joe Gibbs Racing. This also marked the first time in his Xfinity career that he achieved back-to-back victories.
“Man, I am so proud of this No. 20 team and everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing,” Nemechek said on USA Network. “Man, [sponsor] Persil ProClean, this [car] looked clean on the racetrack today. [I] Had, I think, our first clean race all year. I was a little worried there on the last restarts. We kept getting really good launch and we were able to clear [the field], but I didn’t know who was saving what. I was trying to save in front of Cole [Custer] until he started pushing there. He definitely was gonna give us a run our the money, but hats off to all the men and women at Joe Gibbs Racing, everyone at Toyota, [Toyota Racing Development]. Just blessed to have this opportunity. I’m the lucky guy that gets to sit behind the wheel of this No. 20 car every weekend.”
With Nemechek winning the event, Chandler Smith, who led 10 laps from pole position, ended up in the runner-up spot for the first time in his career while Austin Hill, Hemric and Sammy Smith finished in the top five.
Allgaier, who rallied from his early pit road penalty and wreck, nursed his damaged No. 7 BRANDT Chevrolet Camaro in sixth while Jeb Burton, Josh Williams, Moffitt and Mason Massey finished in the top 10. Notably, Austin Dillon ended up 16th in his second Xfinity start of the season while Creed and Custer ended up 21st and 22nd, respectively, following their last lap wreck.
There were 13 lead changes for seven different leaders. The race featured 10 cautions for 60 laps. In addition, 20 of 38 starters finished on the lead lap.
With eight Xfinity regular-season events remaining on the schedule, John Hunter Nemechek continues to lead the regular-season standings 33 points over Austin Hill, 60 over Justin Allgaier and 74 over Cole Custer.
1. John Hunter Nemechek, 137 laps led
2. Chandler Smith, 10 laps led
3. Austin Hill
4. Daniel Hemric
5. Sammy Smith, 18 laps led, Stage 2 winner
6. Justin Allgaier, 27 laps led, Stage 1 winner
7. Jeb Burton
8. Josh Williams
9. Brett Moffitt
10. Mason Massey
11. Brandon Jones
12. Alex Labbe
13. Kaz Grala
14. Patrick Emerling
15. Jeremy Clements
16. Austin Dillon, four laps led
17. Josh Berry
18. Sam Mayer
19. Ryan Ellis
20. Riley Herbst
21. Sheldon Creed
22. Cole Custer
23. Kyle Sieg, one lap down
24. Brennan Poole, two laps down
25. Blaine Perkins, three laps down
26. Connor Mosack, three laps down
27. Kyle Weatherman, four laps down
28. CJ McLaughlin, five laps down
29. Joe Graf Jr. – OUT, Accident, eight laps led
30. Chris Hacker, 11 laps down
31. Parker Retzlaff – OUT, Accident, two laps led
32. Parker Kligerman – OUT, Accident
33. Ryan Sieg – OUT, Accident
34. Anthony Alfredo – OUT, Accident
35. Chad Finchum – OUT, Suspension
36. Stefan Parsons – OUT, Suspension
37. Rajah Caruth – OUT, Oil line
38. Greg Van Alst – OUT, Brakes
Next on the 2023 NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule is the series’ lone visit of the season to Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. The event is scheduled to occur next Saturday, July 22, at 5:30 p.m. ET on USA Network.