From a Lap 10 multi-car wreck that involved himself and his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates, John Hunter Nemechek rallied in dominant fashion by notching a milestone victory for the JGR organization in the Cabo Wabo 250 at Michigan International Speedway on Saturday, August 5.
The 26-year-old Nemechek from Mooresville, North Carolina, led twice for a race-high 65 of 125-scheduled laps in an event where he started 10th and quickly raced his way towards the front. Amid a Lap 3 incident for a single car spin and a Lap 9 restart, Nemechek’s event quickly went south when he made contact with teammate Ty Gibbs entering the backstretch that sent Gibbs spinning while his third teammate, Sammy Smith, was also collected after making ensuing contact with Nemechek. Despite falling down the leaderboard, Nemechek, who pitted prior to the first stage’s conclusion, gained an advantage during the stage break when he remained on the track and moved up the leaderboard. From there, Nemechek assumed the lead for the first time on Lap 55 and proceeded to win the second stage. He then gained control of the field throughout the final stage spanning the final 59 laps and held off the field during a seven-lap dash to the finish to notch his fifth NASCAR Xfinity Series victory of the 2023 season and record the 200th Xfinity career win for Joe Gibbs Racing.
With on-track qualifying that determined the starting lineup occurring on Friday, August 4, Josh Berry notched his second Xfinity pole position of the 2023 season after posting a pole-winning lap at 189.549 mph in 37.985 seconds. Joining him on the front row was teammate Justin Allgaier, who posted the second-best qualifying lap at 188.289 mph in 38.239 seconds.
Prior to the event, the following names that included Connor Mosack, Sage Karam, Kyle Weatherman and Josh Williams dropped to the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustments to their respective entries.
When the green flag waved and the race commenced, Berry surged ahead with a strong start from the outside lane through the backstretch, but teammate Allgaier gained a strong run from the inside lane through the first two turns as he then assumed the lead entering the backstretch. With Allgaier placing a reasonable gap between himself and Berry exiting the backstretch before entering Turns 3 and 4, Allgaier proceeded to lead the first lap while Austin Hill and Sam Mayer battled for third place behind Berry.
During the second lap, Allgaier stretched his lead to half a second over teammate Berry while teammate Mayer trailed in third place by less than a second. By then, Austin Hill was in fourth ahead of rookie Chandler Smith while Ty Gibbs, Carson Hocevar, John Hunter Nemechek, rookie Sammy Smith and Ross Chastain were in the top 10.
On the third lap, the first caution of the event flew when Kaz Grala, who was battling within the top 20, slipped sideways entering Turn 4 and spun off the front nose of Sheldon Creed as Grala spun his No. 26 Toyota Genuine Parts Supra below the track and backwards on the frontstretch grass.
When the race restarted on the ninth lap, teammates Allgaier and Berry dueled for the top spot until Allgaier muscled ahead in his No. 7 BRANDT Chevrolet Camaro to retain the lead. As the field fanned out and jostled for positions, contact was made between Mayer and Chandler Smith entering Turn 3 as Mayer went up the track and lost a multitude of spots while Allgaier continued to lead.
A lap later, the caution returned when Nemechek, who was battling amid close-quarters racing with Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Ty Gibbs and Sammy Smith, ran into the rear bumper of Gibbs’ No. 19 He Gets Us Toyota Supra entering the backstretch, which got Gibbs loose and spinning sideways as Nemechek also spun after getting hit by Sammy Smith. In the ensuring mayhem, Nemechek spun his No. 20 Mobil 1 Toyota Supra towards the bottom of the track in the backstretch while Smith collided into the side of Hocevar and nearly sent his No. 77 Premier Security Chevrolet Camaro flipping over before Hocevar’s car quickly came back down on all four wheels and spun through the backstretch. While Nemechek and Gibbs, who was left sour over the incident with Nemechek, continued along with Hocevar, Sammy Smith’s event came to an early end.
During the proceeding restart on Lap 16, Allgaier retained the lead amid another strong restart while teammate Berry, who elected to restart on the second row, gained a strong start to move up to second followed by Chandler Smith while Hill, who moved up to restart on the inside lane on the front row, fell back to fourth.
Approaching Lap 19, the caution flew for a third time when Mason Maggio, who was involved in the previous caution period for a multi-car wreck, went dead straight after blowing a right-front tire and smacked the outside wall towards Turn 2 as his event came to an early end. During the caution period, Nemechek, Karam and Josh Williams pitted while the rest led by Allgaier remained on the track.
The following restart on Lap 23 featured Allgaier and Custer dueling for the lead on the front row as Allgaier retained the lead while the field fanned out through the first two turns. As Allgaier retained the top spot, Berry moved back into the runner-up spot followed by Custer while Chandler Smith and Herbst followed suit along with Brandon Jones. Amid the continuous on-track battles, Allgaier would retain the lead at the Lap 25 mark.
When the first stage concluded on Lap 30, Allgaier claimed his eighth stage victory of the 2023 Xfinity season. Teammate Berry settled in second while Custer, Chandler Smith, Herbst, Brandon Jones, Austin Hill, Ryan Sieg, Mayer and Anthony Alfredo were scored in the top 10.
Under the stage break, a majority of the field led by Allgaier pitted for service while the rest led by Ty Gibbs, Nemechek and Grala remained on the track amid mixed strategy ensuing. Amid the pit stops, Jeb Burton spun while trying to entering his pit stall and was penalized for a safety violation.
The second stage started on Lap 36 as Ty Gibbs and Creed, who pitted for two fresh tires, occupied the front row. At the start, Gibbs took off with the lead ahead of Creed and the field that proceeded to fan out entering the first two turns. By the following lap, Ty Gibbs stretched his advantage to half a second while teammate Nemechek battled and overtook Creed for the runner-up spot.
On Lap 38, the caution flew when Connor Mosack got turned by Joe Graf Jr. towards the outside wall exiting the frontstretch and approaching Turn 1 as Mosack limped back to pit road with extensive damage on his No. 24 Toyota Racing Development Supra.
When the race restarted on Lap 42, Ty Gibbs pulled ahead from Riley Herbst with a push from teammate Nemechek as Gibbs assumed the lead while Nemechek and Herbst battled for second.
At the Lap 50 mark, Ty Gibbs was leading by a tenth of a second over teammate Nemechek followed by Herbst, Cole Custer and Allgaier while Mayer, Austin Hill, Berry, Brandon Jones and Chandler Smith were in the top 10. Behind, Brett Moffitt was in 11th ahead of Creed, Anthony Alfredo, Parker Kligerman and Ryan Sieg while Daniel Hemric, Ross Chastain, Parker Retzlaff, Jeb Burton and Grala occupied the top 20.
Five laps later, the top-nine competitors were separated by less than two seconds as Nemechek cycled his way around teammate Ty Gibbs to assume the lead. With Nemechek leading by four-tenths of a second and half a second over Herbst, Allgaier and Austin Hill settled in the top five.
When the second stage concluded on Lap 60, Nemechek fended off the field to claim his fifth Xfinity stage victory of the 2023 season. Allgaier, who moved from fourth to second two laps earlier, settled in the runner-up spot while Ty Gibbs, Herbst, Austin Hill, Custer, Berry, Mayer, Brandon Jones and Moffitt were scored in the top 10.
Under the stage break, trouble struck for Allgaier as he got bumped and turned by Ty Gibbs while approaching his pit stall as the field entered pit road for service. Following the pit stops, Nemechek exited first ahead of Herbst, Hill, Custer, Berry and Ty Gibbs.
With 59 laps remaining, the final stage started as Nemechek and Hill occupied the front row. At the start, Nemechek jumped ahead to retain the lead over the field that fanned out with the competitors jostling for positions.
With 50 laps remaining, Nemechek was leading by three-tenths of a second over Austin Hill followed by Herbst, Berry and Brandon Jones while Ty Gibbs settled in sixth. With Custer and Mayer running in seventh and eighth, Allgaier, following his pit road incident during the stage break, had carved his way back up to ninth after restarting 30th while Chastain was in 10th.
Ten laps later, Nemechek continued to lead by more than a second over Austin Hill while Berry, Herbst and Brandon Jones retained their respective spots in the top five. By then, Ty Gibbs and Custer were running sixth and seventh while Allgaier was in eighth followed by teammate Mayer and Chastain.
Another 10 laps later, Nemechek increased his advantage to nearly two seconds over Berry while Hill, Herbst and Brandon Jones remained in the top five. Not long after, green flag pit stops commenced as Mayer and Chandler Smith pitted. A series of names that included Ty Gibbs, Allgaier and Custer would pit during the ensuing lap before the leader Nemechek pitted with 28 laps remaining along with Brandon Jones, Hill, Chastain, Berry, Creed, Hemric, Jeb Burton and Jeremy Clements. Amid the pit stops, Allgaier was penalized due to a crew member jumping over the pit wall too soon while Moffitt, who has yet to pit, cycled into the lead. In addition, Austin Hill reported a transmission issue to his No. 21 United Rentals Chevrolet Camaro as he was exiting pit road, which resulted with him losing ground of the leaders.
Then with 22 laps remaining, Nemechek cycled his way back into the lead after Sage Karam, who led a lap for himself, pitted. In the process, Berry moved up to second as he trailed Nemechek by two seconds as Ty Gibbs would follow suit to third place.
With 15 laps remaining, Nemechek was leading by more than a second over Berry while Gibbs, Jones and Custer were in the top five.
Then two laps later, the caution flew when Patrick Emerling blew a left-front tire and went dead straight towards the outside wall in Turn 3. During the caution period, names that included Custer, Allgaier, Ryan Sieg, Karam and Moffitt pitted while the rest led by Nemechek remained on the track.
Down to the final seven laps of the event, the race restarted under green as teammates Nemechek and Ty Gibbs occupied the front row. At the start, Nemechek retained the lead over the field as Berry and Ty Gibbs battled for second ahead of Brandon Jones and Mayer. With the field fanning out through the first two turns and the backstretch, Nemechek stabilized his advantage while starting to place a gap from the field.
With five laps remaining, Nemechek was leading by three-tenths of a second over Berry and six-tenths of a second over Brandon Jones while Ty Gibbs and Mayer were in the top five. Behind, Herbst was in sixth followed by Chastain, Kligerman, Retzlaff and Jeb Burton. Nemechek would then stretch his advantage to nearly a second over Berry while Brandon Jones would slowly lose touch of the top-two competitors as the laps dwindled.
When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Nemechek remained as the leader by more than a second over Berry and Brandon Jones while Ty Gibbs and Mayer trailed by more than two seconds. Having no close competition lurking behind him, Nemechek was able to cycle his way around the circuit for a final time and cruise back to the frontstretch to notch his fifth checkered flag of the 2023 Xfinity season.
With the victory, Nemechek notched his seventh Xfinity Series career victory in his 88th series start and his first at Michigan as he became the first five-time race winner of the 2023 season. In addition to delivering the seventh Xfinity victory of the season for Joe Gibbs Racing, Nemechek bestowed the honors of achieving the 200th career win for the JGR organization, with six of them coming from Nemechek.
“Man, I’m grateful for this whole No. 20 bunch,” Nemechek, who accepted responsibility over the contact and incident with Ty Gibbs, said on NBC. “[I’m] Grateful for Joe Gibbs Racing, this opportunity. All of our great partners that help us get to the racetrack. I have to apologize to Ty [Gibbs]. I’ve been the one that’s been very vocal about teammates recently. I put him in a bad aero spot, got him loose and then, couldn’t check up. It’s my mistake. I hate that we both spun early, but at least, we both rebounded decently. I know he’s not too happy with me. He has every right not to be. I’m thankful for my team, all the guys. Win number five. After the last two weeks, we said that we needed to come out here and answer. We were able to do that today here at Michigan.”
Berry, who did not lead a lap despite starting on pole position, ended up in the runner-up spot for the second time this season as he continues to pursue his first victory of the season while teammate Brandon Jones claimed his second top-five result of the season by notching a strong third-place result.
“Yeah, we just built really tight that last run,” Berry said. “I thought I was kind of inching in on [Nemechek] for a while and then, we kind of leveled out. It was tough there. I felt like I needed to pick behind [Nemechek] there [on the final restart], but the bottom [lane] just got so slick there at the end. I felt like that was gonna give us our best chance. Overall, we were just a little too tight to make a run at him there. Overall, [I’m] really proud of these guys. Obviously, we’ve had a good couple of weeks, so we just got to keep working, keep getting better. We’re just gonna keep after it. We’re getting better at the right time. Definitely, a good day for JR Motorsports and we’ll be in Victory Lane soon.”
Ty Gibbs, who led 22 laps, rallied from his early incident to finish fourth in his sixth Xfinity start of the season while Mayer, winner of last weekend’s event at Road America, finished fifth.
Herbst, Ross Chastain, Kligerman, rookie Parker Retzlaff and Jeb Burton completed the top 10 on the track. Notably, Austin Hill ended up 11th in front of teammate Sheldon Creed, Allgaier settled in 14th following his late-race pit road penalty, Custer finished 16th behind Daniel Hemric and rookie Chandler Smith, who had a late-race run-in with Hill that led to a post-race discussion with Hill, fell back to 20th.
There were seven lead changes for six different leaders. The race featured seven cautions for 31 laps. In addition, 20 of 38 starters finished on the lead lap.
With five Xfinity regular-season events remaining on the schedule, John Hunter Nemechek and Austin Hill are tied for the lead in the regular-season standings, with Justin Allgaier trailing by 34 points and Cole Custer trailing by 86.
1. John Hunter Nemechek, 65 laps led, Stage 2 winner
2. Josh Berry
3. Brandon Jones
4. Ty Gibbs, 22 laps led
5. Sam Mayer
6. Riley Herbst, one lap led
7. Ross Chastain
8. Parker Kligerman
9. Parker Retzlaff
10. Jeb Burton
11. Austin Hill
12. Sheldon Creed
13. Ryan Sieg
14. Justin Allgaier, 32 laps led, Stage 1 winner
15. Daniel Hemric
16. Cole Custer
17. Bret Moffitt, four laps led
18. Anthony Alfredo
19. Kyle Sieg
20. Chandler Smith
21. Kaz Grala, one lap down
22. Josh Williams, one lap down
23. Ryan Ellis, one lap down
24. Jeffrey Earnhardt, one lap down
25. Sage Karam, one lap down
26. Jeremy Clements, one lap down
27. Joe Graf Jr., one lap down
28. Dawson Cram, one lap down
29. Brennan Poole, two laps down
30. Garrett Smithley, two laps down
31. Stefan Parsons, two laps down
32. Carson Hocevar, two laps down
33. Blaine Perkins, two laps down
34. Patrick Emerling, five laps down
35. Kyle Weatherman – OUT, Electrical
36. Connor Mosack – OUT, Accident
37. Mason Maggio – OUT, Accident
38. Sammy Smith – OUT, Accident
Next on the 2023 NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule is the series’ fourth annual running of the Pennzoil 150 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course in Indianapolis, Indiana. The event is scheduled to occur next Saturday, August 12, at 5:30 p.m. ET on USA Network.