Nemechek clinches Round of 8 spot with late Xfinity victory at Texas

In an event dominated by Justin Allgaier and compiled with a series of caution flags and on-track chaos, the seas parted ways for John Hunter Nemechek to storm to the lead in the closing laps and to his unprecedented seventh NASCAR Xfinity Series victory of the 2023 season in the Andy’s Frozen Custard 300 at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday, September 23.

The 26-year-old Nemechek from Mooresville, North Carolina, led twice for 38 of 200-scheduled laps in an event where he qualified 11th and spent the majority of the event running towards the front while avoiding a series of carnages and caution periods that started just past the opening lap and setting up a 10-lap dash to the finish. During the 10-lap shootout, Nemechek, who pitted during a late caution period for fresh tires with less than 20 laps remaining, capitalized on a late on-track skirmish involving the leaders Justin Allgaier and Parker Kligerman through Turns 3 and 4 to overtake them both through the frontstretch and assume the lead with six laps remaining. Once out in front of the field with the clean air and fresh tires, Nemechek was able to fend off a late charge from Kligerman to win for the seventh time in the 2023 Xfinity Series season and clinch his spot for the Playoff’s Round of 8.

With on-track qualifying that determined the starting lineup occurring on Saturday, Justin Allgaier, winner of last weekend’s Playoff opener at Bristol Motor Speedway, started on pole position after posting a pole-winning lap at 185.008 mph in 29.188 seconds. Joining him on the front row was Trevor Bayne, who posted the second-best qualifying lap at 184.919 mph in 29.202 seconds.

Prior to the event, the following names that included newcomer Layne Riggs, Playoff contender Chandler Smith, Joe Graf Jr. and Brett Moffitt dropped to the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustments made to their respective entries.

When the green flag waved and the race started, Allgaier and Bayne dueled for the lead through the frontstretch until Allgaier muscled ahead from the outside lane and retained the lead entering the backstretch. Behind, early trouble struck for Playoff contender Sam Mayer after Mayer, who was running sixth, slid up the track and hit the backstretch’s outside wall after blowing a right-front tire. Despite Mayer falling off the pace and nursing his damaged No. 1 Accelerate Pros Talent Chevrolet Camaro to pit road, the race remained under green flag conditions as Allgaier proceeded to lead the first lap ahead of Bayne while Cole Custer, Austin Hill and Brandon Jones followed suit. During the second lap, however, the first caution of the event flew after 10th-place Riley Herbst hit the outside wall in Turn 4 and damaged the right side of his No. 98 Monster Energy Ford Mustang. Mayer and Herbst’s separate incidents would knock both competitors out of contention and in the garage with wrecked race cars.

When the race restarted under green on the seventh lap, Allgaier wasted no time in muscling his No. 7 Reese’s Ice Cream Chevrolet Camaro away with the lead. Behind Bayne and Custer battled in front of Hill, John Hunter Nemechek and Brandon Jones as the field jostled and fanned out through the backstretch. With Bayne keeping his No. 19 Interstate Batteries Toyota Supra running on the outside lane, Custer assumed the runner-up spot followed by Hill.

Through the first 10 scheduled laps, Allgaier was leading ahead of Custer followed by Hill, Bayne and Nemechek while Jones, Josh Berry, Parker Kligerman, Sammy Smith and Daniel Hemric were in the top 10. Shortly after, the event’s second caution flew after Patrick Emerling, Layne Riggs and Joe Graf Jr. wrecked through the frontstretch.

During the proceeding restart on Lap 16, Allgaier and Hill dueled for the lead until Hill muscled ahead from the outside lane with a slight advantage. Allgaier, however, fought back through the backstretch from the inside lane as he reassumed the lead through Turn 3 and led the proceeding lap. With Allgaier leading Hill, Custer trailed in third ahead of Bayne, Nemechek and Jones while Kligerman battled and overtook Berry for seventh. Not long after, Hemric, who was running 11th, went wide entering Turn 1 and began to fall off the pace after running his No. 10 Poppy Bank Chevrolet Camaro through the frontstretch’s grass and damaging the left-front fender and splitter. Hemric continued to remain on the track and under green flag conditions but would proceed to lose a bevy of spots and fall toward the bottom of the leaderboard.

Just past the Lap 20 mark, Allgaier was leading by six-tenths of a second over Hill while Custer, Bayne and Nemechek were in the top five. Behind, Jones, Kligerman, Berry, Sammy Smith and Kaz Grala were in the top 10. Allgaier would slightly extend his advantage to seven-tenths of a second over Hill by Lap 25 while third-place Custer trailed by more than two seconds.

At the Lap 35 mark, Allgaier would continue to lead by more than a second over Hill followed by Custer, Bayne and Nemechek while Jones, Kligerman, Berry, Sammy Smith and Chandler Smith were mired within the top 10 on the track.

When the first stage period concluded on Lap 45, Allgaier captured his 10th Xfinity stage victory of 2023. Hill followed suit in second ahead of Custer, Bayne and Nemechek while Jones, Kligerman, Berry, Sammy Smith and Chandler Smith were scored in the top 10. By then, 23 of 38 starters were scored on the lead lap while Hemric was trapped a lap down in 33rd Meanwhile, Jeb Burton was in 14th and Creed was in 24th, though he managed to remain ahead of Allgaier to stay on the lead lap.

Under the stage break, the lead lap field led by Allgaier pitted for service. Following the pit stops, Allgaier retained the lead after exiting pit road first followed by Custer, Hill, Bayne, Nemechek and Brandon Jones.

The second stage period started on Lap 52 as Allgaier and Custer occupied the front row. At the start, Allgaier and Custer dueled for the lead through Turn 1 until Custer, who was being drafted by Hill, muscled ahead from the inside lane and assumed the lead entering the backstretch. As Custer grabbed the lead from Allgaier, Hill was in third ahead of Bayne and Nemechek while Kligerman and Jones battled for seventh in front of Berry and Chandler Smith.

Then on Lap 55, the caution flew for a harrowing accident that involved Brennan Poole as Poole spun through the frontstretch’s grass, kept spinning towards pit road and slammed into Jeffery Earnhardt’s pit stall head-on before his car came to a stop with heavy front nose damage towards the pit road entrance. In the midst of the carnage, Gase also spun through the frontstretch while Poole emerged uninjured.

As the race restarted under green on Lap 63, Allgaier and Custer dueled for the lead amid two stacked lanes until Allgaier rocketed away from the outside lane with the lead through the first two turns. Behind, Hill fended off Bayne to retain third as he pursued Custer while Nemechek followed suit by moving up to fourth. With Bayne falling back to fifth, Berry and Kligerman dueled for sixth while Brandon Jones, Chandler Smith and Sammy Smith followed suit in the top 10. By Lap 64, however, the caution returned after Jeffrey Earnhardt hit the wall in the backstretch.

During the following restart on Lap 68, Allgaier and Custer again dueled for the lead through the frontstretch and through the first two turns until Allgaier muscled ahead from the inside lane and retained the lead from Custer. Behind, Hill fended off Nemechek to retain third while Bayne, Kligerman, Berry and Jones battled amid two tight lanes for positions fifth to eighth in front of Chandler Smith and Jeb Burton. Bayne and Berry would grab fifth and sixth ahead of Kligerman while Chandler Smith would move up to eighth in front of Jones and Jeb Burton. Further ahead, Hill and Nemechek started to close in on Custer for the runner-up spot while Allgaier retained the lead.

At the Lap 75 mark, Allgaier was leading by more than a second over Custer, who remained ahead of Hill and Nemechek, while Bayne followed suit in fifth. Behind, Berry, Chandler Smith, Kligerman, Jones and Sammy Smith were in the top 10 while Jeb Burton, Jeremy Clements, rookie Parker Retzlaff, Kyle Weatherman Weatherman and Ryan Sieg were scored in the top 15. Meanwhile, Creed was mired back in 20th while Hemric was a lap down in 28th.

When the second stage period concluded on Lap 90, Allgaier, who navigated his way through lapped traffic, captured his 11th Xfinity stage victory of the season and second of the day after maintaining the lead by more than two seconds over Custer. Custer retained second ahead of Hill and Nemechek while Bayne, Berry, Chandler Smith, Kligerman, Jones, and Sammy Smith were scored in the top 10. By then, 23 of 38 starters were scored on the lead lap while Playoff contenders Creed, Jeb Burton and Hemric were mired in 17th, 21st and 27th, respectively.

During the stage break, the lead lap field led by Allgaier returned to pit road for service. Following the pit stops, Allgaier retained the lead after exiting pit road first followed by Custer, Bayne, Berry, Chandler Smith, Jeremy Clements, Nemechek, Kligerman and Jones while Hill fell back to 11th after getting blocked by Nemechek on pit road. Amid the pit stops, Jeb Burton was held in his pit stall for two laps for losing a left-rear wheel on the track. In addition, Stefan Parsons relieved Josh Williams for the remainder of the event.

With 103 laps remaining, the final stage started as Allgaier and Custer occupied the front row. At the start, Allgaier launched ahead from the outside lane to retain the lead through Turn 1 until Custer regained his momentum from the inside lane and dueled with Allgaier for the lead before grabbing it entering Turn 3. Behind, trouble ignited after Berry and Bayne, both of whom were battling for third place, made contact as Bayne clipped Berry before both spun sideways in front of the pack. In the process, Berry hit the outside wall and Bayne was hit by Hill and Kyle Weatherman, thus terminating his third and final scheduled start of the season with a wrecked race car, while both Chandler Smith and Kligerman barely escaped the carnage.

When the race restarted under green with 96 laps remaining, Allgaier received a push from Chandler Smith to retain the lead from Custer while on the outside lane. Then through Turns 3 and 4, Chandler Smith engaged in a duel against Custer for the runner-up spot ahead of Nemechek and Kligerman while Allgaier rocketed away. Behind, Retzlaff made contact with the wall, but the race remained under green as Allgaier started to stretch his advantage to nearly a second. The caution, however, would return with 93 laps remaining after Jeffrey Earnhardt wrecked for a second time in Turn 2 and broke the drive shaft from his car.

During the following restart with 86 laps remaining, Allgaier and Custer dueled for the top spot as Allgaier had Chandler Smith drafting him entering Turn 1. Then exiting the turn, Allgaier got loose while being drafted by Smith and slipped up the track entering the backstretch as he fell all the way back to 14th. With Allgaier falling back, Custer was out in front followed by Nemechek while Chandler Smith and Kligerman battled for third place in front of Sammy Smith. Amid a series of battles towards the front, the caution would fly with 81 laps remaining after Dawson Cram spun in Turn 4. By then, Custer retained the lead ahead of Nemechek and Chandler Smith while Sammy Smith was up to fourth in front of Kligerman and Jones. During the caution period, Allgaier and Hemric pitted while the rest led by Custer remained on the track.

With the race restarting under green with 76 laps remaining, Nemechek briefly dueled and moved into the lead from Custer on the inside lane. In the process, Chandler and Sammy Smith battled for third in front of Jones, Kligerman and Kaz Grala while Nemechek proceeded to stretch his advantage to nearly half a second over Custer. As Nemechek continued to lead by seven-tenths of a second over Custer with 70 laps remaining, Allgaier muscled his way up to seventh while Chandler Smith, Sammy Smith, Jones and Kligerman were scored in the top six. By then, Jeb Burton, who returned to the track after spending a bevy of laps in the garage due to a mechanical issue, nursed his No. 27 Alsco Chevrolet Camaro to the garage as smoke started to come out of the car.

With 60 laps remaining, Nemechek extended his advantage to more than two seconds over Custer, who had Chandler Smith intimidating him for the runner-up spot, while Sammy Smith maintained fourth place as he trailed the lead by more than three seconds. Meanwhile, Allgaier cracked the top five as he was back in fifth while Jones, Kligerman, Moffitt, Ryan Sieg and Clements were running in the top 10 ahead of Grala, Creed, Hill, Hemric and Parker Chase.

Ten laps later, Nemechek stabilized his advantage to more than two seconds over Custer as Chandler Smith, Sammy Smith and Allgaier followed suit and in close-quarters racing. With Custer navigating his way through lapped traffic, Chandler Smith remained within close pursuit of Custer while Sammy Smith and Allgaier also followed suit in close conditions before Allgaier overtook Sammy Smith to move up to fourth.

With 45 laps remaining, green flag pit stops ensued as Custer surrendered the runner-up spot to pit his No. 00 Haas Ford Mustang. Nemechek would surrender the lead to pit his No. 20 ROMCO Toyota Supra during the following lap while more names that included Chandler Smith, Jones, Kligerman, Creed, Sammy Smith, Grala pitted during the proceeding laps. Amid the pit stops, Allgaier, who pitted, remained on the track and reassumed the lead as he was leading by more than 15 seconds over Hill.

Shortly after, the caution flew when newcomer Daniel Dye spun in Turn 2. By then, only seven competitors that included Allgaier, Hill, Hemric, JJ Yeley, Kyle Sieg, Ryan Ellis and Anthony Alfredo were scored on the lead lap. During the caution period, the remaining lead lap competitors pitted for service.

When the race restarted with 35 laps remaining, Allgaier and Hemric battled for the lead through the frontstretch and entering Turn 1 as the field behind fanned out to three lanes. Allgaier, though, would clear Hemric and assume full command of the top spot with both lanes to his control through the backstretch while Hill and Kyle Sieg battled for third. By then, Nemechek, who was one of several competitors to use the wave around to cycle back on the lead lap, was trying to carve his way back to the front as he moved up to sixth ahead of Custer and Kligerman. Nemechek would proceed to climb up to fourth ahead of Custer and Kligerman while Allgaier extended his lead by more than two seconds over Hemric with 30 laps remaining.

Down to the final 25 laps of the event, Allgaier continued to extend his advantage as he was leading by nearly three seconds over a hard-charging Nemechek followed by Hill, Custer and Kligerman while Hemric fell back to sixth. By then, Ryan and Kyle Sieg were battling Clements for seventh while Grala was in 10th. Meanwhile, Sammy Smith was mired back in 11th while Creed and Chandler Smith were mired within the top 15.

Four laps later, the caution flew due to debris in the form of sheet metal being reported in the backstretch. During the caution period, a majority led by Nemechek pitted while the rest led by Allgaier remained on the track.

With 17 laps remaining, the race restarted under green as Allgaier and Hill occupied the front row. At the start, Allgaier and Hill briefly dueled through the frontstretch until Allgaier muscled ahead to retain the lead. Shortly after, the caution quickly returned after Yeley and Grala wrecked and collided against one another towards the outside wall in Turn 3.

Down to the final 10 laps of the event, the race restarted under green. At the start, Hill and Allgaier dueled for the lead through the frontstretch as the field behind fanned out. Allgaier proceeded to retain the lead with the momentum on the outside lane exiting the backstretch. With Hill trying to keep pace with Allgaier, Kligerman drew himself into the picture as he ignited his late bid for the lead. With Kligerman taking the runner-up spot from Hill, he then proceeded to challenge Allgaier for the lead through the backstretch not long after. Then with eight laps remaining and amid a dead heat for the lead between Allgaier and Kligerman, the latter slipped up the track in Turn 3, which forced Allgaier to go wide as he would get caught in the marbles and nearly hit the outside wall entering the frontstretch. As both tried to regain their momentum, Nemechek threw himself back into the spotlight as he overtook Allgaier before he overtook Kligerman, who led a lap, through the frontstretch and returned to the lead.

Down to the final five laps of the event, Nemechek, who officially reassumed the lead during the previous lap, was leading ahead of Kligerman while Sammy Smith moved his No. 18 Allstate Peterbilt Toyota Supra into third ahead of Allgaier, who was trying to retain fourth ahead of Chandler Smith while Custer and Hill followed suit within the top seven.

When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Nemechek remained as the leader by eight-tenths of a second over Kligerman. Having a clear racetrack in front of him and with Kligerman unable to close the gap, Nemechek was able to cycle his No. 20 Toyota around the Texas circuit for a final time and cross the finish line to claim his seventh checkered flag of the season and by more than three seconds over Kligerman.

With the victory, Nemechek also claimed his second Xfinity Series win at Texas Motor Speedway, his first since winning the regular-season finale at Kansas Speedway two weeks earlier and the ninth of his Xfinity career. Thus, he joined Justin Allgaier as the only Playoff competitors to have clinched a spot for the Playoff’s Round of 8 by winning as he continues his quest to contend for this year’s Xfinity Series championship with Joe Gibbs Racing before returning to the NASCAR Cup Series to drive for Legacy Motor Club in 2024.

“Well, I messed up that [last] restart,” Nemechek said on USA Network. “[The car] bounced out of third gear, so that one was on me, but I knew that I had to push hard and try and recover right there. Man, hats off to this No. 20 team, Joe Gibbs Racing. It is absolutely amazing what we’ve been able to accomplish so far this year. I don’t think we’re done yet, that’s for sure. We set a lot of goals as this No. 20 team coming into this year. It’s so good to accomplish all of those, but win number seven. ROMCO back in Victory Lane here at Texas. [We’re] Preparing for the Round of 8 [in the Playoffs]. My goal coming into today was to lock ourselves in for the next round. Going into the [Charlotte] Roval and not having to worry about [road course struggles] is definitely a relief. We’re still gonna go there, try and play strategy, try and win the race, get some more Playoff points, but focus on [Las] Vegas, Homestead, Martinsville, and then on to Phoenix.”

While Nemechek celebrated with the fans on the frontstretch, Kligerman and Allgaier, both of whom exchanged words, were left disappointed on pit road after both had the race victory at the Lone Star state evaporate. For Kligerman, the runner-up result marked his second of this season and his eighth top-five result of the 2023 season. Initially being 22 points below the top-eight cutline, Kligerman and Big Machine Racing now trail the cutline by a single point with their strong result and approaching the Round of 8 finale at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course that will occur on October 7.

“Obviously, I had a great run, got to [Allgaier] and then, down in [Turns] 3 and 4, I don’t know how much we got squeezed or just didn’t have it, but I felt like I could clear him pretty easily,” Kligerman, who addressed his contact with Allgaier, said. “I just somehow got super loose and that allowed [Nemechek] to get to us and then, whatever. It feels like I choked. [Allgaier] says he gave me a lot of room,…but proud of everybody at Big Machine Racing. We showed up here once again in a pressure-packed situation. I’m really disappointed right now. I could see that [win]. I could feel it. That was the best damn restart I ever had in my entire life. Put us in perfect position. We had the tire advantage. Just choked. This one will hurt, but we’ll go make up for it next [event] into the next round and then go on to the Championship 4 and go compete for a championship.”

For Allgaier, he is already guaranteed a spot for the Round of 8 by winning last weekend’s Playoff opener at Bristol Motor Speedway despite ending up in fifth place after leading a race-high 133 laps.

“When I went to talk to [Kligerman], he said I squeezed him, but I feel like I left him plenty of room getting down in [Turns 3 and 4], knowing he was gonna go to the bottom [lane] and he drove it in super, super deep into [Turn] 3,” Allgaier said. “He’s been around this sport long enough, so that’s what’s gonna happen. It’s just disappointing not only that because, not only did it screw up battling for second there, but it put us way up in the marbles and just hanging on to [the car]. He didn’t make contact, so I give him that, but proud of the effort today. We’ll keep digging. Lot’s to look forward to.”

Rookie Sammy Smith, who has finished no higher than ninth during his previous eight Xfinity starts, came home in third place for his first top-five result in 10 races while Chandler Smith and Allgaier finished in the top five. Meanwhile, Custer, who led 28 laps, ended up in sixth place, which was enough for him to clinch his spot into the Round of 8 by points, while Hill, Creed, Brandon Jones and Brett Moffitt finished in the top 10.

Notably, Hemric ended up 24th after taking his car to the garage with damage spotted to his right front with three laps remaining. In addition, Berry capped off his long afternoon in 27th, seven laps behind the leaders, and Jeb Burton retired in 31st due to a suspension issue.

There were nine lead changes for four different leaders. The race featured 12 cautions for 65 laps. In addition, 15 of 38 starters finished on the lead lap.


1. John Hunter Nemechek, 38 laps led

2. Parker Kligerman, one lap led

3. Sammy Smith

4. Chandler Smith

5. Justin Allgaier, 133 laps led, Stage 1 & 2 winner

6. Cole Custer, 28 laps led

7. Austin Hill

8. Sheldon Creed

9. Brandon Jones

10. Brett Moffitt

11. Ryan Sieg

12. Kyle Sieg

13. Ryan Ellis

14. Anthony Alfredo

15. Kyle Weatherman

16. Parker Chase, one lap down

17. Daniel Dye, one lap down

18. Jeremy Clements, one lap down

19. Layne Riggs, two laps down

20. Josh Williams, two laps down

21. Dawson Cram, two laps down

22. David Starr, three laps down

23. Sage Karam, three laps down

24. Daniel Hemric – OUT, Accident

25. CJ McLaughlin, five laps down

26. Joey Gase, six laps down

27. Josh Berry, seven laps down

28. JJ Yeley – OUT, Accident

29. Kaz Grala – OUT, Accident

30. Parker Retzlaff – OUT, Accident

31. Jeb Burton – OUT, Suspension

32. Jeffrey Earnhardt – OUT, Accident

33. Trevor Bayne – OUT, Accident

34. Brennan Poole – OUT, Accident

35. Patrick Emerling – OUT, Suspension

36. Joe Graf Jr. – OUT, Dvp

37. Riley Herbst – OUT, Accident

38. Sam Mayer – OUT, Accident

*Bold indicates Playoff competitors

Playoff standings

1. John Hunter Nemechek – Advanced

2. Justin Allgaier- Advanced

3. Cole Custer – Advanced

4. Austin Hill +44

5. Chandler Smith +32

6. Sammy Smith +18

7. Sheldon Creed +9

8. Daniel Hemric +1

9.  Parker Kligerman -1

10. Jeb Burton -19

11. Josh Berry -27

12. Sam Mayer -34

The Round of 12 in the 2023 NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs is set to conclude at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course in Concord, North Carolina, on October 7, where the Round of 8 field will be determined. The event’s broadcast is slated to occur at 3 p.m. ET on NBC.

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


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