John Hunter Nemechek gets first Truck Series victory at Chicagoland
By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service
JOLIET, Ill.—One of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series’ youngest drivers struck a blow for old-school racing on Saturday morning at Chicagoland Speedway.
Stretching his fuel mileage beyond the capabilities of most of his of competitors, John Hunter Nemechek rolled across the finish line 12.014 seconds ahead of Tyler Reddick, who was also saving fuel, to score his first victory in the series in the American Ethanol e15 225.
At 18 years, 3 months and 8 days, Nemechek is the fourth youngest winner in the series, and he accomplished the victory with a skeleton crew working on a team owned by his father, Joe Nemechek.
Nemechek, a current member of the NASCAR Next class, came to pit road for the last time on Lap 94, topping off under caution one lap before the race returned to green, and managed to squeeze 56 laps out of his last tank of gas. Inheriting the lead on Lap 149 of 150 when Keystone Light Polesitter Kyle Larson ran out of fuel and brought his car to pit road, Nemechek ran out of gas off the final corner and coasted across the stripe.
“We got to top off there with one to go, and he (crew chief Gere Kennon) told me to save fuel, save fuel that last run, and that’s what we ended up doing,” John Hunter Nemechek said. “I ran out coming out of Turn 4. It was great strategy that he had worked up in his mind.
“I should know never to doubt him.”
When Nemechek took the green flag for the last time on Lap 96, Kennon figured the No. 8 Chevrolet was four laps short of finishing the race but didn’t give his driver the specific numbers.
“I just told him to save,” Kennon said. “It got to 10 (laps) to go, and I said, ‘Just slow down—just save.’ He didn’t say anything back, and I was like, ‘He may not know how to save.’ I told him to slow down even more, and it all worked out.’
Exclusive of Joe Nemechek and son, Kennon is one of nine full-time employees supporting the Truck Series operation.
“You have to think,” Joe Nemechek said. “Gere Kennon and myself—we’re thinkers. We’re old-school thinkers. You had to figure stuff out back in the past, not with engineering, but with the old-school way of thinking ‘How do you make it better?’ And we’ve been able to do that.”
John Hunter Nemechek is quick to acknowledge the financial and emotional commitment his father has made to his racing effort.
“He has everything invested in me, and he believes in me, so, without him, none of this would be possible, and I wouldn’t be here today,” John Hunter said.”
With his runner-up finish, Reddick took over second place in the series standings, 10 points behind leader Erik Jones, who finished sixth. Two-time defending series champion Matt Crafton suffered two pit road penalties, ran out of fuel and finished 14th, three laps down, to fall to third in points, 11 behind Jones.
Timothy Peters led 41 laps and finished third, followed by Daniel Suarez, who overcame two pit road penalties to run fourth. Johnny Sauter led a race-high 52 laps and came home fifth.
The race was originally scheduled to take place Friday night but was postponed due to rain until this morning.