It was a gutsy two-tire pit strategy call by Chris Gayle that afforded John Hunter Nemechek the opportunity to battle teammates Harrison Burton and Daniel Hemric for the lead in the closing laps of Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Texas Motor Speedway, an opportunity that the 24-year-old took advantage of to capture his second victory in the second-tier series and the 10th of the season for Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 54.
RETWEET to congratulate @JHNemechek on his WIN at @TXMotorSpeedway!
He plays spoiler for the @NASCAR_Xfinity Series playoff drivers, preventing drivers from earning a spot in the title race! All four spots remain. #NASCARPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/vBjhGTo2Dg
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) October 16, 2021
Saturday’s victory wasn’t an easy one for Nemechek, who prior to this afternoon hadn’t raced on a 1.5-mile track in the NASCAR Xfinity Series since 2019, after the team was slapped with a pit road penalty with just over 50 laps to go, for the crew going over the pit wall too soon. Nemechek was then relegated to the tail end of the longest line for the restart, working his way up to seventh-place before the final caution flag of the event came out with 26 laps to go.
NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff contender Harrison Burton stayed on the track under said caution, while everyone else hit pit road to take on four brand-new Goodyear tires. Nemechek, who took two tires, led the race off of pit road and was able to make quick work of the No. 20 Toyota Supra on the restart, sailing to the victory by 1.3 seconds over another teammate in Daniel Hemric.
Daniel Hemric would record his 10th career runner-up finish in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, tying Dale Jarrett’s record of the most second-place finishes before capturing a victory in the series. Noah Gragson, Justin Allgaier, and Austin Cindric rounded out the top five. AJ Allmendinger, Justin Haley, Harrison Burton, Michael Annett, and Brandon Jones rounded out the top-10,.
All of the remaining contenders in the series’ driver and owner championship battle finished inside the top-10 in the event, as none would run into day-ending problems throughout the course of the 200-lap event.
As the series heads to Kansas Speedway for the second race in the ‘Round of 8’, Noah Gragson holds a two-point buffer over Daniel Hemric for the final spot in the ‘Round of 4’ as they stand, with Justin Haley, Harrison Burton, and Brandon Jones all sitting below the cutline.
NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff Standings (1 / 3 Races in ‘Round of 8):
No. 16 – AJ Allmendinger – (+30)
No. 22 – Austin Cindric – (+26)
No. 7 – Justin Allgaier – (+4)
No. 9 – Noah Gragson – (+2)
——- CUTOFF LINE ——-
No. 18 – Daniel Hemric – (-2)
No. 11 – Justin Haley – (-4)
No. 20 – Harrison Burton – (-21)
No. 19 – Brandon Jones – (-32)
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