Saturday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race from Homestead-Miami Speedway officially set the 2022 Championship 4 and surprisingly it will not include John Hunter Nemechek, a favorite to win the title heading into the season.
The 24-year-old entered the weekend fifth in the Playoff standings and he sat five points below the Playoff cutline due to a 24th-place finish after starting on the pole earlier this month at Talladega Superspeedway.
Saturday at Homestead, Nemechek ran into trouble on lap 15 as he caught the wall a couple of times, which led to his right rear tire going flat. After the contact with the outside wall, the No. 4 Toyota Tundra had a decent amount of damage which hampered him for the duration of the event.
“The first time I hit the fence, I got dirtied up in dirty air trying to roll to the outside of the 52, carrying a lot of speed,” Nemechek said. “Ultimately, pounded the fence then tried to make back probably a little bit too much in too close of time period, and hit the fence again and had a tire go flat. I don’t know, I got to figure out how to be better.”
Nemechek went three laps down due to the issues, where he had two separate flat tires at different points in the opening stage. Meanwhile, all of the other Playoff competitors were scored in the top 10 and earned stage points, which put Nemechek even further behind as he took the wave around to get one of his laps back for the start of Stage 2.
With no natural cautions and the lack of overall pace from the North Carolina native, Nemechek could never rebound from being two circuits behind the leaders, and eventually, he would be recorded four laps down at the checkered flag.
Nemechek’s season wasn’t nearly as flashy or dominant as his incredible 2021 campaign, but the Kyle Busch Motorsports driver still had plenty of momentum. Nemechek scored a win at Kansas Speedway to lock himself into the Round of 8.
However, Nemechek did not enjoy the same type of success in the Round of 8 of the Playoffs. Nemechek’s highest finish in the three-race round was a 12th-place effort at Bristol Motor Speedway. Needless to say, an exit in the Round of 8 stings for the driver with 13-career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victories.
“Frustration should be in the Final 4,” Nemechek explained. “This round hasn’t been very good to us, we’ve spun, we’ve hit the fence in Bristol during practice, had to go to a backup truck, put us behind. Tried to fight, fought probably fought a little too hard.”
Adding to the frustrations of his own Playoff demise has to be the fact that while he’s eliminated from championship contention, his KBM teammate Chandler Smith carried a strong amount of points throughout the post-season and ultimately made the cut for his first career Championship 4 appearance.
Nemechek moving down from the NASCAR Cup Series a season ago to chase championships with Kyle Busch Motorsports in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series was a bet that Nemechek put on himself. After all, the Truck Series is a place where he had won six times prior to joining Kyle Busch Motorsports.
Now, as Kyle Busch has made his move to drive for Richard Childress Racing next season in the NASCAR Cup Series, the KBM organization will follow the team owner to Chevrolet for the 2023 season. With Toyota Racing Development taking their claim to Nemechek, as Nemechek says TRD has plans for him next year, the driver-team pairing ultimately did not achieve the goal of winning a championship together.