John Hunter Nemechek was absolutely on fire in Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series event at Martinsville Speedway, plus, he was on fire after the race was all said and done, as well.
Starting from the outside of the front row, Nemechek wasted no time getting the lead away from polesitter Cole Custer, making the first pass for the lead on the sixth lap of Saturday’s 250-lap contest.
From that point forward, Nemechek pretty much had a stranglehold on the field, leading an incredible 198 laps en route to his second victory of the season for Joe Gibbs Racing. Throughout the race, there were only three occasions where the driver of the No. 20 lost control of the race.
Two of those three times came as a result of strategy. First by Austin Hill and Josh Berry, who led a combined 35 laps in Saturday’s race, after electing to flip the first stage to get some track position.
When things settled out around lap 100, Nemechek had control of the race for about a split-second, before his teammate Sammy Smith put his No. 18 Toyota Supra on the outside lane and launched himself into the corner, to take over the lead.
Nemechek would return to the lead six laps later, though. The final time he lost control of the race, was during a caution inside the final 50 laps of the race, when Justin Allgaier and Alex Labbe elected to stay out, as a result of having no tires.
That too, only lasted six laps, before Nemechek inherited the lead. However, he could never really put an enormous distance on the other two cars that were quick in Saturday’s 250-lap contest, Cole Custer and Sammy Smith.
In fact, over the course of the final 20 laps of the race, both Smith and Custer were able to stay within range, before the battle for second ruined each of their chances to score the victory at Martinsville.
On the final lap, Smith would give a shot to Custer in turn three, sending the No. 00 up the track, and allowing the 18-year-old driver to ensure a 1-2 finish for Joe Gibbs Racing. Cole Custer would hold onto third.
Josh Berry recovered to finish in fourth, while Brandon Jones started the turnaround of a dismal start to the year, with a top-five result in Martinsville. Justin Allgaier, the teammate to Berry and Jones, recorded a sixth-place finish.
Daniel Hemric, Derek Kraus, Brett Moffitt, and Chandler Smith completed the top-10.
Sam Mayer and Riley Herbst were consistent competitors inside the top-10 on Saturday, before an accident sent both drivers to the garage prior to the conclusion of the race, which started at the hands of Ryan Truex.
Mayer wasn’t happy about that – at all – and decided to flip off the driver of the No. 19 Toyota GR Supra on the backstretch – although Truex didn’t see it. He would come home 31st, while Riley Herbst scored a 30th-place result.
Leaving Martinsville, the NASCAR Xfinity Series is ready to hit the superspeedway of Talladega, where John Hunter Nemechek holds a 21-point advantage over Austin Hill. Chandler Smith, Riley Herbst, and Josh Berry continue to be the top five.