John Hunter Nemechek has spent the year cementing himself and Joe Gibbs Racing as the favorites for the NASCAR Xfinity Series title, despite some strong opposition from both Austin Hill and Justin Allgaier.
A victory in Saturday’s Andy’s Frozen Custard 300 at Texas Motor Speedway further delivered that point as fact, with a fantastic recovery from the 26-year-old driver after his car popped out of third gear on the final restart of the race.
Nemechek, driving the No. 20 Romco Equipment Toyota, was able to put that mishap behind him quickly, driving back to within striking distance of the race leaders within three laps of the restart, before taking advantage of their battling to make the pass for the win.
With less than 10 laps remaining, a crazy final restart left Justin Allgaier in the lead, after dominating much of the event. Parker Kligerman, driving for Big Machine Racing, was running in second-place, chasing down the No. 7 Chevrolet on new tires.
Though, when Kligerman – still searching for his first victory – went to make his move to take the lead, he bobbled underneath Allgaier, and nearly took both drivers out of any chance at a solid top-10 result.
Nemechek, lurking behind the leaders in third place, got an unblockable run on Kligerman through the tri-oval on the frontstretch, darting to the inside and taking over the lead, never looking back over the race’s final seven laps.
By the time the checkered flag was displayed, Nemechek had rallied to a one-second lead over Kligerman, who matched a career-best second-place result. Sammy Smith finished third, scoring his first top-five since Loudon in July.
Chandler Smith, despite starting at the rear of the field, looked to have a quick Kaulig Racing Chevrolet at Texas, coming home inside the top five in fourth place, his second consecutive result inside the top five.
Justin Allgaier, after a failed attempt to pass for the lead shuffled him to the outside groove, faded back to fifth place on old tires, marking another disappointment for the Riverton, Illinois native after leading a race-high 133 of 200 laps.
Cole Custer came home in sixth place, while Richard Childress Racing teammates Austin Hill and Sheldon Creed both overcame their own obstacles to finish in seventh and eighth. Brandon Jones and Brett Moffitt completed the top-10.
A number of Xfinity Series Playoff drivers ran into trouble throughout the afternoon, including Kaulig Racing’s Daniel Hemric, who caused major damage to his No. 10 Chevrolet by getting in the grass and ripping up the front splitter.
Somehow, the 2021 Xfinity Series champion was able to rebound to run inside the top-10 at one point, before slamming the wall in the closing laps, which left him to retire and finish in 24th.
Josh Berry found some troubles throughout the afternoon, as well, after being involved in an incident with Trevor Bayne and Austin Hill in turn three at the mid-point of the event, causing damage to the No. 8. That damage would eventually lead to a flat tire.
Berry’s teammate at JR Motorsports, Sam Mayer, didn’t even get the opportunity to complete a lap on Saturday, as the No. 1 Chevrolet just lost grip heading into the first set of corners on the first lap, and smacked the outside wall hard.
Jeb Burton, one of the underdogs of the NASCAR Xfinity Series post-season, was looking poised to have a solid run on Saturday, before a loose wheel came detached under caution during the stage break, causing damage to his car.
After fixing his No. 27 Chevrolet up, Burton returned to the track, but would have to return to the garage after having another mechanical issue, ending the day for the No. 27 Jordan Anderson Racing entry.
Leaving Texas, the NASCAR Xfinity Series gets one week off before heading to the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL, the final race in the first round of the NASCAR Playoffs, which promises to deliver some drama and intrigue.
Daniel Hemric sits one point above the cutline for the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs and is being chased by runner-up finisher Parker Kligerman. Sheldon Creed (+9), and Sammy Smith (+18) are the only ones with any major concerns heading into the ROVAL, barring disaster of course.