John Hunter Nemechek survived a steamy hot afternoon and held off a highly-motivated field to win the Tennessee Lottery 250 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Nashville Superspeedway Saturday afternoon.

It’s the second Xfinity Series win of the season for Nemechek in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota – and 11th of his career in the series. The 27-year-old North Carolinian won Stage 2 and led a race best 76 of the 188 laps, including the final 46 after taking the lead on a re-start from Cole Custer, who navigated a corner too high allowing Nemechek to get by.

“Feels good to be back in the 20-machine, we’ve been close to winning a lot this year in this thing,’’ said Nemechek, who will make his first NASCAR Cup Series start at Nashville on Sunday when he competes in his fulltime ride, the No. 42 Toyota for Legacy Motor Club.

“Being able to capitalize on it is huge. … it’s great to get it done here in Nashville.

It was a Joe Gibbs Racing 1-2 with Nemechek’s teammate Chandler Smith rallying to a runner-up finish – 1.234-seconds behind Nemechek – on a day that left many in the field standing outside their cars on pit road after the checkered flag taking water and resting after in-car in-race temperatures neared 130 degrees. Several of the drivers either didn’t wear a “cool suit” or had malfunctions with the one they did use.

Much of the hard work came from the rear of the starting grid where championship contenders such as Jesse Love, Austin Hill and Sheldon Creed rallied to race up front after starting from the rear for technical issues.

Creed’s No. 18 JGR Toyota ran among the top 10 after starting at the back of the 38-car field, only to have engine issues in the closing laps.

The Richard Childress Racing teammates Love and Hill certainly had impressive hard-earned finishes in their Chevrolets despite the weather challenges and positions on the starting grid – rallying to third and fourth place finishes, respectively.

NASCAR Cup Series regular and former Xfinity Series title contender Noah Gragson rounded out the top five in the No. 30 Rette Jones Racing Ford – his second start in the car this season.

“I have no idea,’’ a smiling Love said of how he passed 69 cars on the day and finished top five when his cool suit was not working properly.

“Just proud to be part of a team that doesn’t give up,’’ he continued. “That was probably the hottest I’ve ever been. Just proud of my guys.’’

Another driver suffering from the heat when his cool suit didn’t work was Stewart-Haas Racing’s Riley Herbst, who still managed a sixth-place finish despite the circumstances. The 2023 Nashville race winner, A.J. Allmendinger finished seventh, followed by Justin Allgaier, Cole Custer and Sam Mayer.

Custer holds on to the Xfinity Series championship lead by 15 points over Chandler Smith but was – as expected – frustrated not to come away with his first victory of the season after leading an impressive 64 laps himself. He fell all the way back to fifth losing the lead to Nemechek on that race-deciding restart and ultimately had his work cut out to stay among the top 10.

“I think I over-drove on that restart a little bit into Turn 1,’’ said the Stewart-Haas Racing driver Custer. “There’s a couple things I could have done better.

“Everyone’s got dirty air and man, it was hard to make speed. I felt like we were solid when we were in the top-three cars but once we got back there it was tough to get the car to handle.

“I can’t say enough about our guys. We’re bringing cars that compete for wins every week, it’s just heartbreaking every week not to win. We’re bringing good cars and leading laps, we’ll get it eventually. We’ll keep digging.’’

The NASCAR Xfinity Series joins the NASCAR Cup Series for a summer-time double-header on the streets of Chicago in next Saturday’s The Loop 110 (3:30 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Custer won last year’s inaugural race from pole position.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here