JOLIET, Ill. – John Hunter Nemechek wasn’t going to let anything keep him from his first career Camping World Truck Series victory – not even an empty gas tank.
The 18-year-old Nemechek coasted most of the last lap to win Saturday’s American Ethanol E15 225 at Chicagoland Speedway, becoming the fourth different driver to earn his first career Truck win this season.
“Gere (crew chief Gere Kennon) kept saying over the radio, save, save, save,” Nemechek said. “We kept saving gas. It’s definitely rewarding and makes all the hard work pay off on this deal. We’ve been close for a few times, but this one has been coming and I can’t thank these guys enough.”
Added team owner and father Joe Nemechek, “What an incredible day. We’ve had such a tough year. We’ve done this with (nine full-time members) on our team. Just an incredible day. I knew we were going to be good. He did an awesome job driving and saving gas.
It was the younger Nemechek’s 23rd career start in a Truck, including 10 thus far in 2015.
“It takes a lot of luck and fuel to win one of these things,” Jones said. “I’m happy for John Hunter and to see him win.”
How Nemechek won: With several leaders and front-runners being forced to pit in the closing laps, including race leader Kyle Larson, Timothy Peters, Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez, crew chief Gere Kennon elected to gamble by keeping his driver on-track and go for the finish. Nemechek ran out of fuel on the backstretch, but had enough of a lead over Tyler Reddick to coast all the way around Turns 3 and 4 and cross the start-finish line.
Who else had a good race: Tyler Reddick finished second and regained second place in the standings from Matt Crafton, who struggled to a 14th place finish. … Timothy Peters celebrated his 200th career Truck race by finishing third. … Daniel Suarez continues to knock at victory’s door. Had he not been forced to pit for fuel, Suarez might have had a chance to win his first career Truck race.
Who had a bad race: Rookie Daniel Hemric had quite the eventful day. First, his truck started smoking on the parade lap, forcing him to pit road. That was after having to start at the back of the field due to an engine change. Then his Truck appeared to suffer a transmission issue on Lap 14. His team repaired the damage and he was able to return on Lap 71. As if that wasn’t enough, Hemric didn’t stop fast enough coming into his pit stall and struck his jackman on Lap 128. The jackman was taken to the infield care center as a precaution, but he was uninjured. Hemric ended with a 25th place finish. He came into the race with four top-five and six top-10 finishes in his previous 12 starts. … While coming off Turn 4 on Lap 82, Mason Mingus hit the commitment cone and lost control of his truck. When the truck hit the infield grass, the front end flew about five feet up in the air and incurred significant damage. Mingus ultimately finished 26th.
Notable: At 18 years, 3 months and 8 days, Nemechek becomes the fourth-youngest winner in Truck series history behind Cole Custer, Erik Jones and Chase Elliott. Nemechek now has one win, four top-five and 11 top-10 finishes in just 23 career Truck Series starts. … Erik Jones remains in the lead in the point standings. … Johnny Sauter had one of his stronger runs of the season, finishing fifth. … Because of all the late pit stops for fuel, only six drivers finished on the lead lap.
Quote of the day: “He has what we call the ‘want-to.’ It’s determination, focus and he knows what he wants. You don’t see that much in the sport anymore. He wants to win and the determination of that is cool and is what drives the small group of guys we have.” — Team owner and father of the winner, Joe Nemechek.
What’s next: The Truck Series moves to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the UNOH 175 on Sept. 26.