John Hunter Nemechek says he wished he and Cole Custer hadn’t ended in the grass coming to the checkered flag in Sunday’s Camping World Truck Series race but defended his actions and called their duel “a racing incident.’’
Nemechek made his comments Wednesday morning on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive.’’
Nemechek, who was running second on the final lap at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, said he owed it to his team to attempt to win the race.
“As a racer, you want to be able to go back to your team and say you gave it 100 percent no matter what, no matter if you won or if you finished second,’’ Nemechek said. “You have to go back to your team and say you gave it 100 percent instead of going back and saying, ‘Hey I could have won if I had done this and we didn’t do it and we ended up second.’
“Wins are so hard to come by right now, and especially with the Chase format, you have to win and you have to get as many wins as you can just to be in that first round and keep running up front and the momentum. We work too hard in the shop to not have the opportunity to go for wins. If you have the opportunity you have to take it.’’
Custer, who needed the win to make the Chase, didn’t see it that way. He told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Tuesday that if Nemechek “steps over the line” in the season’s final eight races, “something’s going to happen.’’
Nemechek said he isn’t worried about what Custer might do.
“We raced hard,’’ said Nemechek, who collected his second win of the season Sunday. “We didn’t put him in the tire barriers. It could have ended up like Ty Dillon a couple of years ago (contact from Chase Elliott sent Dillon into the tire barriers and he finished 17th). You have to look at all from all angles. It was a racing incident.
“We both ended up crossing the finish line 1-2. It’s just good hard racing. You can go back and watch the replay of Kyle Busch and Cale Gale a couple of years ago from Homestead. They came to the line 1-2 in a drag race. I would expect him to do the same thing. If I was in his position, leader at the end of that race, I would have been expecting the same thing as well. As the leader you’re trying to block, you’re trying to win the race. It’s just kind of circumstances that happened weren’t the best.’’
As for anything he would have done differently, Nemechek said there would have been one thing.
“The only circumstance that I would try to change is try not to get loose underneath him and us touching and us ending up in the grass,’’ Nemechek told SiriusXM NASCAR radio. “I definitely think I had the momentum coming out of the corner. If I didn’t get loose, we were still going to drag race to the line and we still could have won the race. That’s the only circumstance that I would have changed. I hate that it ended that way, but you can’t really control that.’’
Since the end of the race, Nemechek has faced criticism for his actions coming to the checkered flag from some drivers.
“I have seen those comments, some of them you take and you look at it and you go back and watch replays and stuff,’’ Nemechek said. “I think as drivers, if you were the leader in that situation, you always know what the guy behind you is going to do. You’ve raced with them before and you know how they race and you put them in your shoes. You always race how you want to be raced or you think you’re going to be raced by that guy. That’s kind of how you just have to take it.’’