John Hunter Championship Weekend Notes

John Hunter Nemechek
(photo courtesy Rachelrgmphotography)

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Overview:
Event: Lucas Oil 150, Race 22 of 22, 150 Laps – 45/45/160; 150 Miles
Location: Phoenix (Ariz.) Raceway (one-mile oval)
Date/Broadcast: Nov. 5, 2021, at 8 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR 90

Neme’chek’ The Facts:
Second-generation driver John Hunter Nemechek gave up a chance to continue racing in the NASCAR Cup Series, where he competed full time in 2020, to come to Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) for the 2021 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season. Nemechek came to the most successful team in Truck Series history with one goal in mind, winning. He made his announcement with #Here4Wins and winning is what he’s done at KBM this year. Nemechek led the Truck Series in race wins (five), stage wins (11), won the regular season championship, and now heads to Phoenix Raceway on Friday with hopes of winning his first NASCAR National Series title.

Nemechek’s chance to compete for the Truck Series championship Friday nearly got derailed last weekend at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. The Toyota Racing driver entered the final race in the Round of 8 36 points above the cutoff line for advancing and helped his cause by earning 17 stage points with finishes of third and second, respectively in the opening two stages. He hit pit road at the end of Stage Two, and then lined up 14th when the Final Stage went green due to differing pit strategies throughout the field. Marching back towards the front, Nemechek made his way to the inside of Austin Wayne Self and was nearly clear when Self turned left into the right side of Nemechek’s Toyota and sent him shooting up the track into the outside wall. With severe damage, Nemechek was unable to continue and relegated to a 39th-place finish. He would spend the remainder of the race watching the television broadcast from inside his hauler, seeing his name move in and out of the Championship 4 before ultimately making it in by four points.

The 24-year-old driver registered his fifth Truck Series win of 2021 June 26 at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa. The talented wheelman has posted victories at Las Vegas (Nev.) Motor Speedway in March, Richmond (Va.) Raceway in April, Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway in May and in June at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. In addition to leading the circuit in race wins (five) and stage wins (11), he leads the Truck Series in top fives (12), fastest laps run (287), driver rating (113.5) and average running position (7.545).

Nemechek is competing in the Camping World Truck Series playoffs for the third time in his career. He finished eighth in the championship standings for his family-owned team, NEMCO Motorsports, in 2016 and 2017. Nemechek is an 11-time winner in Camping World Truck Series action, winning at least one race each season from 2015 to 2018 for his family-owned team, NEMCO Motorsports, and returning to victory lane this year with KBM.

KBM will be shooting for its eighth owner’s Truck Series championship Friday. In addition to collecting a series-record seven Owner’s Championships (2010, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2019), the organization has produced two championship-winning drivers: Erik Jones (2015) and Christopher Bell (2017). Both of KBM’s driver championships came with the No. 4 team. The team’s most recent championship was the 2019 owner’s crown with the No. 51 team.

Eric Phillips returned to KBM to lead the No. 4 team this season. Phillips led the No. 18 team at KBM in its debut season in 2010 and helped build the organization into one of the premier teams in all of NASCAR before departing at the end of the 2014 season. Under his guidance, the No. 18 team won eight races in its inaugural campaign and became the first team in Truck Series history to capture an owner’s championship in its first season of competition. In 2014, the Illinois native led the No. 51 team to an owner’s championship and his team’s 10 wins spearheaded KBM to a single-season Truck Series record of 14 wins. His 41 career Truck Series victories make him the winningest crew chief in Truck Series history, with 32 of those coming while at KBM.

Across 10 starts At Phoenix, Phillip’s drivers have three wins, five top-five and six top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 10.5. In his last three Truck Series races at the one-mile track, he has won with three different drivers: Kyle Busch (2011), Brian Scott (2012) and Erik Jones (2014).

Pye-Barker Fire & Safety, an industry leader in commercial fire protection since 1946, will adorn the hood of Nemechek’s for the Championship 4 race at Phoenix. Pye-Barker recently acquired Nemechek’s long-time supporter Fire Alarm Services. Mobil 1, Fire Alarm Services, ROMCO, Berry’s Manufacturing, Safeway and Power Up Trail Mix have all served as primary sponsors of the No. 4 for at least one race in 2021.

John Hunter Nemechek, Driver Q&A:
You came to KBM to win, and you’ve won five races this year but was winning the championship the ultimate goal?

“Coming to KBM this year was coming back to win races. We were #Here4Wins, we used it when announced me coming back. I wanted to come here to be able to park it and victory lane and take checkered flags home. For me, it was proving to myself that I could still do this. When we use that hashtag, we’re not just using it to win races, we’re here to win practice, qualifying, stages, races, and championships. Luckily, we were able to lock up the regular season championship earlier this year, so now trying to go for the playoff championship. Hopefully, we’ll be the ones hosting that trophy over our head come Friday night.”

How rewarding has the move back to the Truck Series been not only for you, but for your long-time partners that came to KBM with you?

“It’s means a lot to me to be able to represent all of my long-term partners as well as Mobil 1, Toyota, TRD and KBM. It’s been definitely a road and journey that all my partners have been on with me through the ups and downs, through winning races to running mid-pack and now back in the spot to try and go for the first championship with all our partners. It’s been an exciting year. We’ll have a lot of our partners at Phoenix, hopefully to be able to celebrate when we get it done.”

Getting wrecked last week put you in a position where you almost didn’t get a chance to race for a championship this week. Did the feeling you had last week help motivate you more for this week?

“I definitely think that what happened last week it was definitely nerve wracking and stressful not knowing if we were going to make it or not make it. Very helpless feeling of not being able to pass cars and gain more points to make sure if we made it to the next round. I think if anything, we are ready to go. It’s definitely loaded the cannon, as Erick (Phillips, crew chief) said. We’re ready to go out there and show what we are made of. Just keep doing what we’ve been doing all year, don’t beat ourselves and hopefully we go and dominate.”

How do you feel about having practice and qualifying Friday compared to most of the season where you just showed up and raced?

“I don’t necessarily like it going into the final race since we’ve been pretty much all year with no practice and qualifying – just show up and race. It’s what the cards have dealt, so we have to go out there and show what we’re made of. Hopefully, we have a really good truck right off the trailer and don’t have to adjust on it too much — I definitely think that should be the case right here. Hopefully, we don’t chase the race track too much because I feel like it may change quite a bit during the day — especially with having practice and qualifying — us practicing in the morning, compared to racing later in the day. We definitely have some notes to fall back on I feel like and with myself running the 54 in the Xfinity Series I feel like that should help as well.”

Does it give you extra confidence that KBM placed all three trucks in the top five last year at Phoenix?

“It definitely gives me confidence knowing that KBM has been successful there, as well as Eric (Phillips, crew chief) and myself. Phoenix is one of my favorite race tracks to go to. I feel like every time that Eric has been there, he’s been super-fast, if not winning the race. KBM last year almost stealing a victory and having three trucks in the top five was a huge deal for the end of the year. I’m hoping that we can take everything from that race last year, all the notes and everything that I’ve learned and Eric and put it all into one. If we can do that and hit every right and not beat ourselves, I definitely think that we will be the one to beat.”

What would it mean to you to win a NASCAR National Series championship?

“It would mean a lot to me to win a NASCAR championship. As a kid this is the kind of stuff that you dream about. I’m not here just to be in the Cup Series, I’m not here just to be in the Xfinity Series, I want to be where I feel like I can win races and championships. I’m here to try and win as much as I can, set records and break them as well. All here, #Here4Wins”

John Hunter Nemechek Career Highlights:

Eleven-time winner in Camping World Truck Series action, winning at least one race each season from 2015 to 2018 for his family-owned team, NEMCO Motorsports. Across 123 career starts in NASCAR’s third division, has compiled two poles, 1,181 laps led, 40 top-five and 65 top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 12.6.

Qualified for the Camping World Truck Series playoffs in each of his two full-time seasons, finishing eighth in the championship standings in both 2016 and 2017.

Produced three top-10 finishes and an average result of 22.4 while competing for rookie of the year honors in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2020. He recorded a career-best eighth-place finish twice, both coming at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, earned the Sunoco Rookie of the Race award four times and finished 23rd in the championship standings.

Across 55 career XFINITY Series starts, has totaled two wins, one pole, 325 laps led, 14 top-five and 32 top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 11.8.

John Hunter Nemechek’s No. 4 Pye-Barker Tundra:

KBM-56: The No. 4 Pye-Barker Fire & Safety team will unload KBM-56 for the Championship 4 race at Phoenix Raceway. Nemechek piloted this Tundra twice this season, including at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa., where he was victorious. In its most recent outing, KBM-56 raced at Las Vegas, where it was out front for 33 laps but experienced some mechanical issues and was relegated to a 33rd-place finish.

KBM Notes of Interest:

KBM drivers have collected five wins, five poles, 914 laps led, 14 top-five and 22 top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 9.2 across 31 starts at Phoenix Raceway.

The organization’s five victories at the Arizona track have come with four different drivers. Kyle Busch won in 2011, Brian Scott in 2012, Erik Jones went back-to-back in 2013 and 2014 while Daniel Suarez claimed the top spot in 2016.

KBM holds the Camping World Truck Series records for most career wins (89) and most wins in a single season (14 in 2014). With his victory at Bristol Motor Speedway Chandler Smith became the 17th different driver to win a Truck Series event for KBM. In addition to collecting a series-record seven Owner’s Championships, the organization has produced two championship-winning drivers: Erik Jones (2015) and Christopher Bell (2017).

The No. 4 has 16 career victories at KBM and was the number for both of the organization’s driver championships.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

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