NASCAR Truck Series

John Hunter Nemechek holds off boss Kyle Busch for Bucked Up 200 win

6 Mins read
Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

It only took three races for John Hunter Nemechek to win in his first season back in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Faced with a late challenge from Kyle Busch, Nemechek held off his boss to win Friday night’s Bucked Up 200 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, his first Truck victory since 2018.

Ben Rhodes, winner of the first two races, started on the pole ahead of Sheldon Creed while Kris Wright went to the rear for unapproved adjustments. Much of the pre-race discussion revolved around title sponsor Camping World appearing on a quarter of the field’s trucks: as part of what was nicknamed the “Camping World Challenge“, company CEO Marcus Lemonis provided sponsorship to ten drivers who lacked funding entering the week, including Creed.

Stages #1 and 2

Creed took the lead after a lap, while fellow Camping World truck Cory Roper brought out the first caution with a turn four spin in lap three. From the back, Busch—the winningest driver in Truck Series history—reached the top twenty during the stretch after starting twenty-ninth. Nemechek became the leader a lap after the restart and would lead to the green-checkered flag for his third consecutive race with a stage win. During the segment, Busch entered the top five by lap fourteen while Carson Hocevar and Derek Kraus fell off the pace and pitted, the latter doing so because his truck had lost power. Creed, Matt Crafton, Busch, Stewart Friesen, Christian Eckes, David Gilliland, Rhodes, Chandler Smith, and Grant Enfinger received stage points with their top-ten finishes.

Nemechek continued to lead Creed as Stage #2 began. On lap 44, Creed fell back when a plug wire in his truck came loose. Trouble also struck GMS Racing team-mate Zane Smith as a tyre went down and forced him to pit; a speeding penalty would add insult to injury for the sophomore driver. Busch passed employee Nemechek for the lead on lap 48 and drove off to the stage victory. Toyota trucks dominated the top six as Nemechek, Friesen, Crafton, Rhodes, and Austin Hill followed; Enfinger, Gilliland, Eckes, and Tyler Ankrum rounded out the top ten.

Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

Stage #3

Between stages, Creed pitted before the leaders to address the loose plug wire. A strong stop by Friesen placed him in the lead to start the final stage ahead of Nemechek. Creed was subsequently penalised for pitting too soon while C. Smith received an uncontrolled tyre infraction, though the former’s team was able to fix the wire.

The final stage commenced on lap 68 and a push from Busch sent Nemechek to the lead. After a lap, Conor Daly got loose in turn one and slammed into the outside wall, igniting his truck; Creed hit the wall while dodging Daly, necessitating another trip to pit road, while Tyler Hill spun through the apron. Daly, an IndyCar Series veteran doing a one-off Truck start at Vegas for the second straight year, walked away unscathed. The crash marked the third consecutive race that Niece Motorsports‘ #44 failed to finish, with James Buescher being collected in a first-lap wreck in the season opener on the Daytona oval and Jett Noland getting involved in two incidents a week later on the road course.

Like the previous green flag, Busch pushed Nemechek to the front as the race resumed on lap 76. Two laps later, the pair’s Kyle Busch Motorsports team-mate Smith spun in turn two and his rear tagged the wall. The next restart came on lap 84 as Nemechek continued to lead. Another KBM misfortunate took place when Busch’s left-rear tyre went down on lap 89 and he spun on the backstretch apron to produce a yellow flag.

Timothy Peters changed two tyres to be the first off pit road while Tanner Gray was the first of the four-tyre stops. Brett Moffitt stayed out to become the leader, and held the position at the lap 96 green flag. Yet another caution came out when Raphaël Lessard was clipped by Gilliland as he tried to clear him in turn one, sending the two up the banking and collecting Ryan Truex, Hailie Deegan, Bret Holmes, and Creed.

A. Hill, Moffitt, and Nemechek quickly scrambled into a three-wide battle for the lead as the race restarted on lap 104, a battle that Nemechek won out. Busch returned to the top ten on lap 112. Two laps later, T. Hill spun down the tri-oval and clipped Roper, sending the latter into the outside wall, to bring out the caution. Nemechek and A. Hill comprised the front row for another with 13 laps to go.

Nemechek cleared Hill while Busch gained five positions in a lap to catch the two. Another caution occurred shortly after when Ankrum and Jordan Anderson crashed on the backstretch while they went four-wide with Chase Purdy and Parker Kligerman. Amusingly, three of the four drivers involved (Ankrum the exception) were in Camping World trucks.

“Look man. If you’re looking to sponsor a truck that can wreck, I’m available at Bristol,” Busch’s Cup Series team-mate Denny Hamlin tweeted at Lemonis before following, “I had a sponsor my rookie year in Xfinity that said ‘if you don’t win, wreck’. Apparently @marcuslemonis had this talk with all his drivers tonight.”

What would be the final restart came with six laps left. Busch again pushed Nemechek ahead. Facing pressure from his boss, Nemechek weaved along the track in an effort to disrupt Busch’s drafting attempts and successfully kept him at bay until the checkered flag for his first win of the season and seventh of his career.

It is a strong start to Nemechek’s Truck return, who now has three top tens and the points lead in his first full-time season in the series since 2017 and fresh off his lone Cup campaign in 2020.

Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

“Coming back to the Truck Series, [winning races] was the plan, that was the goal,” Nemechek told FS1. “We came into this year with the hashtag #Here4Wins and we’re here for wins. I definitely think experience paid off tonight. We did an amazing job. […]

“[Busch] was faster than me there in Stage #2, so I really didn’t know. It was all about using our truck to the best that we could possibly do, wrapping the bottom, taking the dirty air away. He had to run up and it created more lap time for him. Overall, it’s an awesome victory.”

Busch finished second, followed by Hill, Friesen, and Crafton to complete a Toyota lockout of the top five.

“It’s perfect. It’s all you can ask for. It’s everything,” Busch began in his post-race interview. “It’s cool to see the #4 truck in Victory Lane, it’s cool to see John Hunter have a shot and get back in Victory Lane. […] That #4 truck was fast. Even on the short runs, I couldn’t run with him but after about eight or ten (laps), I felt like I had a better shot at running with him but we just didn’t have the laps there at the end and my stuff was burned up by the time I got there. We’re fortunate enough to finish second, but you always want to win.

“[…] It’s pretty cool to come home 1–2. We’ve had a few of those in our history. We need to get some 1–2–3s I guess, so we’ll get on the other boy (Smith).

“Maybe [Nemechek] will win eight or ten races and he’ll get back upstairs (to the Cup Series), so who knows what’ll happen? It’s just cool to have a guy that is motivated and has the leadership. I mean, all the kids are motivated, they all want to run good, they all want to win. John Hunter’s been there, done that. He’s won Xfinity and he’s run Cup and he’s won with his own team with his dad in the Truck Series, so it’s cool to just have somebody that can showcase our trucks, our speed up front each and every week. Shoot, their worst finish so far this year is a sixth or seventh or something, so I’m excited about John Hunter for this year.”

Kligerman ended his night in eighth to be the highest finisher of the ten Camping World drivers. Enfinger, doing a one-off for CR7 Motorsports, finished behind him by one spot. Under the terms laid out by Lemonis for sponsorship, Camping World would pay a base $15,000 for all ten drivers that increased to $25,000 for a top ten; had any of them finished in the top five or won, they would have respectively received $35,000 and $50,000. The other Camping World trucks finished as follows: Creed (eighteenth), Dawson Cram (twenty-first), B.J. McLeod (twenty-sixth), Anderson (twenty-seventh), Lessard (thirtieth), Jesse Iwuji (thirty-first), Norm Benning (thirty-third), and T. Hill (thirty-fifth).

“I am so proud of all the @NASCAR_Trucks,” Lemonis tweeted after the race. “I will teach you the business side of racing… you keep showing us what determination looks like…”

Race results

134John Hunter NemechekKyle Busch MotorsportsToyota134Running
22951Kyle Busch*Kyle Busch MotorsportsToyota134Running
33116Austin HillHattori Racing EnterprisesToyota134Running
4952Stewart FriesenHalmar Friesen RacingToyota134Running
5488Matt CraftonThorSport RacingToyota134Running
63221Zane SmithGMS RacingChevrolet134Running
7189Grant EnfingerCR7 MotorsportsChevrolet134Running
84075Parker KligermanHenderson MotorsportsChevrolet134Running
9598Christian EckesThorSport RacingToyota134Running
10199Ben RhodesThorSport RacingToyota134Running
111745Brett MoffittNiece MotorsportsChevrolet134Running
122215Tanner GrayDavid Gilliland RacingFord134Running
13638Todd GillilandFront Row MotorsportsFord134Running
141222Austin Wayne SelfAM RacingChevrolet134Running
151113Johnny SauterThorSport RacingToyota134Running
161925Timothy PetersRackley WARChevrolet134Running
172630Danny BohnOn Point MotorsportsToyota134Running
1822Sheldon CreedGMS RacingChevrolet134Running
19718Chandler SmithKyle Busch MotorsportsToyota134Running
202012Tate FoglemanYoung’s MotorsportsChevrolet134Running
212341Dawson CramCram Racing EnterprisesChevrolet134Running
223320Spencer BoydYoung’s MotorsportsChevrolet134Running
232123Chase PurdyGMS RacingChevrolet134Running
241042Carson HocevarNiece MotorsportsChevrolet133Running
251502Kris WrightYoung’s MotorsportsChevrolet132Running
263934B.J. McLeod*Reaume Brothers RacingToyota132Running
27283Jordan Anderson*Jordan Anderson RacingChevrolet132Running
28301Hailie DeeganDavid Gilliland RacingFord130Running
293410Jennifer Jo CobbJennifer Jo Cobb RacingChevrolet130Running
301324Raphaël LessardGMS RacingChevrolet130Running
313733Jesse IwujiReaume Brothers RacingChevrolet129Running
32819Derek KrausMcAnally-Hilgemann RacingToyota126Running
33356Norm BenningNorm Benning RacingChevrolet123Running
341626Tyler AnkrumGMS RacingChevrolet122Accident
352556Tyler HillHill MotorsportsChevrolet112Accident
362704Cory RoperRoper RacingFord111Accident
373832Bret HolmesBret Holmes RacingChevrolet106DVP
382440Ryan TruexNiece MotorsportsChevrolet103DVP
391417David GillilandDavid Gilliland RacingFord96Accident
403644Conor DalyNiece MotorsportsChevrolet68Accident
Italics – Competing for Rookie of the Year
* – Ineligible for Truck points
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About author
Justin is neither a NASCAR nor off-road racer, but he has covered them for The Checkered Flag since 2018.
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