John Hunter Nemechek restarted first on a green-white-checkered finish and held on to claim his second career win in Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Restarting second, John Wes Townley spun his tires coming to the green and blocked the rest of traffic as cars came up to speed. Nemechek held on from there.
After taking the checkers, Nemechek burned it down on the front stretch, as NASCAR Trucks showed:
Here is a look at the final results:
|NASCAR Truck Series at Atlanta 2016—Results|
|1||John Hunter Nemechek|
|2||John Hunter Nemechek|
|7||John Wes Townley|
|16||Austin Wayne Self|
|25||Tommy Joe Martins|
|29||Jennifer Jo Cobb|
Saturday’s Great Clips 200 was clean for most of the 120-lap affair until the final 18 laps, when twice the leader was involved in a wreck.
Just after a restart with 18 to go, Daniel Suarez and Matt Crafton collided when racing side by side for the lead coming out of Turn 2. Just behind the pair, Christopher Bell bumped Suarez as they hit the backstretch, which sent his teammate spinning into Crafton, who twisted around and slammed the outside wall.
Here is a look at the replay, courtesy of NASCAR Trucks:
“Ran out of talent,” Crafton said over his radio, though it’s unclear who the two-time Truck Series champion was referencing.
“I think it’s easy to explain—our teammate turned us around. I don’t know why,” Suarez said in an interview with Fox Sports 1.
Four-time Truck Series champ Ron Hornaday Jr. credited NASCAR and Atlanta Motor Speedway for the safer barrier addition on the racetrack:
On the next green-flag run, Bell slammed into the Turn 4 wall when blowing his right front tire at roughly 140 miles per hour while leading by one second with eight laps remaining. His tire likely cut because of the contact he made with Suarez.
Bell also had an issue on the same wheel earlier in the race but recovered nicely and seemed to be en route to his second career win.
The 21-year-old rookie was hospitalized last week following a violent last-lap wreck at Daytona in which his car barrel-rolled 10 times at the fastest point on the track. Here is a replay of the incident, courtesy of NASCAR Trucks:
Christopher Estrada of NBC Sports gave Bell kudos for rebounding in the span of a week before eventually cutting his tire and leaving the race:
Bell made his living in the lower lane Saturday, powering through the field and eventually catching Crafton for the lead between Turns 3 and 4 with 37 to go.
But he relinquished the lead when a yellow waved and the 20-minute caution clock—a new installation in the Truck Series this year—expired with 25 to go.
When pitting with the rest of the field, Bell overshot his pit box after the sun got in his eyes as it set over Turns 1 and 2. He lost only four spots, but his crew was upset—particularly because of how important track position is at Atlanta.
On the ensuing restart, Bell tangled with Suarez and Crafton.
William Byron might’ve challenged for the win if it weren’t for a blown engine he suffered while running in second place.
Matt Weaver of Autoweek Racing shared the exchange Byron and his crew had just after he blew up:
Here is a look at the updated Truck Series standings after Saturday's race:
|NASCAR Camping World Truck Series—Standings|
|1||Parker Kligerman||55 (Leader)|
|2||Daniel Hemric||54 (-1)|
|3||John Hunter Nemechek||52 (-3)|
|4||Timothy Peters||49 (-6)|
|5||Tyler Young||47 (-8)|
|6||Ryan Truex||45 (-10)|
|7||Brandon Brown||43 (-12)|
|8||Ben Rhodes||43 (-12)|
|9||Grant Enfinger||42 (-13)|
|10||Johnny Sauter||41 (-14)|
With the win, Nemechek qualified for the Chase for the Sprint Cup—NASCAR’s version of the playoffs. The Truck Series is off for all of March before resuming at Martinsville on April 2.
The lengthy hiatus isn’t common, and it’ll be interesting to see whether drivers have to shake off rust when they reach NASCAR’s shortest track after consecutive weeks at Daytona and Atlanta, two of the fastest on the circuit.