LAS VEGAS – John Hunter Nemechek may not have come away with a trophy at the end of Saturday’s Boyd Gaming 300, but he was proud of the effort shown by his GMS Racing team at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Nemechek had a chance during the final restart of the race, lining up alongside eventual winner Kyle Busch in double overtime, but couldn’t stay with Busch’s No. 18 Toyota in turns three and four coming to the white flag.
Busch cleared Nemechek at that point and drove home to his 93rd career victory, while the 21-year-old Mooresville, N.C., native had to settle for second in just his third start with Maury Gallagher’s Las Vegas-based team.
While Nemechek was disappointed as a racer not to have gotten to the checkered flag first, he was quick to recognize that against a driver with the resume of Busch’s, a chance is sometimes all you can ask for.
“Man, I was hoping Austin Dillon was going to get back to me and give me a little bit of a push there,” said Nemechek. “The 1 (Michael Annett) got to his right-rear quarter (panel), while the 18 (Busch) and I were side-by-side, stalling out … and the guys behind us just got a huge run. The 1 car gave Kyle a huge push into (turn) three and after that, I couldn’t do much more.
“We gave him a run for his money and matched his restart, though,” Nemechek added. “I’m proud of that. I’ve just been beat by Kyle too many times through the late model days, and now into the Xfinity Series as well. Hopefully, we can build momentum off of this and continue it into the next few races.”
Nemechek was carrying the colors of Allegiant Air on Saturday in a home race for the organization, giving the team a much-needed jump after some struggles on the Truck Series side to start the year.
“From where we started in practice, if you had told me we would have finished second … I would have probably called you crazy,” admitted Nemechek. “This is great for us, though. I have to give a huge shoutout to the whole GMS organization for all the work they’ve put in to make these cars fast … but more or less for not giving up. We worked from the time that we unloaded to the time the race ended.
“This is a positive for us and we just have to move forward and keep this run going now.”
Nemechek climbed from 11th to sixth in the series standings after his result on Saturday. He leaves Las Vegas 32 points back of championship leader Christopher Bell, who was collected in a late-race accident.
Not only was Saturday’s finish the best result for Nemechek since his lone Xfinity Series win at Kansas Speedway last fall with Chip Ganassi Racing, it was also GMS Racing’s top result in the division since A.J. Allmendinger’s runner-up finish at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) Int’l in August of last season.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series returns to action on March 9 at ISM Raceway in Avondale, Ariz.