John Hunter Nemechek paces practice on 23XI debut

Lesley Ann Miller

John Hunter Nemechek paces practice on 23XI debut


John Hunter Nemechek paces practice on 23XI debut


John Hunter Nemechek is off to a good start in his return to the NASCAR Cup Series, going fastest in Saturday morning’s practice at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Replacing the suspended Bubba Wallace, Nemechek took the No. 45 Toyota to the top of the charts at 167.188 mph (32.299 seconds). He laid down the fast lap as one of the drivers in the first group on track for practice, and it was quick enough to hold on for the fastest speed overall.

“I feel pretty good,” Nemechek said. “The guys from 23XI have brought a really good Columbia Toyota Camry to the racetrack this weekend. So, definitely awesome to be fastest in Group A. Hopefully, it’ll transfer over into qualifying and the race.

“But just proud of Bootie and everyone here at 23XI. Grateful for the opportunity from 23XI – MJ [Michael Jordan], Denny [Hamlin], Steve [Lauletta], and Wheels [Mike Wheeler] for calling me up and letting me come back to race on Sunday this week.”

Chase Elliott was the fastest playoff driver in the lone practice session, second on the chart with a fastest lap of 166.971 mph.

Tyler Reddick was third quickest at 166.935 mph, with Christopher Bell fourth at 166.924 mph, and Corey LaJoie fifth at 166.862 mph.

Ross Chastain was sixth fastest at 166.785 mph, ahead of AJ Allmendinger (166.338 mph) and Chase Briscoe (166.220 mph). Justin Haley was ninth fastest at 166.154 mph, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. completed the top 10 at 166.144 mph.

Other playoff drivers in practice clocked at 12th fastest for William Byron (165.975 mph), 21st fastest for Ryan Blaney (165.208 mph), 24th fastest for Denny Hamlin (164.976 mph), and 26th fastest for Joey Logano (164.961 mph).

Ross Chastain was fastest of the 36 drivers in the best 10 consecutive lap average over AJ Allmendinger, Justin Haley, William Byron and John Hunter Nemechek.

Byron won the race at Homestead-Miami last year, while Logano won the opening race of the round last weekend in Las Vegas to clinch a spot in the title fight.