John Hunter Nemechek led a dominating 198 of 250 laps to win Saturday night’s Call811.com Before You Dig 250 – besting his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Sammy Smith by 1.518s to earn his second NASCAR Xfinity Series victory of the 2023 season and first win in his first series start at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
The 25-year-old Nemechek, of Mooresville, N.C., took the lead for good on a race restart with 32 laps remaining after winning the first two stages of the race. He, Smith and third place finisher Cole Custer were easily the class of the field all night running some version of 1-2-3 for most of the race.
Smith was able to nudge his way past Custer on the final lap for that runner-up showing.
As Nemechek took his No. 20 JGR Toyota to the front stretch to do a traditional burnout celebration, he literally set the track on fire briefly – perhaps a fitting finale to his hot night behind the wheel. Not only did he win the race, he won the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash incentive prize awarded by series sponsor Xfinity.
“I can’t say enough about this whole team. If you would have asked me yesterday if we would have won, I thought we were a 10th place car in practice,’’ said Nemechek, whose car was ironically sponsored by a fire extinguisher company (Pye Barker Fire & Safety). “Just grateful the guys made the right adjustments. Let’s celebrate.’’
While Nemechek’s car was so good on the night, there was still a lot of compelling wheel-to-wheel competition behind him. Fourth place finisher Josh Berry, for example, led the next highest number of laps (27) – his No. 8 JR Motorsport Chevrolet looking especially strong until a tire situation forced a long pit stop midway through the race. He rallied back through the field, however, to take his seventh-consecutive top-10 finish on the year tying the the longest stretch of his career.
Berry’s JR Motorsports teammate Brandon Jones finished fifth – his first top 10 of the season in the No. 9 JRM Chevrolet – followed by another teammate, Justin Allgaier, who was able to keep his No. 7 JRM Chevy in the lead group of cars despite not feeling well himself and finishing the race on much older tires than the rest of the lead group.
Nemechek – who swept both stage wins — Smith, Custer and Berry are now eligible for the next installment of the Xfinity Dash 4 Cash $100,000 award – next week at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. The top finishing driver from among that four gets the big check.
“Congrats to them; they were the best car all night,’’ Smith said.
"Just aggressive Martinsville racing, I suppose … I can't say anything bad about JGR drivers."- Sam Mayer https://t.co/3CCrpmt29F pic.twitter.com/VyQLjK5ZPF
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) April 16, 2023
Kaulig Racing teammates Daniel Hemric and Derek Kraus, AM Racing’s Brett Moffitt and Kaulig’s Chandler Smith rounded out the top 10.
Austin Hill – who leads all drivers with three wins this season — finished 16th and with Nemechek’s win the second-generation driver takes over the points lead by 21 points over Hill.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series moves from the shortest track in the sport to the largest track in the sport – Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway where it will race the Ag-Pro 300 (4 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).