John Hunter Nemechek overcame a pit road miscue and rallied back to win Friday night’s NASCAR Truck Series race at Darlington.
Nemechek, who won the pole earlier in the day, clearly had one of the fastest trucks but he was forced to pit a second time under caution early in Stage 2 for a loose wheel.
By the end of the stage he had worked his back up front but then made contact with Christian Eckes on pit during the caution prior to Stage 3.
Nemechek passed both Eckes and Grant Enfinger and grabbed the lead for the final time on Lap 123 and held off Carson Hocevar in a two-lap overtime to secure his first victory of the 2022 season.
The win is the 12th of his career and sixth since joining Kyle Busch Motorsports at the start of the 2021 season.
“Huge shout out to all the guys that work on this No. 4 Toyota, just everyone that puts their heart and soul into it,” Nemechek said. “It’s huge. I thought we gave it away early, honestly, but we were able to battle back.
“It’s cool. I learned a lot tonight and was finally able to bring home the first win of the year. It’s been a little bit coming after the start of the year. Thankful for the opportunity from Kyle (Busch) and TRD for putting me in this.”
Enfinger ended up third, Ty Majeski – who escaped a late-race penalty for driving over the choose box because NASCAR missed the call – was fourth and Matt Crafton rounded out the top-five.
Completing the top-10 were Parker Kligerman, Ryan Preece, Zane Smith, Tyler Ankrum and Todd Bodine.
Following the break between Stages 2 and 3, all the lead-lap trucks pit with Ross Chastain the first off pit road. Eckes and Nemechek made contact on pit road during the stops with Eckes forced to pit again to repair the damage.
The race resumed on Lap 97 with Chastain followed by Nemechek and Enfinger.
Tanner Gray cut a tire and got loose and on Lap 98 which triggered a multi-truck accident that also collected Chase Purdy, Austin Wayne Self, Kris Wright and Hailie Deegan.
Chastain remained the leader when the race resumed on Lap 106. He was followed by Nemechek, Enfinger and Crafton.
Nemechek got around Chastain on Lap 107 to return to the lead.
Corey Heim wrecked in Turn 1 on Lap 117 following contact with Kligerman. All lead-lap trucks decided to pit under the caution with Eckes first off pit road thanks to a two-tire pit stop.
On the restart on Lap 122, Eckes was followed by Enfinger, Nemechek, Kligerman and Hocevar.
Enfinger and Eckes traded the lead after the restart only to see Nemechek reclaim the lead on Lap 123.
Blaine Perkins and Fogleman wrecked on the frontstretch on Lap 125 to bring out the ninth caution of the race. When the race resumed on Lap 134, Nemechek was followed by Hocevar, Eckes and Enfinger.
Ben Rhodes had a tire go down and wrecked in Turn 2 on Lap 142 to bring out the 10th caution of the race, which also sent the race into overtime.
To start overtime, Nemechek led the way followed by Hocevar, Chastain, Kligerman and Enfinger.
Hocevar passed Chastain with four laps remaining and held on for the Stage 2 win.
Kligerman ended up third, Enfinger fourth and Nemechek had worked his way back up to fifth.
Following the break between Stages 1 and 2, all the lead-lap trucks elected to pit with Chastain the first off pit road.
When the race resumed on Lap 55, Chastain was followed by Hocevar, Kligerman and Enfinger.
Todd Bodine spun on the backstretch trying to avoid an incident on Lap 58 which brought out the fourth caution of the race. Nemechek was forced to pit under the caution for a loose wheel.
Chastain continued to lead the way when the race returned to green on Lap 63.
Tate Fogleman spun off Turn 4 on Lap 74 to bring out another caution. Many lead-lap trucks pit but Bodine elected to stay out and inherited the lead. Chastain was the first off pit road.
On the restart on Lap 79, Bodine was led the way. Chastain lined up fourth.
Chastain quickly powered back to the lead after the restart on his new tires.
Kligerman, who restarted 14th following the last caution, held off a fast-approaching Chastain to take the Stage 1 win.
Enfinger was third, Hocevar fourth and Nemechek ended up fifth.
Nemechek started on the pole and took command early but the race was placed under caution on Lap 8 when Akinori Ogata and Josh Reaume wrecked in Turn 2. The race returned to green on Lap 13 with Nemechek still out front.
Zane Smith quickly powered past Nemechek on the restart to grab the lead.
On Lap 20, Lawless Allan spun off Turn 4 to bring out the second caution of the race. Most drivers pit under the caution but Nemechek remained on the race and returned to the lead.
On the restart on Lap 25, Nemechek was followed by Matt DiBenedetto, Heim and Chandler Smith.
With 10 laps remaining in the stage, Nemechek held a small lead over Heim as Chandler Smith ran third and Enfinger fourth.
With seven laps to go, Kligerman moved around both Smith and Heim to take over second place.
Kligerman went to the inside of Nemechek on Lap 40 to take the lead for the first time in the race.