John Hunter Nemechek found himself in the right place at the right time on Saturday morning at Chicagoland Speedway, and as longtime race leaders were one-by-one forced to make last minute fuel stops in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series American Ethanol E15 225 it was the 18-year-old son of longtime NASCAR veteran Joe Nemechek who came from no where to end up fully 12 seconds ahead of the rest of the field, although even he ran out of gas in sight of the chequered flag.
It's Nemechek's first win in 23 outings in the series, and it makes him the fourth youngest winner in the history of the championship - only Cole Custer, Erik Jones and Chase Elliott were younger when they won.
CLICK: Full race results from Chicagoland Speedway.
Heavy rain just before the end of the first round of qualifying on Friday meant that the starting grid for the race had been set by the earlier practice session times, giving JR Motorsport's Kyle Larson pole ahead of a brace of ThorSport Racing drivers consisting of reigning champion Matt Crafton and his team mate Johnny Sauter, with Tyler Reddick in fourth for Brad Keselowski Racing. The race itself - originally scheduled to be held under the floodlights on Friday evening - was also perforce postponed until Saturday morning.
Larson maintained the lead through an early caution on lap 13 for Daniel Hemric's NTS Motorsports #14 blowing an engine and was still in front when the pre-scheduled competition caution was called on lap 30 which shook up the running order, Larson and Daniel Suarez (Kyle Busch Motorsports) both getting pit lane speeding penalty and Crafton also being sent to the back for his crew coming over the wall too soon. That allowed Sauter to take the lead from Reddick at the restart on lap 35, but it didn't take Larson too long to undo the damage and by lap 70 he was back in the top three again.
A mishap for Mason Mingus - who missed pit lane entry and was briefly launched into the air as he ran over the grass - brought out a new caution on lap 82. Crafton and Suarez both incurred further penalties in the ensuing round of pit stops, as did Suarez' team mate Erik Jones, and there was a black flag for Reddick who was leaking fuel on the track and needed some running repairs. Larson gave up the chance to lead at the restart on lap 95 in favour of a quick top-up on pit lane along with several others, bestowing the honours instead on Red Horse Racing's Timothy Peters ahead of KBM's Matt Tifft and GMS Racing's Spencer Gallagher, who soon fell away and were replaced by Sauter, Gallagher's team mate Brandon Jones, and by Larson working his way back to the front.
Neither Peters nor Sauter had the fuel to reach the finish and both had to pit in the last 20 laps. Suarez, Brandon Jones and Erik Jones all came up short too and had to dive onto pit road for a splash-and-dash, leaving Larson along at the front; but with no further cautions materialising even he was unable to make it all the way to the finish and he too ran dry with just three laps remaining. That left SWM-NEMCO Motorsports' John Hunter Nemechek as the last man standing on the same strategy, and even though the engine coughed and wheezed itself dry in the final seconds he was still able to ride his stroke of good fortune all the way to victory lane for his first win in the Truck Series. He crossed the line 12 seconds ahead of Reddick, Peters, Suarez, Sauter and Erik Jones, with Larson ending up a lap down in seventh ahead of Tifft and Gallagher with SS-Green Light Racing's Ray Black Jr. rounding out the top ten.
The result means that Reddick moves to within ten points of Erik Jones in the championship standings, while Crafton drops back to third place after he was unable to get back on the lead lap after his second penalty and who ended up classified in 16th place. The rest of the top six in the points are Sauter, Hemric and ThorSport Racing's Cameron Hayley who finished 14th on Saturday.
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will be back in action again next weekend for the UNOH 175 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Saturday, September 26 at 1pm local time.
Full race results, plus qualifying and practice speeds and updated Camping World Truck Series championship standings.
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