Moments after taking the white flag in Saturday‘s FR8 208 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Corey Heim powered to the inside of Kyle Busch Motorsports teammate Chandler Smith, got a push from teammate John Hunter Nemechek and held on to win his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race.
Heim‘s No. 51 Toyota crossed the finish line .173 seconds ahead of the Toyota of Ben Rhodes, as Ty Majeski came home third and Smith slipped to fourth. Daytona winner Zane Smith completed the top five on the repaved and reconfigured track.
“It‘s awesome—I was at the right place at the right time,” said Heim, a 19-year-old from Marietta, Georgia, who won in his fifth Truck Series start. “Toyota Racing just helps us so much to get here and I’m just so glad to be here.”
Heim is racing a partial schedule and is not competing for the series championship. Smith, the winner at Las Vegas two weeks ago, is running a full schedule for KBM, but that didn‘t seem to matter with one lap to go.
“Yeah, no, team orders there,” Heim said. “I think as long as one of the KBM trucks won, that’s all that matters. So, you know, the 18 (Smith) did awesome job defending for most of the race there and the 4 (Nemechek) stuck with me when it mattered the most.
“So I‘ve got to give all the credit to John Hunter Nemechek for helping me out there. It‘s just surreal. Awesome.”
Nemechek was a lap down but running with the lead pack at the finish. Smith would have preferred for Nemechek not to have influenced the outcome.
“It would have been nice to not have anybody in the middle of it—just lead-lap cars—but it is what it is,” Smith said. “I’m happy for them. Good for them. That’s their first win of the year. So it’s first one for Corey. That’s exciting. I remember how I was being able to win the first one. It was a really cool moment. So happy for him, that whole group…
“Just sucks that it had to end like that. I wish we could have just duked it out.”
Stewart Friesen was the wire-to-wire winner of Stage 1, which ran without caution despite Hailie Deegan‘s No. 1 Ford suffering a cut tire and a subsequent fire on pit road that caused the driver to be taken to the infield care center for evaluation.
Deegan was released shortly thereafter.
After working his way from the rear of the field—thanks to a pre-race penalty for unapproved adjustments to his No. 4 KBM Toyota—Nemechek took the green/checkered flag to win Stage 2, which was interrupted by a single yellow flag for debris on the frontstretch on Lap 50.
Friesen made a strategic play in pitting under that caution and regained the lead when the trucks ahead of him in the running order came to pit road during the second stage break.
A spate of cautions and consequent restarts scrambled the running order during the final stage, as Rhodes, Heim and Chandler Smith swapped the lead.
Nemechek slapped the outside wall after a restart on Lap 107 and fell one lap down after pitting under green.
— NASCAR Wire Service —