Overcoming an early wreck, a late caution and an angry teammate, John Hunter Nemechek claimed a milestone victory in Saturday‘s Cabo Wabo 250 at Michigan International Speedway.
The NASCAR Xfinity win was the 200th in the series for Joe Gibbs Racing. For Nemechek, it was the fifth victory of the season and the seventh of his career—all at different tracks.
After Patrick Emerling pounded the Turn 3 wall to cause the seventh and final caution of the race on Lap 112, Nemechek pulled away from pole winner Josh Berry after a restart with seven of the scheduled 125 laps left.
Nemechek crossed the finish line 1.495 seconds ahead of Berry, with Brandon Jones, defending race winner Ty Gibbs and Sam Mayer finishing third, fourth and fifth, respectively.
After he took the checkered flag, however, Nemechek tempered his victory celebration with contrition for a Lap 11 incident where he, Gibbs and fellow JGR teammate Sammy Smith stacked up on the backstretch.
Nemechek slid up behind Gibbs and got Gibbs‘ No. 19 Toyota loose. A tap from Nemechek sent his teammate spinning. When Nemechek checked up, Smith rear-ended the No. 20 Toyota and turned Nemechek down toward the apron.
As the cars circled under the ensuing caution, Gibbs pulled up beside Nemechek and expressed his displeasure with an angry gesture.
The wreck knocked Smith‘s car out of the race and also critically damaged the No. 77 Chevrolet of Carson Hocevar, who finished two laps down in 32nd.
“I have to apologize to Ty,” Nemechek said after exiting his car. “I‘ve been the one who‘s been very vocal about teammates here recently. I put him in a bad aero spot. I got him loose, and he couldn‘t check up.
“It‘s my mistake. I hate that we both spun early, but at least we were able to rebound. I know he‘s not too happy with me, and he has every right not to be.”
Berry‘s No. 8 JR Motorsports Chevrolet wasn‘t handling well enough to allow the polesitter to take advantage of the final restart.
“We just felt really tight that last run,” Berry said. “I was kind of inching in on him for a while (before the last caution), and then we kind of leveled out… Overall, we were a little too tight to make a run at him there.”
Berry‘s teammate, Justin Allgaier, had ample reason to be the race‘s most disappointed driver. Allgaier won the first 30-lap stage wire-to-wire, but a slow pit stop during the break cost him eight positions in the running order.
After Allgaier worked his way to second by the end of Stage 2, a pit road penalty for a crewman over the wall too soon during a green flag stop on Lap 97 sent him deep in the field. Allgaier finished 14th in arguably the fastest car in the race.
With the victory, Nemechek gained a tie with Austin Hill for the series lead. Nemechek owns the potential tiebreaker with five victories to Hill‘s four.
Riley Herbst, Ross Chastain, Parker Kligerman, Parker Retzlaff and Jeb Burton completed the top 10.
— NASCAR Wire Service —
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