Race Weekend Central

Xfinity Breakdown: John Hunter Nemechek Puts On a Clinic at Martinsville

If the Call Before You Dig 250 at Martinsville Speedway (April 15) was Mortal Kombat, John Hunter Nemechek would’ve scored a ‘Flawless Victory’.

This was the race last year where the post-race scene on pit road looked a bit like the popular video game. Sam Mayer and Ty Gibbs had their memorable dust up that saw Mayer take a couple knuckle sandwiches to the face.

Sammy Smith finished second. Cole Custer, Josh Berry, and Brandon Jones rounded out the top five.

This year’s event was tamer than that, but there was no shortage of action on the track. We had plenty of raised tempers, a lot of wrecked race cars, and a victory celebration that required the safety team to bring in the fire extinguishers.

The Winners

Nemechek scored 60 of 60 possible points. He led a total of 198 of the 250 laps. The 25-year-old from Mooresville, N.C. got off to huge launches on a handful of restarts and made it all look easy. He emerges from Martinsville as the points leader.

Smith’s second-place finish was a good showing. The 18-year-old rookie held his own at the physical short track. At times he was bumped, and he did some bumping of his own. With stage finishes of second and fourth, he had a great points day, moving up from ninth to seventh.

How about a little cold custard for Custer? After getting his first top five at Richmond, he scored a third-place finish at Martinsville. Maybe all ol’ Cole needed was some short track action to find his groove. Custer struggled keeping pace with Nemechek and Smith on restarts but looked very competitive on the few long runs that occurred. He’s now eighth in the standings, up four spots from where he was two races ago.

Everyone was wondering, “What the heck is wrong with Brandon Jones in that 9 car?” Like Custer, Jones just needed some short track therapy. He didn’t lead any laps, where his predecessor Noah Gragson was always a factor. But he stayed out of trouble and put together a top-five run, something to build on for sure.

How About Derek Kraus? The Stratford, Wis. native ran in the top 10 for most of the night and brought it home in eighth. Kraus is at an interesting crossroads in his career. After three full-time NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series seasons, he is without a full-time ride in any NASCAR National Series. But he’s now gone two for two in putting the Kaulig Racing No. 10 car in the top 10 and is keeping his name out there.

Blaine Perkins gets the underdog mention this week. He had an average finish of 31st coming into this week. The Our Motorsports driver kept it clean and finished 13th.

The Losers

Mayer never really made his presence felt inside the top five. Late in the race he sustained contact from Ryan Truex. The contact sent him up into Riley Herbst. The resulting crash took them both out of contention for a lead-lap finish. Herbst and Mayer came home 30th and 31st, respectively.

Sheldon Creed was mired outside the top 10 all night after starting in the back for unapproved adjustments after qualifying third. He spun on the last lap and finished 27th, scoring no stage points and dropped from seventh to 10th in the standings.

Kaden Honeycutt suffered a blown engine on lap 83 and finished 38th. Coming off a surprisingly good run in the Truck Series race at the Bristol Motor Speedway dirt track, Honeycutt carried the momentum to Martinsville by getting the CHK Racing entry into the show. CHK Racing had failed to qualify for six of the first seven races.

Scheme of the Week

Rookie Parker Retzlaff was impressive in qualifying. He started the race Fourth. After starting up near the front he faded early, but kept himself in the top 15 throughout. The No. 31 has been looking good this season. The color scheme goes well together, and it has more detail than most schemes we see.

Fuel For Thought

After the win, Nemechek’s burnout celebration resulted in a fire that for a moment looked dangerous. Nemechek was still in the car while the flames were growing rapidly. Fortunately, the safety team was quick enough with putting the fire out. We’ve seen these burnout fires a few times now. Are the mud-flaps causing this? It was interesting to have the mud flaps at Martinsville, but they proved effective Friday night in the Truck Race.

The Trucks were able to run laps on a wet oval track, using the rain tires. The mud flaps are part of that package, as they help dissipate the “Rooster-Tails”. But the mud flaps seemed to play a role in the fire. Will NASCAR make a change to the mud flaps after this?

Creed and Mayer lost three spots in the points. Cole Custer, Daniel Hemric, and Sammy Smith all gained two. Nemechek jumped over Austin Hill for the points lead. Hill remains in second.

Where to Next?

From the shortest track to the longest. The circuit is heading to Talladega Superspeedway for the Ag-Pro 300. Gragson won this event last season. The green flag flies Saturday, April 22 at 4 p.m. ET and will air on FOX Sports 1 along with the Motor Racing Network.

About the author

Steve Leffew joined Frontstretch in 2023, and covers the Xfinity Series. He resides in Wisconsin and has been a NASCAR fan as long as he can remember. He has served honorably in the United States Air Force and works during the week as a Real Estate Lender.

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Am I the only who thinks the Xfinity series, with a car that has old tech similar to the old Cup Gen 6, consistently puts on a better race than the Cup Series?


You are not the only one. I was thinking the same thing.


The same car that won the race, won both stages and lead 198 of 250 laps (80 percent of the race). To me that doesn’t sound that much different then what we’ve been seeing in Cup?


If Martinsville was an audition for the 19 seat next season, then John Hunter had to have helped his chances. He was pretty much flawless, nailing every restart, & there were enough cautions to mostly keep him out of lapped traffic.


I’d be rather upset if my driver destroyed a car that dominated the entire race. I can’t stand these entitled raised to race children that have no respect for anything but their own selfish interests.

Bobby DK

Agree. Apply that mentality to other occupations. ” Great job leveling that road. Now go burn down the road grader.”

Bill B

I was just happy to watch an Xfinity race without any Cup invaders. When I watch an Xfin race I change the channel (or do something else) whenever there is a Cup driver in the lead. There is no scenario where I have any interest in watching a Cup guy dominate in the lower series. No matter who the driver.

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