It looked an awful lot like the storied Superspeedway racing of the early 2000s in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Saturday (July 8).
When Austin Hill spun out while battling Parker Kligerman for fourth with three laps to go, it opened the door for an overtime restart. Several cars, including Smith, ran out of fuel after taking the green flag. Nemechek capitalized on the disarray and passed Haley for the lead and took the win.
“I got a huge push from the [No.] 11 there, so thanks to Daniel for giving me that huge push, but hats off to all of this [No.] 20 team. Early on in the race, if you had said we were going to win the race, I definitely would’ve told you that wasn’t going to be the case,” Nemechek told NBC Sports.
“Man, this is special … thank you to all the fans that came out tonight.”
The handling of Nemechek’s car was noticeably worse than those around him in the early stages of the event, but he overcame those odds at the very end.
Of course, in every sport, there is always an unhappy person who finishes second. Tonight, that was Hemric. Hemric inherited second place from his teammate Haley on the restart after the No. 16 Chevrolet ran out of fuel. Coming to the white flag, Haley opted not to push his teammate, which left Hemric in second and dropped Haley to fourth. All Hemric could do was stay behind Nemechek and watch him win his third race of the season. Hemric climbed out of his car, visibly frustrated, and he and Haley had a spirited conversation beside his car.
“I think we were all kind of struggling with fuel there, and obviously, with me running third the majority of the run, I was able to save more than Justin and the 16 were able to,” a dejected Hemric told NBC Sports.
“I was showing a super amount of frustration when I got out of the car. I felt like I backed up to [Haley] there and thought I was going to have the run down the front to at least give myself an opportunity to get the [No.] 20 back. He pulled out of line, I guess he said his car stumbled on fuel too.”
“We were just short on fuel. The [No.] 16 obviously was running second for the majority of that too and ran out. Hemric was pretty mad I didn’t push, but it started stumbling out of four, so I got down to try and give him the best chance,” Haley said.
The two of them appeared to have it worked out in the end though.
Hemric equaled his finish at Atlanta in March with a runner-up result. Cole Custer finished third, while Haley finished fourth despite leading a race-high 80 laps. Sam Mayer returned from a mid-race crash to round out the top five.
Riley Herbst won stage one, and Sheldon Creed won stage two, but both were involved in a huge crash in the final stage that took them and several other cars out of the race. The incident also took out Ryan Sieg, who had led laps earlier in the race. It all started when Herbst cut a tire on the backstretch and swerved out of control and into oncoming traffic.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series returns to New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Saturday July 15. Coverage begins at 3 p.m. ET on USA Network, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio, and MRN.
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