LOUDON, N. H. – An overtime restart, the white flag in the air, and racecars that have been struggling for handling in the corners…what could possibly go wrong?
John Hunter Nemechek had the best car for most of the day at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Saturday (July 15), especially after Justin Allgaier was caught up in a multi-car crash on a late restart. Allgaier had been able to handle Nemechek early but was not a factor as the race wound down after an early pit road penalty and on-track incident.
But as the Ambetter 200 got closer to the finish, the intensity ramped up, and a pair of late cautions changed the complexion of the event completely.
A Parker Retzlaff incident with 10 laps to go tightened up the field, setting up a dash to the finish. That didn’t happen, however, because before the field could take the white flag, the caution flew again for a multi-car incident involving Sam Mayer, Austin Dillon, Joe Graf Jr. and Connor Mosack meant overtime, and, for Nemechek, another nail-biting restart.
The final restart saw Nemechek hold his lead over Chandler Smith. He held point through turns 1 and 2, down the backstretch, back through 3 and 4 to take the white flag. That meant that should there be another incident, the race was over.
And there was another incident—and this one had major playoff implications for two drivers.
Cole Custer, who’d had a good car all day if not one that could contend with Nemechek’s, got loose coming off the corner, and with the field bunched up from the restart, collected Sheldon Creed and Riley Herbst.
Custer is already locked into the championship hunt, but Creed and Herbst are not guaranteed a spot. Entering the day, Creed sat 10th in points and Herbst 11th. The Xfinity playoff field is 12, so they’re in danger if a driver outside the top 12 wins, or if they lose points to the drivers behind them.
Custer said afterward that his car got loose racing with Creed.
“Yeah, I just felt like he tried to clear himself on me and didn’t have me cleared and then I got shoved up at half lane out of the groove,” Custer said. “I’m just trying to miss the wall and got loose on exit and then I came down to him and now we’re all wrecking so (it) sucks. We had a really fast car.”
Creed said that Custer slowed in the middle of the turn.
“He was real slow through the center of both ends and it let me just sneak bottom and he did it again into three, so I just throttled up,” Creed explained. “I was like, all right, I’m going to take the position, which he did a good job hanging outside of me off of four and I just watched the replay; I give him room, he’s loose and hits the wall. So of all people is not the person that, that I see doing that. I don’t, I don’t know if he turned left…I don’t think he’ll admit it if he did, but it’s just shitty. I mean, (we were) having a good day, we’re in a point situation now.”
Creed remains 10th in points, 61 ahead of the cut line. Herbst leaves 11th, 34 points ahead of 13th-place Jeb Burton.
All three drivers were evaluated and released from the infield car center, as were the drivers involved in previous incidents.
About the author
Amy is an 20-year veteran NASCAR writer and a six-time National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) writing award winner, including first place awards for both columns and race coverage. As well as serving as Photo Editor, Amy writes The Big 6 (Mondays) after every NASCAR Cup Series race. She can also be found working on her bi-weekly columns Holding A Pretty Wheel (Tuesdays) and Only Yesterday (Wednesdays). A New Hampshire native whose heart is in North Carolina, Amy’s work credits have extended everywhere from driver Kenny Wallace’s website to Athlon Sports. She can also be heard weekly as a panelist on the Hard Left Turn podcast that can be found on AccessWDUN.com's Around the Track page.
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