John Hunter Nemechek Sizzles in Nashville (2024)

John Hunter Nemechek Sizzles in Nashville (1)

(Photo: Nigel Kinrade Photography)

One thing racecar drivers do is battle the elements, whether it’s wind, rain or heat. At Nashville Superspeedway Saturday (June 29), the NASCAR Xfinity Series teams dealt with the latter as temperatures rose to the 90s.

At one point in AJ Allmendinger‘s car, it was 129 degrees. At least two driver’s cool suits stopped working, and several cars had voltage issues, likely due to the heat. Many racers had to sit down by their cars and rest with cooling towels after the race.

But there was one who sizzled on the racetrack, leading a race-high 76 laps: John Hunter Nemechek. He took the lead from Cole Custer to win stage two, and after a later restart with about 46 laps to go, Nemechek grabbed the position again and set sail to victory.

Chandler Smith took home second, Jesse Love was third, Austin Hill finished fourth and Noah Gragson rounded out the top five.

See alsoJohn Hunter Nemechek Wins 2nd Xfinity Race of 2024 at Hot Nashville

Winners

Joe Gibbs Racing claimed the top two spots at Nashville and likely would’ve had all four of its drivers in the top 10 or 15 if the other two didn’t have bad luck. But the No. 20 car has now won back-to-back races, with Christopher Bell taking home the checkered flag at New Hampshire Motor Speedway last weekend. The No. 20 team moved up to third in the owner’s points standings behind Stewart-Haas Racing’s No. 00 and JGR’s No. 81.

Nemechek, meanwhile, earned his second win of the year in a race that saw just five lead changes among three drivers. His JGR teammate Smith is starting to string together good finishes, too, has he earned his third top 10 in the last four races. Even more notably, though, is that he took his seventh top five of the season and first since Martinsville Speedway.

Two Chevrolet teammates of Richard Childress Racing, Love and Hill, also had good finishes. Love, to me, was the most impressive of the top five, as he started from the back after not posting a qualifying lap due to a hole in the radiator. At only 19 years old, Love has shown tremendous capabilities in his rookie season. He also displayed resilience throughout the race, as he had a vibration that set him further back in the field and a cool shirt that didn’t work.

Though it was just his second top 10 in the past seven races, if Love can continue to put out runs like he did Saturday, he’ll be one to watch these next few months.

Gragson had a great run in the No. 30 for Rette Jones Racing, but the one I’d like to highlight next finished right behind Gragson. Riley Herbst was sixth by the end of the race, overcoming radio issues and debris early on, as well as a broken cool suit. He couldn’t drain the water out of the suit so he came down pit road to try to get it clear after stage two ended, which the No. 98 team did.

Lastly, there were a couple of drivers who earned top 15s: Carson Kvapil and Shane van Gisbergen. Kvapil, who made his fifth Xfinity start on Saturday, began the race in 30th place and gained 18 positions to finish 12th. Similarly, van Gisbergen started 28th and came home 15th, not an easy task in a race that saw just three cautions.

Losers

The two Gibbs drivers who had bad luck were Ty Gibbs and Sheldon Creed. Gibbs saw his day turn sour after he spun due to contact from Justin Allgaier around lap 137. The No. 19 rear-ended the wall and had to get repairs done. Though Gibbs was able to continue, a 20th wasn’t where he wanted to finish, especially after he led the first 48 laps.

Creed wasn’t as strong as Gibbs, but he still made his way into the top 10 with about 42 to go. However, he started to fall back into the mid teens shortly thereafter, and it was revealed that the No. 18 had a voltage issue. Creed eventually came down pit road with about 15 laps left so his team could switch out the battery, relegating him to a 33rd-place finish.

Allgaier had a similar issue, but the team changed it earlier in the race, so he was able to get a top 10. Sometimes parts just overheat and break down at inopportune times, and that’s what happened to Creed.

The result broke a three-race top five streak for the California native and was his fifth finish of 26th or worse. The good thing is that Creed already matched his number of top fives from last season in just 17 races. If he keeps trekking and pushing through the adversity, he’ll find success.

One other competitor who underperformed was Sammy Smith. At about lap 101, Smith had to make an unscheduled stop for a loose right rear wheel, which set him a lap down. He struggled with his car most of the day and was unable to get his lap back, crossing the line in 30th. He’s now had five results in the 30s and doesn’t seem to be much closer to earning his first win of the season. But anything can happen in racing, and with some races having close finishes, Smith could find victory lane at any time.

Playoff Pit

Custer remains the points leader over Chandler Smith. Since no new full-time driver earned a win this week, there’s still six drivers locked in the playoffs with wins.

In eighth in the playoffs standings is Herbst, who is 103 points to the good over the cut line. Allmendinger is 80 above, and Creed is 77 points over. Parker Kligerman maintains 11th with 46 points above the elimination line.

Here’s where things start to get a bit interesting. Just above the cut line is Sammy Smith, whose lead over Ryan Sieg is now reduced to 11. That’s definitely doable for Sieg to get, especially since he already almost won at Texas Motor Speedway. The battle for the last playoff spot will be one to watch these next few weeks.

Paint Scheme of the Week

There were some nice designs this week, but Jeremy Clements‘ No. 51 stood out with its country-themed scheme. Featuring a yellow guitar, a cowboy boot wearing a yellow hat and a small patriotic design on the side, this car had the right tune for Nashville.

About that time for some @NASCAR_Xfinity racing @NashvilleSuperS! Tune in now to catch @JClements51 take the green flag in the #AllSouth #OneStop @elbandidoyankee @Spartanburg1400 #SherfickCompanies @TeamChevy

Starts P16
Pit Stall 20
Stages 45 / 90 / 188@USANetwork pic.twitter.com/VgXueamNPZ

— JeremyClementsRacing (@JCR_Clements51) June 29, 2024

All South Electric and One Stop sponsored the effort in which Clements came home with a 22nd-place finish.

Fuel for Thought

“Hot in Herre” by Nelly comes to mind when thinking about this Xfinity race. Over 100 degrees inside the cars with drivers wearing firesuits and helmets, that’s definitely not something I could go through. I can barely handle 102 degrees where I’m at.

To help keep drivers somewhat comfortable, many of them wear cool shirts that have water going through them. Unfortunately, sometimes they stop working, like it was with Herbst and Love.

So what can be done about the high temperatures at Nashville for drivers, crew members and fans?

Well, not a whole lot, except that the race could be run at night. I know the Olympic trials were on, but they weren’t on USA Network Saturday night.

Perhaps a new date is necessary for the 1.33-mile racetrack. A move to the spring or fall might help alleviate some of the issues dealing with the warm weather. Plus, why not try it as a playoff event? It could be good for NASCAR, as it would be a different track than what drivers are used to running in the postseason.

The facility itself does need to consider allowing coolers into the venue for the future, as currently it only allows unopened or empty water bottles and insulated cups. It does have misting fans and tents, as well as hydration systems and water stations at the track. Plus, the first 15,000 fans on Sunday get a cooling towel.

With the Xfinity races going to CW next season, NASCAR should consider changing to a different date or time to see how the ratings would do and to help avoid these heat-related issues.

Where to Next

Xfinity drivers head to the Windy City of Chicago for some street course racing. Custer won last year’s inaugural event after persistent rain cut the race to just 25 laps.

The Loop 110 at he Chicago street course is set to air July 6 at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC.

About the author

Joy Tomlinson

Joy joined Frontstretch in 2019 as a NASCAR DraftKings writer, expanding to news and iRacing coverage in 2020. She's currently an assistant editor and involved with photos, social media and news editing. A California native, Joy was raised watching motorsports and started watching NASCAR extensively in 2001. She earned her B.A. degree in Liberal Studies at California State University Bakersfield in 2010.

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