By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service
John Hunter Nemechek passed team owner Kyle Busch on a restart with six laps left and pulled away to win Saturday’s CRC Brakleen 150 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Pocono Raceway.
Nemechek crossed the finish line at the 2.5-mile triangular track 1.337 seconds ahead of Busch, who had led 20 straight laps after pitting three laps before the conclusion of Stage 2.
The victory was Nemechek’s series-best fifth of the season and his third in head-to-head competition against his Kyle Busch Motorsports boss.
“These guys just work so hard,” Nemechek said of his team. “We never gave up. We weren’t very good the first stage. Without this opportunity—without Kyle and Toyota, I wouldn’t have had it. Five wins this year and beat Kyle—three for five against Kyle is pretty good odds.”
Busch had a lead of nearly 1.5 seconds over Sheldon Creed when Stewart Friesen’s hard crash into the Turn 1 wall brought out the fourth caution on Lap 51 of 60. Busch chose the top lane for the subsequent restart on Lap 55, with Creed behind him and Nemechek on the inside of the front row.
With a strong push from Todd Gilliland, Nemechek’s No. 4 Toyota barely cleared Busch’s No. 51 in Turn 1 and slid up in front of the team owner.
“The 38 (Gilliland) gave me a big push,” acknowledged Nemechek, who picked up his first victory at Pocono and the 11th of his career. “I got a great restart… and I kind of cleared myself there. (Spotter Tony) Hirschman was still saying ‘Outside, outside’ in the middle of (Turn 1).
“I thought I was clear in my mirror and slid up and took the air away from Kyle. After that, we set sail.”
Busch stayed close to his protégé until Creed powered to the inside of Busch’s Toyota with three laps left. Contact between the trucks ended Busch’s winning chances.
“The Cessna Tundra was pretty good,” said Busch who posted two wins and three runner-up finishes to Nemechek in five Truck Series starts this season. “We were up front there leading, and the caution came out and bunched us all back together.
“We got… not a great restart, but a decent restart. We were all even getting into (Turn) 1, and John Hunter just slid me and got the lead. I was trying to figure out what I could do to fight back and get the lead back, and I got drilled in the left rear. That basically handed the win to the 4 truck.”
Creed ran third, followed by Tyler Ankrum and Austin Hill. Matt Crafton, Gilliland, Zane Smith, Ryan Preece and Derek Kraus completed the top 10. Hill’s top-five finish today scored him enough points to be the first driver to clinch a spot in the Playoffs on points.
Johnny Sauter’s quest to make the postseason suffered a serious below as the field took the green flag to start the race. Jack Wood’s Chevrolet spun out of control after contact from Chandler Smith’s Toyota and knocked Sauter into the outside wall near the start/finish line.
Sauter finished 35th, five laps down and fell 31 points behind Smith in the race for the final Playoff spot with two regular-season races left. Nemechek increased his series lead to 86 points over second-place Ben Rhodes, who came home 17th Saturday after a late pit road speeding penalty.