NASCAR gamble pays off for Nemechek

John Hunter Nemechek. Photo: Sean Gardner/Getty

Xfinity Series points leader John Hunter Nemechek credits his move from the NASCAR Cup Series to the Craftsman Truck Series as having paid off.

In a major career gamble, the 2020 Cup Series Rookie of the Year contender left the top-flight series to rebuild himself in the Truck competition, where numerous victories last season saw him step up to the Xfinity Series in 2023.

“That was kind of the goal with taking the gamble and moving back to the Truck Series – to kind of revamp my career and show that I could win in whatever I got in,” Nemechek told Speedcafe.

“Being able to win in the Truck Series, being able to win in the Xfinity Series over the last couple of years and contend for championships – sadly, we didn’t win one, but we were at least contending for them. And I feel like every week we’ve been a contender every time we’ve shown up to the racetrack.”

Nemechek, who finished 27th in the 2020 Cup Series standings and fourth in the Rookie of the Year standings, spent the 2021 and 2022 seasons in the Craftsman Truck Series. He won seven total races and contended for the championship. He has since moved up to the Xfinity Series and added two more wins to his total while taking over the points lead.

Instead of being looked at as a driver that struggled to crack the top 10 in average equipment, Nemechek is now someone viewed as a top option to return to the Cup Series if an opportunity on a Toyota-affiliated team opens up.

“It boosts my confidence as a driver,” said Nemechek. “When you don’t run as well or you’re not contending for wins, you start to question yourself sometimes and that can take a mental toll on you.

“So I’m definitely proud of where we are from the step back and thankful for Toyota, TRD, and everyone involved for taking the gamble to bring me back and put me in some great equipment to go try and win races.”

Dropping to a lower series and taking over better equipment helped Nemechek get back to his winning ways, but that was only one factor. He also had the knowledge gained during his season in the Cup Series competing against such names as Kevin Harvick, Chase Elliott, and Joey Logano.

Nemechek learned how to better handle late-race restarts, pit road, and split-second decisions that are often the difference between a crash and a top 10 finish. More importantly, he learned that bold decisions can pay off in significant ways.

“I would say that the biggest thing that I learned from taking the step back was to never be afraid and gamble on yourself,” Nemechek said. “If you think that you can do it, then go out there and prove it.”

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