John Hunter Nemechek: A tale of two halves

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LEXINGTON, Ohio — It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. It was the age of wisdom. It was the age of foolishness.

Alright, pretentious literary reference aside, John Hunter Nemechek dominated the day, in his first ARCA Menards Series start.

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He won the pole and led the first 30 laps of the Dawn 150. At one point, he had close to a 30-second lead on the field.

On a wet track, mind you.

While the rain stopped, the track was still damp. So he opted to stick with wets.

Back to green on Lap 24, Nemechek didn’t pull away from the field. This time, Sammy Smith kept in touch and waited for him to slip up.

In Nemechek’s case, he caught lap traffic at the wrong time.

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Exiting Turn 13, Amber Baclaen was listening to her spotter and didn’t notice the leader come up on her.

“Obviously the leaders were quite a bit faster than me,” she said. “And if my spotter told me left or right then I knew to leave them. So, I’m not really sure how that happened, but I definitely didn’t want to be in his way.”

Regardless, it gave Smith an opening to pull alongside and overtake Nemechek down the pit straight for the lead on Lap 30.

For a lap.

The next time around, Nemechek overtook Smith in Turn 1 to retake the lead on Lap 31.

By this time, however, the track dried enough that the drivers who switched to slicks had the advantage. With nine laps to go, Nick Sanchez ran down and passed Nemechek in the keyhole for the lead.

A late caution gave Nemechek one last chance to win, but it wound up a fight between Taylor Gray and Kris Wright.

Furthermore, on the final lap, Parker Chase pulled to his inside in Turn 4 and turned him.

After the race, he confronted Chase.

“I’m on the outside of you all,” he said, “I out-brake you into (Turn) 4 and you run me literally off the racetrack. So, my nose is still there. So, I gave you a little shot.”

“It was more than a little shot,” Chase said, “but OK.”

Chase added that that’s how you pass other drivers in Turn 4.

“I’ve been here numerous, numerous times and I’ve been on the outside in that position before, and every single time, I’ve gotten ran off the track on the exit of 4,” he said. “It’s just the way that that corner runs.

“I mean, it’s pretty much impossible to give him a lane there on the exit, just because it was still damp and pretty much in every corner here, there’s a patch with sealant and has no grip. So he gave me a nudge into 5 and I gave it back into 6, and then got on a patch and just went straight.”

Nemechek left before I got his side of the story, but I got most of his conversation with Chase. Specifically, where he said he was there and that Chase intentionally dumped him.

“That’s not how you race, and if I wanted to dump you at any point I could have,” he said, “but I’m not going to do that to you, and you will earn way more respect from racing hard, and if you would’ve punted me, it would’ve been one thing, but for you just to turn hard left and dump me intentionally, that’s fucked, especially teammates.”

As he sulked, Gray celebrated in victory lane at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

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