It took a three-wide move against one of the budding stars of Late Model racing and one of the track’s most decorated racers, but John Hunter Nemechek emerged with a third-straight SpeedFest JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour Pro Late Model victory Sunday afternoon.
Nemechek stole the lead from former track champion Chris Dilbeck and California hot shot Zane Smith on the inside lane of a three-abreast battle on lap 64. Nemechek, a winner in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2015, then cruised down the stretch until a series of late-race restarts gave Smith and Dilbeck additional shots at the win. Still, Nemechek was able to thwart those bids en route to a third-straight win in the SpeedFest Pro Late Model 125 at Crisp Motorsports Park.
“There definitely was some tough competition,” Nemechek said from victory lane on the live Speed51 TV broadcast at the Cordele, Georgia track. “We just had to run our race. I had to listen to my guys and I did. It was going to come down to that final restart and luckily we got the jump a little bit and that’s what put us here in victory lane.”
Zane Smith was the last driver to give Nemechek a run for his money late in the race. The 2015 Super Late Model champion at New Smyrna Speedway’s World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing got to Nemechek’s bumper on lap 123, but the yellow flag flew for a Christopher Tullis spin, ending Smith’s bid.
Was Nemechek showing all his cards even when Smith gave him a little nudge with two laps remaining?
“No, just in case there was a caution,” said Nemechek. “I’ve been in that position too many times. Rubbing’s racing. I expect that.”
On the final green-white-checkered restart following the Tullis spin, Dilbeck slipped past Smith for second.
“We were top-three in practice all week and we decided on Saturday just to work on race runs all day,” said Dilbeck, driver of the PFC Brakes-backed No. 9. “We gave up a lot in qualifying. We almost had enough for (Nemechek). Almost, but not quite. Maybe next time we’ll get him.”
After losing second on the final restart, Smith was bounced out of the top five racing hard with Casey Roderick for the second time in the race. Smith limped home 13th, while Roderick finished third. Bret Holmes and Steve Dorer rounded out the top five finishers.
For a complete finish and more from the JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour portion of SpeedFest 2016, check out the Speed51.com Speed Central updates from the track by clicking here.
– By Matt Kentfield, Speed51.com – Twitter: @mattkentfield