Saturday, November 9, 2019

TRUCKS: Joe Nemechek locks up second-straight LASTCAR title at the same track

PHOTO: Brock Beard
Joe Nemechek picked up the 9th last-place finish of his NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series career in Friday’s Lucas Oil 150 at the ISM Raceway when his unsponsored #87 NEMCO Motorsports Chevrolet fell out with overheating issues after 11 of 150 laps.

The finish, which came in Nemechek’s 68th series start, was his fourth of the season and first since Kentucky, nine races ago. In the Truck Series last-place rankings, this was the 11th for the #87, the 24th from overheating issues, and the 383rd from Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 54th for the #87, the 173rd from overheating trouble, and the 1,696th for Chevrolet.

The last-place finish also secured his second-consecutive LASTCAR Truck Series Championship with one race to go, besting his two remaining contenders Norm Benning, who wasn’t entered, and Gus Dean, who finished 20th in the #12 LG Air Conditioning Technologies Chevrolet.

Just last week in Texas, “Front Row Joe” reached another career milestone. For the first time, he would race his son John Hunter Nemechek in the same Cup race, the first father-son duo to do so since Bobby Hamilton, Jr. raced the late Bobby Hamilton in 2005. The younger Nemechek, driving in relief of a recovering Matt Tifft, finished 21st with Joe’s Jay Robinson entry in 31st. The ISM Raceway would one-up the effort in Fort Worth, as both would be racing against each other in all three of NASCAR’s top series.

The first of the weekend was Friday’s Truck Series race, where both ran for Joe’s NEMCO Motorsports team. John Hunter would drive the flagship #8 Hostetler Ranches Chevrolet with Joe in the part-time #87, which again did not have primary sponsorship. It would be Joe’s 12th series start of the season, but his first Truck Series start since Michigan in August, and his first in the #87 since Pocono in July. On top of this, he would have to qualify on speed as his entry was one of 34 trucks arriving to snatch up one of the 32 spots.

In practice, Joe showed promising speed early, running 24th in the opening practice before he slipped to 30th in Happy Hour. He then made it in on time, qualifying 26th with a lap of 130.237mph (27.642 seconds). The two who missed the show were Jesse Little, two-tenths off in one of the last attempts by JJL Motorsports before the #97 Skuttle Tight Ford team closes at season’s end, and Jennifer Jo Cobb, whose #10 Driven2Honor.org Chevrolet had the grille sealed with pink strips of tape, but still ended up with her third DNQ of the year and first since Charlotte.

Starting last was Harrison Burton, whose #18 Safelite Toyota was 5th-fastest in opening practice and led Happy Hour, only to incur a tail-end penalty for unapproved adjustments. Burton didn’t turn a timed lap and inherited the 32nd spot. Also penalized prior to the start was Ty Majeski, whose first-ever Truck Series start began with a sterling 5th-place qualifying run in Al Niece’s #44 Chevrolet, only to be followed by an engine change.

On the first two pace laps, Burton remained in the last spot, and was joined by Majeski after the second pace truck pulled off the speedway. With one lap to green, Joe Nemechek surrendered his 26th starting spot, pulling to the outside and filing into the 30th spot, outside the #33 Jacob Companies Chevrolet of Carson Ware, making his series debut for Reaume Brothers Racing. When still another pace lap was then added, both Nemechek and Ware pulled another row back behind Burton and Majeski.

When the race started, Ware dropped behind Nemechek into last place, and the #87 began to close on the #54 N29 Technologies Toyota of Natalie Decker. Nemechek backed off on an outside pass of Decker in Turn 2, moments before the first caution fell for Brandon Jones’ Turn 2 spin in the #51 DuPont Air Filtration Toyota. This dropped Jones to last on Lap 3, the same time leader Stewart Friesen was penalized for a start violation, costing the #52 Halmar Enterprises Chevrolet the lead. Jones pitted, but somehow didn’t hold last for long, as Ware was classified in 32nd by Lap 5, and Friesen now fell to 31st the next time by.

On Lap 6, an unidentified truck pitted which may have been Nemechek as the #87 was not seen the next time by and took over last on Lap 8. Nemechek did return to the track, however, and managed to pass and clear Ware as he tagged onto the tail end of the trailing pack. On Lap 15, as Ware was caught by the leaders, NASCAR officials reported Nemechek had gone to the garage area with mechanical issues. Curiously, it was not until Lap 78 that NASCAR officials declared Nemechek out of the race with overheating issues, the same lap they announced Derek Kraus was out for crash damage suffered in a tangle with John Hunter Nemechek on Lap 23.

Nemechek was then presented with the first-ever LASTCAR certificate as the 2019 LASTCAR Truck Series Champion.

John Hunter’s night ended up short of the finish as well when he backed into the wall on Lap 100 during a tangle with Sam Mayer in the #21 Manpower Chevrolet. The younger Nemechek returned to the track after quick repairs, but pulled behind the wall after 108 laps completed, done for the night. This still allowed him to finish ahead of Ware, who spent at least two trips to the garage area. The first dropped him 18 laps down before he returned at the end of Stage 1. In the end, he’d turn just 37 circuits before citing electrical issues.

Rounding out the Bottom Five was Jordan Anderson, whose new-look #3 Goettl Air / Lucas Oil Chevrolet trailed smoke early, then trailed the field, and ultimately finished thirty laps down.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This marks the first time since Eldora that the Truck Series last-place finisher completed more than eight laps.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
32) #87-Joe Nemechek / 11 laps / overheating
31) #19-Derek Kraus / 28 laps / crash
30) #33-Carson Ware / 37 laps / electrical
29) #8-John Hunter Nemechek / 108 laps / crash
28) #3-Jordan Anderson / 120 laps / running

2019 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) NEMCO Motorsports (5)
2nd) Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing (4)
3rd) Norm Benning Racing, Reaume Brothers Racing, Young’s Motorsports (2)
4th) Copp Motorsports, DGR-Crosley, Halmar Friesen Racing, Hattori Racing Enterprises, JJL Motorsports, Niece Motorsports, ThorSport Racing (1)

2019 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (18)
2nd) Ford, Toyota (2)

2019 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP

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