PHOENIX — With a shot to win the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship in Friday’s Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix Raceway (8 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) John Hunter Nemechek is ready to race and ready to finish out his personal best NASCAR season by hoisting a trophy.
And he doesn’t take the opportunity for granted after a heart-stopping penultimate playoff race last weekend.
Nemechek, 24, who drives the No. 4 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota, was wrecked out of last Saturday’s race at Martinsville Speedway just after the halfway point and forced to watch the remainder of the event on television – hoping his points lead would be enough buffer to advance him to this week’s Championship 4 Round.
It was. And now Nemechek’s focus is clearly set on the exclamation point to a big-time year.
“It definitely was stressful, nerve-wracking, kind of every emotion I guess,” Nemechek said during Thursday’s Camping World Truck Series Championship 4 Media Day.
“A helpless feeling sitting there on the sidelines not being able to do anything about your position.”
“It definitely sucked,” he said, conceding he paced inside his team hauler as the race completed. Ultimately, he had just enough of a point cushion to qualify for Friday’s Championship 4 along with Ben Rhodes, three-time series champion Matt Crafton and Zane Smith.
Going forward, Nemechek said he was hopeful Friday’s night race would include an increased amount of competitive “respect” for the four drivers racing for a title. He acknowledged that the series is a major stepping stone for young drivers trying to make a name for themselves and advance up through the ranks.
And he insisted, “you can’t change the past,” referring to an aggressive move by a young driver, not in playoff contention, last week that wrecked Nemechek out of the Martinsville race.
“In the end, I was that young guy at one point, coming in and not knowing any better than just to go out and race everybody just as hard and I expect that when we race tomorrow and I expect that in all three series, everyone is going to race each other super hard,” Nemechek said. “The guys that aren’t in the playoffs are still out there to win a race.”
Nemechek emphasized it was up to each driver to know who they were racing around and the motives of other drivers. His motive at this point in his career, he reiterated, was rather simple,
“Mine, is just go race,” said Nemechek, who acknowledged his team owner, two-time NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Busch reminded him, “It’s more about mindset going in and we know what we have to lose.”