John Hunter Nemechek was in control late in the Shriners Children’s 200 on Saturday (May 13). He led the most laps during the race and controlled the final restart with seven laps to go.
Seven laps later, he was skidding across the start/finish line in fifth place after a collision with Kyle Larson sent him hard into the inside wall.
Nemechek was denied his third win of the season and Larson gave Kaulig Racing its third trophy with as many drivers [Larson, AJ Allmendinger at Circuit of the Americas and Chandler Smith at Richmond Raceway].
Larson started stage three in 30th place after a pit road speeding penalty. Within 10 laps he had driven up to 15th. By the time a caution waved with 23 to go, Larson was up to sixth, and the field was in trouble.
Larson’s next restart wasn’t a great one, and it looked like Nemechek’s race to lose. But another caution flew with 11 to go as brothers Ryan Sieg and Kyle Sieg both had separate incidents at the same time.
Nemechek elected to start on the inside, with Justin Allgaier on his outside. Austin Hill elected to take the outside row, giving Larson the spot directly behind Nemechek. It quickly turned into a two-man race.
With just four laps to go, Nemechek’s lead was a half-second, but it would only shrink from there. On the final lap, Larson pulled even with Nemechek coming out of turn two. The two drivers drag-raced down the backstretch.
Larson pulled ahead in turn three, but Nemechek drew even inside of Larson in the final turn. Heading to the frontstretch, Larson ricocheted off the wall into Nemechek’s No. 20 Toyota. Larson was able to continue and bring home the win.
Allgaier finished second with Cole Custer finishing third. Hill finished fourth, narrowly edging Nemechek. Carson Hocevar, Josh Berry, Sam Mayer, Kaz Grala, and Corey Heim rounded out the top 10.
Larson had come close to winning at Darlington several times and finally closed the deal in spectacular fashion. It’s safe to say no other driver could’ve won this race while starting the final stage from the rear of the field. The legend of Larson grows. He takes some great momentum into tomorrow’s NASCAR Cup Series race, the Goodyear 400.
Nemechek didn’t win the race, but he led the most laps and won a stage. Despite the fifth-place finish, he scored the most points on the day. Had the race been one lap shorter, he’d have ended the day in victory lane instead of…
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