LAS VEGAS — John Hunter Nemechek beat boss Kyle Busch, ending Busch’s three-race winning streak at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, with a victory in Friday night in the NASCAR Truck Series race.
Nemechek this year stepped down two levels from the Cup Series to drive a truck for Kyle Busch Motorsports. He figured in the right equipment, he could show he should race at NASCAR’s top level.
In just his third race driving for Busch, Nemecheck led Busch across the finish line for a 1-2 KBM finish. It was Nemechek’s sixth career Truck Series victory, first since 2018. He spent 2019 in the Xfinity Series and last year running Cup.
“We’re here for wins,” Nemechek said.
Busch rallied from a lap down to finish second.
“It’s cool to see John Hunter have a shot and get back in victory lane,” Busch said.
Nemechek had just three top-10 finishes in Cup last year and was out of his ride at the end of the season. Rather than join a team not capable of winning races, he dropped down to drive Busch’s truck to prove he’s competitive.
He got a big push from Busch on a restart with six to go and then drove away from Busch. It was the first win of what Busch believes can be a big season for the 24-year-old.
“Maybe he’ll win eight, 10 races and get back upstairs,” Busch said.
It was the first Truck Series start of the season for Busch, who by NASCAR rules is limited to only five events a year in each of the lower divisions. He has made his KBM debut at his home track the last three seasons with three consecutive victories.
Busch started 29th but drove to the front to win the second stage as Toyota drivers crossed the finish line first through sixth. But his own hired driver never stopped challenging him and a flat left tire with 45 laps remaining nearly ended Busch’s race.
He saved the truck from wrecking at speed but as he slowed the truck down, Busch then spun to bring out the caution. The caution mitigated the damage and Busch was down just one lap and in 29th on the restart.
Using expletives as he addressed his team, Busch lectured KBM that the only way to lose a race is to beat themselves.
He got his lap back minutes later and was 25th on the next restart. He worked his way through traffic, used restarts and was third and in position to give Nemechek the winning push with the race on the line.
The race featured 10 trucks sponsored by Camping World, the title sponsor of the series that has established bonus and emergency funds to teams. CEO Marcus Lemonis put up $500,000 in money and prizes for various season milestones and welcomed any teams with sponsorship woes the opportunity to run Camping World logos.
Lemonis paid $15,000 to each of the 10 teams that ran Camping World in Friday night’s race and the deals included performance bonuses.
Grant Enfinger, the first driver to take the Camping World offer, finished ninth to turn the initial $15,000 into $25,000 for Lemonis.
Lemonis’ program cost him $160,000 but untold advertising for Camping World during a routine early-season race.
The nine other trucks involved failed to earn the performance bonuses and six crashed.
“Look man,” Denny Hamlin wrote to Lemonis on Twitter, the CEO’s preferred source of engagement. “If you’re looking to sponsor a truck that can wreck, I’m available at Bristol.”
IndyCar driver Conor Daly, meanwhile, made his second Truck Series start — he finished 18th at Las Vegas last September driving for Niece Motorsports — and it ended with a fiery crash. Daly was in a pack of trucks when the gush of air in traffic caught him and caused him to spin hard into the outside wall.
The truck caught fire and rolled back down the track before finally coming to rest with the driver side flushes against the interior soft wall. Emergency crews had to climb onto the wall to help Daly out through the window.
“It wasn’t comfortable,” Daly said about the hit. “I just got into the middle of three-wide, or four, or seven, there seems like there were a lot of trucks there. And the air just swooped me around. Honestly, I’ve never felt anything like that. That’s just inexperience for me.”