After waiting out an entire day and a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, John Hunter Nemechek and the SWM Gun Runner team kicked off their season with an impressive 11th-place finish in Sunday’s rain-postponed Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, VA.

With rain cancelling qualifying for the 250-lap NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event, Nemechek rolled off the grid in the 20th position having lined up according to practice results and NASCAR rules. Nemechek wasted no time charting his course to the front, however, picking up four positions prior to the first pit stop.

Reporting that he was a “tick snug”, Nemechek brought his #8 Toyota to pit road for NASCAR’s competition caution at lap 34 and the crew gave him four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment to free up the handling.

Returning to the track in the 14th position, Nemechek radioed that he was still a little tight but the truck seemed to come around on long runs as he had raced into the top 10 by the 100-lap mark.  Crew chief, Jerry Babb, confirmed that notion, assuring his young driver that he was posting lap times consistent with the leaders. 

Continuing to impress, Nemechek kept his Tundra out of the many altercations happening around him and as the race approached the 200-lap mark, he found the handle on the truck now leaning toward the free side while still hanging tough in the top 10.  

Perched atop the pit box, it was Joe Nemechek now assuring his son on the radio.  “You’re doing a great job, John Hunter – your tires look great and you’re running killer laps,” Nemechek said with cautious excitement.  “There are less than 50 laps to go and your times are right where they need to be, so we’re going to keep you freed up for the end of the race.  Just keep doing what you’ve been doing.”   Replying with a simple, “10-4,” the younger Nemechek settled in for what was sure to be an exciting short-track finish.  Martinsville did not disappoint with four cautions flying in the final 25 laps including two “green-white-checker” attempts. 

Eyeing a solid finish, Nemechek restarted for the final time in the outside lane and in the eighth position.  As the green flag flew and the trucks came up to speed, the leaders began stacking up in front of him blocking his path to advance.  Caution flew yet again coming to the checkers and Nemechek was able to navigate around the chaos to finish in the 11th position.

In only his third NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start, the 16-year old Nemechek navigated the .526-mile track like a seasoned veteran, showing a mature balance of assertiveness and patience to gain his career-best finish in the series.

“Today was a blast,” Nemechek said while surveying the condition of his race truck.  “I knew I had to keep the fenders on it until the end and at the same time I couldn’t give anything up and couldn’t let anyone push me around.  We made a lot of progress today, coming from 20th to run in the top 10 for most of the race and overall it was a good day for our SWM Gun Runner Tundra.”

“Our pit crew was awesome today, consistently gaining us spots on pit road and I can’t thank them enough as well as everyone who supports us,” Nemechek continued.  “I have to thank my Mom and Dad, Mr. Sid and Dawna at SWM, International and all of our sponsors.  Our thoughts were with Mr. Ron and Vera at and we hope they can be with us at the track soon.  I feel like it’s going to be a great year for us and that we have the potential to run competitively everywhere we go.”

The next race for the Team Nemechek #8 Tundra is at Kansas Speedway on Friday, May 9 with Joe Nemechek behind the wheel.  This weekend, John Hunter Nemechek will race in the Southern Super Series late model event at Nashville Speedway on Saturday, April 5.