John Hunter Nemechek saves his best for last

John Hunter Nemechek celebrates winning Saturday’s Andy’s Frozen Custard 300 at Texas Motor Speedway. Photo by David Barks.

Gibbs driver takes the lead with 7 laps to go to win Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway

FORT WORTH, Tx – John Hunter Nemechek earned a spot in the NASCAR Xfinity playoffs Round of 8 with a win Saturday in the Andy’s Frozen Custard 300 at Texas Motor Speedway.

It was a record-setting day in Fort Worth, just not the kind of record anyone – the drivers, pit crews, or fans – wanted to see on an early fall day.

The outside temperature was 99 degrees, breaking the old record of 94 that was set just last year.

John Hunter Nemechek crosses the finish line to win Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway. Photo by David Barks.

Inside the race cars, it was a sweltering 132 degrees – too hot for Kaz Grala who had to yield to a replacement driver at the end of Stage 2 (90 laps of the 300-lap race over the 1.5-mile oval) due to the heat.

Nemechek, with his seventh win of the year, now joins Justin Allgaier with a guaranteed spot in the next round of the playoffs.

“It means a lot to advance in the playoffs,” said Nemechek. “Seven wins this year is huge for this (Joe Gibbs Racing) team, and it’s my first playoff win after not having any last year- this is huge.”

Allgaier, who earned his spot in the Round of 8 with a win last week in Bristol, won the pole and easily won both Stages 1 and 2, eventually leading a race-high 133 laps.

But, as is often the case in NASCAR, he had a chance for the win at the end but could not hold off Nemechek and several other tires with fresher tires at the end.

Playoff drivers took the top eight spots.

Parker Kligerman finished second followed by Sammy Smith, Chandler Smith, Allgaier, Cole Custer, Austin Hill, and Sheldon Creed.

Parker Kligerman finishes second in Saturday’s Xfinity race at Texas Motor Speedway. Photo by David Barks.

Rounding out the top 10 were two non-playoff drivers; Brandon Jones and Brett Moffitt.

The four remaining drivers in the hunt for a spot in the Round of 8 finished well out of the money; Daniel Hemric in 24th place, Josh Berry in 27th, Jeb Burrton 31, and Sam Mayer in the 38th and last spot, after slamming into the wall on the first lap and dropping out of the race.

There were 12 cautions – the most for any Xfinity race this year, although the overall track record is 13.

Allgaier led from the start, keeping Custer at bay for all 45 laps of Stage 1,

Custer, with a quick pit stop, took the lead at the beginning of Stage 2, but Allgaier was back in front 11 laps later and held Custer off again to sweep both Stages 1 and 2, with Custer taking second in both.

Those two traded the lead early in Stage 3 until Allgaier got loose right after the restart on lap 114 and fell back to 16th place.

That set up a battle between Custer and Nemechek for the lead.

Nemechek moved into the lead on lap 125 and then Nemechek, Custer, and Allgaier traded the lead until the 12th caution set up a 10-lap sprint to the finish.

John Hunter Nemechek pulls into Victory Lane after winning Saturday’s race in Texas. Photo by David Barks.

Allgaier began that sprint in the lead with Kligerman, and Nemechek close behind.

With eight laps left, Kligerman got inside of Allgaier for the lead but both got loose, went up high on the track, and Nemechek dove underneath for the lead, and then sprinted to the checkered flag for a 1.005-second victory over Kligerman.

“Obviously I had a great run,” said Kligerman. “I got to him (Allgaier). I thought I could clear him but we both got loose. That allowed the 20 (Nemechek) t get by us.

“I’m really disappointed right now. I thought we could do it. I just choked.”

“Obviously, I had a really fast Chevrolet Camaro today,” said Allgaier. “Parker drove it in super, super steep in Turn 3. He didn’t make contact but we both got super, super loose and I didn’t just have enough at the end.

“But today was a great day – two stage wins which is obviously two more playoff points.”

“There was no backing off the gas,” said Nemechek. “It’s playoff time. I just have to keep it up – that’s the biggest thing for us.”

The Xfinity Series Playoffs takes a break next week, resuming on Saturday, Oct. 7, at The Roval at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs wrap up the Texas weekend Sunday with the Autotrader EchoPark 400.

John Hunter Nemechek does a burnout after winning Saturday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway. Photo by David Barks.
Sammy Smith crosses the finish line in third place in Sa5urday’s Xfinity playoff race. Photo by David Barks.
John Hunter Nemechek speaks with reporters after winning Saturday’s Andy’s Frozen Custard 300 at Texas Motor Speedway. Photo by David Barks.
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