John Hunter Nemechek Wins It All While Burning Down the Before You Dig. 250 at Martinsville Speedway

MARTINSVILLE, VA – RIS – John Hunter Nemechek set the field, his car and the track on fire as he dominated and won the Before You Dig. 250 NASCAR xfinity series race; he won the first two race stages; and he won the $100,000 Dash for Cash prize at Martinsville Speedway. 

Nemechek’s teammate, Sammy Smith in the #18 Pilot Flying J Toyota overtook #00 Cole Custer on the final lap for second position. Josh Berry and Brandon Jones rounded out the top 5.  Finishing fifth through tenth were Justin Allgaier, Daniel Hemric, #10 Derek Kraus, #25 Brett Moffitt (recovering from a lap 36 spin) and #16 Chandler Smith. 

Sheldon Creed crashed on the backstretch on the final lap while battling with three other cars for position. Caution 10 thus flew on lap 250, but the final finishing positions were already set.

Typical for short track racing at Martinsville Speedway, the race was slowed by caution flags 10 times for a total of 82 laps.  Two of the cautions were for stage conclusions.

Earlier during daylight hours, Cole Custer started on the pole driving the #00 Haas Automation Ford with John Hunter Nemechek joining him on the front row in the #20 Pye Barker Fire & Safety Toyota. No Cup drivers were in the field due to this being a Dash for Cash race.  On lap 6, Nemechek worked his way past Custer for the lead. 

Caution 1 flew on lap 36 for a spin by 25 Brett Moffitt in turn 4 after on track contact while battling for position. Josh Berry in #8 pitted during this caution period in Stage 1 / Caution 1. Nemechek and Custer led the field back to green. 

Caution 2 flew after lap 60 for the end of Stage 1 with John Hunter Nemechek leading followed by #18 Sammy Smith, #00 Cole Custer, #1 Sam Mayer and #98 Riley Herbst.  Thirty cars remained on the lead lap at the end of Stage 1.  

Four cars didn’t pit under caution.  Nemechek restarted fifth behind #21 Austin Hill, #8 Josh Berry, #07 Dawson Cram and #27 Jeb Burton.  Josh Berry took the lead from Hill on lap 74.  Nemechek was up to 3rd on lap 77.  Nemechek took second place on lap 79. 

Caution 3 was thrown on lap 86 for an apparent blown engine in the #74 driven by Kaden Honeycutt.  On the restart, Josh Berry still led Nemechek to the green with 20 laps to go in Stage 2.   Cole Custer was up to third after losing spots during his pit stop and restarting 10th. 

Sammy Smith flew to the outside lane on the restart and passed Josh Berry. Battling for the lead ensued with more fighting between Sammy Smith, Nemechek and Berry.  Nemechek and teammate Smith continued to spar for the lead with Nemechek finally finding a clear track in the lead. 

 Caution four at the end of Stage 2 on lap 120 had Nemechek taking the points for winning the stage.  The earlier pit gamble by the #8 team of Josh Berry paid off with a second-place finish in Stage 2.  Cole Custer was third with Sammy Smith holding on for fourth place at stage end. 

After pit stops, Nemechek came out in the lead followed by Sammy Smith, #9 Brandon Jones, #00 Custer, and #8 Josh Berry. Nemechek earned Stage 1 and Stage 2 win points. 

A wreck in turn 1 involving #43 Ryan Ellis and #38 Joe Graf, Jr brought out caution 5 on lap 134.  Josh Berry had been dropping back in the field under green and pitted during the caution.  The team discovered a flat tire to be the culprit for losing positions.  Nemechek and teammate Sammy Smith restarted on the front row.

Caution 6 for a multi-car crash on the back stretch slowed the field on lap 143 as the #07 of Dawson Cram was turned in front of a line of cars that included #91 Alex Labbe, #45 Leland Honeyman and #28 Kyle Sieg.  The front five on the restart were Nemechek, Sammy Smith, Cole Custer, #9 Brandon Jones and #11 Daniel Hemric.

Caution 7 on lap 161 flashed on for a spin due to a flat tire in turn 2 by the #92 of Josh Williams. Several of the lead lap cars took the opportunity to pit during this caution period, but the front running five were Nemechek, Custer, Hemric, Smith and Riley Herbst.  Nemechek restarted in the preferred inside lane to put ahead of the field once again. 

Caution 8 on lap 209 flew for the #51 of Jeremy Clements as he scraped along the outside wall in turn 2.  With 40 laps to go, the leaders pitted for a final set of tires, if they had any remaining.

The order of cars leaving pit road were Nemechek (in 3rd place), Custer, Hemric, Smith, Berry, Brandon Jones and Riley Herbst.  #7 Justin Allgaier, one of the drivers eligible for the Dash for Cash $100,000, remained on track to take the lead followed by #91 Alex Labbe. 

On the restart, Allgaier led for a partial lap until Nemechek went inside his #7 to retake the lead. Sammy Smith followed into second place.

Two and three wide racing finally bit again as chaos ensued.  #19 Ryan Truex on the inside lane got into #1 Sam Myer who got into #98 Riley Herbst on the outside to create caution 9 on lap 221. The #27 of Jeb Burton was also involved in some way.

The top five on the restart were Nemechek, Sammy Smith, Custer, Allgaier (on older tires) and Josh Berry. Twenty-seven cars remained on the lead lap. 

Nemechek got another great launch into the lead on the restart with 18 laps to go and the running order staying the same as at the restart. With 13 to go, Cole Custer moved around Smith into second place. Berry was fourth and Allgaier fifth (with 33 lap older tires than the leaders).    

Miraculously, the race almost made it to the end under green with passing and crashing on the final lap finally bringing out the caution on lap 250 for the spin by Creed. John Hunter Nemechek took the checkered flag and then proceeded to set his tires, his car and the track on fire with his burnout against the wall.  As stated earlier, Nemechek took everything there was to win today with the race win, stage wins and the $100,000 Dash for Cash.

There were seven lead changes among six drivers during the race, but Nemechek led 3 times for a total of 198 of the 250 laps. This was Nemechek’s second xfinity series win of 2023 and his fourth victory in 75 races.  Nemechek leads the driver points standings by 25 over Austin Hill who finished 16th in the race. Third through fifth in driver points are Chandler Smith, Riley Herbst and Josh Berry.

The time of race took 2 hours, 12 minutes and 50 seconds with an average speed of 59.398 MPH.  No margin of victory was recorded due to completing the final lap under caution.

The series travels to Talledega Speedway next weekend, April 22, for another Dash for Cash race.  The eligible drivers are Nemechek, Sammy Smith, Cole Custer and Josh Berry. 

Ed Turner

Staff Writer and editor for RIS since 2001. Been attending NASCAR and stock car races since my dad starting taking me in 1960 at the age of 5 when NASCAR still raced on dirt (Spartanburg Fairgrounds. My first paved race was July 4, 1961 Daytona Speedway. Harris, Hickory, Cleveland Fairgrounds and Asheville-Weaverville were some of the other NASCAR tracks we went to in the early days and later.  Love the LMS, Busch, etc series.

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Volume 2023, Issue 4, Posted 11:29 PM, 04.15.2023