John Hunter Nemechek just helped a NASCAR Xfinity Series team make history. The Toyota Racing Development driver delivered the first laps led for Sam Hunt Racing.
Nemechek achieved this goal during the United Rentals 200 at Phoenix Raceway on March 12. He had an off week from the Truck Series, so he took over the No. 26 Toyota Supra for the second consecutive week. Nemechek took over at the start of the final stage and led 11 laps in the stock car while battling bigger teams in Joe Gibbs Racing and JR Motorsports, ultimately finishing fifth overall.
When the final checkered flag waved with Noah Gragson as the winner, Nemechek was the only driver in the top 10 that wasn’t part of a large team. Three drivers represented JR Motorsports, three represented Joe Gibbs Racing, and three represented Kaulig Racing.
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Nemechek Has Delivered SHR’s Best Performances
SHR has only been part of the NASCAR Xfinity Series since the team’s one-race debut in 2019. The one-car operation has since made 49 total starts with a variety of drivers, but Nemechek has delivered the best performances.
There are two top-five finishes in SHR’s brief history, both of which featured Nemechek as the driver. He captured third overall during the race at Richmond on September 11, 2021. He then finished fifth at Phoenix Raceway on March 12, 2022.
Nemechek nearly secured another top-10 finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 5, but a late incident sent him sliding sideways down pit road. However, Nemechek still salvaged a 12th-place finish in the No. 26 Toyota.
The only other driver to secure a top-10 finish for SHR is Brandon Gdovic. The Virginia native took over the No. 26 for six races in 2021 while alternating with multiple other drivers. He kicked off his schedule with an eighth-place finish at Daytona International Speedway.
While Nemechek and Gdovic have both cracked the top 10, two other drivers have come close. Ryan Truex began the 2022 season with a 12th-place run at Daytona International Speedway while an overheating alternator ended Jeffrey Earnhardt‘s bid for a top-10 finish with 10 laps remaining at Auto Club Speedway. Though the Xfinity Series veteran delivered a 15th-place finish at Daytona International Speedway.
Strong Machines Are Created In-House
With SHR securing another top-five finish after battling much larger teams, there were some questions about the No. 26. Some Twitter users wanted to know if this was just a Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota with different branding. The answer is a resounding ‘no.’
“Every car that shows up at the track is assembled, set up and 100% out of the SHR shop,” explained spotter Chris Lambert, who also works with Denny Hamlin. “We have JGR engines and support from TRD, but it’s 100% the hard work of the team at SHR.”
Team owner Sam Hunt has previously provided photographic proof that the cars are built in-house. He has tweeted out multiple photos showing an assortment of Toyota chassis in various stages of the process. One tweet, in particular, had a dozen stock cars sitting on jack stands on the shop floor.
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