Nemechek beats out Custer in controversial finish
BOWMANVILLE, Ont.—Canadian Tire Motorsports Park always seems to bring short track excitement, and that proved to be the case once again after John Hunter Nemechek took the victory in the Camping World Truck Series’ Chevy Silverado 250 on Sunday afternoon.
Pole-sitter Cole Custer had no issue with the start of the race, leading the first 30 laps. A few cars elected to pit early, including Ben Kennedy, who took four tires and fuel in hopes of using good pit strategy to make moves later in the race.
It was the start of what would be a sight of varying pit strategies.
On lap seven, the race saw its first accident of the day. Ben Rhodes locked up the breaks in turn eight, ending up in a tire barrier to bring out the first caution.
The race remained green all the way up to the 25-lap mark, when the first caution clock of the day expired.
Custer relinquished the lead on lap 31 after having to pit for fuel, giving up to lead to championship contender Daniel Hemric.
Matt Crafton acquired the lead on lap 32 after choosing to pit himself, along with his Brad Keselowski Racing teammate Austin Cindric.
With approx. 20 laps to go, the race saw the caution clock expire once again. This time, John Hunter Nemechek was on top, using an early fuel strategy to get ahead of the leaders.
Just after the restart, Custer made aggressive moves to go from fifth to second in one lap.
Tyler Reddick's chances to make the inaugural Chase in the Truck Series appeared to take a hit. A lap after the restart, Reddick was tagged by Kaz Grala, who sent the No. 29 truck spinning into turn eight and letting Nemechek further cement his lead.
With 11 laps to go, the caution came out again. This time, it involved heavy damage to Cameron Hayley, who had his own teammate, Rico Abreu, slide into the back of Hayley after misjudging the turn.
The green flag would come out with about five laps to go, but wouldn't last long. Travis Kvapil would bring out the fifth caution of the day, a caution that saw a green-white-checkered finish.
Heading into the final lap, Custer built up a half second lead on Nemechek, but Nemechek made seemed to make up ground on him every single turn. Heading into turn ten, fans were expecting shades of Chase Elliott's victory in 2013 when he divebombed Ty Dillon and wrecked him for the victory.
It almost happened that way, with Nemechek shoving Custer into the corner. Then, coming to the line, Nemechek got right beside Custer and turned left, forcing Custer into the wall.
The two drivers would come to the line in a photo finish, with Nemechek nudging Custer by .034 seconds to win in controversial fashion.
After the race, Nemechek got out of his car to take the checkered flag from the flag stand. Custer, who was not pleased, jumped over the pit wall and ran towards the race-winner Nemechek.
Custer then sent a football-style tackle towards Nemechek, taking him down in a grass area along the frontstretch.
"It was exciting to say the least," Nemechek said following the race. "I can’t thank all of my guys enough for the hard work they put into this truck.
"Cole and I, we’re very competitive racers and we would have done anything in the same position to make sure we get that win," he said.
Custer gave his take.
"[Nemechek] had raced me clean and just hit me in the back on the second-last corner, and that got me out of shape, got me off the line and then he hit me again in the last corner," said Custer. "That just sent us into the grass and he just drove me up against the fence.
"I was expecting it, kinda, because he’s raced a lot of people like that but it’s just a shame because it was a great chance to get into the Chase and he took it away from us."
THROUGH THE FIELD
Custer will look for one of the final spots in the Chase when the series travels to Chicagoland on September 16th. Nemechek had already clinched a playoff berth thanks to a win in Atlanta in the second race of the season.
Hemric finished the race in third place after a last turn tussle with his own teammate, Cindric. Crafton was able to finish in fourth and Christopher Bell rallied to finish off the top five.
Other notables included Reddick in sixth, who had to battle back from 20th with five laps to go. Canadian Cameron Hayley battled back to finish in ninth place, while points leader William Byron finished in tenth place.
Cindric, who was heading into the final turn in third place, finished the race in 23rd, the final car on the lead lap.