On paper, experience was going to be the difference in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race that Kyle Busch just so happened to run in.
However, instead of a Cup Champion taking home the win, it was a newly-minted father in 23-year-old John Hunter Nemechek who prevailed in the race late Saturday afternoon.
The win is Nemechek’s second in the truck series this season. With the finish, Nemechek has now finished inside the top 10 in five out of six truck races this season (he finished 39th in the Bristol Dirt Race on Mar. 29).
Experience was the name of the game at the start of the race at Richmond Raceway Saturday afternoon. While the likes of Grant Enfinger and Ben Rhodes battled for the point through the first 20 laps of the race, Kyle Busch, through his combined experience within the truck and Cup Series, gradually moved to the fringes of the top five through only 20 laps of the race.
As Kyle Busch rocketed into the top five on lap 25, the top dogs in Enfinger and Rhodes continued to utilize the bottom groove, with the former ahead of the latter by two+ seconds.
Although Busch was able to overtake Rhodes for the runner-up position, Enfinger’s speed, coupled with a surge by Nemechek, kept the No. 51 Toyota in third at the conclusion of stage one. Enfinger, meanwhile, tallied his first stage win of the season.
Nevertheless, a spotless pit by Busch netted the 35-year-old the win out of pit road and the top position upon the start of stage two. As was apparent during the first stage, the bottom groove continued to be the preferred lane at the start of stage two and Busch quickly vaulted out to a one+ second lead over Enfinger and Nemechek less than five laps in because of it.
Contact between Hailee Deegan and Nate Fogleman on lap 84, followed by a Jennifer Jo Cobb spin on lap 99, packed the field together, but even still, Nemechek began to find his groove through the bottom corners. The speed remained steady through the end of stage two to pick up his sixth stage win of the season.
After a slew of cautions involving Cobb, the race went back to green with 63 to go. Nemechek continued to use the inside groove into the straightaways to hold off Rhodes, Busch and even Todd Gilliland, who was now inside the top five.
However, strategy reared its head once more, as a Codie Rohrbaugh spin sent a slew of trucks to pit road.
Well, some, but not Matt Crafton, who stayed out and started atop the field upon the lap 41 restart. However, it was Chandler Smith who took the lead through the first handful of turns before a Kris Wright caution brought out the yellow once more. Once again, Nemechek’s speed proved a factor, but instead of staying within the lower groove, he used the outside lane to overtake Smith with 16 to go. Nemechek pulled away just enough to hold off Busch to claim the victory.
Busch finished second. His runner-up finish is his best in three career truck races at the track (he finished 22nd and 30th in 2001 and 2005, respectively).
Sauter finished fifth. It is Sauter’s best truck finish at Richmond in four career truck races there.
Rhodes finished seventh, while Enfinger finished eighth. The pair have now combined for eight top-10 finishes this season.
The truck series will take off next weekend before getting back in action at Kansas Speedway on May 1. Coverage will begin at 7:30 p.m. EST.