MARTINSVILLE, Va. (AP) — John Hunter Nemechek was on fire all night at Martinsville Speedway.
So maybe it was fitting that he set his car on fire after a long burnout while winning his second Xfinity Series race of the season.
Nemechek restrained Sammy Smith, his Joe Gibbs Racing team-mate, on Saturday night and then raised some eyebrows – and a degree of concern – when the rear of his No. 20 Toyota burst into flames after celebrating with burnouts on the track .
At first, Nemechek attempted to drive away from the fire, but was then ordered to stop as security officers sped onto the track and used fire extinguishers to douse the flames. The fire left burn marks on the racetrack.
Nemechek said he’s not overly concerned for his own safety, saying, “I’m glad we got the chance to burn it down out there.”
“Excessive partying,” joked television commentator and fellow racer Joey Logano.
Nemecheck joked he was doing it to support one of his sponsors – Pye Barker Fire and Safety, which makes the fire extinguishers used at the circuit.
“Thanks to them for all the safety gear for this amazing burnout that caught fire,” Nemechek said.
Nemechek dominated the race, leading 198 of the 250 laps of the paperclip-shaped half-mile circuit.
Smith was second followed by Cole Custer, Josh Berry and Brandon Jones.
“I can’t say enough about this team,” Nemechek said of his fourth career win at the Xfinity Series. “If you had asked me yesterday I would have said we were a 10th place team. But our guys have made really great adjustments.”
No Cup Series drivers participated as it was a dash-for-cash race that Nemechek was eligible for and cashed in with the $100,000 win.
“It took me a bit more approach but congratulations to them – they were the best car all night,” said Smith. “A few more adjustments and we might have been on the winning track. But it was close. … Next time we’ll get them.”
Nemechek was strong from the start in his first Xfinity Series race in Martinsville.
He started on the front row alongside polesitter Custer but immediately made it clear he had the car to beat, taking the lead on lap six and becoming the first Xfinity Series driver to finish the first two stages in Martinsville won. Leading 74 of the first 120 laps.
Four of the last seven short track races had ended with last lap passes, but not this one.
Nemechek was too dominant.
Justin Allgaier, running on old tyres, stayed out during a late warning to take the lead. But Nemechek quickly overtook him on the restart with 32 laps to go after getting four new tires during a pit stop.
After another warning, Nemechek drove away from Custer on a restart with 18 laps to go and was never challenged again.
Nemechek now has seven top 10 finishes to his name this season.
Over the past 12 years, the Xfinity Series race in Martinsville has had 12 different winners.
MORE bad luck for autumn
After starting the season with six top 10 finishes, Riley Herbst had a losing streak and crashed in the last two races.
He collided with Sam Mayer with 28 laps to go to end his night. Mayer was particularly upset with Ryan Truex after the accident and made a vulgar gesture to him after he climbed out of his #1 Chevrolet.
The next Xfinity Series race is Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway. Noah Gragson won last year’s race.
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