Sam Hunt Racing entered Darlington Raceway with two top five finishes by driver John Hunter Nemechek.
Following Saturday’s Mahindra ROXOR 200 at Darlington Raceway, the No. 26 team brought another top five with Nemechek as he crossed the line in fourth.
But the result was bittersweet as Nemechek was hoping to pull the Darlington sweep after winning Friday’s Camping World Truck Series race.
After starting deep in the field due to weather cancelling qualifying, Nemechek didn’t ride around “The Lady in Black.”
With stage results of 10th and fourth, Nemechek’s No. 26 Stillhouse Vodka Toyota Supra improved over time. In the closing laps, Nemechek was in the mix for the race win, putting pressure on Justin Allgaier, a perennial championship contender in the midst of a 34 race winless drought.
SHR owner Sam Hunt told The Podium Finish he was bummed about qualifying being washed but was amazed with Nemechek working through the field.
“We were bummed to see qualifying get rained out, because I think we had a front row lap in the car,” said Hunt. “However, seeing John Hunter cut through the entire field in stage one was exciting to say the least. We pride ourselves in tackling adversity correctly and I think it showed.”
However, a shot of bringing SHR its maiden Xfinity Series win were dashed after a late-race caution by Tyler Reddick, who had a flat tire on the backstretch. Like Nemechek, Reddick was giving another small team in Big Machine Racing Team Racing its finest run to date.
Nemechek had no choice but to pit and restarted fifth with just two laps left. He passed AJ Allmendinger on the backstretch for fourth place, where he ultimately finished.
Following the race, Nemechek noted how Reddick’s incident did not do him any favors. However, he felt like his car was better than Allgaier’s in the waning laps.
Despite coming up short, he gave credit to SHR for bringing a solid machine.
“We unloaded yesterday and had a really fast Stillhouse 1111 Toyota GR Supra. This Sam Hunt Racing machine was quick. All the guys gave me a great car here,” said Nemechek.
“Had to start back because we didn’t get to qualify and we were able to get into the top-10 I think in the first stage, made some adjustments, got it better. And then I thought we were going to have a shot at the win there until the caution came out and lost a few spots on pit road there.
“The pit crew did awesome for not running up run every week and maintaining most of the time. So shout out to the Sam Hunt Racing guys. I think that’s three or four or five starts in this car and I think three out of the five are top five finishes so pretty proud of everyone in the organization.”
Hunt saw the motivation being built after a strong run that might’ve saw them in victory lane and it can only go up from there.
“We put a great weekend together, and had a shot to win at a really tough racetrack,” said Hunt. “It motivates an already extremely motivated team. The Stillhouse Toyota GR Supra was definitely on rails.”
The single-car organization have used older equipment in the past. Recently, they’ve made tremendous changes during the off-season.
SHR moved to a new shop, acquired newer cars and faced several staff changes in attempt to contend for stronger results.
“I think each year we just try to continue moving the needle,” Hunt commented. “We’ve got some incredible new hires this year, along with guys that have been with me since day one. Just trying to continue putting puzzle pieces together, which is difficult when the budget is strict.”
Additionally, getting valuable laps in the Truck Series, where he’s looking to be champion at season’s end, strengthened Nemechek’s bid for a victory during Saturday’s Xfinity race.
“I feel like it’s good no matter what series you’re running in. I feel like the Xfinity car can translate over to the truck and truck and translate over to the Xfinity car and I feel like I learned a lot last night in the truck race,” Nemechek explained.
“Had a really good Toyota Tundra TRD PRO and that carried over into today. Our Toyota GR Supra was really fast. Just needed track position to start off. We battled our way through the field and made the right adjustments I felt like and had a shot there until the caution came out and just lined up wrong.
“Chose restarts wrong but we’ll learn from it and now we’ll go race I think seven or eight more weeks straight in the truck series trying to pick up some more wins.”
While the No. 26 Supra have rotated through several drivers from Jeffrey Earnhardt to Derek Griffith, Nemechek’s performance showed the field that SHR aren’t shy with duking it out with the big boys of JR Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing.
Hunt mentioned that Nemechek brings experience to the table that’s helped SHR given the 24-year-old racer’s tenures from NEMCO Motorsports to Front Row Motorsports.
“I’ve said it before, but John Hunter works so well with us because he has a great understanding of the entire picture of SHR and where we are at as a company,” Hunt explained. “He’s experienced working with smaller teams, the best and biggest teams, and just really understands how to get the best out of our cars and people.
“He’s an incredible talent and it shows every time he gets in our car. He cares about the program whether he is in the car or not, which is a testament to him as a person.”