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Nemechek Led LEGACY MOTOR CLUB’s Efforts in DAYTONA 500


John Hunter Nemechek scored a career-best seventh in Monday’s DAYTONA 500, leading the Legacy Motor Club trio. (Photo: Jared Bokanoski | The Podium Finish)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — It was an eventful DAYTONA 500 for the LEGACY MOTOR CLUB trio, who were able to overcome several adversities throughout Monday’s 200-lap race. There were a lot more obstacles than what they would have hoped for the Petty family’s 75th anniversary in NASCAR.

Despite the madness, two of the cars were able to salvage top-10 finishes with John Hunter Nemechek leading the way with a seventh-place result. Behind Nemechek was Erik Jones, who marked his second DAYTONA 500 top-10 result with a third-place outing in 2019 still being his best result in eight races.

As for co-owner and seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, his day was derailed with a Lap 5 crash that set him back for the rest of the race, resulting in the No. 84 crossing the line in 28th, four laps behind race winner William Byron.

The NASCAR Hall of Famer was collected in a seven-car pileup in the tri-oval after Brad Keselowski’s run on Nemechek went awry with the latter getting sideways and colliding into Harrison Burton.

While Nemechek held onto his No. 42 Toyota, Burton was not as fortunate after colliding into Carson Hocevar, sending both into the grass. Further back, Johnson was unable to avoid the melee as he crashed into Hocevar, which effectively ended his day and negatively affected the two-time DAYTONA 500 champion’s race.


The lapped car of Johnson being passed by Justin Haley and David Ragan (Photo: Cornnell Chu | The Podium Finish).

Johnson, who barely made the 500 after fending off JJ Yeley to make the 40-car grid during Thursday’s Duel Race No. 1, fell out of contention and never had a chance to fully work with his drivers. While he was happy seeing both of his full-time entries score a top-10 to kickoff the 2024 season, he was disappointed to have been collected in the early crash.

“I hoped to race a little longer in the Carvana Toyota Camry XSE before we got in a wreck, but it’s just a matter of time before you get caught up in something here. So, it was pretty disappointing,” said Johnson. “We had some optimism in the beginning, hopeful we could straighten out the suspension and then at least run in the draft.

“Then, as time went on, we realized the severity of the damage and we just had too much damage to even really hang in the draft unless I had a unique situation. So then, at that point it was just wondering if there were going to be more cautions and if we would gain some positions through the cautions.”


An early-race crash affected Johnson’s bid for a third DAYTONA 500 victory. (Photo: Cornnell Chu | The Podium Finish)

Nemechek’s day would continue to turn chaotic for most of the race with every incident occurring on pit road. He stalled his car and had to serve a stop-and-go penalty due to a safety violation, which set him farther back. Adding insult to injury, Nemechek ran into Josh Berry during a round of green flag pit stops, an incident that Berry did not appreciate and he did not mince words over the radio.

“That 42 is a dip (expletive), like always,” said Berry.

Following a series of unfortunate events, Nemechek was able to avoid the late-race “Big One” that halted the race on Lap 192. The same could not be said for Jones, who was among the 18 drivers involved in the Turn 3 calamity.

Unlike some of the drivers, Jones was able to get his No. 43 machine onto pit road for damage repair and rallied back to a top-10 finish.

“It’s a good start to the season. I’ve not had good luck at the start of the season at Daytona, so we will take a top-10. I wish it was more,” said Jones. “I think we had a car capable of more – I just struggled to make much happen throughout the day, getting in line and getting to the front.

“The AdventHealth Camry was good. Just didn’t play out at all throughout the night like we needed. We finally had something rolling there in the middle and it got choked up and we got caught up in that wreck, but we will take it. We will go to Atlanta and try again.”


Erik Jones scored his second DAYTONA 500 result. (Photo: Cornnell Chu | The Podium Finish)

For Nemechek, it was a strong start in his first full season back in the Cup Series since 2020 as Monday’s result marked his best career finish.

“Solid DAYTONA 500, solid start to our year,” said Nemechek. “Ran up front for a little bit, rode around for a while and stayed out of the carnage. Overall, really proud of everyone at LEGACY MOTOR CLUB with this Dollar Tree Toyota Camry XSE.

“It felt good in the draft. I felt like I could push, I could ride, I could be pushed. Overall, a solid day. I feel good about where we are at. Decent start to the year.”


John Hunter Nemechek on pit road for fuel. (Photo: Cornnell Chu | The Podium Finish)

Nemechek’s Monday did not just end with the sport’s biggest race. His day continued with the NASCAR XFINITY Series season opener, the United Rentals 300, which kicked off just after 9 p.m. ET, leaving little time to rest.

Driving for Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 20 team, Nemechek was one of five drivers who ran both the 500 and the 300-mile classic. As in the 500, Nemechek also endured adversity in the Xfinity race, getting wrapped up in a crash on Lap 38.

Despite sustaining damage, Nemechek matched his Cup result and ended up as one of two drivers, AJ Allmendinger being the other, who completed the combined advertised 800 miles. An eventful day would be considered an understatement for LMC’s top finisher.

While Johnson will not make another Cup start until Dover Motor Speedway on Apr. 28, Nemechek and Jones will head to Atlanta Motor Speedway for the second race of the 36-race odyssey. Live coverage of the Ambetter Health 400 begins Sunday, February 25 at 3 p.m. ET on FOX.

Throughout my young motorsports media career, my number-one goal is to be a personnel that can be flexible with my writing and photography in the world of NASCAR and INDYCAR. Content delivery is vital because this is my main passion and what keeps me going. On the side, I also do sports production ranging from Seattle Kraken hockey to the 2023 NCAA Women's March Madness. All for the love of the game. With four National Motorsports Press Association photography awards, I'm not slowing down anytime soon. Outside of media, I'm super vocal about my musical tastes that goes from Metallica to HAIM. At times, there might be some Paul Thomas Anderson and Southern California references in my social media.

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