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 lengthy burnout upon winning his second Xfinity Series race of the season.
Nemechek held off Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Sammy Smith on Saturday night, then raised some eyebrows — and some level of concern — when the back of his No. 20 Toyota became engulfed in flames after he celebrated with burnouts on the track.
At first, Nemechek tried to drive away from the fire, but then was asked to stop as safety officials raced onto the track and used fire extinguishers to douse the flames. The fire left burn marks on the racetrack.
Nemechek said he wasn’t too worried about his own safety saying, “I’m glad we had a chance to burn it down out there.”
“Excessive celebration,” joked TV 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 extinguishes used at the racetrack.
“Thank you to them for all the safety equipment for that amazing burnout that caught on fire,” Nemechek said.
Nemechek dominated the race, leading 198 of the 250 laps at the paperclip-shaped half-mile racetrack.
Smith finished second, followed by Cole Custer, Josh Berry and Brandon Jones.
“I can’t say enough about this team,” Nemechek said of his fourth career Xfinity Series win. “If you would have asked me yesterday, I would have said we were a 10th-place team. But our guys really made some great adjustments.”
No Cup Series drivers participated because it was a Dash for Cash race, which Nemechek was eligible for and cashed in on winning $100,000.
“I needed a little more drive off, but congrats to them – they were the best car all night,” Smith said. “A couple more adjustments and we might have gotten into victory lane. But it was close. … We’ll get them next time.”
Nemechek was strong from the start in his first Xfinity Series race at Martinsville.
He started on the front row alongside the polesitter Custer, but made it known right away he had the car to beat, taking the lead on the sixth lap and going on to become the first Xfinity Series driver to win the first two stages at Martinsville, leading 74 of the first 120 laps.
Four of the last seven short track races had ended on last lap passes, but not this one.
Nemechek was too dominant.
Justin Allgaier, running on old tires, stayed on the track during a late caution to take the lead. But Nemechek quickly ran him down on the restart with 32 laps to go after getting four new tires during a pit stop.
After another caution, 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 this season.
There have been 12 different winners in the last 12 years at the Xfinity Series race at Martinsville.
MORE BAD LUCK FOR HERBST
After starting the season with six top-10 finishes, Riley Herbst has run into a string of bad luck, crashing out 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 crash, making a vulgar gesture toward him after he climbed out of his No. 1 Chevrolet.
The next Xfinity Series race will be Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway. Noah Gragson won last year’s race.
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