JR Motorsports driver Cole Custer was the class of the field in his number 00 Chevy Silverado all weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. Custer led a race high 39 out of the 66 laps raced, while Nemechek led 19 laps. Custer had the overtime race sewn up going into the final turn before the checkered flag. However, Nemechek, in the Nemco Motorsports number 8, put and held Custer in the wall until they passed the Start-Finish line with Nemechek in the lead by the length of his truck’s engine compartment.
How It Unfolded
Custer was on his way to a win and a Truck Series Chase berth. Although Nemechek was back there nearing his bumper, Custer was secure in first place – as long as everybody drove clean. Nemechek, with one win already and locked into the Chase, didn’t. This was a must-win race for the JRM driver to get a spot in the Chase.
At first, the incident just looked like racing. Nemechek even said it after the race: “Rubbin’ is racin’,” which is something you’ll hear almost every commentator say at least once during a race broadcast. However, if you watch the video of the incident, you can see Custer recovering his lost truck as he climbs the track a bit.
You then see Nemechek take a hard left and push Custer off the track and then into the wall. You can also see his wheels turned into Custer’s truck, keeping him in the grass and against the wall, ensuring his own victory.
A number of years ago, something like this was an almost regular occurrence. Drivers got put into the wall quite often. However, in my 30-plus years of watching NASCAR racing, I can count on the fingers of one hand the times where someone put another driver into the wall and then turned into that driver to keep him against the wall.
This incident was nothing but Nemechek wanting the win and the bonus points that come from it, and knowing that he didn’t have the truck to race cleanly and get that win. He knew that he had to play dirty in order to pass Custer. So, he did.
NASCAR withheld their ruling on who won the race for a few minutes after the two trucks crossed the Start-Finish line. Custer was mad, as well he should have been. Nemechek was on his way to the flag stand to grab his ill-gotten checkered flag after the race. You can see him stop, turn and begin to run away. Then you see Custer enter the frame and drop Nemechek hard.
What makes this incident even more difficult to believe is that that same day, Tony Stewart purposely turned Brian Scott into the inside wall during the race at the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on Sept. 4. Tony got loose early in the corner and almost slid sideways into Scott’s car. After recovering, Tony can be seen approaching the left rear quarter of Scott’s car and turning him. The result of this on-track incident was that Stewart and his crew chief were called to the NASCAR Hauler after the race. Stewart was asked during a post-race interview with NBCSN what happened. His response was two words and an evil smile: “He crashed.”
To me, what we see here is NASCAR ruling on on-track incidents in two separate ways. John Hunter Nemechek is seen to purposely drive a faster competitor’s truck into the wall and then hold it there, and NASCAR gives him the win. Stewart turns a four lap down driver into the inside wall and he’s called to the Hauler after the race to explain his actions.
What do you think? Was Nemechek right? Was it just “rubbin’,” or was it that he wanted to win so badly that he didn’t care about the safety of other drivers, fans, and officials at the track? Personally, I think Nemechek should not have been awarded the victory, and he should have been penalized for dangerous behavior. I also think that Brian Scott should have been called to the Hauler after the Darlington race to explain why he didn’t give a lead lap car more room to maneuver/pass when he himself was four laps down.