Archive for Thursday, October 14, 2004

Double Trouble for NASCAR field

Nemechek wins twice at Kansas Speedway

October 14, 2004

NASCAR veteran Joe Nemechek showed the sport's big boys in the Chase for the Cup a thing or two during an unprecedented weekend of success at Kansas Speedway.

Nemechek, who piloted the number 01 U.S. Army Chevrolet Sunday and the number 87 Cellular One Chevy Saturday, completed the first-ever weekend sweep at the speedway.

"Man I just don't know what to say," Nemechek said. "I have got some great race teams. Guys working on these cars are building me the best cars they can each week, and when they drive that good it's fun."

On Friday, Nemechek gave everyone a preview of his weekend dominance by winning the pole for the Nextel Cup Banquet 400 with a speed of 180.156 mph.

On Saturday, he began the Busch Series race, the Mr. Goodcents 300, in the middle of the pack in the 19th position. The 41-year-old charged to the front of the pack and reached the fourth spot by lap 100 and the second spot by lap 150. With fewer than five laps remaining, Nemechek and race leader Tony Stewart battled closely for the top position.

The action got a little too close, however, and the two made contact on the back stretch with only a lap and a half to go. Stewart, who was leading, smashed into the wall, and his race was over. The front end and hood of Nemechek's car was damaged, but he was able to take over the lead and continue. NASCAR officials extended the race to 204 four laps to allow the field to finish the race under true racing conditions rather than under the caution that was brought about after the wreck.

The marshal then simultaneously waved the green and white flags to signal the start of the one-lap shootout, and Nemechek was able to hold off second-place finisher Greg Biffle by .041 seconds.

Although Nemechek was happy with the win, his first order of business was issuing an apology.

"The first thing I have got to do is apologize to Tony Stewart," Nemechek said.

"To get (a win) feels really great," he said. "I just didn't need all that other stuff to go with it."

Biffle said he had a "bird's-eye-view" of the incident and rather than assessing blame, he simply chalked it up as "just racing."

"It's probably the same thing I would have done if I was trying to win the thing," Biffle said.

During Sunday's main event, the cup race, Nemechek began the day right where he finished Saturday-- in first place. But, he slipped back in the field after the fourth lap and watched Jeremy Mayfield, Biffle and Kasey Kahne lead most of the race early on.

Once again, though, Nemechek proved he himself up to the task. In the second half of the race he crept toward the front of the pack and then blew by Elliot Sadler with 37 laps to go for the lead.

Nemechek never looked back, but he did have to survive a couple of restarts that bunched the field up close behind him and again he found himself in a tight race during the last lap.

"Anytime you have a big lead and all of a sudden it goes away, it's not good for the guy out front," he said.

"But I was having great restarts."

Nemechek said his crew chief asked him to conserve gas so that the car would have enough in the tank to cross the finish line. The conservative measure almost cost him the victory. Nemechek said he didn't notice that Ricky Rudd had closed in on him during the final lap.

"I almost gave the race away," he said.

Rudd put the nose of his car in the lead briefly on the final lap, but Nemechek stomped on the gas and had quicker exits from turns three and four to hold to win by .081 seconds. In doing so, he broke a 54-race winless streak of cup races and capped off his perfect weekend.

"It's definitely a dream weekend," the winner said, "to win both races and sit on the pole."

"Racing's fun right now."

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