PENSACOLA, Fla. -- John Hunter Nemechek entered the Snowball Derby with a race-winning car but was ultimately unable to chase down the leaders during the final 30-lap stretch, finishing the race in fifth.
Nemechek restarted fourth on the final reset and on the outside of Donnie Wilson, contact between the two sending them both outside of the top-5 and without a chance to win. Nemechek took two tires on his last pit stop with 70 laps to go and with used tires, he was just unable to climb back towards a possible podium position.
"It was a long day," Nemechek told SB Nation after the race. "We had a good car at the start but there towards the end, we started fading We had to make an adjustment to keep up with Chase and we still didn't have anything for them at the end.
"But all of our crew guys came up with the good idea to pit under that second to last caution and lose a little bit of track position but we regained it and finished (fifth)."
Nemechek has started second and third in his first two Derby appearances and posted results of 10th and fifth in those two starts. Considering his age, 16, and relative lack of experience in a Super Late Model, Nemechek is adapting quickly to full-sized stock cars and believes his third trip to the Snowball Derby could end with the desired result.
"I definitely think we do," Nemechek said. "We've learned a lot today with the set-up and what we should have done and what we shouldn't have done. That will all go into the notebook and as you build the notebook more and get more experience, your chances to win improve.
"We'll back here again, racing in the Southern Super Series, getting that experience before we run the Snowflake and the Snowball next year."
In his first full-season of Super Late Model racing, Nemechek focused primarily on the Southern Super Series and finished third in the tour's inaugural season. He has yet to score his first win in Super competition and will begin traveling to additional tracks next season to gain even more experience.
He also hopes to announce additional NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts for next season after making his national touring debut, in a truck, at Martinsville and Phoenix late in the season.