John Hunter Nemechek Gets Second Chance In NASCAR’s Cup Series

In a somewhat unsurprising announcement Wednesday night Legacy Motor Club confirmed that John Hunter Nemechek will move to the No. 42 car in NASCAR’s Cup series starting in 2024.

That 42 car will be a Toyota as the team revealed earlier this year the move to Toyota from Chevrolet. Nemechek is a Toyota driver. Up until the race at Richmond in July, Noah Gragson was the fulltime driver but was suspended for liking” a meme on Instagram making light of George Floyd, whose death at the hands of Minneapolis police in 2020 drew widespread outrage.

Gragson was suspended by the team then NASCAR and asked for a release from his contract with the team several weeks later. Since then, the team has used several drivers in the car.

The 26-year-old Nemechek is a longtime Toyota development driver who made his NASCAR Truck series debut in 2013, debut at the age of 16, driving the No. 22 Toyota Tundra for his family-owned team, SWM-NEMCO Racing. On September 19, 2015 – 16 years to the day his father Joe won his first NASCAR Cup Series race – the young Nemechek won his first Truck Series race at Chicagoland. He was voted the “Most Popular Driver” later that year in the series.

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In 2018, Nemechek signed on to drive in the Xfinity Series for Chip Ganassi Racing and then with GMS Racing in 2019 for their Xfinity program. He competed in Trucks and Xfinity until 2019 and moved up to the Cup Series to compete full-time in 2020 for Front Road Motorsports in a Ford.

He had a mediocre season in the Cup series with only three top-10 finishes. Nemechek made the decision to return to the Truck Series full-time and signed on with Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM).

After two top-five finishes in the championship points in 2021 and 2022, Nemechek was signed by Joe Gibbs Racing for the 2023 season to compete full-time for the team’s Xfinity program. He currently has five wins, 12 top-five, and 18 top-10 finishes to date, ranking second in the series point standings heading into Kansas.

Before his suspension there had been speculation that Legacy was seriously contemplating replacing Gragson for next season amid his struggles in what is his first full season at the Cup level, Gragson had been competing for NASCAR Rookie of the Year. While the Las Vegas native did win 8 races in 2022 in the NASCAR Xfinity series, this season at Legacy his best finish was 12th at Atlanta in the spring race. If the remaining 21 races he has not finished outside the top 20 and has an average finish of 28.2. In 2022, Gragson raced with Kaulig Racing in the Cup series part-time entering 18 races scoring a top 5 finish at the August race at Daytona with an overall average finish of 23.1.

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With the announced move to Toyota, there was much speculation that Nemechek would be the obvious replacement starting next season.

“To be able to announce my plans for next season so early and officially say I will be competing full-time in the NASCAR Cup Series relieves a lot of pressure,” Nemechek said. “There is so much to be done for next year, and this gives us the opportunity to get the news out there and move forward. Also, driving for Maury (Gallagher), Jimmie (Johnson) and Richard Petty is a dream come true for me.”

Team co-owner Johnson and John Hunter’s dad, “Front Row Joe” Nemechek were teammates at Hendrick Motorsports in 2002 and 2003, as the elder Nemechek drove the No. 25 entry in the Cup Series. John Hunter was just five years old at the time.

“We’re excited to have John Hunter in the Legacy Motor Club family and I can’t wait to see what he can do in the No. 42 next season,” said Johnson. “He is impressive both on and off the track and will be a great ambassador for Legacy M.C. and our partners. He will be a solid teammate to Erik (Jones) and I can’t wait to watch them both compete for wins and championships for years to come.”

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