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Patient run pays off for Nemechek

Published Sep. 10, 2005

Joe Nemechek has a bittersweet relationship with Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Nemechek won Saturday's GNC Live Well 300, his third Busch Grand National victory at the track since younger brother John suffered fatal injuries in a truck race accident here in 1997.

"This place has been good to us and bad to us," said former Lakeland resident Nemechek, surrounded in Victory Lane by his wife, son, daughter, mother, father and sister. "With everything I've been through and my family's been through, I'm so happy they're all down here."

John Nemechek, 27, died March 21, 1997, five days after sustaining massive head injuries. Joe Nemechek's 4-year-old son, John Hunter, is named for his brother.

It was Nemechek's second BGN win of the season and 11th of his career. He won at Homestead in 1997, just months after his brother's death, and again in 1999.

"Probably the biggest was in '97," Nemechek said. "It was tough just coming back here."

Nemechek took advantage of series champion Kevin Harvick's misfortune. Harvick led 128 laps on the 1.5-mile oval, but lost the engine in his No. 2 Chevrolet 40 laps from the end.

That put Elton Sawyer in the lead.

When leaders came in for final pit stops, Nemechek argued against crew chief Brian Pattie's decision to change only two tires, but it was the right move. He came out ahead of Sawyer, who changed four. Six laps from the end, he passed Scott Wimmer for the lead.

"My car was awesome on two tires," said Nemechek, who starts 24th in the No. 33 Chevrolet for today's Winston Cup event. "It'll be interesting to see what happens in the Cup race."

Sawyer came back to finish second. Greg Biffle, the series' top rookie, was third, followed by Wimmer and three Winston Cup regulars: Matt Kenseth, Michael Waltrip and Ward Burton.

Christian Fittipaldi, a regular in the open-wheel CART series, ran into some bad luck _ and the wall _ in his first stock car race, finishing 39th.

Fittipaldi lost three laps when his team left him on the track too long and he ran out of gas. His day ended when Hank Parker Jr. tapped him from behind, sending the No. 30 Chevrolet spinning into the wall.