Photo credit: Nigel Kinrade Photography

Tennessee temperatures create battle of attrition

LEBANON, Tenn. -- John Hunter Nemechek performed a burnout on the frontstretch after winning Saturday's Xfinity race at Nashville Superspeedway while multiple other drivers sat exhausted next to their race cars on pit road.

This was the result of 188 grueling laps on a day where temperatures inside the car were between 130 and 140 degrees.

"It was really hot," Riley Herbst said after the race. "Vision got blurry. It was extremely hot. Miserable day, (we) plowed through."

Herbst, Noah Gragson, and Chandler Smith were only some of the drivers who showed the effects of conditions inside their race cars as they sat on pit road after the race.

Blaine Perkins, Sam Mayer, Ty Gibbs, Tyler Reddick, Gragson, and Herbst all went to the infield care center after the race for IV fluids. This is a treatment made available to the drivers each week of the season. Many chose this option Saturday.

The heat was not the only issue the drivers faced. Multiple had their cool shirts malfunction midway through the race, which only made the temperatures in the car seem more extreme. However, the drivers just had to keep going.

The cool shirts are pieces of technology used by many drivers throughout the field. There are veins running all over the shirts, which carry cold water during the race. A refrigerant box in the car keeps the water cool, unless it malfunctions.

"I don't feel burned, but on the grid it made a weird noise," Herbst said. "It clunked a little bit, but what are we gonna do when we're rolling off? So we kept going. I just felt it get hotter and hotter and hotter, so I made the executive decision to unplug it.

"That's risky because you can't really plug it back in, so that was a 100% decision and we did. Stage two was the hardest. That's when it got a little spotty vision, but cold water in the car and the ice got us through."

These temperatures are nothing new for summer races in NASCAR, especially at Nashville Superspeedway. The 1.33-mile track routinely hosts some of the hottest races of the season, and drivers have to spend time focusing on their hydration as they prepare to take it on.

Nemechek isn't someone who regularly wears a cool suit when competing in Xfinity. He said it largely depends on the weather forecast and if he is pulling double duty. This weekend's races at Nashville Superspeedway met this criteria, so Nemechek donned a cool suit before going out and winning his second race of the season.

And while the Cup regular loves the heat, he also recognizes the effects it can have on the body. So he prepares much like he did for Ironman triathlons and marathons.

"It was 130-140 in the race car today," Nemechek said during his post-race press conference. "I don't think just your average person could go sit in that and perform at a high heart rate.

"I mean, my heart rate right now sitting here is 135. So I guarantee you if I pull it up, my average from the day I'm going to be in the 160-170 average for close to three hours."