It seems like every year, no matter how much we look into it, there is a driver who shocks during Speedweeks.In 2011, it was Trevor Bayne and David Ragan, in 2013 we saw Danica Patrick, and who could forget 2018 where Austin Dillon and Bubba Wallace, nobody’s favorites to win, finished one-two. Could this year’s stick with the Richard Childress Racing camp?
While the spotlight shined on the four drivers of Hendrick Motorsports Sunday, there was one competitor in their shadow that many may have overlooked, rookie Daniel Hemric, who posted the fifth fastest time of the afternoon.
During Wednesday’s media day, the 28-year-old admitted to the press that the run was just as unexpected him as well.
“We didn’t get to do a full qualifying run on practice day, so I didn’t know what to expect,” Hemric said. “I asked Luke (Lambert, crew chief) what we were going to run and he said he didn’t have a good idea either. I saw my teammate Austin Dillon go top of the board early, and he went a good bit faster than what we expected our cars to run. It gave me some confidence that we could lock ourselves into the second round and have a shot. And then we went on to qualify fifth. We were incredibly proud because there’s so much effort that goes into building this race cars in the offseason between ECR, Chevrolet and RCR. This is our biggest event and you want to come down here and have speed. I know it’s early in the week by the time you qualify but it does give you momentum rolling into this week.”
While he may not be considered an underdog, and shouldn’t be given he drives for one of the sport’s top teams, the term ‘dark horse’ suits him well and, the under the radar threat, may just give Richard Childress his fourth Daytona 500 in his 50th year as an owner.
“That would be a fairy tale for sure,” Hemric said. “50 years is an incredible journey that Richard and Judy Childress have committed to our sport. To be in one of their race cars and knowing the history that comes with carrying the Richard Childress Racing logo is incredible in itself. We’re here and we have as good a shot as anybody, so we’ll go out swinging.”
If Hemric were to capture a win Sunday, it would be the 109th for RCR and, the first for him, not only in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series but, in any of NASCAR’s top-three series. It sounds unlikely but, it’s Daytona, anything can happen.
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