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Trucks

Truck Series Break Met With Mixed Feelings

The Camping World Truck Series schedule is unique in motorsports.

After taking part in two triple-header weekends to open the season at Daytona and Atlanta, it was a month before the series returned to the track. If that wasn’t enough, the trucks are in the midst of a five-week hiatus after the Alpha Energy Solutions 250 at Martinsville.

For some fans, it becomes frustrating in not being able to follow the series from the start of the year on a consistent basis. When you survey the garage, it’s a split decision. Some teams would like to run every week, while others use the weeks off for preparation.

“I understand why they do it,” Tyler Young told POPULAR SPEED. “Speedway stuff is totally different, so you work on your mile-and-a-half for Atlanta, and then get a little time off to work on your short track stuff for Martinsville.”

With another month off, most teams will spend the break getting their program set up for the next three races, which are immediate tracks, and rest of the season.

ThorSport Racing expanded to four teams this year, providing the Ohio-based team a new challenge in terms of having a full fleet of trucks.

“Being the fourth deal [team], we started off a little late in putting together the trucks in January,” said Eddie Troconis, crew chief for Thorsport Racing’s Cameron Hayley. “That little bit of break that we had in March allowed us to gear up better and then these next four weeks is where we’re going to finalize the rest of the truck inventory for the rest of the season, or at least next half of the season.

“I know that people say that if they could, they’d be racing every week, but it gives us more time to be prepared.”

Despite sitting atop the points, NEMCO Motorsports has fewer resources than a multi-truck team. That’s why crew chief Gere Kennon says they’re putting emphasis on getting additional trucks prepared on a just-in-case basis.

Despite the break helping preparation, Kennon points out some noticeable drawbacks.

For example, Kennon says racing every week would only help young wheelman John Hunter Nemechek as he climbs the racing ladder. He’s also concerned about his team losing its momentum.

“If you have a break, you kind of have to get back into the rhythm of everybody knowing what they do,” Kennon said. “I like racing every week. It’s second nature to me.”

The long break could also take a toll on teams that got off to a poor start.

“Going through the break makes it tough,” Daniel Hemric said. “Whether you have a good race or bad race, you want to get to the next one really quick and get [in] a groove.”

“That’s why it’s important to run as good as you can before the break because you can kind of use the momentum and motivation in the guys,” Young said. “Those first couple of races are important, really.”

Hemric acknowledges the break can be tough, so he’s trying to stay busy by helping around the shop.

“It does make it tough to get into a rhythm, but at the end of the day, if you do your job and spend the time at the shop that needs to be spent, it gives you an opportunity to be more one-on-one with the team,” Hemric said. “I just try to make sure that I’m involved in day-to-day operations at the shop.”

For Hemric, the extra time in the shop and getting to know his guys better could pay off as he continues his debut season with Brad Keselowski Racing.

“I want us to feel like we’re not just a race team. I think we can be family as the weeks go by,” Hemric said. “I think that relationship is going to be huge when we get further into the season and the weekends get tougher on everyone. We know we’ve got each other’s backs, and that’s what it’s all about.”

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Trucks

How Long Until John Hunter Nemechek Leaves NEMCO?

If John Hunter Nemechek is to eventually become a star at the highest levels of NASCAR, he knows the path will eventually take him away from the familiar confines of NEMCO Motorsports.

His father, Sprint Cup Series veteran Joe Nemechek, spent the past decade building up his family organization to prepare for the debut of John Hunter. A year and a half into his Truck Series career, the younger Nemechek has made good on that investment — posting 10 top-10s in 22 career starts.

And while he would like to win races and perhaps win a championship next season for his team and family, the younger Nemechek admitted on Popular Speed TearDown Radio that he is looking to eventually join a larger team sooner rather than later.

“Dad and I have definitely talked about our long term goal and that’s to move out of NEMCO Motorsports so we can run XFINITY and make it to the Sprint Cup Series,” Nemechek said. “That’s where I want to be — at the top of the sport.

“In order to get there, you’re going to have to branch out and spend some time with a bigger team. I feel like we might have some opportunities coming up so hopefully we can run better in the second half and get some good finishes.”

READ MORE: The Transformation of Joe Nemechek

Like everything in racing, any talks of Nemechek graduating to the XFINITY Series or another team must start with funding and sponsorship and that’s something he is working hard to acquire prior to next season.

“That would be neat so hopefully we can get some talks started about moving up,” Nemechek said. “Everyone says this but we’re taking this day-by-day and week-by-week so everything is about sponsorship. We’re trying to find that funding needed to keep moving up the ranks and find a bigger team for sure.”

Even if Nemechek left NEMCO, the Truck Series team would continue on as the older Nemechek still wants to continue driving at some point while also fielding a truck for development driver Dominique Van Wieringen.

NEMCO is very much a family oriented program with John Hunter spending nearly every day in the shop alongside crew chief Gere Kennon and the rest of his No. 8 team. Even though his family name is on the door, the 18-year-old prospect says it’s important that he is seen as one of the guys from Monday to Thursday — and his dad wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I’ve very fortunate to have my dad invested in my career,” John Hunter said. “I’m fortunate to have so many talented people at the shop invested in what we’re doing. I’m in the shop, digging seven days a week and I think that motivates them to know that all of us are busting our butts to get to Victory Lane.

“I don’t see this team as everyone placing attention on me now that I’m in the truck full-time, I just think that we’re all trying to make the whole company better from our Trucks, Late Models and development drivers.”

And that work is starting to pay off too. Nemechek contended at both Bristol (P3) and Bowmanville (P9) over the past two events, leading Nemechek to believe he very well could get to Victory Lane by the end of the season.

“We’ve got some cool race tracks coming up and some that I’ve never been to but we’ve excelled at as a team,” he said. “Our next race is Chicagoland and it’s a lot like a Kentucky in that it’s rough so hopefully we can run well there.

“We still have some short tracks up too so I think we’ll run well at those places too. We just need to shore up our pit stops and get lady luck on our side.”

EMAIL MATT AT matt.weaver@popularspeed.com

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Trucks

The Transformation of Joe Nemechek

There’s a time each weekend when Joe Nemechek transforms. The owner’s hat comes off. Being a driver coach takes a backseat. This is the time when Joe Nemechek is dad to 18-year-old John Hunter Nemechek.

“When he’s not mentoring me before the race he has his iPad out taking pictures of the crew guys down there, the sponsors and I,” John Hunter said. “He still has his dad figure of always taking pictures and being around smiling and joking about everything before the race. Hugging me before I get in the truck and saying ‘go get it, son.’”

The younger Nemechek appreciates the moments when Joe switches roles. It speaks volumes of the close-knit family the Nemechek’s are and those who witness the fresh reminder that NASCAR is a family sport can’t help but smile.

To Joe, dad mode is nothing more than a bit of tradition. Martha Nemechek was the ultimate racing mom when Joe began his career. It continued when he moved into NASCAR. Martha collected everything associated with him such as fire suits, helmets, and gloves. She was the team’s biggest cheerleader on race day, and she can still bring out stacks of photo albums and media clippings.

It spoiled Joe, he admits. But now he’s doing the same with John Hunter while also using the pictures to share with wife Andrea and two daughters who don’t travel to many races. But just like John Hunter, even Joe can chuckle about dad mode.

“I do try taking a lot of pictures,” he said. “Only because, heck, that’s what was done to me when I was growing up and doing it.”

Everything Joe has done lately, including stepping out of the truck, has been for John Hunter’s benefit. As the rookie tackles the remainder of the Camping World Truck Series season as the full-time driver in the family-owned No. 8, Joe is never far. Most of the time the at-track atmosphere is pretty intense because Nemechek knows what it takes to be successful.

The 1992 champion in what is now the XFINITY Series, he’s made over 400 starts with 16 career victories. He has four Sprint Cup Series wins to his resume with over 600 starts. With a storied NASCAR past, Nemechek now holds everyone, including John Hunter, at NEMCO Motorsports to the same standards.

“I put a lot of pressure on the people that work for me to try and provide the best possible product,” he said. “Truck, car, whatever it may be. Whatever we’re racing. I’ve never been one to go to the track without having a shot at winning.”

Granted there was a period of Nemechek’s life he’s not proud of. A few years ago his No. 87 was either starting and parking or logging laps to collect a paycheck. It was not how Nemechek wanted to be at the racetrack, but how he had to make a living all while ensuring John Hunter had a future.

NEMCO Motorsports isn’t immune to the funding battle yet has built itself into a Truck Series contender.

“We always seemed liked we had a shot at winning in whatever we were in, and I’m still like that today,” Joe said. “Especially with all the cars and equipment we have today. I know what we have; I know what we’re capable of doing.”

Going in John Hunter’s favor is the wealth of knowledge and information at his disposal from owner/driver/mentor/dad Joe in addition to crew chief and NASCAR veteran Gere Kennon.

“I’ve been there, done that. So he’s trying to make a career,” said Joe. “You got to do things the best you can. You got to take advantage every moment that you’re doing well, or you’re out there digging. But you can’t make dumb mistakes. If you make a mistake, you better learn by it, so you don’t make it again.

“And being a rookie, being new at this, believe me, we make a lot of mistakes. But (John Hunter) doesn’t seem to make them again. Makes them one time, learns from it and goes on. Probably the biggest thing I push to not only him, our other (late model) development driver, guys in the shop, you gotta have fun doing this.”

John Hunter knows the day he no longer has fun racing, tell dad it’s time for them to go do something else. That, however, doesn’t seem to be an issue for the youngster. So Joe Nemechek spends more time telling him before a race to have fun, enjoy the competition and make the best of what he has.

They hug, pray and then John Hunter climbs aboard his machine. Inside, at the insistence of grandma Martha, is the St. Christopher medal. John Hunter must not only travel with it but also attach it to the seat of racecar or truck.

Then, as quickly as he switched into dad mode, Joe is back to business. Occasionally he spots for his son.

“I get yelled at a lot,” he says with a smile. “Same as I did to all my spotters I had.”

Nemechek aims to provide John Hunter with the necessary information. If he can help put him in the best situations, he’s confident John Hunter will make the best decisions.

“That’s what this whole thing’s about,” Joe revealed. “It’s just not about driving racecars. A lot of it you’re learning how to be a good person, you’re growing up in this sport. So it’s more than just driving.”

The Nemechek’s are a family who lives to drive, however.

Ahead of Wednesday night’s UNOH 200 at Bristol, Joe believed John Hunter could pull off a top-three finish if he stayed in contention until the end. John Hunter finished third.

Looking into 2016, Joe hopes plans of running John Hunter full-time will be fulfilled, but right now, the organization is focused on finding the resources it needs to survive until the end of the year.

“Trying to do a lot with a little and get the most bang for your buck and go on. He’s definitely got a tremendous amount of talent,” Joe said of his son. “We have a very, very small crew, and we do an awful lot with the small crew that we have. I’m proud of what we have; I’m just kind of disappointed we haven’t won a race yet. I think we’ve been close a few times, but we never give up.”

As much as Joe glows when talking about John Hunter’s career, don’t believe for one minute he’s given up on ever driving again. As much as being an owner and dad has its rewards Nemechek will let you know he thinks, “the old man can still outdo (John Hunter).”

If the funding ever came along, Joe would jump at the chance to field two trucks for himself and John Hunter to compete against each other. It’ll happen one of these days, he said.

“I got to win me a truck race before I’m all done,” Joe said. “We’ll get it. Oh yeah, we’ll get there.”

And that moment, the ultimate father-son racing moment, would transcend Joe Nemechek far beyond any role he’s ever played.

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Trucks

JH Nemechek Contends in First Intermediate Start

SPARTA, Ky. — John Hunter Nemechek had never turned a lap around an intermediate track prior to the drop of the green flag of the UNOH 225 Camping World Truck Series race at Kentucky Speedway on Thursday night.

With rain canceling practice and qualifying, Nemechek was forced to race cold turkey around the mile-and-a-half speedplant just south of Cincinnati, Ohio. His inexperience made the fact that he contended throughout the afternoon, running top-10 and leading laps, all the more impressive.

Nemechek took four tires on the final pit stop and just ran out of time to get back to the top-5 – a situation made worse when the event ended five laps early when Ben Kennedy crashed into the catchfence, destroying a portion of the protected partition.

The second-generation driver led for several laps under caution and felt satisfied about his day despite finishing 11th.

“It was fun,” Nemechek said. “We had really good truck and just took four tires there at the end when we should have taken two or none. We hauled the mail on no tires there in the middle of the race.

I definitely had some learning to do, but I felt like I learned a lot tonight and I felt like I adapted pretty quick. I can’t thank my guys enough for a great truck.”

Nemechek restarted on the front row with uber prospect Ryan Blaney at one point but was quickly overtaken by the Brad Keselowski Motorsports driver. Despite getting beat in that head-to-head battle, Nemechek said his ability to hang with one of the best teams in the industry was a testament to his team back at the NEMCO Motorsports shop in Mooresville, North Carolina.

“It felt good,” Nemechek said. “It shows what we can do as a team, how fast our truck really is. Like I said, we need some luck to get the finishes that we need.”

Executive Managing Editor Kelly Crandall contributed to this report.

EMAIL MATT AT matt.weaver@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattWeaverSBN

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Dominique Van Wieringen Poised to Join Nemechek as NEMCO Success Story

While John Hunter Nemechek prepares to compete full-time in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, starting this weekend at Gateway Motorsports Park, a second NEMCO Motorsports development driver also appears poised to make her own debut by the end of the year.

Dominique Van Wieringen is a 19-year-old from Amherstburg, Ontario, Canada and is one of the most impressive newcomers currently driving a Super Late Model in the talent-stacked Deep South hotbed of short track racing.

After becoming the first female to win a CRA JEGS Tour Pro Late Model race, having done so in a family-owner car back in 2013 at IRP, Van Wieringen looked to take her raw talents to an organization that could eventually shape her into a NASCAR-ready prospect.

That search led her to NEMCO Motorsports and team owner Joe Nemechek.

“I had raced against them in the past and it was clear that they had a system going that worked and that this was a team of driven racers that wanted to win,” Van Wieringen said. “This group strives to be the best of the best and that is what I aspire for as well.”

Now a resident of the Queen City, Wieringen is a full-time student at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte where she is working towards earning her mechanical engineering degree over the next calendar year.

The fact she has been able to maintain her grades while increasing her performance on the track this season is what Nemechek most likes about the mental makeup of her junior driver.

“There are a lot of good things going on in her life,” Nemechek said over the weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. “She’s a full-time student and she has some very tough classes. She has her plate full and she’s still very competitive. She’s working out and doing all the things that it takes to get to the next level.

“We’ll see when that is but hopefully we’re going to run her in a Truck Series race or two and take it one step at a time. There are so many things that have to go right but she’s making incredible progress and I’m very proud of her.”

More than likely, those two starts will come at Martinsville and Phoenix — the two tracks where she has received NASCAR approval to run. Those are also the two tracks John Hunter first ran when he made his Truck Series debut back in 2013.

“To say I’m excited would be an understatement,” Van Wieringen said. “We haven’t finalized everything as far as sponsors go but I’m looking forward to the opportunity.”

While she doesn’t want to stereotype herself, Van Wieringen believes there is an opportunity to market her gender in what is still a male dominated sport. With that said, she also understands that the opportunities to market herself as a ‘female driver’ also delivers scrutiny and extra pressure – aspects she seems prepared to deal with.

“Being a female racer definitely means more support from the fans in the stands,” Van Wieringen said. “They are automatically behind you because they want to see you succeed. So you can take that support to sponsors and tell them that you’ll get more TV time that a lot of other drivers — more screen time.

“At the same time, it’s a double-edged sword because some fans will say you’re abusing the system. But fans like to support the underdog and I see female drivers as an underdog that people like to stand behind.”

For his part, Joe Nemechek believes Van Wieringen is almost ready to take the next step — something he couldn’t say back when they first joined forces back in December during the Snowball Derby weekend.

“She’s come such a long way as a driver,” Nemechek said. “We’ve tried to educate her in the same way that we educated John Hunter in that there is a right way of doing things while trying to get rid of her bad habits.

“She didn’t start with us. She’s been driving for her own team and a lot of the things that happened back then just wasn’t always the best way to go about things. So we’re trying to teach her all the right things and give her the best quality of cars we can — equal to or better than what John Hunter has.”

Joe Nemechek: Wants to Stay in Truck Series to “Kick JH’s Butt.”

Her Super Late Model car chief, Austin Pollak, has taken a hands-on approach with his young driver and says he sees a lot of promise from Van Wieringen.

Pollak first joined NEMCO in 2013, John Hunter’s second season, and believes Van Wieringen is actually advancing a little bit faster than the second-generation Truck star.

“A part of that is we have the experience of working with John Hunter when he was younger,” Pollak said. “We’ve been able to apply that to Dominique but a lot of that is on her too. She is really competitive and wants to be as good as she can be.

“She’s going to win a (Late Model) race this year if not multiple.”

In short, NEMCO Motorsports has built quite the driver development stable and Van Wieringen appears poised to follow her teammate and car owner to the next level — and become just as successful in the process.

EMAIL MATT AT matt.weaver@popularspeed.com

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Joe Nemechek on Truck Future: “I’m Going to Kick John Hunter’s Butt”

FORT WORTH, Tex. — Just because Joe Nemechek is about to hand his keys over to his son in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series doesn’t mean that he is simply going to ride off into the sunset and never be seen again.

John Hunter Nemechek will turn 18-years-old next week, making him eligible for every track on the schedule. As a result, the elder Nemechek is suddenly (but willingly) without the competitive part-time ride that has reinvigorated him over the past two seasons.

While neither Nemechek has won since joining the Truck Series last season, “Front Row Joe” is adamant that he has had a lot of fun sharing the No. 8 Chevrolet with John Hunter. He’s having so much fun, in fact, that he wants to keep racing on the tour and ultimately race side-by-side with his highly-touted teenager.

“He keeps telling me that he’s taking my steering wheel away,” Joe said about John Hunter. But I told him, yeah, you might be taking my wheel for a little while, but make no mistake, I’m going to come back and I’m going to kick your butt so be prepared.”

Nemechek says NEMCO Motorsports has the equipment and resources to run a second truck from time-to-time and that the 30-year-veteran hopes to find the funding to keep racing as long as it doesn’t take away from John Hunter. In fact, Nemechek also hopes to enter two or three races with their 18-year-old female development driver, Dominique Van Wieringen, who has been impressive in Super Late Model competition across the Midwest and Deep South.

In short, the Nemecheks have the extra trucks and staff required to field two entries and would like nothing more than to continue racing and perhaps finally score that elusive first career victory in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Friday night will mark his 23rd career start and a win would make him a triple crown winner, posting victories in all three national touring divisions.

“This is a lot of fun,” Joe said. “Believe me, I’m still going to race. It’s just a matter of finding the money to run some races — be it Cup, XFINITY or the Truck Series. I still want to race. I feel like I still have the ability and skills to win races but it’s about finding the right pieces.”

The father and son duo both raced against each other in 2013 in a CRA Super Late Model race at the Milwaukee Mile. (Joe finished sixth and John Hunter was 12th.) While both Nemecheks are de facto teammates and family, there is a strengthened bond defined by their respective competitive edge towards each other.

Joe wants nothing more than to help John Hunter succeed in NASCAR but he also wants to see where he stands against the son and driver that he has developed into a top prospect and Snowball Derby champion over the past five seasons.

“JH adapts so quick in whatever it does,” Joe said of his son. “I have challenged him quite a bit and I push him quite hard … He’s been going to these tracks since he was a little boy, watching and listening to everything I say. He’s been on the spotters stand and he has seen everything that goes on.

“He listens to how we talk, to not only me but his uncle and his cousins and everyone involved in racing in our family. He’s a smart kid who figures everything out very quickly and he’s going to have a much better career than I have when everting is said and done.”

NEMCO Motorsports swapped from Toyota to Chevrolet during the off-season, providing new challenges and opportunities for the small-budget team that has only eight workers at a given time. However, both father and son have only combined for one top-10 this season.

However, Joe Nemechek believes the struggles have been the result of bad luck, poor qualifying, and bad track position — something that should turn around on Friday night at Texas Motor Speedway.

“I would say we are actually better than last year,” Nemechek said. If you look at the speed charts and out lap times and ignore some of the bad luck, we’ve been much faster this year. We had some changes this season with Chevy and rebodying our trucks. It was a huge undertaking but we learned a lot.

“That’s where gains come from — when you start learning things about your trucks and what they want and what’s making them do different things. We’re just starting to explore so for just being a second year truck team, we’re doing extremely well.”

EMAIL MATT AT matt.weaver@popularspeed.com

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Development Journalists

John Hunter Ready to Unseat Dad Joe in 2015

Racing is in @JHNemechek’s blood.

By the age of three, he was victorious in go-karts. He has become a threat to win every weekend racing his father’s late model. Now, the young racer prepares for a busy season racing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

The seventeen-year-old racer is the son of Sprint Cup Series veteran @FrontRowJoe87 (Joe Nemechek.) The father-son combination will share the Nemco Motorsports No. 8 truck entry to begin the 2015 season, which switched manufacturers from Toyota to Chevrolet over the offseason. Once John Hunter turns eighteen in June, he will pilot the No. 8 for the remainder of the season.

Nemechek raced competitively during his few opportunities last season. A win at Gateway Motorsports Park was within reach until the closing laps, where late-race contact took him out of contention after leading 53 laps. In ten Camping World Truck Series races in 2014, he earned six top-10’s and one top-five finish.

As his father takes a step back in racing, John Hunter Nemechek is next in line to carry the family name. He grew up around the sport, and his dream of racing in NASCAR has now become a reality.

“It’s an amazing thing. It’s something that every kid dreams about when he starts racing. Just to be able to race in NASCAR and have the opportunity to work with my dad in the Camping World Truck Series is an amazing opportunity for me,” said Nemechek.

He won’t strap in behind the wheel until March 28th, when the truck series heads to Martinsville Raceway. Although Nemechek will miss the first two events, he remains confident that he will have success throughout this season.

“I feel like this year is going to be a great year. I feel like we’re going to come out of the box strong. I don’t turn eighteen until June. I have eighteen truck races, so after June I will finish out the year. I feel like it will definitely be a great year,” said the driver of the No. 8 SWM-Nemco Motorsports Silverado.

Together, the Nemechek family has endured the highs and lows that come with racing. Nemco Motorsports has persevered throughout the years, thanks to owner and driver Joe Nemechek. It has been rewarding for John Hunter to grow up in the shop, and work alongside his father.

When asked how his father’s racing business survived while other teams shut down, Nemechek believes that hard work propelled the team and gave them the strength to continue.

“I think it’s the work aspect. He [Joe Nemechek] is the hardest working driver you’ll find around. Luckily he’s passed that off to me, and I’ve learned a great deal from him. If you want to do something you have to work hard at it, and you can’t give up. I think that his drive and motivation to win races and to make me successful before he retires is something he really wants to do,” said John Hunter Nemechek.

“It means everything to me. Without him, I wouldn’t be here right now. He’s put his time, effort, and pretty much life in making my career jumpstart. I can’t thank him enough for it.” continued the driver.

Joe Nemechek is excited to watch his son take the next step in his young racing career this season. The veteran has already seen enough to truly believe his kid has the talent behind the wheel to be successful, no matter what type of vehicle he is racing.

“I think that John Hunter [Nemechek] has exceeded my expectations, especially last year being his first year in the truck series. In our late model program, he is doing phenomenal. Right now when we show up at the race track, he is the guy to beat wherever we go, it doesn’t matter. In the truck series, whenever he gets in and drives, he’s going to be in the top-five guaranteed,” said Joe Nemechek, the owner of Nemco Motorsports.

“This year we’re looking for bigger things – switching over to Chevrolet in the offseason. We just have a lot of stuff going on to try and make our team better, and I think you’re going to see it show up shortly. We’re going to be very competitive, and we’re going to be in victory lane this year.”

Jason Karlavige is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist

EMAIL JASON AT jason.karlavige@popularspeed.com

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Trucks

John Nemechek Adapts to Bristol, Previews Canada

By Matt Weaver (BRISTOL, Tenn.) — @JohnNemechek had never raced at Bristol Motor Speedway prior to this past Truck Series race but declared the venue an emerging favorite following a sixth-place effort on Thursday morning in the UNOH 200.

Nemechek qualified 13th on Wednesday afternoon in the two-round knockout session but quickly worked his way into the top-10 in the early stages of the race. He remained there throughout the morning before finishing just outside of the top-5 at the drop of the checkered flag in a race won by Brad @Keselowski.

RESULTS: Keselowski wins Bristol Truck Series Race

“I felt like I adapted pretty quickly,” Nemechek said after his first start at the historic half-mile. “This place is a lot of fun. It kind of reminds me of Dover a little bit with the concrete and the banking and stuff. Our race was pretty good. I didn’t think I was going to race that good and I felt like we were going to be stuck in the back.”

While many of his rivals struggled on the bottom line during restarts, Nemechek found no issues with either lane. Gaining positions in the laps following a restart had more to do with who you were behind more than the line itself, said the 17-year-old after the race.

“Either lane worked on the restarts,” he said. “You just have to have the truck to do it. So if you start in the inside, you could go and if you started on the outside, you could go. You just had to have a truck that could do it. But it was also about the people in front of you and how good their stuff was.”

PHOTOS: Truck Series at Bristol

Next up for Nemechek is the road course at Canadian Motorsports Park in Bowmanville, Ontario. The son of Joe Nemechek has limited experience on road courses and doesn’t entirely know how to forecast what lies ahead of him. His team entered him in the K&N Pro Series race at Watkins Glen earlier this month to gain experience but he lost the opportunity when he lost fuel pressure on the first lap.

He did not return to the track.

“I think I’m ready for it,” Nemechek said with a wry smile. “Watkins Glen wasn’t really experience so I wouldn’t say that. I’m excited to go up to Canada though. I speak a little bit of French so I’m looking forward to doing that a little as well.

“All I have is about two tests worth of experience on road course so we’ll see, haha.”

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Trucks

John Hunter Nemechek Earns Praise on Road to Stardom

NEWTON, Iowa — John Hunter Nemechek officially arrived as a driver in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series last month at Gateway Motorsports Park, leading 53 laps and challenging for the win until a cut left rear tire spun him lightly into the Turn 3 wall with 16 laps remaining.

He did not have the time nor the track position to chase down Bubba Wallace for the victory and was forced to settle for 15th.

Nemechek has returned to the Truck Series this weekend at Iowa Speedway for the American Ethanol 200 on Friday night and now has the confidence to match his equipment following his first breakout performance. His goal remains a top-5 at Iowa but he believes his first career victory is also completely obtainable.

Nemo“I think we learned a lot (at Gateway) building confidence and building everything with our guys,” Nemechek told Popular Speed on Friday morning. “I work really well with our team and they make all the right adjustments and I know that we are capable of contending on a week-to-week basis from here on out.”

While Nemechek did not get the result he likely earned at Gateway, he knows that he raised his own stock while fighting the likes of Wallace and Erik Jones for the win, something he will have to do again on Friday night in Newton.

“It sucked there at the end, cutting that left rear but they knew we were there, which is the main point,” Nemechek said. “Hopefully we can do it again tonight or wherever we go next.”

Nemechek said he received several congratulation messages or tweets, including from Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Mark Martin. Four-time Truck Series champion Ron Hornaday Jr. and defending titlist Matt Crafton also congratulated him in person after the race at Gateway.

In a separate interview with Popular Speed last month at Texas Motor Speedway, Hornaday cited Nemechek as being a bright spot for the future of Stock Car racing. Nemechek was grateful for the shoutout and believes that he and several other peers can carry the torch moving forward.

“I think Daniel Hemric, Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney and guys like that grew up in the sport,” Nemechek said. “We’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly of this sport and how to act and not to act. But for those of us who had racing dads, they make sure that we don’t screw up like some other kids in the history of the sport.”

Nemechek has the maturity, poise and admiration of his peers in the Truck Series following his recent string of performances at Dover and Gateway. Now the only thing left to do is get to Victory Lane — a goal that may materialize on Friday night at Iowa Speedway.