Small team success: Jeremy Clements making waves in the NASCAR XFINITY Series

(Photo: Landen Ciardullo | The Podium Finish)

The NASCAR XFINITY Series playoffs are filled with entries from some of the sport’s most well-known organizations — Kaulig Racing (3), Joe Gibbs Racing (3), JR Motorsports (2), Stewart-Haas Racing (1), Richard Childress Racing (1) and Team Penske (1).

However, there’s one other team fielding an entry in this season’s playoffs outside of the typical powerhouses: Jeremy Clements Racing.

Without the funding of a tier-one race team, Jeremy Clements and his team have become a staple of the XFINITY Series. Many small teams field entries in the XFINITY Series, but Clements’ family-owned team has risen above the rest.

With an average finish of 16th, Clements punched his ticket into the XFINITY Series playoff this season for just the second time in his career. The first came in 2017 with an upset win at Road America. Since then, a lot has changed for the No. 51 team.

“We’re so much better off than we were that year,” Clements said during XFINITY Series Media Day. “We struggled that year, bad. That was the year that there was some rule changes with the bodies, running the smaller spoiler and the different splitter, changed everything for us. We never could get a good grasp on it that year with the cars we were running, trying to convert those. We were just terrible, really”.

Clements improved his results over time, going from just two top-10 finishes in 2017 to seven top-10 finishes in 2021 with six races remaining. The 16-year series veteran attributes an increase in funding to the team’s increased success over time.

“This year, we’ve gotten the most funding we’ve ever gotten, so we’ve kind of let that leash [get] a lot longer than ever,” Clements said. “We’re not running used tires; we’re not running old parts all the time like we used to. It’s just been a lot better on all those ends. Bringing in Mark Setzer over the offseason last year has been great, having him at the shop every day has been great. We’ve never really had a full-time crew chief, honestly because it’s expensive. We made the decision to bring him in full-time, and it’s definitely been a positive. Our engines from Clements Racing Engines [have] gotten better too in the areas that we need them, so we’re able to compete better and better”.

Although it’s not impossible, Clements has a lot of work to do to advance beyond the Round of 12. (Photo: Landen Ciardullo | The Podium Finish)

Clements entered Saturday’s Round of 12 opener at Las Vegas with a lot of confidence and the hope of advancing out of the first round. Unfortunately, an untimely crash took Clements out of contention for just his first DNF of the season, putting him 36 points below the cutline ahead of Talladega.

“Talladega is definitely the one that frightens me a little bit,” Clements said. “You will have to be up there to try and get stage points, so I don’t think there will be much riding around. You have to be more lucky than good there, I think, and be able to stay out of trouble somehow, some way. That can definitely make you nervous”.

Clements enters Talladega in need of a great race to potentially advance to the Round of 8 on points. However, a win is by no means out of the realm of possibilities. The Charlotte ROVAL follows Talladega on the schedule, and Clements has shown what he can accomplish on road courses.

However, regardless of how the Round of 12 plays out, Clements is just happy to make it back to the playoffs.

“Any time you can race against the big teams and be the first small team is definitely an accomplishment,” he said. “To beat all those other guys, there are so many other small teams that spend a lot of money to do this and are really good, as well. So, to be the one that comes out on top this year makes you feel good. You just want to raise your fists in the air. It feels great, and I’m really excited for what we’ve done, and hopefully, we can keep it up.

“We have nothing to lose,” he said. “It’s great being in this, we do want to advance, but we’re going to have fun and do the best we can”.

The XFINITY Series playoffs continue on Saturday at Talladega.

Nathan Solomon

I'm Nathan Solomon, a sophomore in the Jandoli School of Communication at St. Bonaventure University. I serve as the Sports Editor for our campus newspaper, The BonaVenture, and as the programming director for our campus radio station, WSBU 88.3FM. Our station is rated the No. 4 college radio station in the country by Princeton Review.

My journey as a motorsports writer may have only started in 2020, but I've written since 2018. I started as a beat writer for IvyHoopsOnline in my junior year of high school, covering my hometown Cornell Basketball. In 2019, I began contributing New York Yankees content for Empire Sports Media. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, I began contributing NASCAR content for Empire Sports Media and covered two races in 2021 with the website. I came over to The Podium Finish in September of 2021 ready to continue writing original motorsports content on a page specific to racing.

You can follow me on Twitter @NSolly02.

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