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In the Driver’s Seat with John Hunter Nemechek

One of the most unique facets with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is its variety of drivers ranging from established veterans who’ve found their racing home to young talents whose focus is to climb up the stock car ladder. It is a potpourri of amazing racers who can drop the hammer, trade paint, and put on a great show with the best in NASCAR.  One of those promising drivers whose stock is literally on the rise is 19-year-old John Hunter Nemechek of Mooresville, NC.

It’s quite clear that the racing passion and skills from his father Joe and late uncle John Hunter, his namesake, are prevalent with this young NASCAR sensation.  Calm, cool, and methodical are some words that perfectly describe the driver of the No. 8 Chevrolet Silverado entry that’s scored two wins in the past two seasons as of press time.  Heading into the Thursday evening’s Truck race at Kentucky Speedway, Nemechek sits a solid sixth in the standings with two top-fives, four top-10’s, an early season win at Atlanta and a pole last month at Iowa.

Nemechek finds himself in prime position to battle for his first Camping World Truck Series championship with these summer races leading up to this division’s inaugural Chase format.  Despite the strong start, Nemechek and his crew chief Gere Kennon are focused on the big picture and continually improving their program in these summer months.  With races at Kentucky, Eldora and Pocono on the horizon, strong performances certainly help their cause as well as another win, a distinct possibility for this hardy racing effort.

Recently, we caught up with Nemechek to discuss the season, racing in go-karts and late models, and his perspective on some of the new aspects of the Truck Series including the aforementioned Chase and the Caution Clock.  Without further ado, let’s get “In the Driver’s Seat with John Hunter Nemechek!”

Rob Tiongson :  We’re past the first quarter mark of the 2016 season and you’ve scored a win at Atlanta Motor Speedway to boost your chances of making the inaugural Chase field in the Truck Series.  How would you evaluate your season right now and what are some areas of opportunities for your No. 8 NEMCO Motorsports Chevy entry?

John Hunter Nemechek hoists the trophy after winning at Atlanta earlier this year. (Photo Credit: Barry Cantrell)

John Hunter Nemechek hoists the trophy after winning at Atlanta earlier this year. (Photo Credit: Barry Cantrell)

John Hunter Nemechek :  It’s been a great season so far for us.  We won the race at Atlanta and finished second at Martinsville.  We got in a wreck at Kansas and a couple of off weeks with us trying some stuff.  Hopefully, we can get back on track.  I feel like our guys are working very hard and we’re preparing great trucks that can run up front every week.  It’s just a matter of things coming together.

RT :  With the new Chase system in place as well as the Caution Clock feature making its debut, how much has it changed Truck racing in terms of your approach on the track and with race strategy for you and crew chief Gere Kennon?

JHN :  It definitely changes your race strategy a little bit from how hard you have to run to how much you have to save whether it’s a green flag run or the caution clock deal.  You just have to be on top of your game.  With the Chase format, it’s exciting and bring a lot of attention to us through the final races with the Cup and XFINITY levels. Hopefully, we can get more fans out there, have an exciting race, and show them what we do best which is to put on a show.

RT :  Over the years, how much would you say you’ve progressed and grown as a driver not only with racing on the track but with understanding the nuances of the sport?

JHN :  Growing up in the sport, you learn a lot of that.  Being by my dad’s side as a little kid and then hanging out with the guys in the garage, getting to know all of the key personnel that run NASCAR, it’s great to be able to grow up in the sport and continue your relationships with those guys and meeting new faces.  It’s helped me tremendously not only as a driver but also with learning every aspect of this business.

RT :  Would you say that you’ve got that unique insight where you’re able to watch your dad’s old races on YouTube to see how he approached those tracks that you now race in the Truck Series?

JHN :  I haven’t really gone back to watch many races.  I have the intention to go back and watch some of those races that my dad and Uncle John were in.  I’m sure we’ll do that here soon but right now, it’s all eyes forward on what we’re trying to do now.

RT :  When you scored your first Truck Series victory last year at Chicagoland, how special was that moment knowing it came on the 16th anniversary of your father’s first Cup win at New Hampshire Motor Speedway?

JHN :  We learned that after the fact that he won his race on the same day.  It was pretty cool not knowing until afterwards and getting to discuss that but it’s pretty special to win your first race on that day, especially with him there.  I mean, he’s invested everything in me so it’s great to spend that time with the guys who work hard for me and also the guy that puts everything together.

RT :  Was it a situation where you went into the race where you thought about going for a top-five or top-10 finish?

Logging laps and gaining experience can make all the difference. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson)

Logging laps and gaining experience can make all the difference. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson)

JHN :  Our goal every week at the racetrack is to win.  I felt like we had a great truck that day.  We ran up front most of the race and got off on a little bit of pit strategy.  We had to come down pit road to fix something on the rear.  We ended up going back out losing some track position.  It was a deal where we were lucky enough to save enough fuel (to win).

RT :  Along the way with Truck racing, you also compete in some late model races across the country.  How helpful is it to race in those cars to keep focused and sharp especially with the unique nature of the Truck schedule throughout the year?

JHN :  It’s great to be able to go back and run anything you can to keep yourself in the seat and learning.  Every time you’re in a car turning laps, you’re learning something.  It’s great to go back, keep your mental focus on point when you don’t have as many races through the first couple of months in the season, and I think it gets you better prepared.

RT :  Would you say that any time you’re not in a race car, does it get you anxious for your next race?

JHN :  I wouldn’t quite say that but you definitely look forward to the next one and what you need to do and prepare for that one.

RT :  I understand you took part in the Little 600 go-kart race at the GoPro Motorplex venue at Mooresville during the 600 race weekend.  How was that experience like to have some fun with your fellow peers like Ryan Blaney, Bubba Wallace, and Justin Allgaier to name a few?

JHN :  It’s a lot of fun.  We all go out there to have fun and we’re all very competitive, wanting to win that race.  You kind of push each other and you know how much you can push each other until someone crosses the line.  It’s a lot of fun and it’s fun to go out to have that race that GoPro puts on which is a reminder of how things got started.

RT :  Were there any particular drivers that you felt like you could lay down the chrome bumper on a little more than others?

JHN :  (chuckles)  I mean, we were all laying the bumper on each other and pushing each other.  It looked like we were tandem drafting with each other out there.

RT :  In a different world, if you weren’t racing, what other career opportunities would you be going after?

JHN :  It would probably be something in racing for sure.  I’d probably be going for a mechanical engineering direction.

RT :  Interesting.  Is it something you might consider down the road when your driving career is complete?

JHN :  Most definitely.  Going for a mechanical engineering degree is something to fall back on and something where if the racing deal doesn’t work out, you can definitely fall back on.  Everything in the world is becoming engineered.  There’s a short supply of engineers in the racing world and they’re hard to come by.

RT :  In terms of those who’ve influenced you in your career or drivers you’ve looked up to, would you say that you’ve tried to emulate them or look up to them with how your approach in your racing career?

John Hunter Nemechek: The Original Racer. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson)

John Hunter Nemechek: The Original Racer. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson)

JHN :  I wouldn’t say there’s one in particular but there’s definitely three or four guys that you can look up to who are very consistent on the racetrack.  Other ones go out there with the mentality that they’re going to win the race and then there are some guys who can take a car that might not be as top notch as some of the others and go out there and win with it.  If you can take a whole mold of four or five drivers that have been consistent, have won many races and championships and know their car, in one mold, that’s one guy you want to beat.

RT :  I like that as you want to be an original racer.  Your racing record is impressive with victories in the late models such as the All American 400 and Snowball Derby and you’ve won in the Truck Series twice (Chicagoland and Kansas).  Where do yourself racing in the next few years?  Are you thinking of going into Cup or other racing series?

JHN :  The goal is to be a Sprint Cup champion one day.  Whatever the route (of racing) takes us on, that’s the way we’re going to go.  We take it day-by-day knowing what we kind of want to do in the next few years.  Without great people and opportunities backing you, it’s hard to do.  Who knows what’s going to happen but hopefully we can move up to the XFINITY Series in the next year and keep getting experience and knowledge as well as scoring wins.

RT :  Before we wrap things up, what’s the greatest advice that anyone’s given to you for encouragement or one that relates to your racing career?

Nemechek finds himself in prime position to score a Truck title for his NEMCO Motorsports team. (Photo Credit: Barry Cantrell)

Nemechek finds himself in prime position to score a Truck title for his NEMCO Motorsports team. (Photo Credit: Barry Cantrell)

JHN :  Work hard and never give up.  Hard work definitely does pay off.  Being able to work on your own equipment when you win in it makes it that much more special knowing you were a part of it and that you put your heart and soul into it, a lot of blood, sweat, and tears if you will, to make things go.

Author’s Notes :  Our thanks to John Hunter Nemechek and NEMCO Motorsports for taking their time from their schedule to talk racing here on TPF.  Photos in this article are courtesy of Barry Cantrell and Jeremy Thompson.  If you’d like to learn more about John Hunter Nemechek, “Like” his Facebook page, “Follow” him on Twitter, and “Visit” his official website!

Rob Tiongson is a 30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught his eyes. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by him or by one of his talented columnists who have a passion for racing. Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. He enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat. Tiongson, a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, pursues his Master of Arts in Digital Journalism at St. Bonaventure University. Indeed, while Tiongson is proud to be from Massachusetts, he's an everywhere kind of man residing in Texas.

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