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In the Hot Seat: Daniel Hemric

Daniel Hemric pumps up the crowd at Kansas Speedway. (Photo: Cole Penning | The Podium Finish)

BRISTOL, Tenn. – Daniel Hemric goes about life in a manner that fits U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt.

“Speak softly and carry a big heavy stick.”

Perhaps in this case, the adage should be amended to, “Speak softly and carry a big heavy foot” as Ned Jarrett once said in a 1996 commercial. Hemric is not the vociferous racer with the soundbites that become memes or YouTube classics.

Instead, he prefers to do his talking on the track in the No. 10 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet entry fielded by Kaulig Racing. More times than not, he is smooth on the track, patiently driving his way to a top five or top 10 finish with a clean stock car.

The Kannapolis, North Carolina native has his tenacious moments when the prize is on the line. When the 2021 NASCAR XFINITY Series championship was a lap within reach at Phoenix Raceway, Hemric duked it out with Austin Cindric, trading paint and besting the Team Penske racer in narrow fashion.

It was an emotional, impactful moment for Hemric as his life and career flashed before his eyes. After all, as he shares “In the Hot Seat,” there were no guarantees on the path that would propel him to stock car competition.

Like most aspiring racers, Hemric’s formative racing experiences included Bandoleros and Legends cars. At age 19, Hemric won the Legends Million at Charlotte Motor Speedway, cashing in on a $250,000 paycheck.

Clearly, the young racer showcased his potential and prowess in the Carolinas racing scene. From modified cars to his early years in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, it was evident that he was a methodical, calculative driver with poise and determination.

Over the years, Hemric earned his way into the NASCAR XFINITY and Cup Series before returning to the second highest division of stock car competition. Immediately, the North Carolinian reminded critics of his potential as a frontrunner when the right opportunity presented itself.

Since 2022, Hemric has brought his talents, experience and mature approach to the emerging Kaulig Racing organization. Meshing easily with the different, dynamite personalities within this growing team, the 32-year-old racer has found his home where he can be himself at last.

Throw anything Hemric’s way and the chances are likely that he will be more than up to the challenge ahead. He rolls his sleeves up, ready for what may come his way and he conducts himself with a smile and quiet sense of confidence that he can get the job done.

Ahead of the Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway, Hemric moved from the No. 11 to the No. 10 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet entry to pursue two championships – the driver’s and owner’s title hunt. During this exciting time, Hemric is focused, disciplined and ready to do his job as the legendary Bill Belichick reminds the New England Patriots.

Before Hemric can consider his championship hopes, he has one important task at hand. Now, get ready for “In the Hot Seat: Daniel Hemric” here on The Podium Finish!

Rob Tiongson: Welcome back to another edition of In the Hot Seat here on The Podium Finish and The Podium Finish Live! Rob Tiongson here with Daniel Hemric, who is the 2021 NASCAR XFINITY Series champion, and the driver of the No. 10 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet Camaro entry in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. That’s right, folks. No. 10, not No. 11. But there’s a good reason for that, which I’ll let Daniel explain in a little bit. But before we get started, how are you doing today, my friend?

Daniel Hemric: I’m doing great. Thanks for having me on and hope you’re doing good as well.

Tiongson: Absolutely. It’s NASCAR Playoff times by the time we get this on the air. But super excited of course. And I know as of the race weekend leading into Kansas, there was some news where you’re no longer in the No. 11 for the rest of the season. You’re in the No. 10 car.

Explain what’s going on with that and why you’re moving over to the No. 10 car.

Starting last Saturday at Kansas Speedway, Daniel Hemric moved to the No. 10 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet entry. (Photo: Cole Penning | The Podium Finish)

Hemric: Yeah, there’s a lot that goes into a decision like that. The No. 10 car has been shared by Cup regulars throughout the season and they’ve been fortunate enough to knock out a couple of wins and be solid within the owner’s championship. As we get into this, into the heat of the championship battle here, once the Playoffs start, those Cup guys can’t come run.

You’re trying to figure out… you have guys that are trying to get more XFINITY experience and as that happens, you try to make a legitimate run in the championship, but you’re doing it with the guys that are looking for that experience, right? So, you’re trying to figure out how do you go about that in the right manner.

For us at Kaulig Racing, it made the most sense with my experience in the cars within the Playoff system to move me to that car to try to go win the owner’s championship for Matt Kaulig and then on the driver’s side. It’s a good opportunity for us to just go and do the same thing to win both and take our guys that got to fill in that were planning on running the No. 10 car.

I plan on running the No. 10 car for the back half of the Playoffs. They can get in that No. 11 car hopefully (as) they’re 20 some points out going into the final race of the (regular) season. Hopefully they can get in the owner’s championship too and be great. But if they don’t, they can go get that car a good run and try to get some experience.

As an organization, Matt Kaulig, Chris Rice (and) everyone (at Kaulig) preaches that it’s one team. There’s no singling out the No. 11 car or the No. 10 car, the No. 16 car. They all share kind of by committee within what the parts and pieces of the race cars are and kind of what gets inputted into the race car. As you go through a process like that, this is what worked best for us as an organization and that’s why the switch happened.

Tiongson: It makes a lot of sense because that No. 10 car is high up in the championship, of course. And of course, the No. 11 could be there, too.

Now, for the fans at home who need to get some clarification, does this mean you’re also going to bring your crew from the No. 11 to the No. 10, or are you working with the No. 10 crew as well?

Hemric: I’m actually going to work with the No. 10 crew as well. If you remember, (at) Kaulig Racing, we did the same thing last year between myself and Landon Cassill actually this exact same weekend. So, it’s not completely unchartered waters for us, but the group and the groups collectively within all three of the cars work so closely together.

They literally have almost identical setups and all the cars each and every week, every racetrack. That can be a strength or a weakness. It more or less lets myself drive with some different guys and actually kind of back to the original group I was with here in 2022 on the No. 10 side.

It’s going to be interesting how it plays out, but it’s going to be good to see even the guys that are going to run the No. 11 car throughout the Playoffs to get them with some new people. And you never know what the future holds here at Kaulig Racing as far as who’s going to work with who and personnel. So, it’s a good way to get everybody meshing together.

Tiongson: Certainly. But like you said, you’re no stranger to change and you adapt very well to change.

Let’s talk about you approaching the Playoffs, because as we mentioned before we started, you just have to start the car and bam, you’re in the Playoffs again. You get another chance to go after your second championship in the past three years.

How confident do you feel about your chances to get another championship and continue your winning ways from the No. 11 ride now in the No. 10 car?

Hemric: For me, having that experience going through the Playoffs, having to go through the rounds, kind of knowing what the priorities are week in and week out as you go through the rounds… I have a lot of that experience. But each year feels like its own, right? They all have little quirks that make them what they are.

I feel like our raw speed could be a little better and that would give us more opportunity. But it’s a year where we’re going to have to go execute at a very, very high level on all fronts in order to give ourselves a shot to advance to the rounds. I also know that Kaulig Racing and myself are known to go on these hot streaks and be able to put good weekends together one after another. So, you just got to have your best at this year.

I’ve been fortunate to have had that happen before, and that’s what we’re preparing for. We literally just got out of a companywide lunch where we had our official hype man hype us up within the lunch and just saying, “Let’s go do it. We’re done talking about it. We are what we are as a race team right now. You got to go execute and have our good days.”

Yeah, I’m prepared for it. Our group’s prepared for it and we’re ready to go to work.

Tiongson: I liken it to what the Patriots went through in NFL from 2001 to 2004. You might have had a bad season in 2002 for the Patriots. But in 2003, Belichick got the team to say, “You know what? We’ve got what we got. Let’s do the best we can if we do our job.” And it seems like that’s the same mission that Chris Rice and Matt Kaulig are delivering to you guys, wouldn’t you say?

Hemric: Yeah, I think that’s fair. There’s always strengths and weaknesses, but you try to try to know what those both are, identify them and do the best you can to maximize your days. No different than what you’re talking about.

Tiongson: For sure. I should have said Cleveland Browns because I know Matt Kaulig is from Ohio, so I didn’t mean to go talk about the other team. But hey, it’s all good!

You’ve been with Kaulig Racing since the start of 2022. How do you feel like this organization has helped you elevate your race craft to be an even better driver than the one who won the championship at Phoenix in 2021?

Off the track, Daniel Hemric conditions himself to be in peak performance as a racer. (Photo: Cole Penning | The Podium Finish)

Hemric: I think there’s a lot of layers to that question. Having a vice president and a team owner between Chris Rice and Matt Kaulig come and handpick (me) to come drive a race car and tell you that’s your sole job, that’s all you got to worry about… that gives you a level of confidence in yourself, and then it lets you delegate your time and resources throughout the week.

Between that and being a part of the Chevrolet program with Josh Wise and Scott Speed and our trainer and all the folks that help us on the driving side…. I think it lets me put so much more emphasis on that. And I think we’ve really seen some of the results over the last six to eight months at least.

Personally, for myself, thought processes… (it’s) really how you’re attacking a weekend or any particular moment throughout the race with way less expectation, right? Like you drive race cars as long as I have, you find yourself expecting things and expecting cars to do this if you do this.

I just think collectively between, Kaulig Racing and our program that we’ve been training in, you just try to try to limit those expectations and just be aware of what’s going on around you.

It’s just allowed me to grow on all aspects, personally and professionally. And I’ve been thankful for that room to grow. I wish there were a lot more wins in the win column and so on and so forth.

But man, I just know I’m in a good place, physically and mentally. They’ve let me just be me. So, I’m thankful for that and look forward to seeing where it goes in the future.

Tiongson: Sounds like a lot of off track growth, which has helped you have success on the track. And I have to say during the summer, one of the things that really caught my attention was your ability to avoid those crashes and the last laps of those races. I think Atlanta, I think of where it was so crazy. And New Hampshire, you avoided all the shenanigans. You got a top five.

When you think about those moments, when you get those top five finishes, is there a sense of satisfaction knowing like, “Hey, I did the best I can, and I actually maximize on this opportunity?”

Hemric: Yeah, I think it’s about winning the day, right? Winning the day, win in the moment.

Those races you were talking about, we also followed up Pocono (with the) same deal, (a) green-white-checker at the end and came out with a top five. I think one of my main personal objectives has been to try to out finish whatever my raw speed is that given weekend. I think that’s a big win today moment for me.

I think as we sit here today, I think we’re ranked within the top two or three of guys doing that. I’m thankful for the process, right? Like learning through times of failure and trying to become better from it.

And it’s just been fun to kind of go through this, this part of my life, this part of my career and still find ways and reasons to get up and try to push to be better every day.

Tiongson: I would actually say that you’re like Cole Trickle when those moments happened. I could imagine you in the radio saying, “Let’s go! I’m through this!”

Now one of the things you talked about this earlier and wanted to touch upon this further… you feel like you’ve grown as a driver and as a person. And of course, this comes along with the territory that you have a pretty young teammate in Chandler Smith, who’s driving that No. 16 car this season after AJ Allmendinger raced it last year.

What’s it been like to work with him full time and see him flourish as a driver and also get Kaulig Racing to be this formidable 1-2 punch with its full time drivers?

Hemric: Yeah, I think Chandler’s got so much potential and he’s obviously come in a good place with a lot of confidence and drove race cars right to their ability from the first test we had back last fall before the 2023 season started.

I think he’s very knowledgeable about the race cars and he does a great job of just being on top of what the race car wants and needs at that particular time. And listen, it’s no different when I came into it, right? Like you have days where you knew you could have done better, maybe a couple of different decisions and had better results.

I think he’s done a good job of going with it, man. And when he’s got the opportunity like he had at Richmond, he went and took it and won a race. So yeah, it’s been fun to see him and that No. 16 group led by Bruce (Schlicker). (They) have just done a great job of leading those guys and yeah, I’m proud of him. It’s been fun to be his teammate this year.

Tiongson: I think it’s going to spill over to you guys just because I know Kaulig Racing’s motto is about trophy hunting and winning races, and it seems like everything’s starting to come together in this most important part of the season, which will be something we’ll watch for sure.

Now, speaking of your leadership over at Kaulig Racing, what has been one of the most critical or best pieces of advice that you’ve received from Chris Rice and Matt Kaulig that you feel like has empowered you when you’re in your stock car?

Hemric: Oh, gosh. For me, I think it goes back to something I said last year. I come in here as my own person and my own personality, and right, wrong or indifferent.

I remember being around AJ Allmendinger the first couple times, who has become a great friend of mine, but realizing, “Hey, I’m not AJ. I’m not his personality. I’m not as outspoken as he is. I’m not a lot of those things.”

I feel like Matt and Chris both were very quick to (say), “Hey, we hired you because you’re not that guy. You are you. That’s why we hired you. You be you. You do your thing.”

So, yeah, I think that’s just a good advice, not for just driving race cars, but just in general. So that’s why I talked about earlier was just having the freedom to be me and do me. And I’ve enjoyed that process.

Tiongson: I like that. And that’s something in society, in life that I think we should all learn from is to be ourselves and embrace that because we want to be the best (that) we can without having to be like someone else.

If you had the chance to go have a chance to talk to your younger self when you were racing in the Summer Shootout at Charlotte Motor Speedway, what advice would you give yourself about what you’ve experienced with life and racing?

As Daniel Hemric progresses in his racing career, he offers sage advice to his younger self. (Photo: Eric Parks | The Podium Finish)

Hemric: Oh, my gosh. I’d probably just tell myself to just trust why you’re doing it. And I know that’s a very, very broad answer, but there were so many people around me, younger or older, who were going on and getting opportunities at other levels. And you’re sitting there, continuing to race at the same thing and you’re trying to figure out.

I didn’t have a plan. I was just at the race shop from sunup to sundown and longer and just trying to go prepare for the next race and do the best you can and kind of rinse and repeat day after day, day in and day out. And everybody asks about a plan.

I just didn’t have one. But I knew there was a reason. I was showing up every day, putting the work in. And I would just tell myself to have confidence in in doing just that, that at the end of the day, showing up as is the first step. And just trust why you’re doing it and continue to push the same way no matter what.

Tiongson: It’s one day at a time. And I think that little boy from Kannapolis is pretty proud of the young man that you’ve become because you’re not only a great race car driver and a champion, you’re also a great family man.

You and your wife Kenzie are raising your baby girl, Rhen. I thought it was really neat on X when you shared that post about her going to preschool. I’m not a parent yet, but I have godchildren and one’s in second grade. One’s about to go to school in a few years. How emotional was that for you to see Rhen go to her first day of school?

Hemric: Yeah, it was… it was extremely emotional. You feel, as a parent, like, “Oh, my gosh, you can protect them.” And when you start putting them into other environments, they’re a bit out of your control at that point and you just hope that the people you’ve entrusted to put them with (are) going to help mold them and shape them into who you want them or who their potential to be is.

She was actually in preschool two days a year last year. Now she’s in preschool four days a year, which she just started back yesterday. And yeah, it’s just special to kind of see her grow and change and evolve and yeah, it just gives you a little bit of confidence.

I’m not going to lie that you’re doing a little something right when you see them develop manners and develop the ability to have a conversation and all that stuff is probably bigger than any trophy and all that stuff you ever win.

Between raising Rhen and all, she’s three years old now, but we call her a threenager is what she is. And we have her little brother, Ruston, who’s now eight months old, and he’s getting into all the stuff around the house.

It’s fun to see their little dynamic that they share. And yeah, it’s been our top prize within our family and everything we do within our lives.

Tiongson: It’s the best achievement that any person can live through is to be a parent to raise life into this world, because of course, you’re going to probably take some of your favorite moments, some of the best qualities from people you’ve loved as well as Kenzie… y’all are going to have this these children that are going to be what you would hope to be even better than you. And that’s, of course… that’s just a powerful feeling, don’t you think?

Hemric: Yeah, it’s a little scary, actually. But we’re enjoying every minute of it.

Tiongson: It’s all good. Hey, if you’re not scared, that means you don’t care. So, I think it’s a healthy dose of fear, my friend. So, it’s all good.

I know you don’t have a lot of time to unwind because you’re a parent, you’re a race car driver. But when you do get to relax, how does a round of golf help you decompress from everything that you go through in life?

Certainly, Daniel Hemric likes to refuel for another race weekend by taking to the friendly greens at a golf course. (Photo: Cole Penning | The Podium Finish)

Hemric: Yeah, I mean, there’s a lot to that. I think everything we do in the race car is so reactionary. And you can have a plan but then a guy blocks you or you get in the fence, or you don’t wrap the bottom around the racetrack like you want to… whatever it may be. Whatever happens next is the most important thing.

I think playing a round of golf, I try to play once a week when I can. Sometimes it’s two or three (times) a week. But I’ll tell you, I enjoy how similar they are, right? In golf, you triple bogey the 17th hole here, you’re going to 18 with another opportunity and another hole and another swing.

The golf club and the next shot is all that matters. And there’s a lot of a lot of similarities there between the racing side mentality and the golf. So that’s why I’ve (been) attached to it over the last seven, eight years. It’s been fun to experience that as well with my team owner Matt and our president Chris Rice and even a couple times this year we get together and play some golf.

It’s been fun seeing everybody within those within those mental challenges you have within yourself during a golf round and see how it translates to the racetrack.

Tiongson: Oh, I can see the similarities already. Like you said, it’s about getting the approach and if you didn’t get it right the first time, there’s another opportunity to get it done right the next time, which is a lot like racing.

But kind of on a lighter note, who’s the better of the golfers, you or AJ?

Hemric: Well, listen, AJ is about 8 or 9 years older than I am and about 20 more years of golf experience. But I like to be able to keep them honest at this point. He sure has probably more golf potential, but I can almost keep him on the ropes just enough to make it fun. So, he’s got me covered right now, but I can poke the bear a little bit. Like if you listen to his in-car radio, I can get in the head a little bit.

Tiongson: One of these days, if I see you guys at Pinehurst, we’ll remember this conversation and I’ll ask AJ what he thinks about this too. Oh, goodness gracious.

If you had all kinds of money to build a racetrack anywhere around the world, what kind of track would it be and where would it be?

Hemric: Oh, that’s a great question. That’s a great question. It would be in North Carolina. I love where I live. I love the town I’m from. I love everything about our situation and all the all the great things we have going for us in the United States.

For me, it would be here at home. I think some kind of dirt road course, half dirt, half asphalt, changing directions from different surfaces would be a cool dynamic, almost like a rallycross type of event. It’d be fun to give it a whirl, though (with) a different kind of car.

Tiongson: I would love to see that, actually. And that’s something I’ve never imagined other drivers wanting to see. I if we can race on dirt in the Cup and Truck series, let’s have a little bit of variety right in the XFINITY Series. That’d be cool.

Hemric: I like mixing it up. Let’s do it.

Tiongson: Exactly. Well, before we wrap it up, do you have anything you want to say to our fans or your fans as well?

Starting this Friday night, Daniel Hemric pursues his second NASCAR XFINITY Series championship. (Photo: Cole Penning | The Podium Finish)

Hemric: Oh, no. Just thankful for the support. I lose track of how many years it’s been. I’ve been fortunate enough to do this. So, to our partners like Cirkul, everyone at Kaulig Racing, all of our fans that follow both sides, you and I alike, it’s just fun to continue to do stuff like this and keep the dream alive one day at a time.

Editor’s Notes

Special thanks to Daniel Hemric for taking time for his latest “In the Hot Seat” interview segment! Also, special thanks to Makenna Isinghood of Kaulig Racing for her guidance and kindness with this feature story.

Follow Daniel on his social media channels on FacebookInstagram and X right now!

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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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