In his short amount of time at the NASCAR national series level, it has been easy to see that Daniel Hemric races clean and he races hard. Saturday night when he makes his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series debut at Richmond Raceway, Hemric will also race for all those who helped get him there.
The 27-year-old short-track star from Kannapolis, North Carolina, has never forgotten where he came from. Days away from taking the next step – and the biggest step in his career, ths far – Hemric revealed the predominant feeling is one of relief.
“More of a relief for everyone who has helped me along the way, because they got me here,” Hemric told RACER. “People that couldn’t afford to buy me tires [who were] buying me sets of tires for my late model stuff. There were people giving rides to me when there wasn’t rides to be had, and they didn’t have the means to do it.
“Everyone who has ever given me a shot anything, just know, hey, I appreciate you doing that. All that led to me getting an opportunity this weekend.”
Hemric will drive the No. 8 for Richard Childress Racing. Sponsorship will come from Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff, a company who supported Hemric in 2017 and not only returned this year to his Xfinity Series program but will now sponsor a Cup Series car for the first time.
The epitome of blue collar, Hemric does not come from money or a family with racing roots. From a young age, though, Hemric displayed talent and determination, as well as the ability to work on and understand his cars.
Forging a path through go-karts, Bandoleros, Legend cars and Late Models, Hemric reached the NASCAR national level in 2013. Catching the eye of NASCAR champion Brad Keselowski, he spent a year under the Team Penske driver’s tutelage before moving into the Xfinity Series with RCR.
Success has been found at every level for Hemric: go-kart track championship (Concord Speedway), Legend Car wins and championships, Southern Super Series (late model) championship, and the achievement of being the first ever Legends Million winner at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “One hundred percent,” Hemric says there is a sense of pride in paving such a path to the top of the sport.
“That’s been probably the biggest thing I’ve tried to carry on my shoulders – trying to break the mold,” he said. “There are more and more people now being able to do it [that way]. Ryan Preece, he’s a guy that is doing the same thing as I am, and that’s kind of doing the impossible some say by today’s standards.
“It’s critical to know that guys like us are getting shots and that we still would work day in and day out to build short track cars and go race if that’s what we had to do. It’s just a matter of both of us making the most of an opportunity, and so I go into the weekend knowing that it can be done. Hopefully, it’s a little bit of an inspiration to all the short track guys back home that are still doing the same thing.”
Richmond being the place where his Cup opportunity happens made sense for Hemric. Talking to team owner Richard Childress, he felt the ideal situation would be either a worn-out mile-and-a-half or a short track with tire fall-off. In two Xfinity Series races at Richmond last season, Hemric scored top-four finishes, one pole and led 39 laps.
“It’s just a place that really suited my style,” said Hemric. “The first time I walked in the gate at Richmond and looked at the asphalt it reminded me of Pensacola [home of 5 Flags Speedway]. Just little things like that. It does feel familiar.”
The No. 8 gives RCR three entries at Richmond with Hemric alongside Daytona 500 winner Austin Dillon and veteran Ryan Newman. Dillon is 14th in points and Newman is 15th as both have two top 10s in eight races. Conscious of where the company is, Hemric takes that and how he’ll work with a group that doesn’t travel each weekend into consideration when pondering what he’ll consider to be a solid first outing.
“First off, run all the laps. Goal number two would be to hopefully compete inside the top 20,” said Hemric. “If we can run inside the top 20 all day, that’s a solid day. And if we stick around and give ourselves a shot to run top 15, then I feel like we hit a home run.
“When you get to [the Cup] level everybody is good – there’s no slack. You have to bring your best and I plan on doing that this weekend.”