When Joe Nemechek says he loves racing, it comes as no surprise. When Nemechek follows that up by saying he probably loves it way too much, a knowing smile forms.
After all, the 54-year-old is still getting the job done – behind the wheel, as an owner of a Camping World Truck Series team and even mentoring son John Hunter and other young drivers.
Nemechek has competed in nine NASCAR races this season between the Truck and Xfinity series, and it’s in the Xfinity Series where his mark is being felt the most.
Owner Johnny Davis reached out to Nemechek over the winter looking to put together a deal for Daytona. Nemechek has sponsorship contacts, and Davis has been committed to fielding four cars each weekend at JD Motorsports. It has since translated into four additional races as of Saturday at Dover International Speedway.
“It’s fun to be over here,” Nemechek told RACER of competing in a series where he’s won 16 times and captured the 1992 championship. “These tracks, a lot of them I’ve won at or run good at. I wish we’d run better at some of these places, but I know the circumstances. The amount of money we’re trying to spend to be competitive is way different than what the front guys do.
“[Here] it’s about keeping it in perspective of what you’re trying to accomplish, and I understand. Believe me, I’ve been doing this a long time, so been through the good and the bad. You just keep trying to be better.”
Garrett Smithley spoke highly of Nemechek and his impact on the organization. Nemechek has become a de facto driver coach to Smithley and his teammates, such as Ross Chastain. Veteran experience has been invaluable, said Smithley.
Chastain has thus far been carrying the company banner with eight top-20 finishes, including three in the top 10. He sits an impressive 13th in the standings. Smithley has six top-25 finishes, two of which have been top-10s. Vinnie Miller, Nemechek and Matt Mills have a combined seven top-25 finishes.
Said numbers are success for the self-proclaimed “number one non-Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series-affiliated team” in the series.
Nemechek knows it’s nice to have a veteran like himself behind the wheel to evaluate what the company has and where it stands. And helping young drivers is nothing new for him.
“In the past, we’ve always had our own organization, NEMCO Motorsports, going and we’ve educated a few young drivers as far as bringing them through the ranks, and the latest one is my son,” said Nemechek. “With Garrett, he asks a lot of questions, which is good, so you try to give him the correct answers that will help him be a better racecar driver.
“He asks a lot of questions and a lot of these kids don’t ask questions. Even veterans like Ross Chastain, he’s like, it’s cool now we can talk about some things that are going to help me – he’s running so much better than the other cars. It’s all been good; I think it’s definitely helping the organization.”
On a personal level, Nemechek has now raced against his son, John Hunter, in both the Truck and Xfinity Series. In Richmond two weeks ago, where the younger Nemechek was making just his fourth Xfinity start, the two were parked next to each other on pit road and communicated often.
Chip Ganassi Racing snatched up John Hunter Nemechek this past offseason and signed him to a limited Xfinity schedule.
“He’s doing really well,” the elder Nemechek said of his son. “He loves the cars he’s driving because they’re fast. I think the team really likes him for his work ethic, and all the things he has going on; his input. That’s all you can ask for as a racecar driver,; you just want to have the best driving equipment you can that gives you an opportunity to win, and he’s been right there each time he’s been in the car.”
The 20-year-old Nemechek has driven for his father in the Truck series since 2013, but even before that the Nemechek family was investing time and money in racing late models. Much of the elder Nemechek’s focus has been devoted to helping John Hunter succeed and move forward.
Joe is filled with pride in sharing the garage with his son and seeing him climb into a car of Chip Ganassi Racing’s caliber.
“I’m very proud of it and I know all the guys who have worked with me, still work with me or have worked for me in helping him get to where is are proud,” said Nemechek.
“It’s been a lot of work, a lot of educating. We’ve torn some stuff up learning, but it made him a better race car driver; I’m really proud of what he’s done and what he can do. The future is wide open.”
The same could most likely be said about Joe Nemechek’s future behind the wheel. You know, for the love of racing and all.