John Hunter Nemechek’s road to NASCAR has been an interesting one. The Mooresville, North Carolina driver is the son of two-time NASCAR XFINITY Series champion, Joe Nemechek.
Before getting his first start in NASCAR, John became interested in racing through his dad and has been involved in the sport since then.
“The first time I went to a racetrack I was two weeks old,” Nemechek said. “I’ve grown up around the sport and I always knew I wanted to race from a young age. I just didn’t know if it was cars, motocross, I had no idea what exactly I wanted to race. I always loved being around the racetrack with the guys and hearing the cars soar by, and hearing the motors run was definitely something special. I got my first go-cart when I was three-years-old and continued to progress from there and moved there from motocross.”
“I played stick-and-ball sports as well,” he continued. “I always came back to racing and stock cars was where I came back to. The motocross thing was cool, but I enjoyed being in a closed-cockpit environment and having a lot of fun.”
Growing up, there were a lot of special memories for Nemechek and it was an early one as well.
“My first real stock car win,” he said. “Had quite a few quarter-midget wins and motocross wins. The Allison legacy win was probably my most special, just because Dad was there and normally he wasn’t able to be there when I was racing. So, it was neat to have him there for the first one (win).”
Being part of a racing family, Nemechek was around with his dad at an early age.
“It was a lot of fun,” he said. “Being able to grow up with Motor Racing Outreach, around the racetrack and the community, outside of the racecars, everyone is one big family in NASCAR. It was definitely an experience that I’m glad and blessed to have the opportunity to be able to grow up in Dad’s footsteps and see what he did each and every weekend. Now for myself to be there growing up with Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, the guys that are racing in the cup series now. Hopefully, we’ll be there one day racing against them.”
Earlier this season, Nemechek scored two emotional wins at Gateway and Iowa and that was a huge part of his career moving forward. Important enough, that if the team didn’t win at Gateway, they possibly might not be around today.
“Gateway was definitely a huge relief for us (NEMCO Motorsports),” he said. “We didn’t know exactly how many races we would be able to get to for the rest of the year at that time. Sponsorship wasn’t there and we didn’t have all the races sold, had we not won Gateway, Iowa would have been our last race.”
“Luckily, we were able to get to victory lane there,” he said. “It was certainly emotional from the fact that we didn’t know what the future was going to hold for us. Iowa was proof that we could win back to back and it was a relief as well, but not as big as Gateway. I think Iowa was more of a statement.”
Earlier this year on throwback weekend at Darlington Raceway, a couple of the truck series drivers paid tribute with a special paint scheme on their vehicle. For John, he ran the old BellSouth colors in honor of his dad, at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park and it was really special for him to do that.
“We have a warehouse here in Mooresville, North Carolina and it has one of almost every car that dad has ever driven paint scheme wise or each team,” Nemechek said. “Every time we go in there, the most special one to him is the BellSouth colors, just because that’s when he got his first ever Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win and it was special to be able to throw it back to that, running those colors.”
“It stands out, it’s the one that’s always stood out to me,” he said. “People know dad by that in back of the days, so it was pretty cool.”
In the beginning of the 2017 season, NASCAR implemented stage racing, which broke up the races into three segments for all three series. By doing that, it has made the racing much more exciting and tougher to win.
“It’s definitely made racing more exciting,” Nemechek said. “It makes everyone stay on their toes, making every driver push as hard as they can to gain as many points as possible each and every weekend. Throughout the whole race, we used to see drivers stay back and save their stuff (equipment) for the end of the race, however, stage racing throws a different factor into it by pushing hard and leading laps, and finishing up front for each stage to gain points.”
“I know it’s helped us a few times this year and has hurt us,” he says. “I definitely think it’s a good thing from a racing perspective and to make things more exciting.”
Sometimes there are races where drivers wish they had another chance at winning a race. For Nemechek, the one race that stands out to him is Canadian Tire Motorsports Park.
“At Canada, we had a shot to win and had a truck that could have won, but I ended up speeding on pit road,” he said. “We were going to come out the leader on a green flag pit stop and we were going to be way ahead, and I sped on pit road where it pretty much cost us the race.”
Retirement is a long way for the young 20-year-old, but for Nemechek, he would like to have every track crossed off his list before he retires.
“Each and every one of them,” he said. “That’s the goal before I retire. I wanna be able to win at every racetrack on the circuit in that (trucks) series, or in all three series. Just to be able to have wins at each racetrack shows that you’re diverse at what you can do. It also shows that you’re a great driver.”
The 2017 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season is just about over. At this point, Nemechek has two wins, seven top fives and 10 top 10 finishes. However, he thinks he could have been a little better than that.
“At this point in the season, I would give myself a B+ or A-,” he said. “I’ve had some mistakes this year, I learned some stuff the hard way but every time you’re in a racecar turning laps, you’re always learning something. I definitely think I’ve learned things the hard way, but I won’t make the same mistake twice because it only takes once.”
“I don’t think I’ve been an A+ driver this year because of the mistakes but hopefully through these playoffs, we’re going to be an A+ team/driver making it to the Final Four at Homestead run for the championship.”
With the Round of 6 beginning this weekend at Martinsville, Nemechek is excited as it is statistically one of his better racetracks, with three top fives and three top 10 finishes and a best finish of second coming in 2015 and ’16.
“I am really looking forward to Martinsville,” Nemechek said. “Martinsville has been a great place to myself and our team. I finished second and third there in the last three out of four times, or four out of five times. It’s been a great place for us, I’ve always run well and have had fast trucks there. I’m confident in this weekend and in our team as I’m ready to get this Round of 6 kicked off.