Think your kid has talent?
Are you looking for a Late Model ride or a Camping World Truck Series seat where your daughter or son can gain enough real-world experience to move up to NASCAR’s top levels?
Then Joe Nemechek has an interesting proposition.
The journeyman racer, who has four Cup victories and still competes part-time in trucks and the XFINITY Series (in which he won the 1992 title), provided his son John Hunter, 21, with a successful platform to graduate through the motorsports ranks and into a full-time ride with GMS Racing for 2019.
Now, the elder Nemechek has an opening for an aspiring young racer at NEMCO Motorsports.
“We are trying to find the next driver that we can educate the same way we’ve put John Hunter through the racing circuit,” Nemechek said. “A good part of any driver right now is trying to train them in the right way. It’s not all about driving on the track, it’s learning about the cars, it’s learning about what you’re supposed to do and how you’re supposed to do it.
“There is so much involved in being good in this day and time. It’s not just about hopping in and going.”
John Hunter enjoyed a hands-on experience as he worked on both his super and crate Late Models, as well as trucks, prior to bringing the vehicles to the track. On asphalt, the second-generation driver won two of the biggest short-track races—the 2014 All American 400 and the 2014 Snowball Derby.
On dirt, John Hunter won the second Heat Race in the 2015 Mudsummer Classic and the 2018 Dirt Derby Last Chance Qualifier—both at Eldora Speedway. In his last 82 truck starts, he has posted six wins, two poles, 27 top fives and 42 top 10s.
The fast track for potential racers requires quality equipment capable of winning. Nemechek believes a driver running less than competitive equipment has the tendency to develop bad habits that are tough to break.
“You have to know where your limitations are,” Nemechek said. “As a driver, you’re trying to make laps, but you need to be competitive week-in and week-out. Whether you are in late models, ARCA, K&N or getting in the truck series, you have to be in competitive equipment, and you have to have someone helping you understand what is going on and how the whole program works. There’s more to it than just driving.
“It’s tough out there. There are a lot of teams out and so many drivers make the mistake of just coming in and not getting help or not having the right people around them. The price they pay is normally, they’re here one or two years and then they’re gone. If the families running in Legends, Bandoleros or go-karts are serious about taking their kids to the next level, they need to surround themselves with the right people.”
Nemechek’s son was ahead of the learning curve, not only because he grew up around the race tracks but also because he took the time to understand the different facets of the sport. Nemechek had a similar mentoring situation when he entered the NASCAR ranks.
“Knowing what feel you need in the race car or truck is so important nowadays,” Nemechek said. “I remember when I had Donnie Allison helping me get started. We would go test and he would ask, ‘How is the car handling now?’ and then again after 10 laps. You would have to try and figure out back then how the car was going to drive with another 80 laps or 100 laps on the tires, because you didn’t do a lot of tire changes back then.
“Some of that stuff still applies. You still have to know—and you learn what you need in practice—to make your truck right. But now you have to do it in a three-lap run or a five-lap run and know what it’s going to feel like in 20 laps. There are still a lot of variables. With limited testing, with a lot of the rules that are in place in NASCAR right now, you have to be efficient to be successful.
“Being a racer, when John Hunter was coming up, I knew what he needed to know. I wanted him to learn the proper things with the race cars, what he needed to do on the race track and how to do it. There are a lot of things myself, Gere Kennon (crew chief) and guys on the crew can do to help educate the drivers. A lot of it is repetition, but there are a lot of things—such as communication skills—that are second to none right now.”
NEMCO is celebrating three decades in NASCAR. Nemechek is proud of the effort the team puts forth each week—even running with a skeleton crew at times. But he feels a smaller shop can provide a one-on-one experience for a driver who might not get such concentrated attention with a larger organization.
The company can offer a variety of Late Model and truck programs, depending on the level of commitment. With 12 trucks in the stable, Nemechek can run a full season on the tour and campaign multiple entries in select races. He’s encouraged by John Hunter’s willingness to tutor the next driver willing to step into the family’s fold.
“We’re winning races and we can win races in all of them,” Nemechek said of the company’s versatility. “I think it’s very important to educate the drivers correctly, to teach a driver how to win. We are looking for that next driver that we can coach, get him or her up there and start winning races and prepare to move on.
“When you start getting to the Cup and Xfinity Series, they’re going to need drivers in the next few years. As a new driver coming in, if you can be trained properly and with the right people, there will be a heck of a lot of opportunities in the future.”