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  • Behind the Visor: John Hunter Nemechek
Behind the Visor: John Hunter Nemechek

It started with a conversation probably a year and a half ago.

My dad and I were trying to keep me moving up through the racing ranks. We were looking for the right home and the right team.  We’ve had some good relationships with Chip Ganassi and some of the internal guys, so the team’s Xfinity Series No. 42 was a great fit for me.

It will definitely be a change, going from a kind of underfunded No. 8 truck ride with NEMCO Motorsports to a part-time slate in the Xfinity Series with a prestigious and established team like Chip Ganassi Racing.

But I think my experience with my family-run team steered by my dad (and former driver) Joe Nemechek has helped me grow in many aspects of my life.

MORE: See photos from our shoot with John Hunter

 

A jack of all trades

A jack of all trades

I learned everything that you can about a race car while running for NEMCO.

With us being a small team, I was in the shop every day with the guys, absorbing as much as I could. I worked side-by-side with Dad, with the crew chief, engineer and the guys in the shop, putting trucks together, tearing them down and just learning each and every process that you have to do to get a truck to the race track.

One of the neat things about going through that with our small team is that we have our own machine shop. If somebody thought of something that can make our trucks go faster, I’d go draw it and then dad would machine it and it would be in our trucks in five or six hours. So I definitely think that was a benefit — being able to make things, come up with new ideas and try to stay ahead of the curve.

I think that experience will aid me going forward; from setup to running simulation software, working on your own vehicle allows you to know what your truck is going to do or what changes are huge when you go to the race track so you know what to change.

But it also made me respect my equipment more since I know what goes into it; how much hard work goes into it to get to the race track each and every week.

It’s given me a different perspective rather than just someone showing up to drive.

When it came down to it – even during the toughest times last year — I knew we could accomplish the same things that other teams outspending us could. I had confidence we could compete with them each week that we go to the race track.

Because I promise you one thing – there’s nobody that worked harder than we did last year with our small group of guys, and I’m sure that no one put as many hours in as we did.

That paid off — particularly on Father’s Day last season.

 

‘heads down and elbows up’

As we approached the race at Gateway Motorsports Park on Father’s Day weekend, our future was a bit uncertain.

That was kind of the middle part of the year when we didn’t know if we were going to be able to finish out the season due to funding and financial struggles.

It was sometimes a bit of a struggle to remain positive. Dad and I were kind of the cheerleaders, making sure everyone was pumped up when we went to the race track. The mood was down in the shop, everyone was kind of at the point of, ‘Well what do we do now? We have really fast trucks but we can’t finish races.’

Working in the shop alongside my guys and showing them how much I cared about it, I think increased their drive. We’re a family, so we took on all of it together like any family would. We kept our heads down and elbows up and kept working – and saying lots of prayers.

Still, heading into Gateway we only had enough races sold to get to that point and that was going to be our last full-time race, and then we were going to have to start divvying up the schedule.

A win changed all that.

To have Dad there was pretty special, too. The first thing he said to me was ‘Hell yeah, congrats, son! Great job.’ With him being a team owner and a dad, I think we saw both kind of personalities come out as a boss and as a dad taking pictures and smiling.

It’s pretty remarkable to be able to look back on that. It will be a memory he and I will cherish together forever.

It’s not the only thing we’ve shared in racing, though.

 

 

a shared faith

Dad’s always had the cross there.

I remember seeing it above every door of his race cars when I was younger and wanted to put it on my own. Faith is a big part of my life; I grew up going to church with Mom and Dad and hanging out with some of the other drivers’ kids at Motor Racing Outreach.

Everyone asks if you have a routine before the race and mine is going to the driver’s meeting and then going to church and being at MRO. I definitely think having the good Lord looking over you, praying and just kind of giving back to the community is important.

My first-ever car didn’t have the cross above my door when I drove and as I kept progressing through the ranks, it was something that we added – and kept.

I plan on having it atop the door of the No. 42 Chevy next season as well. It’s kind of been a family tradition with Dad, and I want to have a piece of that when I move up.

 

making my name

The opportunity with Chip Ganassi Racing is something I feel really good about – and I’m hoping for some really good runs (and wins) next year.

I’ll always be a part of NEMCO Motorsports – that’s my family team and it will still function in the Camping World Truck Series next season. Whether it’s working on trucks or machining parts or being a driver coach, I’ll definitely still be involved there.

But the No. 42 is my next step in NASCAR and it’s what I’ll be focused on this year, from the beginning of the season until the final checkered flag. Honestly? I’m really excited. I’m pumped up.

The Xfinity Series motto is, ‘Names are made here’ and I believe in that. Look at all the guys who have come up through it.

Hopefully I can make a name for myself there, too.