John Hunter Nemechek will drive the No. 42 Chevrolet in the NASCAR Xfinity Series for Chip Ganassi Racing on a part-time basis in 2018, the team announced Tuesday.
Nemechek, 20, has driven the No. 8 Chevrolet for his family-owned NEMCO Motorsports — which intends to continue fielding an entry in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2018 — since he was 16 and is a five-time winner in the Truck Series. He will split driving duties in 2018 with Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Larson, who won three times in the No. 42 Xfinity ride in 2017.
The No. 42 team, which has hosted several drivers over the years, has reached Victory Lane 10 times since 2006, with Larson, Alex Bowman and Tyler Reddick as its most recent victors.
The team’s success and ability to win was a driving force behind the decision to sign with the team, Nemechek said.
“In years past, I’ve been able to show what we’ve done with a small organization, kind of underfunded, at NEMCO Motorsports in the Truck Series and I think it’s going to be a great opportunity to get in really good equipment that has been proven to win each and every year,” Nemechek told NASCAR.com. “When you go to the race track, you know that you’re a contender for a win. But being able to kind of get myself with a team that has been established and can go to the race track and win each and every week, I think that’s the most important part.”
JHN has the ability and damn sure has the determination. This is the opportunity he needed. Bravo to his father for scraping together every penny to get to this point. It’s been impressive to see what they both have done with so little. Onward/Upward JHN! https://t.co/NUQHXOc2ly
— Ralph Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) December 13, 2017
For Nemechek, the move to pilot the No. 42 is one with slight familiarity. Several former crew members for Joe Nemechek, a 20-time winner in NASCAR’s national series and John Hunter’s father, currently work on the No. 42 Xfinity Series operation. This includes the elder Nemechek’s former Xfinity Series crew chief Gary Putnam.
“It’s pretty cool to almost have a little reunion (reminiscent of) when they were at the shop and I was 3 years old driving a Go-Kart around the parking lot …” the younger Nemechek said. “We’ve stayed in touch over the years and I know being at the shop or in their hauler at some of the last few races going in and talking to them, all those stories start to come out.”
The familiarity lends itself to a bit of comfort in a situation that could be intimidating for anyone — much less a young driver moving up through the ranks.
“I definitely feel like there’s a comfort level there already — I don’t think that we’re going to have to build to that,” Nemechek said. “… You’re going to have to work on communication skills and know what the crew chief and driver want, but I definitely feel like there’s something established there and I definitely feel like that’s going to help us for the future.”
Nemechek becomes the latest young star to take a step forward in his NASCAR career, with drivers such as Bowman, Darrell Wallace Jr., Christopher Bell and William Byron also moving into their next respective level of racing. He’s looking forward to the new phase in his career –- with only a few good nerves.
“I would lie to you if I said there weren’t any (nerves),” Nemechek said with a smile. “I would say there are some nerves going into it, but I’m not really that nervous. I mean, more just butterflies in your stomach than anything.”