HAMPTON, Ga. – Daniel Hemric was poised for a top-five finish in his second race as a full-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver until his fortunes changed dramatically in the closing laps of Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500.
Hemric had his No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet in fourth place on Lap 309 of 325 and was closing on third-place Kurt Busch when his right front tire deflated, forcing him to bring the car to pit road for an unscheduled stop.
The Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender lost a lap and finished 20th, a far cry from his running position a few laps earlier.
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“It’s kind of heartbreaking for these guys we couldn’t get a solid top-five finish,” Hemric said. “I said I wanted to have an uneventful day and have a solid finish, and it was good to see that we were going to be able to run top-five there — just had a right-front tire come apart.
“I made a lot of mistakes on pit road today that I’ve got to get better with.”
But there was a silver lining. Hemric passed 97 cars under green-flag conditions, second only to Kyle Busch’s 110.
“The good thing is I feel like it put a little motivation in everybody here at RCR,” Hemric said. “That’s the kind of race cars we have to have at the race track every week to give ourselves a shot. It was fun to drive, fun to pass people, and look forward to next week (at Las Vegas).”
If Hemric felt disheartened by his finish, what about fellow Sunoco rookie Ryan Preece, who was running in the top 10 when his race came to an abrupt end on pit road? Preece was exiting his stall on Lap 273, looking down at his tachometer, when BJ McLeod slowed in front of him, looking for his pit stall.
Preece’s No. 47 JTG-Daugherty Chevrolet slammed into the back of McLeod’s No. 52 Camaro, damaging Preece’s car beyond repair. He was credited with a 35th-place finish on a day that had gone much better for the majority of the race.
“I was just trying to make sure I wasn’t speeding,” Preece explained. “And when I looked up, he was coming in the pits. So it’s a mistake. What are you going to do? It’s just unfortunate for us, because we were having a really good run.
“Like I said, we’re going to have some good cars this year. So if we can keep that up, we’ll be really good at Vegas, and I’m just really proud of everybody with JTG and Kroger. There’s nothing else you can do other than that. So I’m looking forward to next week.”