2020 Nemechek
Jared C. Tilton | Getty Images

Nemechek making the most out of rookie Cup season

Out of the six rookies in the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series field, John Hunter Nemechek is the only one to have finished every race this season in a running car. That means he has also turned the highest percentage of laps through 15 events. He’s not at a 100% completion rate, but a strong 99.66% instead.

Forget the newcomers, that mark is actually good for third best among all his full-time, points-eligible competitors.

“It’s been one of those things where I want to run every lap that I can and gain the most valuable experience that I can when we go to the race track,” Nemechek told NASCAR.com. “I don’t want to put myself in bad spots where we may get wrecked or anything like that.”

RELATED: Indianapolis weekend schedule | Indianapolis paint schemes

Nemechek only trails Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick in laps completed. Hamlin is at 99.76% and has won a series-high four races. Harvick is two laps short of a perfect score at 99.95% with his three wins.

Rank Driver Laps completed Total laps Percentage
1 Kevin Harvick 4,157 4,159 99.95%
2 Denny Hamlin 4,149 4,159 99.76%
3 John Hunter Nemechek* 4,145 4,159 99.66%
18 Brennan Poole* 3,949 4,159 94.95%
20 Christopher Bell* 3,916 4,159 94.16%
25 Cole Custer* 3,841 4,159 92.35%
27 Tyler Reddick* 3,814 4,159 91.71%
31 Quin Houff* 3,561 4,159 85.62%

*NASCAR Cup Series rookie

The No. 38 Front Row Motorsport Ford hasn’t made it to Victory Lane, but it has placed in the top 10 twice. Nemechek is averaging a 19.3 finish — tied with Tyler Reddick for strongest average among rookies.

“There have been some races that we’ve had really good speed, but we haven’t had the finishes to show it,” Nemechek said. “Just have to get better at closing races and finishing more where we feel like we need to.”

In NASCAR’s first race back after the COVID-19 pause, Nemechek pulled off his first top-10 performance — ninth at Darlington Raceway. A couple days later, he ended up 35th at the same track. Big difference there, and he thought the first production was more reflective of the team’s capabilities.

None of the first-year drivers are within the top 16 when it comes to points right now, which means they are currently outside the NASCAR Playoffs picture just past the halfway mark of the regular season. Reddick is on the bubble in 18th — 26 points behind Erik Jones in the 16th and final transfer spot. Nemechek sits 22nd and trails by 72 points, with hopes of rising above the cutoff line.

“It’s going to be a difficult task to do, but it’s still not out of the question,” Nemechek said. “… Anything can happen, and we’re truly not that far back on points. So hopefully we can push forward, have some really good points day and have a shot to win at some of these short tracks or superspeedway races where I feel like our cars are on the strong side right now.”

Nemechek did register a season-best eighth at Talladega Superspeedway two weeks ago. He also had an 11th-place run in the opening Daytona 500 — his third-best showing this year. All that bodes well for his team considering Daytona International Speedway will host the regular-season finale on Aug. 29 — the final shot to make the postseason.

There are at least eight points-paying races on the schedule before then (not counting postponed races from the spring at Dover and Michigan that have yet to be made up), though, starting with Sunday’s Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400 Powered By Big Machine Records at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (4 p.m. ET on NBC/NBC Sports App, IMS Radio Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). A win and he’s in, but chipping away at his deficit is the goal for now.

“The biggest thing for us this weekend is to make the most out of the situation,” Nemechek said. “Be there and be present. Have a shot to contend for top 15, top 10, top five — whatever it may be. You don’t know how your car is going to run or what speed you’re going to have until you show up at the race track. Just try to get better as the race plays on.”