With limited resources, Nemechek father-son duo continue to push on

By Kyle McFadden
July 29, 2017

LONG POND, Pa.—Joe Nemechek paused mid-sentence and marveled at his family-owned race truck that was being worked on in the Pocono garage. A moment like that—just a typical race weekend—isn’t a pencil-in occurrence for Nemechek’s NEMCO race team.

Finances are tight these days—nothing is guaranteed, business is week-to-week.

“We do it with very limited resources,” Nemechek said.

Just a few minutes prior, Nemechek, the team owner, himself had his head under the hood, inspecting the engine, before whipping around to the rear and beating out a scuffed quarter panel.

These are all sacrifices for the “guy of the future,” says Joe: His 20-year-old son, John Hunter Nemechek; widely viewed as a star of tomorrow.

After a fourth-place showing at this Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series Overton’s 150, John Hunter sits fifth in the standings132 points out of first-place Christopher Bell. Over the 12-race span, he has two wins and six top-five finishes.

“Everything he’s ever done, he’s been so competitive at it,” the elder Nemechek said. “Trying to do everything I can to support him to keep him moving up in his career because he’s the guy of the future. Put my career on hold to help him.

“He’s definitely the future. … The competitiveness, the desire to do well, he’ll do whatever it takes—from working on it, to being in [the race shop] at midnight, whatever it takes. He’s there to figure out how to have success.”

Nemechek rambled on, perhaps peering through a crystal ball, sharing a vision he’s adamant about.

“I think he’s going to win some Cup championships, but it’s all about getting with the right team and the right circumstances,” he said. “That landscape is changing so fast right now, you just don’t know what’s going to happen.”

The chances of the father-son duo, NEMCO Motorsports, evolving into a Cup series team is extremely slim, and that’s OK to the Nemechek’s. Dad is there for stability and fathership, while son manifests talent and capability of penny-scraping race units.

“It’s very cool to have him as a team owner, mentor, boss, pretty much everything all the above,” John Hunter Nemechek said. “Without him, I wouldn’t be where I’m at right now.

“He’s been a huge inspiration my whole career. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to repay him. … It’s been and up-and-down season … but I feel we’ve brought fast trucks out every week.”

Last year, John Hunter became the youngest NASCAR national series winner at the Atlanta Motor Speedway at 18 years, 8 months, and 16 days old—his one of two wins. This past June, he won an emotion-filled race at Gateway Motorsports Park on Father’s Day and followed that with a pulsating win at Iowa in which he made the go-ahead pass with six laps to go.

“It’s very satisfying. We’re the underdogs at this, and don’t have a whole lot of money to throw at it,” Joe Nemechek said. “We just figure out how to outsmart them and outwork them. It makes you feel good.”

Before the special Father’s Day win, NEMCO Motorsports wasn’t even sure if they could finish the season. Almost any team owner will tell you, sponsorship is hard to come by these days. Emotion poured out in victory lane—father and son in a deep embrace and a team living to see another week.

“Being able to win on Father’s Day, it’s something special,” John Hunter Nemechek said. “It was really good. It was definitely emotional; all of us were.

“It was one of those things: Like a storybook ending. … It makes victory that much sweeter; seeing all the hard work pay off ...  It makes everyone smile that much more; grinning ear-to-ear.

“Being an underfunded team, you have to use your resources to the absolute max. It makes you work that much harder. You can’t outspend ‘em, you have to out-smart ‘em.”

Even after establishing themselves as a top-tier race truck, John Hunter’s unit still needs to sell six of the final 11 races, including the next two races at Michigan and Bristol.

“We’re going to do everything we can to win the championship,” John Hunter said.

But what happens if sponsorship doesn’t arise?

“That’s a good question, I guess we’ll find out,” John Hunter said. “Hopefully we don’t have to think about that, but we’re working hard to find sponsorship. … I don’t know what’s going to happen. All we can do is pray about it.”

They always focus on the present, but like his father, John Hunter has aspirations to make it big.

“The goal is to win a Cup championship one day,” John Hunter said. “To be at that level, it takes a lot of hard work, a lot of desire. But I think that I can do it. I have faith in myself.”

Both of them will tell you, “you can’t out out-spend ‘em, you have to out-smart ‘em,” and that everything in this industry is gone about with grit.

In a sport people claim to be tailing off because of personality shortages, John Hunter is a figure that can evolve into an icon. And maybe one day, just one day, the dream will come to fruition.

“I’m just still amazed,” Nemechek said. “He has won an awful lot of races, from legacy cars to quarter midgets, pro late models to super late models, everything.

“We’ve won about every big race there’s ever been. That makes me feel good as a dad.

“What’s also important is, he knows how to talk. He’s a good communicator. He knows how to speak the crowd; knows how to treat people. I just taught him the right morals growing up.

“How you treat people is how you should want to be treated, and doing the right thing. There’s a lot that goes along with it. He does them all well. Plus, he can go fast in a race car.” SOURCES Racing-Reference.info IMAGES Barry Cantrell/NEMCO Motorsports

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images Sean Gardner/Getty Images

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