LAS VEGAS — While much of the talk about the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series rookie class has focused on the 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series “Big 3” of Tyler Reddick, Cole Custer and Christopher Bell, fellow rookie of the year (ROTY) contender John Hunter Nemechek has slotted himself as a threat to play spoiler in the ROTY race.
Nemechek posted a 69.1 driver rating, second among rookies, only to Tyler Reddick’s 73.4. Nemechek did so en route to an 11th place finish in the season-opening Daytona 500 which made him the highest finishing ROTY contender of the six who raced in the 500.
“I feel like it’s going to be a battle down to the end for Cup rookie of the year. It’s whoever makes the least amount of mistakes and has the best runs here and I definitely feel like we could be a contender for that.”
“Hard work and good attitude can sometimes outweigh a lot of other things.”
Nemechek raced full-time for the GMS Racing no. 23 Chevrolet in the 2019 Xfinity Series season. A year later, Nemechek has transitioned to Ford, now driving the Front Row Motorsports no. 38.
The move to Ford meant a full-time ride but the loss of his availability to Josh Wise, his driver coach for the past two seasons. However, John Hunter is utilizing his dad’s veteran experience to serve in the same role as Wise had.
“He has so much experience so I’m able to lean on him with questions and different things I’m feeling,” John Hunter said. “I know during practice he had his headset on in the garage and he was actually listening to the debrief when I got out of the car post-practice.”
John Hunter Nemechek has also looked to predecessor David Ragan for advice on transitioning from shorter weekends in the lower-tier series to longer weekends in Cup, like the week-and-a-half-long Speedweeks that starts the season.
“David last week at Daytona was a big help to me and I was able to reach out to him about different practice sessions.” Nemechek said. “It’s really easy for a rookie to get lost in what your focus is each practice session so it’s being able to lean on him quite a bit and just ask questions.”
John Hunter Nemechek was 21st fastest in first practice, with a time of 30.758 seconds (175.564 MPH average) in his no. 38 Berry’s Bullets Ford. Nemechek improved to be ninth fastest in final practice, with a time of 30.293 seconds (178.259 MPH average).