The Frontstretch: Beyond the Cockpit: Jeremy Clements On Surviving As An Independent In NNS by Bryan Davis Keith -- Wednesday May 4, 2011

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For the past several Nationwide Series seasons, Jeremy Clements and his family-owned race team have been going the independent route, running their own cars whenever possible and racing within their means. This season, without a full-time sponsor and only a handful of race cars, the No. 51 team has nonetheless gone full-time racing, and two months into the season they’ve made it work while challenging for the top 15 in points. Frontstretch caught up with Clements at Richmond to get caught up on the team’s 2011 thus far.

Bryan Davis Keith, Frontstretch.com: How much of an adjustment has it been moving to a full-time schedule this year?

Jeremy Clements: It’s been tough for us because we only have two cars right now. We’re trying to get another one built. But if we wreck one, it’d be hard. Tuesday and Wednesday I was running back and forth around Charlotte, taking our cars to the body man, to get them inspected by NASCAR. It’s just been a pain.

Keith: How much of challenge has it been getting these cars through technical inspection?

Clements: It’s been a real pain. With these bodies, the measurements being so freaking close, it’s tough for a team like us. We don’t have the templates you need, so we have to take our cars to a body man that has them and he’s about two hours away. It is what it is. We’re trying to run a full season.

Keith: How realistic a notion is that, that you’ll be able to contest 35 races this year?

Clements: It’s going alright so far. This weekend, we didn’t have a backup car, so I had to keep that in mind in qualifying, and in the race I’ve got to race a little cautious, because we have to take this car to Darlington. Our other car, I don’t think it’s going to be ready. We’d have to work day and night for it to be ready. Hopefully, we can get it at least prepared enough to be a backup. That’s how it’s been.

Keith: What’s your tire situation looking like week to week?

Clements: We had a set of stickers last week in the pits, the rest were five lap, 10 lap, 15 lap scuffs, whatever we can get. I don’t even know what we have for this race tonight, I usually don’t find out until right before the race.

Keith: Last year you had some races where you were legitimately a top 10 car. Now, this year, you’re racing conservatively, going week to week instead of picking and choosing, and the results aren’t quite there. Is the way you’re having to race having an impact on your results?

Clements: We’ve just been struggling with the handling of these new cars. Last year, we ran really well with the other cars; we had one really good car that we could get dialed in. This year, we’re just struggling with these cars. The COT car that we had last year was Johnny Davis’s, so we gave it back. That was an OK car; we qualified 13th here with it, qualified 20th at Charlotte, and I wish we could have kept it because we kind of had it figured out. This car we’re running is a Childress car, the other car we’ve got is a Phoenix car, but we just haven’t been able to figure out what they need.

Keith: What’s the challenge that this new car is posing?

Clements: You always seem to be loose getting in on the big tracks, then tight in the middle. Here, we were just too tight when we unloaded. Then the tire situation comes in again, we’ve got to be able to throw some tires on these things to see how we stack up. [Especially] when we make adjustments to go qualifying. It’s not so much being conservative during the race, I still race hard. But I have to keep myself out of awkward positions. I just hope we can get this car figured out.

Keith: How are you making out with the purse cuts this year?

Clements: It sucks, but we’re making it work with the bonus money for running all the races, that’s usually worth about $6,400. Last weekend didn’t pay that great, it was 17 something. If you even bought all the tires you could…you could buy seven sets last weekend because it was our first time at Nashville with this new car, that’s over $12,000 right there. The purse barely covers that. And we’re trying to run on the purse. We get some sponsorship here and there through RaceDaySponsor.com (Co-opsusa.com was on the No. 51 this Friday night).

Keith: All things considered, it sounds like you’re doing alright.

Clements: We’re trying. Las Vegas, we had a fuel pump go out with 19 laps to go, we were running 14th. California we had a flange failure on the right rear hub, the axle started coming out and it came out when I hit the wall, we were running 18th, 19th there. Replace those two, we’d be a bit higher in the points.

Keith: You’ve been trying for a while, now you’re finally in the top 30, how does that feel?

Clements: It feels really good. And then there’s only 41 cars here this weekend. It’s funny how things work, you get locked in and 41 cars show up. But it’s a lot easier. We will have full fields and more cars eventually. And we’ve been a 20th, 21st place car. We finished 16th at Bristol on scuff tires, that was pretty good. We’ve just got to keep in mind what we’re running with, doing the best we can for what we’ve got.

Another thing for us is that it’s been a thrash just to get to the race track. Back at the shop, we’re just trying to get them together and get here.

Keith: Sounds like there’s pros and cons to being full-time.

Clements: That’s exactly it. It’s just a struggle to get here it seems like. You get the cars together and there’s not enough time to set them up like you need to. We left to get here on Wednesday night, and we had just gotten the car back at 8:30 with a quick setup thrown in. With a small team, that’s what happens.

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Michael in SoCal
05/04/2011 10:52 AM
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Nascar’s consecutive cuts to the NW Series purses, along with mandating a new car, made it very difficult for the independents to survive. Good luck to all the guys and gals like Jeremy out there.

steven
05/04/2011 11:36 AM
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It’s unfortunate that talented up and comers like Jeremy are struggling so hard just to try to compete against fully funded media whores like Danica who is basically not competitive as a driver. Unfunded teams are ignored while broadcasters rave how she did a great job keeping it off the wall.

Matt
05/04/2011 06:29 PM
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Great story! I hope Clements can hang on for the rest of the season. He’s a true underdog.

His team amd many others difficulty affording tires makes Cup drivers dominating the series even more pathetic.

Nick Doneilo
05/04/2011 09:36 PM
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You said it Steve!