“Front Row” Joe Nemechek
2006 Ride: No. 01 Army Chevrolet Monte Carlo
2006 Owner: MB2 Motorsports/Ginn Racing
2006 Crew Chief: Ryan Pemberton
Stats: 36 races, zero wins, zero top fives, two top 10s, 27th in points.
High Point: The No. 01 Army car ran well, if not up front, just about every race throughout the season, unfortunately, unlike in previous years, the team wasn’t able to consistently turn their performance into high finishes. Still, Nemechek’s 13th-place finish at Homestead ended the season with a signature seven-race top-20 streak that started at the UAW-Ford 500 at Talladega; it was a much needed boost that kept him and his team within the Top 35 in owner points for 2007.
Going into the Texas race in November, Nemechek said, “No question, it has been a difficult year, but we all knew the talent was there and it was eventually going to turn around.” He continued, “It wasn’t like this was a hopeless cause and we didn’t look forward to the next race. In fact, it was completely the opposite. We couldn’t wait for the next event, knowing that this could be the race that would get us on the right track. We always had the soldiers’ creed of never giving up.”
Low Point: This one’s easy; for Nemechek, it has to be the streak of four races in a row where he saw strong performances turn sour. Nemechek was hit by Martin Truex Jr. during the second lap at Indianapolis, then hit the wall trying to save the car. The Chevy went two laps down while the team affected repairs, and eventually finished 24th. The next week, the No. 01 car was collected in a seven-car crash on lap 63 at Watkins Glen which saw the team finish 42nd on the field. This followed an earlier incident where this same Chevrolet was spun out by Jeff Green. Finally, Nemechek brushed the wall the week after in Michigan while he was racing Jeff Gordon for position about 3/4 through the race, relegating the No. 01 Chevy to a 26th-place finish.
Summary: Usually, when a team shows this kind of improvement at the end of the season, it’s a good bet that they’ll hit the blocks running at the start of the following season. Plus, this is the same team that finished 16th in 2005 and had a shot at making the Chase up until the final race before the field was set in 2005, so they recently have seen some success on a professional level. Problem is, this team’s done! Next season, crew chief Ryan Pemberton is staying with the No. 01 and teams up with part-timer Mark Martin, who comes over from the Roush No. 6 Ford to drive 20 points races and the exhibition races, along with being a mentor to rookie Regan Smith, who will race the other 16 races in the Army Chevrolet.
2007 Outlook: Veteran Nemechek will move over to the start-up No. 13 team with Ginn Motorsports, rejoining crew chief Peter Sospenzo, who comes over from Hendrick Motorsports where he and Nemechek teamed up for 10 races in the No. 25 at the end of the 2002 season and through all but the last four races in 2003, when Nemechek took over the No. 01 Army Pontiac for MB2.