NASCAR Race Weekend Central

2007 Driver Review: Joe Nemechek

Joe Nemechek
2007 Ride: No. 13 Ginn Racing Chevrolet (Feb. – July), No. 08 E&M Motorsports Dodge (July – Aug.), No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet (Aug. – Nov.)
2007 Primary Sponsor: CertainTeed/Haier/Ginn Resorts (Ginn Racing), Unsponsored (E&M Motorsports), Furniture Row (Furniture Row Racing)
2007 Owner: Bobby Ginn (Ginn Racing), John Carter (E&M Motorsports), Barney Visser (Furniture Row Racing)
2007 Crew Chief: Peter Sospenzo (Ginn Racing), Mark Tutor (E&M Motorsports), Jay Guy (Furniture Row Racing)

Stats: 28 starts, zero wins, zero top fives, one top 10, 37th in points.

High Point: 2007 would’ve been considered a great success for Nemechek – if only he could’ve repeated his Daytona 500 performance every weekend. Entering his fourth full season with newly-named Ginn Racing (formerly MB2 Motorsports), the year began with a challenge. When Mark Martin and Regan Smith were signed to split duties in the No. 01 U.S. Army Chevrolet, Nemechek was asked to stay with the program, but switch rides – to a brand-new third team. Driving a then-unsponsored No. 13 Chevrolet, the thought behind the arrangement for Nemechek was directly related to “Front Row Joe’s” stellar qualifying record, leading team owner Bobby Ginn to believe his driver could put the car into the field on time and avoid falling victim to the Top-35 qualifying rule.

Ginn’s master plan seemed to pan out perfectly during Speedweeks last February. On Thursday, Nemechek put the CertainTeed/Ginn Resorts Chevy solidly in the Daytona 500 field by placing ninth in his Gatorade Duel race. Then, during the Great American Race itself, the No. 13 team stayed out of trouble, avoided some last-lap chaos of wreckage and brought home another ninth-place finish. It would be the team’s first – and last – top-10 performance of the season.

Low Point: The rest of his tenure with Ginn. If the 1992 Busch Grand National champion was hoping his “new” ride would help recapture some magic in the twilight of his career, he was left highly disappointed. Both Nemechek and his Peter Sospenzo-led team could not salvage any of their Daytona momentum, finishing no better than 14th through July.

The lowest of the low, however, came at the end of that month for the racing veteran. After struggling with patchwork sponsorship deals all season, owner Bobby Ginn finally ran out of money and was forced to inform Nemechek that he was out of a ride; just a handful of days later, the entire team was “merged” into Dale Earnhardt Inc., and two of the three cars disappeared off the map. The unexpected layoff left the Florida native in dire straits, both searching for a ride and fighting for unpaid wages by his former employer.

Summary: This has to be clearly one of the most unusual seasons Nemechek has ever been a part of; driving for three different teams, losing a ride in the middle of the year and engaging in a very public legal battle with a car owner who once was the savior of MB2 Motorsports. However, despite the challenges that he faced, Nemechek was one of the fortunate veterans to land a ride without sitting on the sidelines for long. Immediately, he was picked up by startup team E&M Motorsports, nearly making the Brickyard 400 with an unsponsored car and eventually qualifying for a race at Michigan. From there, he was given a tryout with the No. 78 Furniture Row car, performing well enough to earn a permanent ride with the team for the rest of the year… and beyond. While the results weren’t stellar, Nemechek gave the Furniture Row Racing team exactly what they needed the second half of this season – someone who can put the car in the field. Age did not deter the 44-year-old from turning in gutsy qualifying performances, as he put in No. 78 Chevy in nine events during the final stretch of the season – only one less than the 10 races the team made the entire first half of the year. With that said, perhaps the best label for Nemechek’s 2007 season is one of “transition.”

2008 Outlook: Next year will definitely be an uphill battle for Nemechek, as he will be competing with not only one of the few single car teams left on the circuit, but one that has been in existence for only about two years – with below average results. However, with championship car owner Rick Hendrick now supplying the horsepower for the No. 78, perhaps there’s a light at the end of the tunnel for this savvy veteran. The goals for 2008 will be basic: qualify for races and establish consistent finishes.

2006 Frontstretch Grade: D
2007 Grade: C-

Editor’s Note: The 2007 season is over, and even the Final Chase exam has come to a close – which means it’s time to give each driver their annual year-end evaluation. For the second straight year, your favorite Frontstretch staff members are giving driver reviews for every full-time wheelman on the circuit, giving you insight into the seasons of anyone from AJ Allmendinger to JJ Yeley.

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