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The 2016 season marks the first full year for John Hunter Nemechek, who will turn 19 on Saturday. Not yet old enough to compete full-time in 2015, the 18-year-old shared his ride with dad Joe until his 18th birthday. And it didn’t take long for him to visit Victory Lane just a few months later at Chicagoland Speedway.
Fast forward to this year, and there’s a clear increase in confidence in Nemechek, who is visiting several of these tracks that he’s already raced on before. But have things really changed with more prior experience?
“From the setup side, knowing exactly what I need when I come back to some of these racetracks,” Nemechek said Friday afternoon from Texas Motor Speedway. “I can look back at the notes, see where we struggled, what we needed to do, how the race trims were. It definitely has helped.”
And along with the experience, Nemechek and NEMCO Motorsports brings a new sponsor in Fire Alarm Services. The last minute deal came together earlier this week.
Got got ourselves a sponsor! Excited to have Fire Alarm Systems on our truck this weekend… https://t.co/qPbu6jy07G
— John Hunter Nemechek (@JHNemechek) June 8, 2016
“I can’t thank those guys for coming on board enough for everything that they do,” Nemechek continued. “They’re big supporters of us. I know they’ve been around the sport for a year or so now, so getting their feet wet. Hopefully we can do more with them in the future, but I can’t thank them enough for coming on board tonight.”
Nemechek has one prior start at Texas last November; he started 12th and finished 11th after leading a single lap, but both of his career victories have come on mile-and-a-half ovals. The question is whether he’s got the truck to compete for the win tonight.
“I feel like it’s pretty good. I feel like we had a good truck in race trim,” he said. “We made some adjustments overnight to see how we can get it better. I knew somewhat what I needed to try to go a little faster in race trim and catch some of those guys that were a little bit faster than us. I think at the end of the night, we’re going to be there.
Nemechek struggled a bit with speed during both practice sessions on Thursday. He ran 19th quickest on the leaderboard during the first practice and only improved to 15th fastest during the final session. The speed issues didn’t change much during qualifying on Friday, leaving Nemechek to start 23rd.
During the Rattlesnake 400, consistent pit stops, combined with aggressive moves on restarts helped Nemechek move through the field. He had a bit of a close call with Cole Custer late in the race, but both drivers managed to keep going without any major damage. The driver of the No. 8 Chevrolet finished seventh.