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2-Headed Monster: Is Richard Childress Racing Wrong to Dismiss Daniel Hemric?

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series silly season has been pretty steady over the last couple of weeks. Last week, it was announced that Matt DiBenedetto will drive the No. 21 Ford in 2020, and this week it was announced that Daniel Hemric will not return to the No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet next season. The odds-on favorite to replace Hemric appears to be his fellow RCR stablemate and defending Xfinity Series champion, Tyler Reddick. That got us thinking. After just one season in the Cup Series, should Richard Childress Racing be showing Hemric the door so soon?

He Deserved Another Year

Sometimes the business of this sport really stinks. I certainly felt that way when I saw the news that Hemric would not be back in the No. 8 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing in 2020.

Things got off to a rough start for the Kannapolis, North Carolina native in his rookie campaign this year. After the first eight races of the season, he was a very disappointing 29th in the standings. Bad luck had plagued the team. Most of what happened was not Hemric’s fault. Everything that could have happened, happened to the No. 8 Chevrolet early in the year. Either way, it was a miserable start to his rookie season. But things have turned around a little bit since then.

I believe that Hemric deserved another year to prove his worth in the Cup Series. I never like replacing a driver after one season with a team, especially a rookie driver with little to no Cup experience. Everything is new for a rookie driver, and at times they can find themselves a bit in over their heads. Look at how many talented drivers have failed to win races in their rookie season. It’s an extremely long list and that’s not a coincidence. They are going against drivers who have been in the series for over a decade and know how the cars handle on every racetrack.

However, most of the rookie drivers who fail to win are given a second year to show that they have made progress on the racetrack and prove that they can run with the big boys. Unfortunately for Hemric, that is not going to happen.

There is no question about it — we’ve seen the team struggle at times. However, we’ve also seen the team have some nice flashes of consistency. A stretch in the middle of the season saw the team record eight top-20 finishes in 10 races. Hemric jumped all the way to 24th in the standings at one point. Since then, things have settled down and he sits 25th, but inconsistency is part of a rookie season. I think it’s expected.

It’s not like his teammate Austin Dillon has set the world on fire. Richard Childress Racing has struggled as a whole. Dillon is in his sixth full-time season in the Cup Series and sits 21st in the standings. Couple that with the bad luck Hemric had in the beginning of the year and you could argue Hemric has been pretty on par with his teammate.

Hemric also leads the Rookie of the Year battle against Ryan Preece and Matt Tifft. Both Tifft and Preece have trailed Hemric pretty much all season long, and Hemric currently leads Preece by 29 points and Tifft by 118 points with nine races to go in the season. Even if he wins it, it will be a pretty impressive win considering he is now a lame duck driver that had some rotten luck earlier on.

Overall, I think Hemric has done a decent job in his rookie season. I feel it’s very unfair to expect a driver in his first season to outrun his team and his teammates, and it looks like Richard Childress Racing was expecting him to do that. He has raced pretty on par with his teammate Dillon, and I think that is about all you can expect from him. – Clayton Caldwell

A Throwback Path to Career Progression

It was announced on Tuesday by Richard Childress Racing that Hemric would not be back in the No. 8 Richard Childress Chevrolet for 2020. His one-year stint in the No. 8 car (formerly the No. 31) following Ryan Newman’s departure leaves Hemric with an uncertain future. Presumably, his replacement will be 2018 Xfinity Series champion Reddick, joining Dillon in the two-car RCR stable next year.

Reddick left JR Motorsports following his 2018 Xfinity Series championship at the end of last year, specifically because it provided him a clearer path to the Cup Series. While it is unfortunate for Hemric — if not a bit unfair given the lack of consistent speed shown by RCR outside of superspeedway tracks — Reddick is the natural choice to move up to the Cup Series.

Reddick has followed what once was the natural career progression in NASCAR since becoming a full-time Truck Series driver in 2015, after running the majority of 2014 season. He looked to be on the fast track as a Ford development driver, piloting Brad Keselowski’s F-150s to wins at Daytona and Dover, coming up just 15 points short of Erik Jones for the championship. He won one more race in 2016 before Keselowski shuttered his Truck Series operation after he reported he was losing over $1 million that year trying to keep the team viable. Reddick then joined the Chevrolet ranks winning with Chip Ganassi Racing. Following his move to JR Motorsports in 2018, Reddick won a pair of races and the championship.

This year he’s been on fire, winning his fifth race of the year in a fuel-saving strategy affair, going over 70 laps on a tank of fuel (plus the requisite burnout) to win at Las Vegas. It was a nice setup to clinch the regular-season championship having to save a significant amount of fuel to do so, prior to the announcement that would come a couple of days later, and further justification for the move. It was a Cup Series-level driver move to be sure. Speaking of Cup Series, he’s made a couple of starts this year for RCR as it is, finishing ninth at Kansas in just his second start — and the Chevrolet teams weren’t exactly killing it on downforce tracks five months ago when he did it either.

Reddick has now won with three different teams in four full-time NASCAR seasons, including a championship. While Hemric has always been a solid performer, he has still yet to win a single race in Trucks, Xfinity or the Monster Energy Series.

That isn’t to say it’s even Hemric’s fault. Comparing his stats to teammate Dillon this year, it’s hard to find fault with how he’s performed. Dillon has four top 10s in the No. 3 RCR Chevrolet with an average finish of 20.2. Hemric has a top 5 and two top 10s and an average finish of 22.7. Taking a look at how their strategic partners run at Richard Petty Motorsports with Bubba Wallace (24.1) and Ty Dillon at Germain Racing (20.7), he’s pretty much right on par with everyone driving similar equipment as he is. That goes to say that other than superspeedways or solid runs by these teams at Pocono and Indy, they have all been a bit off the Chevrolet benchmarks of Hendrick Motorsports.

If Reddick is able to do markedly better it would be surprising — but he has no doubt earned the opportunity to try.

For those who bemoan what NASCAR has become, with drivers who have graduated to top-tier rides simply based on having sponsorship or other ancillary funding to buy a seat (then crashing said seat), this is a throwback to the way it used to be. A driver would prove himself in a lower series, then get the opportunity to move up to the next level, and then after winning races or a championship, the call would come to land a seat for one of the most storied organizations in NASCAR history. Well that call came through for Reddick, and he’s more than qualified to answer it. – Vito Pugliese

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About Vito Pugliese

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Vito is one of the longest-tenured writers at Frontstretch, joining the staff in 2007. With his column Voice of Vito (monthly, Fridays) he’s a contributor to several other outlets, including Athlon Sports and Popular Speed in addition to making radio appearances. He forever has a soft-spot in his heart for old Mopars and presumably oil-soaked cardboard in his garage.

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7 comments

  1. Avatar

    I like Hemric, but RCR had to make this move to keep Reddick. Reddick could be the type of talent that resurrects RCR. RCR’s Xfinity program had been sub-par the last few years. Reddick gets in the 2 car and immediately starts winning races and competing with Gibbs and SHR. Hemric still has not won a NASCAR national series race and he’s had more than 1 year in quality equipment. I hope he lands a quality Xfinity or Truck ride.

  2. Avatar

    I agree that Tyler Reddick is performing better and deserves a cup ride, but it seems way too early to squeeze Hemric out, being he’s still in the developmental stage. I think RCR brought him up very prematurely. That’s their fault. I couldn’t believe it when they brought him up and he hadn’t even won a race yet. But, this move replacing him rather than adding an additional car for Reddick surprised me with his close relationship I believe he has with the Dillons and RCR. I’m thinking it has more to do with sponsorship issues, especially as courteous as Hemric has been with the release. I think RCR’s on the hot seat with their overall lack of performance.

  3. Avatar

    Hemric, Preece, and Tifft have not been impressive at all. None of them deserved to be moved up to Cup as soon as they were. They are not in the worst equipment out there either. Hopefully next year we will see a real battle for Rookie of the Year.

  4. Avatar

    What the hell is going on with the logic, in this era of everybody gets a trophy? LOOK AT HIS STATS!!!!!!!!!!!!! I looked over his RACERS REFERENCE STATS and I don’t see a WIN in any column no matter what “series” he was in! And he is in Cup and let me say type this again CUP and needs ANOTHER CHANCE…a “screwed rookie again”??????? Come on. I don’t care if he bakes Girl Scout Cookies and delivers them to the old folks home Thursday before the race weekend, or single handedly fights fires with his bare teeth. Come on, you got it or you don’t. Many of the “second chancers” were successful..READ WINS in all series leading to the big 3 and won in at least the big two many a time. Trucks and Xfinity. The cries of Danny and Matty (Danny zero wins) (Matty, at his age long ago K and N win or two) Come on…has the fan bar of trophy for all been set so low? Nice, it isn’t your money.

    Big distinction between a second chance. Many a driver with that second chance who was and is successful killed it coming up thru the ranks and won at every level. Again, Racers Reference is your friend.

    • Avatar

      I think the difference between Matt and Daniel is that Matt has always been in junk back-marker cars (that I know of, it’s possible I could have missed a season in good equipment). RCR is better than anything Matt has been in. So I agree with you that Daniel does not = Matt. At least Matt has started stringing together some decent finishes this year.

      The point that is missed, is that in the past drivers were given more time to develop than they are today. With limited cars, increasing budgets, and decreasing sponsors, it’s tough… not that it was easy back then, but it’s just different today. EVERYONE is expected to win RIGHT DAMN NOW!!! It doesn’t matter if the guy’s in his very first race, or his 1000th race – he HAS to win or he faces being out on his ass at any moment. <– That last sentence is exaggerated, but not by much.

    • Avatar

      Im sure it is about sponsorship. Reddick will probably drive the same car and sponsorship and will be given a chance also. If it was about talent the grandkids would have been gone long ago.

  5. Avatar

    Hemric was nothing short of horrible this season. Already a proven non-winner at the Xfinity and Cup. No reason to keep him on after what was a one-year prove it deal. He was never better than a top super-late star…