Jeremy Clements’ first Xfinity win felt ‘like it was meant to be’

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When crew chief Danny Gill saw Jeremy Clements and Matt Tifft go spinning off the track in the last corner of Road America, he instantly looked down at his timing and scoring screen.

Clements and his No. 51 Chevrolet still had a chance to win the Johnsonville 180.

With the field coming to take the white flag, the third-place car driven by Michael Annett was 10.7 seconds behind the leaders and their precarious situation.

Gill just hoped the starter on Clements’ car would cooperate.

“We seen the spin and we seen the car get back straight,” Gill said during the winner’s press conference. “I knew if he could just get it rolling that we still had the better race car. … Thank goodness for that starter on that Clements’ Racing engine.”

Clements, who has competed full-time in the Xfinity Series since 2011 and was making his 256th career start, thought he’d ruined his best shot at a getting his first NASCAR win after his pass of Tifft in Turn 14 went haywire.

“I definitely thought, ‘Wow, good job. Way to go. Could have won this race and you just gave it up,’ ” Clements said. “I just didn’t give up and luckily it worked out. It was like it was meant to be.”

Clements got back underway and took the white flag before Annett even got close to taking the lead. One 4.048-mile lap later, Clements locked himself into the playoffs with three races left in the regular season. He was mathematically out of contention to make it on points.

And Clements did it in a car that was built almost a decade ago.

“We’ve got to make a lot of sacrifices,” Clements said. “My dad (team owner Tony Clements) said already we run old stuff every week. This car was literally built in 2008. We build our own engines. We just try to bring stuff each year better and better as we can get more money to throw at it.”

The No. 51 Chevrolet Clements pulled into victory lane was also recently patched together. It was the same car Clements wrecked at Mid-Ohio two weeks ago when he plowed into the back of Spencer Gallagher as part of a five-car crash on Lap 53.

“It got threw back together and we won with it and I’m just so shocked about that,” Clements said. “That is just amazing to me to take a car like that that was killed, the front end was destroyed and (Gill) was on suicide watch. I (was) too, but I hate it. But it’s racing, you’re going to wreck these things. That’s the way it goes.”

Clements’ team, founded in 2010, operates with a “fraction” of the budget that teams like Joe Gibbs Racing, JR Motorsports and Richard Childress Racing have the luxury of enjoying.

And in the closing laps, with fresher tires on his car, Clements had next to no idea he was outrunning those teams.

“There’s no scoreboard out there, so you can’t see what’s going (on),” Clements said. “I’m just driving as hard as I can the whole race. When we had pitted and we were behind a few cars, I thought ‘well, maybe those guys are the leaders. I don’t know.’ We got to third and (Gill) said ‘you’re in third’ and I thought, ‘OK, we might have a shot at this. Wow. This is for real.'”

It became even more real once he took second place with six laps to go and Tifft was getting closer in his windshield.

“I was licking my chops, man,” Clements said. “I mean first victory. I was just so excited. I couldn’t believe that was right there for me to get.”

Clements admits he was “a little impatient” with his attempt to get around Tifft, but in his defense “it’s kind of the last lap.”

The win also comes 13 years after 10 surgeries helped save Clements’ right hand, which was severely injured in a late-model crash. At the time, his doctor told him he’d never be able to race again.

“We were able to prove him wrong, thankfully,” Clements said. “But I had some good doctors to make that happen, so got to thank them for sure. That was a freak deal. That was so long ago it feels like it didn’t even happen now. I definitely got the hand to prove it. I’m just psyched to be here. I can’t even believe we won the race.”

NASCAR America: Importance of keeping NASCAR connected to grassroots racing

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The importance of grassroots racing to the future of NASCAR is a constant subject these days thanks to the likes of Kevin Harvick and Kyle Larson.

Now NASCAR America’s Dale Earnhardt Jr., Steve Letarte and Jeff Burton get their chance to sound off on the subject.

On Tuesday’s episode, the panel of analysts discussed why keeping NASCAR connected to the short tracks and lower series across the country is vital to the sport’s future.

“We don’t have that national series running old short tracks that draws people to the race track but also draws them to the TV on Saturday and Sunday,” Burton said.

Earnhardt brought up an attempt by Bristol Motor Speedway to purchase the Fairgrounds Speedway in Nashville, Tennessee, last year.  The attempted failed.

“My heart was broken because I thought we had a real opportunity to bring one of the touring series, either the Truck or Xfinity, back to Fairgrounds,” Earnhardt said. “That’s where I think we’re broken or disconnected. The late model guys and the guys that are running on these local tracks don’t have the connection to the Truck Series or Xfinity Series. They need to take those series, Truck or Xfinity, back to the short tracks and bridge that link.”

The three analysts went on to discuss the short tracks and races that were part of their formative racing years.

Watch the above video for more.

NASCAR America: Scan All from Auto Club Speedway

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Martin Truex Jr. was once again in championship form Sunday at Auto Club Speedway.

That fact frustrated some drivers, especially Kyle Busch.

You can hear his frustrations and more in this week’s Scan All.

Here are some highlights.

— “I mean, he’s a (expletive) idiot for racing that hard 30 laps into a (expletive) race.” – Chad Johnston, crew chief for Kyle Larson after contact with Kevin Harvick wrecked Harvick on Lap 39.

Johnston’s tone cooled once Harvick owned up to his mistake.

“Harvick’s taking responsibility for that, so don’t sweat it,” Johnston said.

— “You did a hell of a job keeping it off that inside wall. I was watching on the roof cam and was like, ‘Oh Lord, don’t hit that one.” – Rodney Childers, crew chief of Harvick.

— “I don’t know what the (expletive) he’s got going on, but damn I don’t have that.” – Kyle Busch observing how much better Martin Truex Jr.’s car was performing

— “This thing went from absolutely horrible to even worse than that.” – Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

— “I don’t even know what the hell we’re doing, what the hell’s going on and what we’re going to do next. It’s been the same all day. We haven’t made any ground on it.” – Kyle Busch as he struggled to keep pace with Larson and Truex.

Watch the above video for more.

NASCAR America: Biggest storylines through five race weekends

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After five races in the Cup season, NASCAR America’s analysts assessed what the biggest storylines are ahead of this weekend’s race at Martinsville Speedway.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., Steve Letarte and Jeff Burton took turns sharing what’s stood out to them.

Jeff Burton started off by saying Kevin Harvick‘s success was the “easy answer.”

Burton discussed his surprise at Chevrolet teams underperforming.

“It reminds you in racing that you don’t really know what’s going to happen until it happens,” Burton said. “I’m surprised we haven’t seen more performance from the new Chevy body.”

Earnhardt was surprised at how big Martin Truex Jr’s margin of victory was on Sunday. He beat Kyle Busch by 11.6 seconds.

“I felt like in the first couple of races, maybe we got tricked into thinking the new inspections process had maybe leveled the playing field a little bit, even though Harvick won three in a row,” Earnhardt said. “Then Truex goes out and does what he did last year, maybe even better than he did last year.”

Letarte said his “big shock” for 2018 has been the “lack of change.”

“It’s the same players leading laps that we saw in 2017,” Letarte said. “Everyone is trying to catch up. I’ve always found it the hardest to continue to push your guys, continue to push your race cars when you’re already winning. It’s easy when you’re getting beat to motivate everybody.”

Earnhardt also observed how younger drivers have struggled to shine through five races.

“Across the board, the young guys still aren’t measuring up to the veterans yet,” Earnhardt said.

Watch the above video for more.

Daniel Hemric to make Cup debut at Richmond Raceway in April

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Xfinity Series driver Daniel Hemric will make his Cup debut next month at Richmond Raceway, Richard Childress Racing announced Tuesday on Fox Sports 1’s “NASCAR Race Hub.”

Hemric, 27, will drive the No. 8 Chevrolet for RCR at Richmond on April 21. He will also compete in the Sept. 30 race on the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course.

A native of Kannapolis, North Carolina, Hemric will be sponsored by Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff in both races. The company serves as an associate sponsor on Hemric’s No. 21 car in the Xfinity Series.

“You only get one chance to make your Cup Series debut, and it is pretty incredible to know that I am able to do it with Richard Childress Racing and with a partner such as Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff,” Hemric said in a press release. “RCR and Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff have been so influential in so many drivers’ careers – a lot of my heroes growing up. To know they will play a large role in the next step of my career and my initial Cup Series debut is very special.”

MORE: Daniel Hemric’s racing career saved by a Ford Mustang

“Since joining our organization, Daniel Hemric has shown his determination and dedication to this sport both on and off the track,” said Richard Childress in a press release. “Making his Cup Series debut is the next step in his career and we are proud to have him take that step with RCR.”

Hemric is in his second full-time season with RCR in the Xfinity Series. Last season he was part of the championship four at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Through five races this season, Hemric is fifth in the standings.

“To make my debut at Richmond will make me feel at home, since I spent years coming up through the ranks at short tracks across the country,” Hemric said. “To do it again in front of my hometown crowd in Charlotte later in the year is an overwhelming feeling. Many people have laid everything on the line to get me to this point and I am extremely grateful to all of those people for putting me in position to get this shot in the Cup Series. These are going to be two very special weekends, to say the least.”

The Richmond race weekend won’t be Hemric’s first time in a Cup car. He was called on by RCR last year to drive Ryan Newman’s car in a Goodyear tire test on the CMS road course. He also practiced and qualified Paul Menard‘s car last November at Texas Motor Speedway.

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