John Hunter Nemechek will spend part of his 18th birthday today on a plane to Madison, Ill., headed to the next chapter in his career.
It’s at Gateway Motorsports Park that the son of Joe Nemechek will make his 15th career Camping World Truck Series start, but his first as a full-time driver, able to race on 1.5-mile tracks and larger. NASCAR rules prohibit drivers younger than 18 from running on the circuit’s bigger tracks. This also will be the NEMCO Motorsports driver’s second truck race since being named to the NASCAR Next class.
When NASCAR Talk spoke with the 2014 Snowball Derby winner, he was preparing to spot for his father in Joe Nemechek’s last race in the No. 8 Chevrolet before passing it on to his son this weekend.
This Q&A has been edited and condensed.
NT: How did you find out you were a part of the NASCAR Next class?
John Hunter Nemechek: I got a phone call about two weeks before the announcement saying ‘Hey, you’ve been selected to be a part of the NASCAR Next group.’ I was excited because I smiled for awhile. It’s a great opportunity for us to be a part of that group.
NT: As an 18-year-old what does it mean to be considered an important part of NASCAR’s future?
Nemechek: It’s a great asset to be able to be part of that group, show what we’ve done in our past and to show what we’re going to go in our future … just to learn as much as we can, whether it’s media obligations or whatever it may be through NASCAR, will help promote ourselves and the series we’re running in.
NT: Are you close friends with any of the other members?
Nemechek: I pretty much grew up with Jesse Little and Cole Custer. There’s a few of us. It’s not an everyday thing, but every once in a while we’ll send each other a text saying ‘Hey, let’s go to the lake,’ or ‘Let’s go out and race some go-karts,’ or something like that.
NT: What’s your earliest memory of racing?
Nemechek: It would have to be going to Victory Lane with Dad, his first Cup win in ’99 I think it was. Going to New Hampshire. It was an awesome win. I remember going there and being in everyone’s arms, getting waved up above the trophy. Then you go back and look at all these pictures and that was an exciting day, to get your first win there and now we go back and race there, so it was pretty cool.
NT: Right now you’re a teammate with your dad. What’s that relationship like?
Nemechek: We’re very competitive with each other, but at the same time we try to help each other as much as we can. He’s been a big help in my career, getting me going. He’s taught me everything I know and he’s taught me everything he’s learned in a 20-year period to me in a three-year period. It definitely helps me advance on that curve with the younger generation coming up.
NT: One of your hobbies is fishing. What’s your best fishing story?
Nemechek: Probably when I was little, we were out fishing on the dock. I couldn’t have been more than 4 years old, something like that. I was just a small, little kid. We hooked this big, largemouth bass. I remember not being able to hold onto the fishing pole, somebody helped hold it, just kind of stuff like that.
NT: What’s the most scared you’ve ever been in a race car?
Nemechek: Probably had to be the first time I flipped a race car … it was one of those deals where you hold on and hope nothing happens. You’re kind of just along for the ride. (It was in an) Allison Legacy car, which is a ¾-scale stock car. I ended up winning the championship that year (2012). We were testing one day (at Rockingham Speedway) and ended up hitting the fence and it wasn’t good after that.
NT: Ryan Newman said he raced at Kansas Speedway so he could help you out with your career. What did you learn from him?
Nemechek: I learned a lot from him. Just kind of what they do in the Cup series, whether it be a veteran move on pit road, stuff all around, see where our trucks were at downforce wise or if he thinks we need to change anything. He was definitely a great help and hopefully we can get him in another race later this year, possibly. To have him, to learn from him all of what he’s done in his past, to look at what we did in our truck is pretty great.
NT: If you were in the Sprint Cup race at Bristol, what would you choose as your introduction song?
Nemechek: That’s a tough one. I don’t know if I’d pick my own song, I’d probably do a deal where I’d pick another driver’s song and I’d let them pick mine just to see what it was.
NT: What’s your favorite song?
Nemechek: It’s probably most of the songs by either Eric Church or Thomas Rhett.
NT: What non-social media app do you use the most?
Nemechek: I’d have to say Meet Ball. You’ll have to check it out. It’s a real time, almost like a navigation app, where you can use it for tailgating, for any festivities that you’re at. Say that I’m standing over there at that garage sign. I can make a Meet Ball and it’ll use the compass in your phone to show how far I am away, how many feet and which way you need to walk. It was originally intended for tailgating.
NT: What’s on your bucket list that’s not racing related?
Nemechek: I’d like to go skydiving one day. That’d be fun. It’s something I’ve wanted to do as a kid. I know when we go on family reunions we end up at an indoor skydiving places and we go flying around in there and I’ve never gotten the chance to go up in a plane, I think that would be fun.