Daniel Hemric dares to break through in 2021

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Daniel Hemric made his full-time debut in NASCAR’s national series in 2015. Five years later, he’s still searching for his first win.

But in that span, he’s slowly put together a solid body of work – even as his career has sometimes been on shaky ground.

Now, the 29-year-old has been granted another chance after a 2020 season filled with lessons learned, both on and off the track.

“I think being a new father this year and having to face some of those things, that kind of put a lot of things in life in perspective for me – I know for a fact I’m way better in the race car and outside the race car than I was, even 12 months ago,” Hemric said Thursday after being announced as the latest addition to Joe Gibbs Racing’s Xfinity Series program for 2021.

As usual with Hemric, it’s a workmanlike approach that’s gotten him to this point.

After losing his Cup ride with Richard Childress Racing at the end of 2019, Hemric moved to the Xfinity Series and ran a majority of the races for JR Motorsports.

Persevering through numerous instances of bad luck, he still earned 12 top-10 finishes in 21 races.

Over his career in Xfinity, Hemric has scored a top-10 finish in nearly 60% of his races (51 top-10s in 87 starts).

There’s something to be said for being a reliable front-runner. Especially if the right people are watching.

“As we closed the last three months of the season out – more so the (playoff races) out – I thought we were able to take opportunities, take race cars … and make better days than what we probably had for speed,” Hemric said. “Time in and time out, if you do that, opportunities will come and people will notice that.

“… Some of the highest quality drivers in our sport at the top level have always kind of seen what I’ve been able to do with things and programs as they were developing. I think as we got near the back half of the year, we were able to do the things we needed to do to put myself in these conversations, and the stars just aligned to work out to where there’s an opportunity here.”

But of course, wins are the ultimate barometer for a driver’s success.

If Hemric wants to reach Victory Lane, he’ll have to go through stiff competition.

Three of this past season’s Championship 4 in the Xfinity Series – Austin Cindric, Justin Allgaier and Justin Haley – will remain in the series for 2021.

Ditto for JR Motorsports’ Noah Gragson, who was just one ill-fated Texas turn away from being in that Championship 4 himself.

Then there are Hemric’s new teammates, 23-year-old Brandon Jones and 20-year-old Harrison Burton. This past season, Jones and Burton combined for seven wins and finished inside the top-10 in points.

Pressure? As it turns out, no. Instead, as Hemric puts it, he has “that Christmas morning as a kid feeling in (his) stomach.”

That’s because he feels his new ride for 2021 has something his previous rides have lacked.

“I’m getting cars that have not only won this past season, but the season before that, and as far as you want to look back,” Hemric said. “There’s no greater feeling as a racer than knowing when you show up, you’ve got a shot.

“And I’ve had shots at other places, but (having) legitimate, raw, in-your-face speed – that drives more opportunity. The more speed you have, the more opportunities you’re gonna have to win. I look forward to having that opportunity, week in and week out.”

Time will tell if this marks a turning point for Hemric, who desires a return to Cup.

“Anybody that’s asked me a similar question knows my answer’s always that I’ll be exactly where I’m supposed to be at exactly the right time,” Hemric said. “I think faith has prevailed through and through always. People throughout the industry, people that I grew up racing with me – they’ve seen me win. They’ve seen me defy the odds with my upbringing, my background.

“I think because of that, that’s why I continue to have as strong a faith as anybody, I believe. Things will always work out. Once again, it has not let me down.”