Let’s say that one day, you’re in a museum and you come across a painting or sculpture that makes you stop and ponder what it’s all about.
A few minutes later, a couple sees the piece and come over for a closer look. One thinks it’s been done before, and by better artists. But the other is impressed by its craftsmanship and feels like it deserves to be where it is.
Art’s meaning and value varies from person to person. The same goes for a NASCAR driver’s career.
So what to make of Xfinity Series driver Daniel Hemric?
In 202 NASCAR national series starts, he has yet to win.
But he’s also made two Xfinity Championship 4 appearances in his career. He has nine career Xfinity runner-up finishes, one shy of Dale Jarrett’s series record for most runner-up results before scoring a series win. This year with Joe Gibbs Racing, he’s been inside the top five in points all season.
Lack of wins aside, is it any wonder that the 30-year-old Hemric keeps getting chances to make his masterpiece? In this NASCAR? With this playoff format, where rock-solid consistency can get you to the finale with a one-in-four shot to win it all?
“I feel like, through the conversations with myself and (team president) Chris Rice … He re-affirmed to me that from what he sees, not only am I always in the mix but he feels like he can help propel me to the next level – not only now, but moving into the future,” Hemric said this week.
“To have somebody have that much confidence in you is special, first off. Secondly, I can’t sit here and say that being a contender, year in and year out, no matter what the race team, no matter what the situation, could not have hurt my chances of getting that phone call.”
Hemric also noted his long relationship with Rice didn’t hurt, either.
The two first worked together during the 2015 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season at the former NTS Motorsports. That was Hemric’s first full-time NASCAR campaign. At that time, Rice was the team’s competition director.
Since then, Hemric has earned one shot after another with competitive teams: The former Brad Keselowski Racing in the Trucks, Richard Childress Racing in both Xfinity and Cup, a part-time Xfinity run with JR Motorsports, and now JGR in Xfinity.
No wins have come. But it has made Hemric able to quickly adapt to a team’s culture, which has proven critical both off and on the track for him.
“For me, I think, whether it was for RCR or Brad Keselowski or whoever it was I’ve driven for … They’ve all given me their best,” Hemric explained. “They did everything they could to move me forward as a driver, move our race teams forward to be the best we could be.
“Because of everyone being all in, I feel like it’s allowed me to build relationships throughout all the manufacturers, build relationships throughout all the different teams. And in a roundabout way, I just continue to make myself better.
“You’ve gotta be versatile. You’ve gotta go to these different places, jump in, make speed and create finishes quickly. I’ve been fortunate to do that.”
Having bought into Kaulig Racing’s vision and sensing a potential opportunity to return to the Cup level, Hemric doesn’t seem worried about putting the No. 11 Xfinity car towards the front in 2022.
But there’s still the matter of getting to this year’s Championship 4 with JGR.
Entering Saturday’s Round of 12 race at Talladega Superspeedway (4:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN), Hemric is fifth in the playoff standings with a 34-point cushion over the cutline to advance.
Of course, Hemric’s soon-to-be new team is in this conversation as well. Kaulig is seeking its fourth consecutive Talladega win and its seventh win in the last nine Xfinity superspeedway races.
In fact, the most recent superspeedway race at Daytona in August ended with Hemric pushing Haley to the win.
“Obviously, I didn’t know exactly how all of this was going to come full circle,” Hemric said with a grin. “But somehow, (the Kaulig drivers) always find a way to position themselves (on superspeedways).
“I promise you, Kaulig Racing has been in everybody’s team meetings this week. Everybody’s brought them up, trying to figure out why or how they can pull it off.”
Next year, Hemric will help lead that organization. But right now, he has to try and beat them.
“At the end of the day, what they have going on there, it’s pretty incredible to see how they work together,” he said. “We try to replicate it, but no one’s been able to do it yet.”