According to rookie driver John Hunter Nemechek, the July 15 NASCAR All-Star event at Bristol Motor Speedway will be a stage for raw aggression.
“You have to do everything you can. Run whatever line you need to run, block however you need to block, move people out of the way. Whatever it takes to make it into the All-Star Race, we’re willing to do,” Nemechek said.
To qualify for the main event and become eligible for the million dollar top prize, the 23-year-old Nemechek must first win one of the three segments of the NASCAR Open preliminary.
Nemechek gained a boost of Bristol confidence on May 31 with a 13th place effort in the Food City presents the Supermarket Heroes 500.
“When you look at the rundown from that race, pretty much every driver that finished in front of us is already in the All-Star Race,” Nemechek said. “We ended up having an engine issue which kind of hindered us from a better finish, but we had a really strong car and we were in contention all day.”
Along with many fans, Nemechek was delighted when BMS was finally selected as the host site for NASCAR’s version of the all-star game.
“I would race at Bristol every weekend if I could,” Nemechek said. “The track suits my style and it’s been good to me ever since I started my NASCAR career.”
In three Xfinity Series races at BMS, Nemechek has recorded a pair of top-five finishes. He’s also finished among the top-five in three of his Truck Series starts at BMS.
“You have to push your car to the max at Bristol, make the most of every opportunity and run multiple lines to find the right grip,” Nemechek said. “To me, Bristol is just an amazing track.”
Nemechek has authored one of the surprise stories of the 2020 Cup season. Competing with the underfunded Front Row Motorsports team, the son of former Cup regular Joe Nemechek trails only Tyler Reddick in the rookie of the year standings. He ranks ahead of former Xfinity Series phenoms Christopher Bell and Cole Custer.
“All the talk coming into the season was about the big three from Xfinity Series,” said Nemechek, referring to Reddick, Bell and Custer. “I was over here asking what about me.”
With top-10 efforts on the rugged layouts at Darlington and Talladega, Nemechek silenced the skeptics and earned more respect from competitors.
“We started off the season really strong and led the rookie battle for a little bit,” Nemechek said. “We put ourselves in position to win at Talladega. And being able to run really strong at Darlington was very promising for an organization.
“Now, we’re kind of chasing down Tyler Reddick. We just have to stay after it.”
Most rookie drivers in the Cup Series struggle with finding race-day setups and adapting to a different level of talent. The toughest adjustment for Nemechek has come off the track.
“It was the whole pandemic break,” Nemechek said. “Coming to a new team in the Cup Series, you want to keep communication flowing. It was tough not being able to go to the shop and be around the guys.”
As for the hectic 2020 schedule which has included several mid-week races, Nemechek is gung-ho.
“I love it,” Nemechek said. “If I could race run all three national series like you could 10 years ago, I definitely would.
“Being able to run multiple races in a week helps you gain experience and it puts notes in your notebook on how a track changes and what your team needs to do to get the car better.”
The Wednesday night format at BMS works just fine for Nemechek.
“It’s a very unique thing that NASCAR has been able to do,” said Nemechek, referring to Wednesday night shows. “I know that that everyone has talked about in the past, but being able to actually do it is a good way to give back to our fans and supporters.”
In a groundbreaking move sure to attract national attention, BMS officials plan to host up to 30,000 spectators for the All-Star Race. The use of face masks will be strongly encouraged and various other safety measures will be in place.
“One of the things I was really looking forward to as a rookie was the pre-race activity at some of the iconic tracks with the driver intros and having fans, friends and sponsors on the grid before the race taking it all in,” Nemechek said. “It definitely stunk not being able to experience all that, but I can’t wait to have fans in back in the stands.”
That’s one of many reasons why Nemechek is so hyped for his first All-Star experience.
“There’s going to be a lot of beating and banging with a big amount of money on the line and no points at stake. I’m pretty sure anyone would be willing to wreck their mother to win.”
firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter: @Greg_BHCSports | (276) 645-2544
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