Entering his second season of NASCAR XFINITY Series competition, Daniel Hemric is off to a solid start with three top-10’s in five races.
Before the break, the Richard Childress Racing driver took some time to open up to POPULAR SPEED.
POPULAR SPEED: Obviously, we got to start off with the big news. What does it mean to have your Cup debut coming up at Richmond next month?
DANIEL HEMRIC: I’ve worked my whole life to get an opportunity to get in a Cup car and to make my Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series debut at Richmond with a team and owner like Richard Childress Racing means a lot. I grew up a huge Earnhardt fan and being from Kannapolis and pulling for the 3 car, pulling for the 8 car out of DEI (Dale Earnhardt Incorporated), driving by DEI every day as a kid – all that stuff ties into what it means to me to have the opportunity to go Cup racing at least twice this year. Even the two times that I get to do it is two more times than I thought I’d have the opportunity to do it at that level.
Very fortunate and blessed for all the opportunities and car owners along the way that have helped him. I didn’t know where the end was, but they kept believing for me, and providing myself the motivation to keep moving forward. A day like that announcing that makes it all worth it.
PS: Could we see you run more than just the two Cup races this year?
DANIEL: From what I understand, it’s just the two right now. I’m very thankful for those two. I’m not really sure where all this leads to, but the two right now are the main focus and I’m very thankful for Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff for coming on board to allow us to do these two.
PS: Shifting back to the XFINITY Series, how would you characterize your season so far?
DANIEL: The XFINITY side – we went through a big transformation in the offseason here at RCR, especially as a company going from five full-time teams to three. It’s a huge benefit for us as it allows us to put more detail in each racecar every weekend, and I feel like we’ve gained because of it. You know, getting the pole at Daytona was big for our group and Chevrolet; it was a good start for us. We went from there to Atlanta, and we struggled to put the whole race together, but as far as the west coast swing, we put some really good races together with two sixth-place finishes and a fifth.
We’re starting to hone in on the package of what this composite body needs and been able to make gains in that direction each week. Hopefully it’ll lead us to competing in the top-five and leading laps, and be able to try to win races.
PS: Where do you feel you and your team need to work on moving forward?
DANIEL: The biggest thing is doing what we’ve been doing, and that’s slowly making progress. The progress we’ve been making has shown in practice speeds, qualifying speeds, and we’ve raced better and finished better. So all that stuff is starting down the right path and to switch and change the direction as a company, I feel you’d lose that tie grip. Right now, we have that tie grip to where we can unload at bases and have a good baseline to keep tweaking on, small changes here and there are really going to make gains at this level. We’re going to continue to do that and if we’re able to do that, we’ll be set to compete up front.
PS: What are your thoughts going into Texas?
DANIEL: Texas was just repaved and the race track went through a big transition now – I think it’s the third or fourth time that we’re going back there since the repave, and the track is just starting to get some more character back into it. The repave, they did a great job with it. I feel like we unloaded a really fast car in the fall there last year, and we had a mechanical failure that forced us to unload the back-up car. But I feel that package was really strong, and I feel even better about that with the momentum on my side.
I look forward to going to Texas; there’s always a lot of family there with my wife (Kenzie Ruston Hemric) being from Oklahoma. There’s a lot of friends and family that visit there, but looking forward to unloading and seeing what we have.
PS: What’s the biggest challenge of Texas?
DANIEL: Like it talked about, the repave and maneuvering your racecar, and how you go about it in practice. With the repave, a lot is going to shift and change going into the race. It’s important to utilize practice and make sure you go the right way with your changes so your car will drive better for the race. A repave is always the hardest place to do that at. We just need to make sure we have the right balance and if we can do that, it makes for a good day.
PS: What track are you most excited to get to in the weeks to come?
DANIEL: Even before announcing my Cup debut at Richmond, Richmond was a place I had circled on the calendar since I left there last fall. It’s a place that I was fortunate to get my first pole in the XFINITY Series with the (No.) 21 team and went back in the fall and had a top-five run. I really love that place, and love going there, and feel like our package is really good with the surface being wore out and slick. That’s one place that I’m looking forward to.
PS: Who is your racing hero?
DANIEL: It was always Dale Earnhardt as a kid. I had my hand twisted to be an Earnhardt fan growing up in Kannapolis; that was just my guy. Over time, another huge influence was a guy like Carl Edwards, and more recently Kevin Harvick. Those two guys – first off, Carl grew up the tough way and short track raced and doing whatever he could to make a name for himself. Once he broke in, he was a guy that everybody looked to. Kevin Harvick was almost the same exact way. He paved the way, and is very vocal now as he gets later in his career about what the short tracks mean, and how we can enhance the sport for the fans. All that stuff that makes a hero for me, and I’m pumped to know that I’ll get to race with some of those guys and know that I can always look up to them.
PS: Switching off track and letting the fans get to know you, what’s your favourite food?
DANIEL: Definitely Japanese food. There’s a little place in Mooresville – JJ Wasabi’s – it’s not even a sit down place as they literally bring it out to you. That’s my go to place. If I’m away at a different race track in a different state, I try to find a good place.
PS: Least favorite food?
DANIEL: Anything with onions; no onions at all. I get a lot of criticism because they say I’m so picky; I’m not picky, I just know what I want.
PS: Dream vacation spot?
DANIEL: Hopefully this changes over time because one of the most fun vacations I had was our wedding. I got married in Jamaica. I had a lot of friends and family with us, and it was a really cool while we were there. Looking forward to broadening those horizons and going to different places over time.
PS: What is your favorite TV show?
DANIEL: Designated Survivor. Keith Sutherland is a great actor and I watched a show called 24 growing up with my step-dad and my mother. Then when Designated Survivor came on – that’s kind of been his next great TV show, so I’m always tuned into it.
PS: You’ve ran your fair share of late model events. If you won the Rattler 250, would you make friends with the snake?
DANIEL: Absolutely. Funny story about the Rattler. I was leading that race by a straightaway and a half and only had to go a couple more laps, and I had an oil line failure. My spotter at time, Brandon, was scared to death of snakes. He told me afterwards that he was praying that I wouldn’t win the race because he didn’t want to get near that snake. I’d love to be close to it.
PS: If you were stuck on an island, what are three things you must have?
DANIEL: It’s easy to say food, right? I mean, you have to have food because it is a necessity and a way of life. You have to have someone to care for you, and some companionship so my wife Kenzie has to be with me. Lastly, I think I would bring Brendan Gaughan along. You have to have some humor, espically in a tough spot like being stranded on an island. So Brendan would be perfect.
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