With seven top-fives and 16 top-10’s, Daniel Hemric put together an impressive NASCAR XFINITY Series season en route to placing fourth in the year-end standings.
Popular Speed’s Ashley McCubbin recently caught up with the 26-year-old to get his thoughts on the year ahead, and this past season.
POPULAR SPEED: How would you characterize this past season?
DANIEL HEMRIC: That is a loaded question. There’s so much that went on, from starting the year off with a group of guys first time working together and my first time in an XFINITY car, and knowing that we had a bunch of stuff stacked against us. We started the year off on a little bit of a slow start. But the first time we got to Bristol we won the Dash 4 Cash together, and gave us some momentum. We went to the next race at Richmond and sat on the pole and felt like things were starting to gel and click, and felt we were doing all the right things we needed to get better.
Then all of a sudden, we had one setback, and then another setback – by the time we got to the second Dover, we lost our crew chief and chief engineer. It was definitely a situation we didn’t want to be in, but I’m proud of everybody at RCR for rising up and took what could’ve been a really negative situation and made it as positive as we could. We continued to fight throughout the playoffs, and found ourselves in position going to Homestead.
So, just looking back at a whole, it was an up and down season for sure, but something that I think in a long term will be good for myself and my career. To go through that much stuff and come out with a shot at a championship is pretty special.
PS: So now looking forward to 2018, where are your thoughts?
DH: With everything that we were able to go through and overcome, we were able to hone in our strengths and weaknesses and how to be better in all departments. Going through all that stuff will make us stronger for sure going into 2018, and it will be my first time in NASCAR in a top three series being able to come back and be with the same organization for a second year running. So I have a lot of stuff on the positives to look forward to, and know what we were able to do on the circumstances last year and the success that we had, I look forward to hitting the ground running at Daytona without that learning curve. It’s just about going through the motions to being prepared to put us in a position going to Homestead again next year.
PS: Where do you feel you and the team need to get better to be even stronger?
DH: I feel like just a whole, week in and week out, just being more solid off the truck. There’s times where we weren’t up to speed our first run or two on a weekend. In my opinion, that sets the tone. But as a group, we were able to bounce back and get our cars pretty fast by the end of the weekend. But we want to be able to start closer and we’re putting in a lot of effort on my side and the team’s side so that we’re a little closer when we start the weekend off and make the rest of the weekend go smoother.
PS: Out of the tracks on the schedule, what is your favorite to go to?
DH: For me, I’d never been to Richmond before this year, so to be able to run a day race and a night race there on a wore out short track that doesn’t have a lot of grip – really enjoyed going there. We had a lot of success, obviously, with two top-fives and a pole there. But, I really looking forward to going back there, especially being able to go twice.
PS: NASCAR just got done the first year with stage racing. What is your opinion in how it played out?
DH: My opinion is it worked masterfully. You had so many different races inside the race which really allowed the fans to stay connected with the races in how it breaks the race up like it does in all three series. I know from just my perspective being a fan of the Cup Series and Truck Series and watching a majority of those races, it allowed me to even stay more active in what was going on from Lap 1 to the checkered flag. I thought it was a huge success for all of NASCAR to know that we’re able to take in the first year, go through some of the growing pains and questions, but I think they will be able to take another step in the right direction with stage racing. I think it’s here to stay for a long time.
PS: What are your plans for the off-season?
DH: Off-season is going to be fun. Actually enjoy some time off with my wife Kenzie now. Her family is from Oklahoma so we’ll go see them for Christmas, and hang out with those folks for awhile. We’ll go out to Colorado and do some snowboarding – just kind of separating from all of the busyness of what we find ourselves in over the year. We’re going to do that, take some time with each other, and try to enjoy it before we get started back in Daytona.
The 2018 NASCAR XFINITY Series season kicks off with the PowerShares QQQ 300 at Daytona International Speedway on February 17.
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