By: Ashley McCubbin
While certainly the name of the game at Talladega Superspeedway is working with your teammates, eventually a driver shifts their focus to getting themselves and their team to victory lane.
Daniel Hemric says while most say you shift focus with 10, five laps to go, it is actually in your mind from the drop of the green flag in doing “anything you can for yourself and your race team individually to get to the front.”
“At Daytona, I thought that JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) as a whole did a really good job of utilizing each other when we can, but also knowing you have to position yourself to get in that position,” he commented.
Hemric was able to run up front throughout the first restrictor plate race of the season, scoring an eventual ninth-place finish, with his teammate Harrison Burton in third. If there had been a chance to battle for the win, the driver of the No. 18 Poppy Bank Toyota Camry says you always try to think of when to make the best move to get your team to victory lane, without creating a loss for the organization as a whole.
“That’s that balance that you have to weigh in that decision in the middle of that moment,” he commented. “You can draw a picture of it, paint it however you want, but at the end of the day it’s not going to repeat or replicate what you thought it was going to be or how you seen it happening. It’s just being situationally aware of what’s going on and not making that move where it prevents the entire company from being able to celebrate come the next morning. Just weighing that risk versus reward. It’s one thing this first go around, but as the season goes on that does change as well, because everyone’s agendas change, but for right now that is the goal.”
Hemric knows what it is like to challenge for a win at Talladega, putting himself in position last year with then-teammate Noah Gragson. Their attempt came up short, with Gragson placing third ahead of Hemric in fifth.
“I thought we were in a good spot, where we were going to be able to make a run to get one of us in victory lane,” he recalled. “I remember the laps clicking down and the way our cars had been able to lock up off of turn two, I thought that was a strong suit of ours. When we pulled the trigger to make the move, it was very odd. I remember sitting down in the debrief after the race with the 9 (Gragson) group last year and when we locked bumpers there was a weird shift of energy and things happened that I had never experienced, especially in that far up the back, everybody is single file.
“I’m trying to do the right thing and make the right move – for sure something that I can put in the memory bank of why things happen the way they happen – then everything happened where we got shuffled at one point and the runs deteriorated. That was tough to shallow, but I also thought that in that moment something clicked for me as those laps were winding down that what I needed to do if I get a shot to go back there and for sure is way down in the memory bank of things that I can improve on myself if I find myself in that position as the laps wind down this weekend.”