By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
For this week’s edition of Climbing the Ladder, Seth Eggert sat down with Brad Keselowski Racing driver Daniel Hemric. Hemric drives the No. 19 California Clean Power, Cequent Performance, DrawTite, Oakmont Management Group Ford F-150. Hemric is campaigning for the 2016 Camping World Truck Series Championship.
Seth Eggert: How did you become interested in motorsports?
Daniel Hemric: It started back with the fact that a lot of my family were fans of the sport in general. It could be anything, whether it was dirt bikes, NASCAR, short track racing, or late models. That carried over to hearing about a real local go-kart opportunity. They were racing at Concord Motorsports Park, and I was about five years old. My Step-Dad used to race up North, and he was like, “Hey you want to give this a try?” We had a little go-kart sitting at home. We took my Uncle’s motor off of his rototiller and went to the racetrack for the first time.
SE: And that was your first race, do you remember the result?
DH: I want to say we ran second or third. We really struggled on the horsepower side of it. So we went back and did a little work and I don’t know if we ever lost a race.
SE: Who would you consider your mentor?
DH: I have had many. Many, many, many. Honestly, family was a big part of the mentoring process at that age, all the way up until I was 11 or 12 years old. Then I had a lot of key people, probably more than I could name that have stepped in, gave me that advice, and got me to the next step of my career.
SE: What or who inspires or motivates you?
DH: Not for the fact that I’m driving for him this year, but Brad (Keselowski) has been a guy that I’ve looked at. He has given back to the racers, gave racers an opportunity. He’s always presented himself in a way that made you want to kind of idolize him. If I can be like somebody one day, he was a guy I have looked to. He id definitely somebody to mold yourself after, that’s true.
SE: How much of a benefit do you think that racing in Legends cars, Late Models, and Super Late Models was to your growth in the Truck Series and as a driver?
DH: As a driver, I was put in a lot of very diverse situations. It may have been tough at the time, but ultimately I got to this point. It has helped me distinguish between different characteristics, different types of racing, and to be able to take from all of those growing up, and to be able to apply it to my everyday life and to my career.
SE: You won the Legends Million at Charlotte back in 2010, how did winning that race help further your career?
DH: That was a race on mainstream television, and I think SPEED covered the race at the time. It was really cool because it had been raining throughout much of the country through that week, and a lot of people were at home watching television. It was cool to see Bruton Smith go out on a limb, him and ZMAX, and a lot of people put that event on. I cut my teeth racing Legends cars, so to see it all come full circle, and to be able to win that night was definitely a key moment in my career, it catapulted me.
SE: At what track would you want to win at the most?
DH: The next one, it just so happens to be Charlotte. So it just happened to be here, back in my hometown.
SE: You drove for NTS Motorsports last year, and you are driving for Brad Keselowski this year, describe the transition.
DH: Anytime you go through sometime like this, there is a lot of hurdles, and a lot of stuff you have got to figure out. I’ve felt like that we’ve taken everything in stride. I’ve tried to spend as much time with my guys as I possibly could. I feel like I have a really strong relationship, myself, my crew chief, Chad Kendrick, and all of our guys at Brad Keselowski Racing. We all do our part to make sure we all are on the same base with each other. We all come to the racetrack for one reason, and I feel like that’s a good starting point for the year.
SE: Do you think it is intimidating to be driving for a Sprint Cup Series Champion such as Brad Keselowski?
DH: No, it’s actually very inspiring. To see him be as successful as he has been, and at all levels of the sport, and knowing that he is a great guy to mold yourself after. And to know that I can go to him on the days where it’s practicing Charlotte in the daytime, and trying to figure out how the track is going to change at night. A lot of places we go are like that. You try to get the key information about that, and I try to lean on him as much as I can, to be the best we can be.
SE: Has the caution clock benefited you and your team?
DH: Benefitting, I’m not sure yet. It has definitely made it interesting. I know that the fans have been very supportive of it. It has been a situation where, it’s kind of an unknown for everybody. So was the Chase when they implemented it in the Sprint Cup years ago, if anybody’s going to try it, it might as well be the Truck Series.
SE: How are you going to spend the down time in between Truck Series races this season? How are you going to keep yourself occupied?
DH: I don’t really have a whole lot of down time. My fiancé, Kenzie (Ruston), she’s still racing, chasing her dream, Super Late Model racing for a team I used to drive for out of Georgia. We spend our off weekends going Super Late Model racing with her and trying to stay on the racetrack as much as we can.
SE: How do you keep yourself occupied during rain delays?
DH: Hanging out with the team and just catching up with old friends and family, and just having a good time, trying to figure out a way to pass it.
SE: Is it refreshing to have that break, or is it frustrating?
DH: I wouldn’t say frustrating, but you definitely don’t want to slow momentum. And there is a couple of times this year when we felt like we had momentum on our side and haven’t capitalized because we couldn’t race the following week. As a racer, you grow up, running, doing whatever it takes to run every week. Sometimes I could be running 60 or 70 races a year. To be in a situation where that’s not the case, it’s tough to keep yourself the momentum to build off of or not build off of. If you have a bad day, you have got to sit on it a couple weeks. It’s good to race every week.
SE: Fill in the blank, in a year from now you will be?
DH: Hopefully the Camping World Truck Series Champion, and to be racing in the Xfinity Series.