By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
For this week’s edition of Climbing the Ladder, Seth Eggert sat down with NEMCO Motorsports driver John Hunter Nemechek. John Hunter is the 18-year-old son of NASCAR driver and team owner Joe Nemechek. John Hunter drives the family owned No.8 Chevrolet Silverado. John Hunter was the 2015 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Most Popular driver, and is campaigning for the 2016 Camping World Truck Series Championship.
Seth Eggert: What made you decide to follow in your Father, Joe Nemechek’s and your Uncle, John Nemechek’s footsteps?
John Hunter Nemechek: Growing up around the sport, I always thought it was fun. I always loved to go fast. The first time I went to the racetrack I was three weeks old. I was brought up through the whole racing deal. I didn’t know what kind of motorsports I was going to get into until I was about 12 or 13 years old. Whether it was going to be stock cars, motocross, or open wheel, I didn’t have an exact path to follow.
SE: Where and when was your first race? What was the result?
JHN: My first race, I would have to say I ran a quarter midget in Salisbury, North Carolina. I couldn’t tell you the result. I know that we ran decent, mid-pack to up front in my first race.
SE: Who would you consider your mentor?
JHN: It would have to be my Dad. I’ve followed everything that he’s done. From the time I was born, him winning races, to switching teams, to talking on the radio, talking to media. Whatever it may be, you can learn so much from watching him.
SE: What or who inspires or motivates you?
JHN: It would have to be Dad, and our whole team here at NEMCO Motorsports. We have a great group of guys here that work very hard in the shop. Them working hard makes me want to work hard with them, to learn as much as I can. We have guys who have been around the sport since the ’70s. They’ve been racing since they were young. You can pick their brain and figure out any type of racing question you may have, you can get an answer to, from the old school days to the new school days. That is pretty inspiring.
SE: Do you feel any extra pressure, driving for your father? What about driving the No. 8?
JHN: I wouldn’t say that there is any extra pressure added. I know that I’m following in my Dad’s footsteps, but at the same time, I’m trying to make a name for myself. So I’m going to do the best that I possibly can when I go to the racetrack each week.
SE: You have won at Chicagoland and Atlanta, what other track do you want to win at the most?
JHN: Hopefully one day I can mark off every track that NASCAR goes to. That would be a pretty amazing accomplishment.
SE: Your win at Atlanta all but locks you into the Chase for the Championship in the Truck Series, does that change how you are going to approach the remaining races in the regular season?
JHN: I wouldn’t say that it changes our approach. Every week that we go to the racetrack, we want to go there to win. We want to go there to run up front, and win races. That’s what we’re here to do, so we’re going to keep doing that.
SE: You also are a winner of the Snowball Derby. Do you think any win in the Truck Series can top that?
JHN: Winning the Driver’s Championship can definitely top that. The Snowball Derby was a big win. It definitely ranks up there with the Truck wins just because it’s one of the hardest races to win. The Truck wins are victorious, it makes you proud of what you guys can do and accomplish within the NASCAR circuit.
SE: Now that we’ve had three races with caution clock, what is your opinion of it?
JHN: Well, it saved me at Atlanta. The first run we were off, we didn’t get our adjustments right for the race. Crafton was about a straightaway behind us, so if it would’ve went green, then we would’ve had green flag pit stops and we would have went a lap down. Definitely I think the caution clock was a great addition, especially for the fan viewership, making it exciting the whole race, instead of getting long, drawn out racing.
SE: Do you think the caution clock is going to add any more strategy at some of the big tracks, such as Pocono and Talladega?
JHN: It definitely can in the right situation. It just really depends on when they are going to fall, when was the last time you pitted. I’m sure that you can still see a little bit of green flag stops at some point if you don’t get your strategy right.
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?
JHN: I’m running a Super Late Model race next weekend at Orange County Speedway, here in North Carolina. I’m just going to work in the shop, keep our Late Model program going. I’m just going to run as much as we can, to keep myself in the seat, turning laps.
SE: Is it refreshing to have that break, or is it frustrating?
JHN: I wouldn’t say it’s frustrating. From a driver’s standpoint, you want to run every weekend throughout the year. That’s where the Late Model program falls into place. I think the Truck Series schedule is good for how it is. But, from a driver’s standpoint, you always want to race.
SE: How do you feel when a team like yours, that has no sponsorship, is able to finish ahead of big budget teams?
JHN: It feels good to accomplish that, but when we go to the racetrack, we are just another one of those teams. Yes, we don’t have the budget and funding that they may have, but we are going to use our resources to the max, just like they do. Who knows what we can do with a little bit of funding, we could run better, but at the same time, we’re trying everything we can.
SE: How has the sponsorship hunt gone?
JHN: It’s been going alright. It hasn’t been going great, but it hasn’t been going bad. There definitely is something in the works, sponsorship deals in the works that we are trying to get done for some upcoming races. Closing a sponsorship deal is very hard nowadays, and we are working extremely hard on trying to find funding to bring to NEMCO Motorsports so we can go run each and every week.
SE: With how well your running now, how much better do you think you are going to be with funding?
JHN: That question is up in the air. We won’t really know that answer until we get on the racetrack with it. I don’t know necessarily if it is going to increase our performance now that we’re running up front, winning races with what little we have. It is just going to create a better work environment for us. Getting trucks done, not having to put in long hours, weekends, that we necessarily shouldn’t be here. But definitely, hard work goes into it.
SE: Fill in the blank, in a year from now you will be?
JHN: Hopefully the Truck Champion, we’ll see.
Image: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images