By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor
HOMESTEAD, Fla. – “Just didn’t have enough,” Daniel Hemric said after climbing out of his car at the end of the night Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, falling short of the championship for the second year in a row with Richard Childress Racing.
Though he had yet to win a race in any of the national NASCAR series he has competed in, Hemric was one of the favorites coming into the night as a result of his season wide performance. Despite all that, something was missing in the season finale for him to be able to take the step from contender to champion.
“Really from the start of the weekend, we just struggled to make speed, that 80 percent mark on the racetrack or ride around the fence,” said Hemric. “Once we realized that, there wasn’t a whole lot we could do.”
Hemric started the day in 10th, the worst of the Championship 4, but was able to climb up to second-place by the end of Stage 1. With track position being a key component of success at Homestead, Hemric was in the perfect position to strike.
However, a slow pit stop dropped him back in the pack for the ensuing restart. Despite the lost ground, he was able to climb back to fourth place by the end of the second stage.
“We didn’t qualify right where we wanted to, but to be able to drive — heck, I don’t even know what it was, second or third there and come in, and we lost a good bit of spots on pit road, but those guys rebounded the rest of the night, and although the stops were pretty solid, the white line was actually my best friend,” Hemric said.
“It was the least amount of rubber. I thought the racetrack still maintained speed down there and was able to make hay for the majority of the time.”
Once the final stage began, Hemric settled in the top-five for the majority of the run, but with the final set of green flag pit stops looming, it was imperative that the crew chiefs made the right call on when to bring their driver in.
Hemric’s team elected to stay out on track as long as possible, with Hemric and Cole Custer being the last two cars of the Championship 4 to hit pit road for service. By the time everything cycled out, they had lost too much time to the leaders and had to settle in and hope for a caution to bring everyone back together again.
That caution never came and he had to settle for a fourth-place finish on the night, third-best of the championship contenders.
“About 20 laps into the run I thought our car would really, really come on. I thought it was really going to pay off for us, but whenever we went to that next-to-last green flag run, and I saw the 9 car was the first one to pit, it was borderline like if you don’t pit within a lap of that, then you’re committed to run a long time.
“You know, I applaud Danny Stockman for at least making a gutsy call to try to stretch it as long as we could, hoping a caution would come out. It never did, and we got to a point where we had to pit, and by that point we had lost, I don’t know the numbers exactly, but probably at least nine to 12 seconds to the leaders as early as they pitted.
“Just not ideal. Just cautions and stuff didn’t fall the way we needed them to to give ourselves a shot, but I thought we did a good job of making our race car the best we could throughout the night, and just didn’t have enough.”
Despite the disappointment, Hemric noted that he is not letting it get him down considering the bright future ahead of him as he moves over to the No. 31 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series team for 2019 and beyond.
“It was behind me 20 minutes ago,” he said. “You know, I’m happy to know what’s on the horizon for me, and because knowing what was ahead of me, I was able to a hundred percent focus on the task at hand over the course of the last couple weeks in the playoffs, and wasn’t lack of effort on anybody’s part why we didn’t obtain the goal that we set out to do 33 races ago.
“Proud of how far this race team has come, how far this organization has come on the Xfinity side of things, and to know that myself and my group of guys have been a huge part of getting it to where it’s at.”