By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Saturday’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway will mark the debut of Daniel Hemric, and after one practice session Friday, he’s enjoying the opportunity of competing in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
During his press conference, Hemric described his performance at the 0.75-mile circuit as a transitional experience.
“I thought I’d be a little more nervous than what I’ve felt. But, I think between getting in the Xfinity car and having time on the race track, and then just running straight over and getting in the Cup car has made the transition as easy as possible,” said Hemric. “And by lap 4 or 5 on the race track, it was like okay, I need more front tire. I need more rear grip. I need all the basic stuff you try to ask out of a race car as a driver. Think that’s helped to calm the nerves and staying busy has kept all that stuff kind of in-check as well. Like I said earlier. It’s been a lot going on but it’s been fun.”
Hemric’s No. 8 Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff Chevrolet ran 30 laps, and set his fastest time on his 7th lap with a time of 22.666 seconds. His lap was only good enough to be 23rd out of the 38-car field.
“I just got out of it for the first time. It’s been a lot of fun to be able to feel the differences,” Hemric added. “You can simulate and do all the stuff you want to do to prepare for a moment like this, but there’s nothing like doing it in real time. So, I’m having a lot of fun.
“Those guys have done a great job with our No. 8 Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff Chevrolet to allow us to unload and make me feel comfortable and let me go through practice and make changes and do the stuff you need to do in feeling it all out for the first time. I’m just trying more than anything else to just enjoy the weekend.”
Hemric added that a finish inside the top-20 in his Cup debut will be a success, but with the race being 400 laps long, the 27-year-old driver finds difficulty setting expectations considering this race is part of a two-race deal.
“I’d like to be able to see ourselves at the end of 400 laps being able to compete inside the top 25 or top 20,” Hemric explained. “I think if we can do that as a group with only being a one-off race right here, obviously knowing we’re going to come back at it in the fall at a road course, but it’s tough to do.
“It’s tough to bring guys out of the shop and know what the expectations are. That’s why I say we’ve got to take it a step at a time. That’s what we’ve done do far. I think if we can run inside the top 20, we hit a homerun.”
Hemric will take the green flag from the 22nd starting position after setting a time of 22.061 seconds, 0.262 behind pole sitter Martin Truex, Jr.