By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
After an early and disappointing end to his first NASCAR Xfinity Series race, Daniel Hemric was determined to bounce back with a good finish in the Rinnai 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. With two career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts at Atlanta, including a top five in 2016, Hemric’s experience was beneficial.
In the first practice, Hemric and his No. 21 Blue Gate Bank Chevrolet Camaro team were 16th in practice. He then topped the charts in the second practice and was fifth fastest in the final practice.
In qualifying Hemric placed his car sixth on the grid, besting his four Richard Childress Racing teammates.
Once the race started, Hemric, and fellow rookie of the year contenders William Byron, Cole Custer and Matt Tifft hung with the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series veterans.
Despite the lack of experience in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, the rookies held station throughout the first 40-lap stage of the 163-lap race. When the green and white checkered flag waved at the end of the stage, Hemric was fifth, and the highest finishing Xfinity regular in that stage as Brad Keselowski led the field. The fifth-place finish in the stage netted Hemric six championship points.
As the field pitted under caution, Hemric’s inexperience showed. He dropped several positions as others made their way forward. The second stage was relatively uneventful for Hemric as the laps clicked off. When the stage ended on lap 80, he was running ninth, and gained another two championship points.
This time, Hemric held his position on pit road as the field pitted between the middle and final stages of the race.
As the race restarted, Hemric was just inside the Top 10. After the restart, Hemric got loose and slid up and into the outside wall. He dropped to 14th on the running order after losing his momentum.
As he tried to regain his track position, Hemric received some help as Denny Hamlin cut down a left rear tire and spun. Hamlin’s spin brought out the caution, giving Hemric the opportunity to come down pit road for repairs and fresh tires. The rest of the field also pitted for tires. Hemric’s damage proved to be minor as his team easily got him off pit road before the five-minute repair clock could expire.
Hemric slowly moved back up the running order over the course of the final 40 laps. By the time the checkered flag waved, Hemric had climbed back into the Top 10 to finish ninth.
This was Hemric’s first NASCAR Xfinity Series Top 10 finish. He was also one of three Xfinity Series rookies to finish in the Top 10 as Byron finished seventh and Custer in 10th. Hemric now sits ninth in points, 28 behind points leader Elliott Sadler.
Hemric will now look ahead to the Boyd Gaming 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, hoping his previous experience will be beneficial once again as he has one top five and two Top 10s in two career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts at the 1.5-mile tri-oval.