Pit Note No. 3: Hemric, Preece Realize Dreams, Truex Gives Pollex Advice
"Silly Season" was in full swing on Friday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Two of NASCAR's most popular rising stars announced plans to move to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2019. Kannapolis, North Carolina, native Daniel Hemric will drive Richard Childress Racing's No. 31 Chevrolet next year, while Ryan Preece will fulfill a lifelong dream when he takes over the driving duties for JTG Daugherty Racing's No. 47 Chevrolet.
"So many people want to have this opportunity and they work their whole lives for it," Hemric said. "Going through this process, everybody who's followed my career from racing the Bojangles' Summer Shootout at Charlotte to super late models, whatever it was, everyone knows I've tried to make the most out of whatever those situations were. Being in this spot today is a testament to the people who gave me a shot. I always had faith that it would work out … It's incredibly humbling to know that this is my family moving forward."
Hemric - who is chasing the NASCAR Xfinity Series title - will make his second career Monster Energy Cup Series start aboard Childress' No. 8 Chevrolet in Sunday's Bank of America ROVAL™ 400.
"I've been watching Daniel since he was a young boy here racing Bandoleros and Legend Cars, I saw the talent then that Daniel had," Richard Childress said. "Austin and Ty (Dillon) have been trying for years to get him to drive for us. I think back at the other drivers we've had, Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick, Austin and Ty, I saw their talent when they were young and we were fortunate to put them in cars that helped them win races. … Daniel falls in that group. He has all the talent and he will win races and compete for championships in the future."
Preece, a short-track ace from Hartford, Connecticut, will replace A.J. Allmendinger in the No. 47. Preece caught the eye of JTG Daugherty Racing team owner Tad Geshickter and competition director Ernie Cope when he raced in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Upon checking Preece's background, they learned he was a hands-on driver who worked on his own cars.
"He builds, drives and works on his own equipment," Cope said. "That's the mold I'm looking for; that's a race car driver. He's done it his whole life. Every time I called him, he's in the shop. He gets terrible phone reception and he's hard to get a hold of, but he's always underneath that race car. That's all he does is race."
Preece cut his teeth on the Whelen Modified Tour, winning the 2013 championship. He has 22 victories in 155 Modified starts, including two wins this season. Preece raced full time in the Xfinity Series for JD Motorsports in 2016 before joining Joe Gibbs Racing on a part-time basis in 2017. Preece won Xfinity Series races at Iowa in 2017 and at Bristol this season.
A short-track racer earning a spot in NASCAR's top series is a feel-good story, especially for racers across the country who have dreams of making it big in the sport. It also tells of Preece's perseverance and never-say-die attitude. His advice to fell short-track racers: Keep fighting.
"If you're going to fall down that hole of 'money, money, money,' you'll never make it," Preece said. "I'm not saying it's easy - it's not. There were a lot of nights I didn't know what was going to happen, I didn't know what my future was going to be, I didn't know if I could even make it to this level. I was going to try, though. I was going to try like hell.
"Really, my advice is do what you think is right. Don't let somebody tell you that you can't do it. I had somebody tell me a few years back that basically you have to wait in line and that there are people paying or whatever and I just looked at that and I said, 'You know what, I'm going to use that as my way of finding a way to prove them wrong.' I wanted to do it for me, but it was also to prove to people like me are out here."
Geshickter noted that he tried to sign Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman before they became stars, but for one reason or another couldn't get them in his cars. But he wouldn't make that mistake with Preece.
"I've made all the wrong decisions you could, so I'm not as dumb as I look," Geshickter said. "When Ryan (Preece) came through and said he had an interest, it was a no-brainer just to say, 'We are not going to make that mistake again.' I put him in that level of game-changer."
Geshickter also announced the team, which also includes Chris Buescher in the No. 37 Chevy, would use engines from Hendrick Motorsports next season.
Truex Gives Pollex Some Pace Car Advice
Martin Truex Jr., the defending Bank of America fall race winner and reigning Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion, hopes to have a special Bank of America ROVAL™ 400 weekend. Nothing could cap it off quite like a victory - but Truex has higher-than-usual hopes of winning the pole in Friday's Bojangles' Qualifying.
The driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota is gunning for the pole in part because his longtime partner, ovarian cancer survivor Sherry Pollex, is the honorary Toyota Camry pace car driver. And, while Truex admitted on Friday that he's still learning Charlotte's 17-turn, 2.28-mile ROVAL™, he didn't hesitate to offer Pollex some advice on how to lap NASCAR's newest track.
"I basically told her to stay on the track," Truex said. "Sounds easy, right? I told her to stay on the track, stay off the brakes and see how it goes. Hopefully I can get the pole so before the race starts I can give her a little tap or a fender rub."