Daytona 500: Joe Nemechek qualifying report

Nemechek Comes a Long Way But Still Battling for 500 Berth DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 8, 2009) -- Three weeks ago Joe Nemechek didn't even know if he would be at Daytona International Speedway competing for a berth in the Daytona 500 in his ...

Nemechek Comes a Long Way But Still Battling for 500 Berth

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 8, 2009) -- Three weeks ago Joe Nemechek didn't even know if he would be at Daytona International Speedway competing for a berth in the Daytona 500 in his family-owned NEMCO Motorsports entry.

But working day and night putting together a team, acquiring cars, engines and all the necessary equipment that goes into a Sprint Cup operation, the veteran driver came out blazing in Sunday's Pole Day qualifying. He posted the 19th fastest time among the 56 drivers entered for NASCAR's season opener.

Though he has yet to lock himself into the Daytona 500, Nemechek had mixed emotions about his qualifying effort in his No. 87 Toyota Camry.

"On one hand, I am very proud of this team for how far we have come in a short time," said Nemechek, who posted a Pole Day time and speed of 48.178 seconds at 186.807 mph. "But when you come as close as we did today, you feel a little let down. We were only a few ticks away from gaining a spot in the 500."

Because of a new team, Nemechek is not part of the 35 drivers guaranteed a starting position in the Daytona 500. He needed to be among the top three of the 21 drivers who are also fighting for a 500 entry. He fell two positions short and now must race his way into the 500 in Thursday's 150-mile qualifying event.

"We're not out of it," observed Nemechek. "We have a good car and we'll be there contending for one of the two transfer spots in the 150 race. My hats off to Philippe Lopez (crew chief), all the crew guys and my family and friends who have all poured their hearts into this operation. I also want to thank all the fans who have offered their financial help. We received a three-dollar donation from a young fan. When you see something like that, you feel blessed and want nothing more than to go out there and put on a good show."

Nemechek will compete in the first 150 miler on Thursday, starting ninth in the 28-car field. He needs to finish in the top-two among the drivers vying for a starting spot in the 500.

"It could get crazy out there come Thursday, but we'll be ready for everything," said Nemechek. "This will be a no-holds-barred race for the go-or-go-homers and we'll be there fighting for every inch."

Pole Day only set the front row for the 500 and the starting positions for Thursday's Gatorade Duel 150-mile qualifying races. Capturing the front-row starting positions were pole-sitter Martin Truex and Mark Martin.

-credit: nemco

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Joe Nemechek , Martin Truex Jr.
Teams NEMCO Motorsports