Gritty Performance by U.S. Army Team in Pocono LONG POND, Pa. (June 13, 2004) -- The final result sheet will show that Joe Nemechek posted an 18th-place result in Sunday's Pocono 500. But what the sheet won't show is how Nemechek and the U.S....
Gritty Performance by U.S. Army Team in Pocono
LONG POND, Pa. (June 13, 2004) -- The final result sheet will show that Joe Nemechek posted an 18th-place result in Sunday's Pocono 500. But what the sheet won't show is how Nemechek and the U.S. Army team bounced back from adversity to collectively earn every bit of that finishing position.
Nemechek showcased his driving experience at Pocono Raceway as he finessed his injured racecar for the final 114 laps of the 200-lap event.
And the experienced Army of One crew, led by crew chief Ryan Pemberton, was equally impressive with savvy race strategy and a pit road grit that enabled the 01 Chevrolet to finish the 500-mile marathon on the lead lap.
On Lap 86 it appeared that Nemechek's day would be short lived when he radioed the crew that the transmission broke and he only had third gear. He also reported the car was making a severe grinding noise.
In most cases that would spell doom, but cooler heads prevailed in the Army pit to find a temporary solution. Along with Nemechek's uncanny ability to soft pedal the throttle, thereby preventing the engine from over-revving, the Army crew did its job that included getting under the car during two different pit stops to add grease to the transmission.
"This was truly a team effort and because of that effort and the experience of the crew, we survived a very difficult set of circumstances today," said Pemberton. "I was really proud of everybody on how we handled the problems. At another time, a setback like this could have put us five laps down. But today was different. And a lot of credit goes to Joe, who did a brilliant driving job in keeping the engine from blowing up. Overall, not a bad finish."
Because of only having third gear, every time Nemechek came into the pits the Army crew pushed the black and gold car until it had enough speed for Nemechek to delicately slip the clutch. This happened seven times, and each time, the crew resembled an Olympic bobsled team as they ran down pit road pushing the 3,400-pound machine.
"This is why we train and lift weights," said Gary Smith, the team's pit crew trainer. "The guys came through with a gritty performance. I am very proud of them."
Nemechek, who started third and led the first 10 laps of the race, had mixed feelings with the result.
"It could have been worse, but yet it could have been really good," said Nemechek. "Just before the transmission broke, the car was awfully good (running in 13th place) and I was heading back to the front. Even though the car ran well after the transmission broke, we were still at a severe disadvantage with only having third gear. But we all hung in there and salvaged a decent finish. A good job by all."
The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series continues Sunday -- June 20 -- at Michigan International Speedway.