JOE NEMECHEK (No. 42 BellSouth Chevrolet Monte Carlo) NOTE: Nemechek matched his best finish of the season last week with a sixth-place showing in the Pepsi Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. Nemechek also finished sixth earlier this season at...
JOE NEMECHEK (No. 42 BellSouth Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
NOTE: Nemechek matched his best finish of the season last week with a sixth-place showing in the Pepsi Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. Nemechek also finished sixth earlier this season at Richmond. The 35-year-old Lakeland, Fla., native won the Pepsi 400 pole in July at Daytona.
"I'm excited to be going back to Richmond. It's the same car we ran there at the beginning of the year. That car is the one that ran so good last year at a lot of places, and I'm looking forward to a good run at Richmond.
"The first race at Darlington this year we finished 19th, and we had a lot better car than that, but it got rain-shortened and that hurt us. We finished sixth last time at Richmond, too, so we've got to get past that number. Coming from Darlington and having a good run there, that's the best I've run there in a long time. We had a fast car at Darlington, especially on the long runs. Unfortunately, we didn't get any long runs late in the race. We had a long run in the beginning and got from 22nd to fourth under green. We led a lap when everybody was pitting under green, but we needed long green runs. If it could have stayed that way, I don't know if we had anything for Jeff Burton, but I know we would have been right there in second place.
"You still want to perform. I'm still trying to find a job for the year 2000. You want to perform, and the team's got to perform also. I think there's maybe a little more pressure now. I've talked to everybody in their brother, and now I've just got to wait and see what's going to happen for next year. I want to get in a really good race car again. I've just got to wait and see what's going to become available. Some good rides are open. I'll just have to wait and see. Some good drivers are looking for jobs out there. Hopefully my credentials will help me land one of these good rides. At one time that was mentioned (swapping rides for the rest of the '99 season), but I don't think anything is going to happen.
"We ended up fifth at Darlington in the Busch race. A few years ago we finished fifth at Darlington. I think we had a better car than fifth this time, but we had that one bad pit stop where I let my foot off the brake and the car fell off the jack. It was my fault. We lost about another 15 or 20 seconds there trying to overcome that, but I made it back up on the race track. I got back up to fifth and during the last sprint, we were off on our setup just a little bit. We were a little bit too tight.
"I was hoping they were going to go back to green in the Winston Cup race at Darlington. If we could have had one more 60-lap run, we would have been in good shape. I think Jeff Burton, Kevin Lepage and myself had the best cars there on the long runs. The runs before that, Jeremy Mayfield and Jeff Gordon and Ward Burton kind of pulled out, but before that last rain delay we were right on their tails. We were fixing to make a pass and then the caution came out.
"I didn't think it was going to rain. The clouds were there and it was kind of dark all day, but I never expected rain. We were going for the distance.
"Richmond is a good race track, depending on how your car is set, whether it's a little bit loose or a little bit tight, you can either run the bottom or the top. With that sealer they put on there, they've made it a real good race track. I think the best racing we have all year has been at Richmond, just as far as side-by-side racing. There's just enough banking and the way the track's laid out, you can put on a heck of a show there, and normally we do. We won a Busch race there, and Mark Martin and I have dueled in the Busch Grand National cars in a lot of races at Richmond back when I used to run there every race. I've finished second there quite a few times to Mark. We should have won a few others. I like the place. It's a short track, and it's kind of like getting back to the old Saturday night racing. You can't be scared. You can race wherever you want to go.
"We get a Sunday off, plus racing at night is kind of nice. It's cool and spectacular for the fans. It really doesn't matter to the drivers if we race at day or night. Racing at night is cooler and the conditions are more consistent. That's nice. Compared to Charlotte during the day, you chase that race track unbelievably. Clouds come and it changes. Richmond stays pretty consistent.
"I scraped the wall in one and two at Darlington and I wasn't expecting. I cringed up probably 50 times in three and four. I thought I was going to nail the wall and somehow I never hit it. On new tires, just after a pit stop, I was trying to get turned going into turn two, and I guess I was a few inches too high and hit the marbles by the wall. It jumped over and started grinding away. It didn't really hurt the car.
"Tony Glover (crew chief) is a pretty neat person. He's helped me a lot in my career. We kind of have this understanding. I can say something and he knows what to do. It works out real well. Chemistry is the key. Glover and I get along good, and my old crew chief and I, Scott Eggleston, got along good.
Brian Pattie (Busch Series crew chief) and I have a good understanding. When I say something, he knows what needs to be done. It's hard out there. Some guys are fighting and some teams are pointing fingers. You can't do that. You've got to get in there and dig together. You win and lose as a team.
"We've done a lot of testing with Ron Fellows in the truck series. A lot of tracks we don't race on, we've been testing. It's kind of neat. I can go and watch. We're trying to do some more stuff with Ron right now in the oval track ranks and get him some more experience. It's definitely different than road racing, so he's got a little learning curve right there. He won't run any more in the Cup car this year. We're going to run the Texas truck race and we'll have to see from there. We're trying to look at the year 2000 and see what we can do. Sponsorship is a big part of it.
"The two road races this season were probably the biggest disappointment of all for me. At Sears Point, we ran third, fourth, fifth about all day long. Bobby Labonte did a move that I didn't think was so great coming into turn 11 and we both got wrecked. There were just a few laps to go, and I was running third. We'd been up there all day long. Rusty Wallace was in front of us and we were working on him. He couldn't run good for a long period of time. We had a good day going and got taken out at the end.
"We were pretty good at Watkins Glen, not as good as I thought we should have been. We were off a little bit, but we ran fourth through eighth all day long. We were running seventh or eighth on the last lap. Bill Elliott got a little bit of a run on me going into the chicane. I didn't think he could make it. I guess he thought he could. He stuck his nose in there and we both got wrecked. We had another good run going. It's kind of the way our season has gone this year."
"The Darlington run makes me feel good. You've got to have a good car there, but it's more of a driver's race track. You've got to be on the ball all the time. To go there and run good in the Busch car and the Cup car gave me a lot of confidence. We haven't run real good there in the past, and I know I can do it. You've just got to have the whole package.
"I think we probably have a better shot at winning at Richmond than anywhere. There's going to be a couple of cars that'll be strong. Dale Jarrett is going to run strong. Jeff Burton and Jeff Gordon will be good. I think they'll dominate. If we hit our setups right and get our pit strategy right, I think we can run with them.
"Only a few cars have a shot at winning every week. There's no margin for error if you're going to run with them. You have to hit the right setup. It's always been that way, and it probably always will be. You know the guys you're going to have to beat each week. Sometimes those names change but not very often."