FLAT TIRE HALTS NEMECHEK'S RIDE TO VICTORY LANE CONCORD, N.C. (May 29, 2005) -- NASCAR's longest race of the season turned out to be nine laps too long for Joe Nemechek, who had victory in sight in Sunday's Coca-Cola 600. As the 600-mile race...
FLAT TIRE HALTS NEMECHEK'S RIDE TO VICTORY LANE
CONCORD, N.C. (May 29, 2005) -- NASCAR's longest race of the season turned out to be nine laps too long for Joe Nemechek, who had victory in sight in Sunday's Coca-Cola 600.
As the 600-mile race was winding down, Nemechek appeared to have a comfortable lead in the Nextel Cup event at Lowe's Motor Speedway. But on Lap 392 of 400 misfortune struck the 01 team when the U.S. Army Chevrolet ran over debris on the 1.5-mile oval, resulting in the right-rear tire going flat.
Nemechek, who led 25 consecutive laps before the tire incident, did manage to drive the crippled Army car to the team's pit stall to get fresh rubber. He then went on to finish the race and post an 18th-place result.
"Nine laps to go -- it was our race to win," said Nemechek. "We were out front in clean air and the Army Chevy was checked out -- it was flying. But all of a sudden the car started vibrating going into Turn 3. Something hit the bottom of my car and the tire went flat going into the corner -- I didn't have a prayer. With all of those crashes we kept on running over so much debris all day."
Nemechek expressed mixed feelings about the team's performance in post-race interviews.
"Yes, when you come this close to winning it is disappointing and hard to swallow, said Nemechek, who started the race from the 38th position. "But on the other hand, we can't overlook how we came back from being a lap down to get in position to win.
"The crew kept on making adjustments throughout the race and we finally hit on it. We had great pit stops and (crew chief) Ryan Pemberton called a great race. We hung in there and even when it looked bleak in the early going, we never threw in the towel."
A prerace get together with soldiers and future soldiers had Nemechek even more revved about the Memorial Day weekend race.
"I really wanted to win this one for all of our soldiers," offered Nemechek. "Before the race I was honored to be asked to take part in a re-enlistment ceremony in Victory Lane with soldiers from Operation Iraqi Freedom. That ceremony -- along with meeting new recruits -- sent shivers up my spine.
"Being Memorial Day weekend I wanted this to be a special race for all of our men and women in uniform. We gave it our best effort and came so close. Like our soldiers, there is no quit with our Army team and we will continue to put out the same effort week in and week out."
The next stop for Nemechek and the U.S. Army team will be Sunday, June 5 at Dover (Del.) International Speedway.