Fontana 500: Joe Nemechek preview

Despite Strong Daytona 500 Finish, Nemechek Still Feeling (Qualifying) Pressure FONTANA, Calif. (Feb. 20, 2007) -- Though he passed Daytona Speedweeks with flying colors by qualifying for the Daytona 500 and posting a solid ninth-place finish...

Despite Strong Daytona 500 Finish, Nemechek Still Feeling (Qualifying) Pressure

FONTANA, Calif. (Feb. 20, 2007) -- Though he passed Daytona Speedweeks with flying colors by qualifying for the Daytona 500 and posting a solid ninth-place finish in NASCAR's most prestigious race, Joe Nemechek continues to feel the pressure.

"One down and four to go," said Nemechek, driver of the No. 13 CertainTeed Chevrolet.

The "four" that Nemechek was referring to is the number of races remaining before he hopefully finds himself in position to have an automatic qualifying berth.

With the lack of 2006 owner points due to being with a new team in the Ginn Racing operation, Nemechek must be in the top 35 in points after the fifth race of the year (Bristol, Tenn., late March) to secure an automatic starting position. The qualifying structure for the first five races of 2007 is based on 2006 owner points.

The good news for Nemechek is that he has had a successful qualifying history at California Speedway, site of this weekend's Auto Club 500 Nextel Cup race.

Known as "Front Row Joe" for his qualifying prowess, Nemechek claimed the pole at the inaugural California Speedway Cup race in 1997. Since then, he has claimed six top-10 starting efforts, including a 9.71 starting average in the past seven races at California Speedway.

"I've always liked the California facility," offered Nemechek, who is currently ninth in the Nextel Cup point standings. "I have a good feel for the track and seem to do well there."

With crew chief Peter Sospenzo directing the mechanics of the No. 13 CertainTeed Chevy, the Daytona 500 result came after a struggling and nerve-wracking time in Daytona.

"Our car wasn't good on Pole Day and we knew a very strong effort was going to be needed in the Gatorade qualifying race," offered Sospenzo. "The pressure was really on and we got the job done. You don't want to be sitting home watching the Daytona 500 on television."

Nemechek not only qualified for the 500, but thanks to a late surge in the Gatorade Duel 150, he finished first among the group of drivers who still needed to make the race. "I felt like the whole world was lifted from my shoulders after making the Daytona 500 field," noted Nemechek.

Then came the Daytona 500 where Nemechek felt he could make some noise. But early suspension problems and a power steering malfunction put Nemechek in the back of the pack and out of the draft.

But as the race wore on, the No. 13 Chevy got fixed and Nemechek started to pour it on in the final 20 laps to finish ninth. It was his second top-10 Daytona 500 performance in the past four years.

"We need to continue the momentum and get every point we can," said Nemechek. "After the fifth race, we not only want to earn an automatic qualifying position, but we also want to maintain our top-10 position in points."

-credit: ginn racing

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Joe Nemechek