DESPITE EARLY RECORD, MOMENTUM STILL WITH NEMECHEK, U.S. ARMY TEAM LAS VEGAS (March 8, 2005) --Though Joe Nemechek hasn't produced the results that he was expecting in the season's first two Nextel Cup races, he feels his U.S. Army team hasn't...
DESPITE EARLY RECORD, MOMENTUM STILL WITH NEMECHEK, U.S. ARMY TEAM
LAS VEGAS (March 8, 2005) --Though Joe Nemechek hasn't produced the results that he was expecting in the season's first two Nextel Cup races, he feels his U.S. Army team hasn't lost any momentum from its successful run during the closing stages of 2004.
"To say we continue to have momentum without a top-10 result might sound a little confusing,but in reality we're as strong as ever and right on track," said Nemechek, who led a race-high of 63 laps at the recent event at California Speedway.
During the 10-race homestretch of 2004, Nemechek set a strong pace with one win, three top fives, six top 10s, two poles and one outside pole. He ranked seventh in points during this period and was riding a wave of momentum into 2005.
"As soon as we started preseason testing it appeared that we were as good or even better from how we finished 2004," said Nemechek. "We had one of the fastest cars at the test sessions in Daytona, Las Vegas and California. Everything was going according to plan."
And when Nemechek got on the track for the opening of Daytona Speedweeks, he was again recording some of the fastest times. His U.S. Army Chevy went on to post the fifth quickest run in the qualifying session for the Daytona 500.
"After our performance in qualifying, we were looking at taking some pretty big swings but then those curve balls started to come our way."
The first of the curves came during the Gatorade Duel qualifying race when Nemechek got collected in a multi car accident. The incident totaled his new car and forced the Army team to go to its backup Chevrolet for the Daytona 500.
"That was big letdown," said Nemechek. "But even with our backup car we had a chance of salvaging a strong result in the 500. I was in the lead pack but got tangled up in the wrong lane at the end and finished 13th. Our expectations were a lot higher, especially at a superspeedway race."
One week after Daytona, Nemechek was at California Speedway where he was enjoying one of his strongest performances since joining the Army/MB2 team in October of 2003. But while holding a comfortable lead on the Southern California oval, his engine lost power on Lap 178 of 250. He was forced to retire from the race two laps later with an undeserving 39th place finish.
"That was both disheartening and encouraging," explained Nemechek. "It hurt not to have the finish we deserved because the whole package was working. The car and the pit stops were as close to being perfect as you can get.
"But on the bright side, the performance -- until the engine let go -- was indeed encouraging because it told us that this Army team is capable of getting to another level. And that's all you can ask form- to continually get better."
Nemechek said that he will have another new Army Chevrolet for Sunday's Las Vegas race.
"It's the same story as our California car," said Nemechek. "After the West Coast test session, we weren't completely satisfied with our aero package. Ryan (Pemberton, crew chief) and our team engineers brought their notes back to the fabrication department at MB2 and new cars were built for both California and Las Vegas.
"I have all of the confidence the Las Vegas car will be just as strong as the California car. We're going to Las Vegas to win a race. We have momentum on our side."