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U.S. Army Crew Chief Says Team Is Rebounding From 2003 Misfortune DARLINGTON, S.C. (March 16, 2004) -- Considering what he went through last season, it is understandable why U.S. Army crew chief Ryan Pemberton feels a sense of calm and ...

U.S. Army Crew Chief Says Team Is Rebounding From 2003 Misfortune

DARLINGTON, S.C. (March 16, 2004) -- Considering what he went through last season, it is understandable why U.S. Army crew chief Ryan Pemberton feels a sense of calm and encouragement as the momentum-building 01 team heads to Darlington Raceway for Sunday's 400-mile race on the daunting 1.366-mile oval.

Simply put, Pemberton, 34, had a nightmarish of a year in 2003.

The team's driver -- Jerry Nadeau -- was involved in a season-ending accident during the spring race at Richmond International Raceway. What followed for Pemberton and the team were five substitute drivers in the No. 01 U.S. Army/USG car.

Though the situation was certainly not enviable, Pemberton remained positive, knowing that when all of the pieces of the puzzle got put back together, the Army of One team would successfully rebound.

"It was a new team last year and we were just starting to get it together and eagerly looking forward to the second half of the season," recalled Pemberton. "But all of the optimism that was brewing in our camp came to an abrupt halt in Richmond.

"All along I knew this team had the capacity and talent to overcome the adversity -- we just needed to get settled in with a driver and start building another foundation."

After the first four races of the current season, the footings of a new foundation are solidly taking hold for the Army team. With Joe Nemechek established as the driver, the 01 Chevrolet has jumped out to a respectable start.

Heading into Darlington, Nemechek is 13th in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup driver standings, four points out of 10th. He has averaged a 16th-place finish with the best result of sixth coming in the Daytona 500 opener.

"We've been okay, but haven't hit on anything yet," said Pemberton. "But considering the emotional roller coaster that we went through last year, 13th place in the standings looks pretty good right now."

Pemberton also pointed out that to be in the top 10 and in the chase for the Nextel Cup title after 26 races, you need to average a 14th or 15th place finish.

"That's been the average the past few years," said Pemberton. "We're close, but need to get a little better and I believe we're capable of doing that."

Nemechek, who came on board with four races remaining in 2003, also carries an optimistic view about the team's future. "I don't think we've shown the full potential of what this Army team can do."

Both Nemechek and Pemberton know the next task for the team will probably be more difficult than the previous four races.

The challenging Darlington oval has added soft walls. That's the good news. The bad news is the new walls have trimmed 2-3 feet from an already narrow track.

"No question, there's definitely some concern," said Nemechek. "The only thing that I can guarantee is that more drivers will hit or brush the wall this weekend. I think that's pretty much of a given."

Pemberton also feels there will be more than the usual amount of Darlington stripes.

"Let's face it, in the past most drivers ran close to the wall and made contact with it," explained Pemberton. "But when you're dealing with 2-3 feet of less space, the frequency of hitting or brushing the wall is going to be much greater. I think everyone will have a number of Darlington stripes after this weekend."

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Joe Nemechek , Jerry Nadeau