Phoenix: Joe Nemechek race report

PHOENX (Nov. 7, 2004) -- Joe Nemechek never gave up. Despite an ill-handling racecar that included damage to the grill, the U.S. Army driver made a late-race charge to post a respectable 12th-place finish Sunday in the Checker Auto Parts 500K at...

PHOENX (Nov. 7, 2004) -- Joe Nemechek never gave up. Despite an ill-handling racecar that included damage to the grill, the U.S. Army driver made a late-race charge to post a respectable 12th-place finish Sunday in the Checker Auto Parts 500K at Phoenix International Raceway.

Though he started third, Nemechek's U.S. Army/USG Chevrolet was off balance from the get go and steadily lost track position. When the first caution flew on Lap 76 of 312, Nemechek was struggling to stay in 24th place.

He didn't get much better as the bumper-to-bumper race continued on the one-mile oval. But in the final 14 laps, Nemechek picked up 10 positions to claim his best career Cup finish in Phoenix.

"Holy Moley, that was a heckuva comeback," said Nemechek. "We really had a tough day up until the end. The U.S. Army Chevy would get really tight in the middle of the corner and kept on tearing the front tires. The car was a handful to drive. At times we got the car decent, especially on new tires, but as the run went on, the front tires would tear up again. I don't know where we missed the setup, but we missed it somewhere."

The Army of One crew made one adjustment after another during the pit stops, but never found the right balance. Although Nemechek wrestled with the handling, he managed to stay on the lead lap.

"Believe me, the guys really worked hard on the car throughout the race, but we never could get it completely right," explained Nemechek. "With the handling problem and all of those crashes, we were stuck in the back of the pack and it was difficult to make any kind of move."

It appeared the U.S. Army team would struggle to the end, but patience eventually prevailed as Nemechek picked off positions in the late stages of the race.

"At the end, I was able to drive to both the inside and outside lanes," said Nemechek. "My car would go anywhere and I would shoot right by them. The doors opened up and I took advantage of the situation. Considering the problems we had today -- and there were many -- we still found a way to manage a decent result. That says a lot about this team."

The Nextel Cup Series will head back East to Darlington (S.C.) Raceway (Nov. 14) for the second to last race of the season.

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Joe Nemechek