John Hunter Nemechek is cutting his teeth on NASCAR's shorter tracks
Being 17 years old isn’t easy for many teenagers, but John Hunter Nemechek’s not your typical teenager.
The son of journeyman campaigner Joe Nemechek, John Hunter is currently racing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with his family-owned team.
Due to age restrictions, Nemechek cannot compete on tracks larger than 1.25-miles until he turns 18 and is approved by NASCAR for longer venues. So for now, the high school senior will share driving duties with his father.
Last month, Nemechek nearly won at Gateway Motorsports Park. He led 53 laps before cutting a tire late in the race. The experience helped him and his team immensely in preparing for Iowa.
“I think we learned a lot there (Gateway), building confidence, building everything with our guys," Nemechek said. "We worked really well as a team, we communicated well and made the right adjustments.
"We know we can do that week in and week out. We’re struggling a little bit here right now but hopefully we get to the point where we’ll be good for the race."
Nemechek will race the No. 8 SWM/Smokeandsear.com Toyota on Friday. The 0.875-mile Newton, Iowa-based track has become well-seasoned since it debuted in 2009. Some drivers believe the age gives the track character.
For a first-timer such as Nemechek, getting the feel just right will improve his comfort level – and his confidence.
“This is a really tough race track, getting your truck to handle right just because of the bumps and all,” Nemechek said. “It’s a fun race track. It’s one that I’ve looked forward to and all of our guys have looked forward to so hopefully we can get to the point where we will be good.”
“The only real place I can compare Iowa to is Richmond where I ran a K&N car there, but it’s not even really close to that, it’s its own unique race track, both corners are different kind of like Gateway but banking and everything else is totally different. There’s a lot of bumps in one and two compared to three and four, so you have to get your truck to work over those bumps but you don’t want to get it messed up in three and four.”
The biggest thing so far this year for Nemechek has been learning about how the sport operates from a driver’s perspective. But he’s been able to acclimate to the challenges due to his upbringing.
“I think us, Ryan Blaney or I or Chase Elliott anyone like that, we pretty much grew up in the sport, so we’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly, how to act and how not to act, so I think that gives us a benefit there,” Nemechek said. “But us having racing dads in our career, they’re going to make sure we don’t screw up like some of the others kids may.
“So it’s a benefit to have them, but at the same time, we’ve grown up in this sport where these other kids haven’t.”