Race Weekend Central

Eyes on Xfinity: John Hunter Nemechek’s Special Bond with Grandmother Routing Him to Success

Growing up, almost every single child leans on their grandmother for some sort of life advice. Fortunately for John Hunter Nemechek, his grandmother, Martha, is obsessed with racing.

Nemechek, 22, is in the midst of his first full-time season in the NASCAR Xfinity Series with GMS Racing. But it’s well-known that the North Carolina native grew up around the racetrack, while his father, Joe Nemechek, was chasing his dream in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series racing.

While Nemechek’s parents were typically away from the track almost every weekend so his father could race, it was Martha who helped shape Nemechek into the person he is today.

“She was definitely a support system,” Nemechek told Frontstretch. “With dad racing every weekend, I was racing myself, so I had to figure out how to do my schoolwork. I pretty much grew up with the guys around the racetrack, but she was definitely a big influence on me. I had to make sure I got all A’s because I got rewarded for all A’s.”

What was Nemechek’s award for doing well in school? A nice, home-cooked salmon entree, sprinkled in with a “little bit of everything.”

Behind the scenes, Martha helps out NEMCO Motorsports — the Nemechek’s family-owned race team — by being in charge of the fan club. She is a big part of the fan club.

“She’s definitely one of my biggest cheerleaders, if not the biggest, with everything going on,” Nemechek added. “She hasn’t been to a lot of races this year. She’s been around her great-grandchild, her first one that she’s spending a lot of time with. It’s definitely neat to have her do that and still being able to come to some races throughout the year.”

Most recently, Martha attended the Xfinity race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Memorial Day Weekend. That day, FOX Sports captured a video mid-race of her jumping up and down, cheering on the No. 23 Chevrolet driven by her grandson. Nemechek led four laps on that afternoon, en route to a 12th-place finish.

Much like how Martha supported her son, Joe, she supports Nemechek with a handmade T-shirt that sports the No. 23.

“That goes back to when she came around the race track with dad back in the day in the Army car,” Nemechek stated. “She has a lot of fun coming to the racetrack. It’s sad to say, but they’re getting older, so the more times she can come around and do her deal is really a blast.

“I think the biggest thing for her is just enjoyment. Seeing me go around in circles, doing what I love and am passionate about. Our family has been involved in the sport forever. To have their support behind me – she’ll text me before and after every race, and I’ll normally get a call on Sunday morning asking what had happened [in the Xfinity race]. She’s definitely in tune with everything that’s going on.”

During the summer months, Nemechek’s grandparents will relocate to North Carolina. But through the cold winters, they spend their time in the warm, Florida sun. Ultimately, Martha will attend roughly “five-six” of her grandson’s races this season.

In his first season with GMS, Nemechek sits seventh in the championship standings, comfortably inside the playoff standings. With 10 top-10 finishes and an average finish of 10.9, he believes the team is starting to turn the corner, as the core team has been building chemistry since the opening weekend of the year at Daytona International Speedway.

“It’s been up and down, for sure,” Nemechek said of 2019. “We’ve had some really good runs and some really good runs that we don’t have finishes to show for. Overall, it’s been a quiet year for us. We’re sitting inside the top 10 and continuing to work on our stuff and making gains.”

Out of all current playoff eligible drivers, Nemechek is tied with Ryan Sieg for the fewest laps led (eight) through the first 16 races. However, the No. 23 team is consistently consistent, as its averaging finish position is less than one spot behind Cole Custer, who’s tied with Christopher Bell for the most wins in the series (four).

Nemechek vows he won’t stop until he and the No. 23 team are the best.

“I want to win some races. We need to get a little bit more consistent running inside the top five,” he explained. “I feel like we’ve been getting more speed built into our cars, and I’m learning as well from some of the places I’ve never raced an Xfinity car at. Some of this stuff is still new to me. I’m looking forward to going to a few more places and figuring it all out.

“I feel comfortable that we’ll be able to make the playoffs. I just want to make sure we win some stages, win some races and get some playoff points and hopefully go to [Homestead-Miami Speedway] and be in the [Championship] Four. If I didn’t say that, I wouldn’t be here doing this. I want to win, that’s the biggest thing.

“I want to make it to the top. My goal has always been to be able to be in a competitive car at the top and win races, win championships and become one of the best. I want to be the best, and there’s definitely nobody that’s outworking me or out-training me.”

The series heads to Kentucky Speedway this weekend, where Nemechek led 14 laps and passed Kyle Busch during the second stage to claim the stage win in a Chip Ganassi Racing car. Unfortunately, his Chevrolet lost voltage late, dropping him to seventh in the final rundown.

Xfinity Notes: 

  • There are 38 cars on the preliminary entry list for this weekend’s Alsco 300 at Kentucky. Ryan Truex will be back behind the wheel of the No. 8 JR Motorsports Chevrolet for the second time this season. In his first outing, Truex finished runner-up to Kyle Busch at ISM Raceway.
  • After winning its first career race at Daytona with Ross Chastain, Kaulig Racing hopes to expand to two full-time cars in 2020 with a part-time third car labeled as an “All-Star” car, per team owner Matt Kaulig. Prior to Daytona, Kaulig Racing’s best finish was fourth at Las Vegas Motor Speedway by Austin Dillon. At Daytona, the first three cars to cross the finish line were all from Kaulig Racing, though AJ Allmendinger‘s No. 10 was disqualified.
  • Justin Haley (second), Brandon Brown (sixth), Matt Mills (10th), Vinnie Miller (11th) and Stefan Parsons (12th) all recorded career-best finishes at Daytona.

About the author

Dustin joined the Frontstretch team at the beginning of the 2016 season. 2020 marks his sixth full-time season covering the sport that he grew up loving. His dream was to one day be a NASCAR journalist, thus why he attended Ithaca College (Class of 2018) to earn a journalism degree. Since the ripe age of four, he knew he wanted to be a storyteller.

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Sol Shine

Nice feel good article. I’d feel better about this kid if he cleaned up his act, he takes dirty driving to a whole new level at times and it’s just not necessary. He’s his own worst enemy.

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