Bristol, TENN. — On Friday afternoon (Sept. 15), Daniel Hemric got a promotion — and later that night he showed why.
Hemric finished second in the Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway, the NASCAR Xfinity Series playoff opener. But it looked for a while like he would place one spot higher and scored his second career NXS win. Hemric was leading with 14 laps to go before race winner Justin Allgaier slipped by him.
“Gosh, you hate to lose them that close to the end,” Hemric said. “But as a group, we know what we did today was special for how far we brought this racecar throughout the event, and I’m proud of that.”
The result came just eight hours after Hemric’s team Kaulig Racing announced he would move up to take over the team’s No. 31 entry in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2024. The move came with some blowback by NASCAR social media.
Hemric tried his hand at Cup once before, driving the No. 8 for Richard Childress Racing in 2019. Despite winning Rookie of the Year, Hemric was replaced after one season by Tyler Reddick after finishing 25th in points with only one top five and two top 10s.
The Kannapolis, N.C., native ran part time in NXS in 2020 before running full time in the series the past three years. Hemric is in the playoffs now for the third year in a row and fifth time overall. He made the Championship 4 in 2017, 2018 and 2021.
But through all those good runs, he’s only won one NXS race — albeit it came in the championship race at Phoenix Raceway in 2021.
Hemric pointed his way into this year’s playoffs and only had top-three finishes at the superspeedway tracks of Atlanta Motor Speedway and Daytona International Speedway prior to Bristol.
So many questioned the move by Kaulig, especially after team president Chris Rice said the move would shock people.
Hemric was 13 laps away from silencing a lot of doubters.
The No. 10 Chevrolet started the race in fifth but failed to score points in the first stage and finished seventh in stage 2. But as carnage struck many of the frontrunners (and Hemric’s playoff competition) Hemric rose up the scoring pylon.
“We were struggling with the Cirkul Chevrolet there the first three/quarters of the race,” Hemric said. We got off sequence, got a little track position and pitted early at the end of stage 2. Then I was sideways again.”
He was running second to Allgaier when the No. 7 pitted during the final caution on lap 254 of 300. That gave Hemric the lead, which he hung onto for 33 of the next 34 laps.
“Honestly, when we took off there, I didn’t think we stood a chance to ever clear him for the lead,” Hemric said. “So then when I got to the lead and the 7 team got side-by-side, I thought, ‘Oh, he’s gonna hold the bottom and wrap by me.
“Got enough momentum going, got back to my rhythm and found a little big more. Then next thing I know I thought, ‘OK, just start clicking the laps.'”
But Allgaier on fresh tires made his way through the field and got around Hemric with 13 laps to go despite a valiant effort from the No. 10 driver.
“And I thought if I could’ve held him off to get to that last little three-or-four-car pack, maybe we could keep them honest down to the checkered flag,” Hemric said. “But I just started building more and more on top of the rubber, and at that point, the tires were just — tire heat, tire cycle — was too much to overcome.”
Despite missing out on the win and the guarantee of a spot in the Round of 8, the night was still a net gain for Hemric. He leaves Bristol with a 12-point advantage over the playoff cut line after many of the playoff drivers had problems. He was five points below the line entering the Round of 12.
Still, Hemric wants win No. 2 before moving up the Cup Series.
“Man, I just want it so bad,” Hemric said. “Frustrated. Awesome to finish second, but as a group we overachieved.”
About the author
Michael Massie is a writer for Frontstretch. Massie, a Richmond, Va. native, has been a NASCAR superfan since childhood, when he frequented races at Richmond International Raceway. Massie is a lover of short track racing and travels around to the ones in his region. Outside of motorsports, the Virginia Tech grad can be seen cheering on his beloved Hokies.
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