Less than one year ago, John Hunter Nemechek stood in victory lane at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville (TN) holding the coveted All American 400 trophy guitar. The win, at that point in his career, was the second-generation driver’s biggest yet. It was before his nationally-recognized win in the 47th Annual Snowball Derby and it was well before his first win in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Chicagoland (IL).
When Nemechek first learned that he wouldn’t be able to defend his win in the race due to scheduling conflicts with the NCWTS being in Las Vegas, he was disappointed. But thanks to the biggest rain storm of the year in the southeast, which forced the race weekend to be pushed back two weeks, the Mooresville, North Carolina native will return to Nashville in the No. 8 Rocky Ridge Chevrolet to defend his win this Sunday.
“I definitely am glad that I’m able to have the opportunity to go back there,” Nemechek said. “It’s awesome, well I shouldn’t say it’s awesome that it rained out but I’m kind of glad that it rained out just for the fact that I’m able to go and try to defend my title. It’s definitely a great opportunity for us to go back and try to win another guitar.
Due in part to the late decision to enter the race, the NEMCO Motorsports team has been working countless hours in the shop to prepare the car for the tricky Nashville oval. They didn’t actually begin preparing the car until the team hauler arrived back in North Carolina early this week.
“It’s kind of a late start for us getting going on this car, it was actually the backup car for Dominque at Winchester,” said Nemechek. “We had to throw a motor in it and change a few things to get it ready to go.”
Nemechek’s performance at Nashville last November was one of the most dominating performances witnessed in the race since the first All American 400 in 1981. He led all but six of the 300 laps on the way to a sizable win over second-place finisher Willie Allen.
“It’s definitely going to be hard to be able to go back and duplicate that effort but I feel like with our team and our cars that we’re very capable of that,” Nemechek stated confidently. “You just have to get the setup right, and the track changes from time to time over the span of it sitting in the sun and the cool night. Hopefully it will all be on our side this weekend.”
If Nemechek is to win a second straight Nashville trophy guitar, he’s going to have to do it against some of the stiffest competitors in Pro Late Model racing. Fellow NASCAR star and 2014 NASCAR XFINITY Series champion Chase Elliott, 2014 Southern Super Series champion Bubba Pollard and West Coast star Derek Thorn are just a few of the drivers expected to contend for the win.
“I would say that its stiffer competition, but when you race in the south you’re always up against stiff competition,” Nemechek explained. “I definitely look forward to getting to battle with those guys this weekend and hopefully we can have our car set up better than them and outdrive them there at the end.”
Looking back on his win in the All American 400 last year, Nemechek acknowledges that it is still one of the highlights on his racing resume. He also knows the only thing better than having one guitar hanging up in the shop is having two guitars hanging up in the shop.
“It was definitely a big win for us,” Nemechek said. “The All American 400 is a very historical race and it’s something we always looked forward to as kids being able to run that race. I mean, who doesn’t want a guitar from Nashville?”
Despite saying last year after his win that he would consider learning how to play the guitar, his busy schedule didn’t allow him to do that. Now he’s just hoping to add a few more guitars to the collection so that he and a few of his crew guys can have a little fun.
“All of my guys say that we need to get another one this time so we can get the band back together and we can all learn how to play.”