Story from NASCAR.com
The two Most Popular Drivers were absolutely suited for NASCAR’s big awards.
Second-generation NASCAR mega-talents, both Chase Elliott (XFINITY Series) and John Hunter Nemechek (Camping World Truck Series) absolutely earned the distinction and the nod in Monday awards presentation.
Elliott, who will drive the Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 Chevy next year in the Sprint Cup Series — replacing the retiring Jeff Gordon — was typically low-key and humble about the whole NASCAR XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series awards evening.
But he was eager to get going in his Cup career after a championship and second place finish (2015) in the XFINITY Series. Earning the Most Popular Driver Award for the recent season must have felt very appropriate for the son of Bill Elliott, who took the Cup Series vote a record 16 times. Dale Earnhardt Jr. has won it the past 12 years.
“I think we have definitely a lot of work to do to catch Dale in that sense,” a smiling Elliott said. “But I’m very appreciative of the support I’ve had, especially the past two years and I’ve noticed it. I don’t think people realize how much that means to a driver when they see you wearing their T-shirt. It goes a long way for me. Seeing them do that means a lot.”
Elliott conceded he and his father, a NASCAR Hall of Famer, haven’t discussed this honor’s impact even though he is touched to receive it.
“We really haven’t talked about that,” Elliott said. “Fortunately he (his dad) had a big following and some of those people are following me. Can’t look past that. Dale has an obviously great following and I’m a Dale fan too.”
Nemechek, 18, was equally as excited to be recognized on the Camping World Truck Series side. A second-generation racer who won his first major race this season, Nemechek was obviously moved by the honor.
“It definitely can’t hurt to win the Most Popular Driver in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, ” Nemechek said. “It’s definitely an honor for me and my family, but more importantly, hopefully it’ll help us gain some reputation on selling some sponsorship for the seasons tocome. Can’t thank all of the supporters enough that voted, and all the friends and family as well.”
Nemechek is the second family member to be honored with the award. His father, Joe Nemecheck — a former XFINITY Series champion and four-time Cup winner.
“Yeah, he won I think in 1992 and ’93, so it’s awesome to be able to win an award that he’s won,” Nemechek said. “I beat him to something.
“I wish he wouldn’t have won most popular so I could’ve beat him to that. We’re very competitive, but to get my first truck win when he didn’t was very special as well. He wants one bad.”
With Elliott moving into the Cup series and Nemechek hoping to continue his rise in the NASCAR ranks in 2016.
“It definitely is special to hear how good you’re doing with the equipment that you have,” Nemechek said. “We utilize our resources to the absolute max that we possibly can. We try and get our trucks as good as we can. There’s a lot of late nights and hard work put in with just a few people. Finding the funding to get a few more people and not have to work as late and getting some free time to work on some other projects could even make us better, but it was definitely a good year. Getting our first win and finishing in the top five so many times, all the hard work did pay off.
“We’re still working on trying to find funding. Nothing is set in stone yet. It’s all kind of up in the air right now, so still trying to find those possible partners to sit down, sign a deal with, hopefully for years to come.”
Not many people were focused on John Hunter Nemechek one year ago at the 47th Annual Snowball Derby. The questions going into the race surrounded drivers such as Bubba Pollard, Chase Elliott and Erik Jones. Nemechek wasn’t exactly an underdog, but he definitely wasn’t a favorite either.
Fast forward one year and now Nemechek is heading to the 48th Annual Snowball Derby, which will be broadcast live on Speed51 TV, as the defending champion and one of the favorites to win the most prestigious short track race in the country.
The 18-year-old driver can’t wait to head back to Five Flags Speedway (FL) during the first week of December as the defending winner of the race. Despite the added pressure and attention, he says that he and his NEMCO Motorsports team are just as relaxed as they were one year ago.
“I wouldn’t say there’s any pressure to come back and try to repeat it,” said Nemechek. “It feels good to be going back there to defend our title. We had a great car last year. I look forward to going back and trying to get another victory there. I’d say there’s going to be more smiles and a little seriousness, but more smiles going back to Pensacola this year.”
Nemechek’s Derby win, at the time, was the biggest win of his young career. Now he said it’s tied at the top of his list with his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory at Chicagoland Speedway (IL) this past September. But the emotion that hit Nemechek when he won the Derby was unlike anything else, because the full magnitude of what he accomplished wasn’t realized until a couple of weeks after the victory.
“It was like ‘We really accomplished that?’” said Nemechek. “Some emotion got me right after the race, but I really think that all of the emotion got to me a week or two afterwards. At the time you don’t really think about it. It’s a huge accomplishment because you’re caught up in the moment, but you can’t really describe that.”
The second-generation driver now heads to the Derby looking to join an extremely short list of drivers that have won back-to-back Snowball Derbys. Rich Bickle (1990-91 and 1998-99), Augie Grill (2007-08), and Erik Jones (2012-13) are the only three drivers to win back-to-back Derbys.
“To go down there and repeat would definitely be a hard accomplishment to do,” said Nemechek. “I don’t think there’s been that many that have gone down there the following year and have defended their title. It would be quite an accomplishment to go back there and repeat.”
In addition to repeating as Derby champion, Nemechek is also eyeing a potential sweep of the weekend as he will also race his Pro Late Model in the Allen Turner Hyundai Snowflake 100 on the eve of the Derby.
“We were close last year,” said Nemechek who has finished second in the Snowflake each of the last two years. “Hopefully we can get both of them this time.”
NEMCO Motorsports announced today the addition of Anderson’s Pure Maple Syrup to its 2015 partner family in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS). The Wisconsin-based company will be featured as the primary sponsor for the No. 8 Chevrolet Silverado NEMCO Motorsports team with NASCAR Next member John Hunter Nemechek in the November 13 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at the Phoenix International Raceway.
“Anderson’s Pure Maple Syrup is, just like NEMCO Motorsports, a family-owned organization,” John Hunter Nemechek said. “With its hardworking staff of family and close friends, Anderson’s Pure Maple Syrup is a small business with big dreams which makes for an ideal partnership with NEMCO Motorsports as an independent team. I am proud to align myself with a family rich in tradition.”
Anderson’s Maple Syrup, Inc. has been a family run and organized business since 1928. Back then, Paul Anderson started Anderson’s Maple Syrup as a hobby and today his grandson Steve Anderson continues the family’s sugar making heritage.
“The Anderson’s Maple Syrup family is excited to partner with NEMCO Motorsports and driver John Hunter Nemechek for the Phoenix International Raceway NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race,” Steve Anderson said. “Phoenix is a great market for Anderson’s Maple Syrup and we are happy that rising-star John Hunter Nemechek will be displaying our colors.”
In his third NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season, 18-year old Nemechek has logged 28 career starts, resulting in strong performances including a victory at the Chicagoland Speedway (September 19) and seven top-five finishes, as well as 14 top-10 finishes, with an average starting position of 12.3 and an average finishing position of 11.0.
ABOUT ANDERSON’S PURE MAPLE SYRUP:
Anderson’s Pure Maple Syrup is a tradition over 85 years in the making. In 1928, Paul Anderson first shared the distinct taste of Wisconsin’s Northwoods by producing delicately sweet pure maple syrup. Three generations later, his grandson, Steve Anderson, still produces the pure, all natural, and healthy alternative to artificial “maple-flavored” syrups. Anderson’s Pure Maple Syrup can be found in supermarkets and specialty stores across the country. For information visit: www.AndersonsMapleSyrup.com.
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