John-Hunter Nemechek on his first Daytona 500: ‘You only get one first start’

Photo By: Nigel Kinrade Photography / NKP

By Sarah Handy, Staff Writer

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla – Rookie of the Year contender John Hunter Nemechek will embark on his first Daytona 500 when the green flag drops on Sunday afternoon.

22-year old Nemechek stated on Wednesday at Daytona 500 media day that you only get one start in the Daytona 500, therefore before he straps in, he’ll take a couple minutes to soak in the moment.

“You only get one first start in this thing so being able to enjoy it. Some of the other drivers I have talked to regret not enjoying that and taking some time for themselves,” Nemechek said. “Before I strap in, I will take a couple of seconds to think about it and that this is it, we are here. This is really cool. Then we will go out there and maximize our opportunity and try to accomplish what we are here to accomplish.”

While Nemechek will make his Daytona 500 debut, it won’t be his NASCAR Cup Series debut. He made three starts at the end of 2019 when he filled in for Matt Tifft in the No. 36 Ford Mustang for Front Row Motorsports.

In his debut at Texas last fall, he finished in 21st and followed that result up with finishes of 27th and 23rd at Phoenix and Homestead.

Does having already been with Front Row Motorsports for a few events help Nemechek with racing the full Cup schedule this season?

To him, it helps set a baseline of knowing to expect this season.

“I definitely think that the baseline of knowing what to expect. The short track package is out the window from what I drove last year,” said Nemechek. “Us as a team we want to strive to make our cars better and be able to communicate with my crew chief, Seth Barber and the engineers and figure out what changes we need to make in the off-season to make our team and cars better is something that we strive for.”

“Being able to have that communication already kicked off; I definitely think it helps compared to coming into a brand-new team. There are still some new faces on the team and one up in the spotter stand as well. Just trying to communicate as best we can and make the most out of it.”

With all that said, Nemechek will also battle for Rookie-of-the-Year honors along with Christopher Bell, Brennan Poole, Tyler Reddick, Cole Custer and Quin Houff.

Nemechek weighed in on his possibilities as far as that’s concerned this year.

“It is going to be a tough battle. It is going to come down to the very end. I think being able to race against Cole (Custer), Tyler (Reddick) and Christopher Bell is something we have done through the Truck Series, Xfinity Series and now the Cup Series,” said Nemechek.

“We all came in at different times in those other series’ but to be in the same class in the Cup Series is pretty special. We all want to beat each other. With the situations we were all dealt we are in different positions with different teams, but you know the goal going in and try to maximize your races and opportunities.”

Nemechek raced in the BlueGreen Vacations Duel 1 at Daytona on Thursday evening, taking the checkered flag in the 12th position. With that finish he will start 23rd in Sunday’s 62nd annual Daytona 500.

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