John Hunter Nemechek talks 2020, being a Rookie and iRacing

Photo By: Nigel Kinrade Photography / NKP

By: Sarah Handy, Staff Writer

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic that has plagued not only the United States but the world, Front Row Motorsports rookie John Hunter Nemechek was having a consistent rookie campaign.

Following a current Cup Series career best 11th place in the season opener DAYTONA 500, Nemechek continued to have a consistent west coast swing at Las Vegas, Fontana, and Phoenix.

With finishes of 24th, 25th, and 25th, Nemechek weighed in on how he would evaluate the west coast swing for himself.

“There were good parts and bad parts,” expressed Nemechek. “We were able to have some good speed at times, but there were also some areas where we know we need to make adjustments. As we build up our notebook through the rest of the season, hopefully we’ll be able to make improvements on our performance in those places.”

Nemechek wasn’t essentially new to the Front Row Motorsports organization, having fun three events for the team in 2019 when he filled in for Matt Tifft. He said it’s been very beneficial having run those races, because relationships had already been forged between himself and the team prior to this season.

“Running those three races at the end of the season with Front Row Motorsports last year was definitely helpful,” stated Nemechek. “We were able to establish those relationships between myself and Seth (Barbour), as well as the crew guys, so we already had a rapport coming into Daytona. We already kind of knew how to work well together and we’ve been able to keep building on that

 (Photo By: Nigel Kinrade Photography / NKP Photo)

Rookie of the Year Battle

The 2020 NASCAR Cup Series Rookie of the Year battle has a large class this season, consisting of six drivers, including Nemechek. However, Nemechek has had a consistent start and continued to hold his own each week, he credited those starts in 2019 with the team as being helpful.

“Yeah, I think this has been one of the best, most competitive rookie classes that we’ve seen in the Cup Series in a long time,” said Nemechek. “Having been able to get that seat time in 2019 was definitely helpful in giving us a leg up to start the 2020 season. There are certainly differences between running a Cup and Xfinity car, so coming in with a little experience on the Cup side worked to our advantage.”

Earlier this season, Nemechek said something on Race Hub that consisted of “It’s the big three and what about me?” Much of the talk prior to this season and the beginning of the year revolved around Christopher Bell, Tyler Reddick and Cole Custer. After all, all three were contenders on a weekly basis last season in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. However, as noted earlier Nemechek hasn’t finished worse then 25th in four starts this season. Nemechek weighed in on the teams consistently after I mentioned what he had said on TV previously.

“We’ve been able to get some really good speed out of our cars this season at Front Row Motorsports, even if the results weren’t always there,” expressed Nemechek. “Sure, it’s frustrating to be running top-15 for most of the race, only to get caught up in a wreck or run into some bad luck at the end but knowing that we can run like that. It’s just a matter of time for us to see the kind of finishes that reflect our efforts.”

Trucks and Xfinity to Cup

Prior to Nemechek’s making the full-time jump to the NASCAR Cup Series, the son of Joe Nemechek spent time in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series, and the NASCAR Xfinity Series, and saw success in both.

From 2013 through 2019, Nemechek has made 99 starts in the NGROTS, earning two poles, six wins, 28 top-five and 49 top-10 finishes. His most recent win in the series came back at Martinsville during the 2018 season.

Where the NASCAR Xfinity Series is concerned, Nemechek has made 51 career starts from 2018 through 2019. In that time span, he earned one pole, one win at Kansas Speedway, 12 top-five, and 30 top-10 finishes.

(Photo By: Nigel Kinrade Photography / NKP Photo)

Nemechek weighed in on the biggest hurdle between a race in the Truck and Xfinity Series to the Cup Series.

“Race length is always going to be an adjustment when it comes to transitioning to the Cup level,” said Nemechek. “Our races now are two, sometimes three times as long as Trucks and Xfinity, so being able to build up your endurance is key as a driver. They’re also totally different packages, so whatever knowledge you have in racing at some of these tracks only gets you so far.”

The equipment may differ between all three series, but Nemechek stated the experience gained is still beneficial.

“I think any experience on track at the Xfinity or Truck level is going to help at the Cup level,” said Nemechek. “The equipment is different, but hopefully that knowledge is still able to transfer over to a certain extent. Being able to study data and notes is also helpful.”


Coming into his first full-time season at NASCAR’s highest level and with so much talk about the big three within’ the Rookie of the Year battle, Kickin’ the Tires asked Nemechek if he had any expectations, or if it’s important to focus on each race weekend as it comes.

“Certainly, there’s some pressure that goes along with being in this rookie class, but I think at some point, you have to just stop worrying about all the hype and what everyone else’s expectations are and focus on your own goals,” stated Nemechek. “In my rookie year, I’m working to make sure we can build our program at Front Row Motorsports to be a contender every single week. If we can focus on that and run all the laps, I think we’ll be in a good spot.”

Additionally, Nemechek stated it’s been helpful learning on his teammate Michael McDowell with the knowledge and experience he has. 

“Michael and I talk a lot, especially throughout a race weekend and we’re always comparing notes,” said Nemechek. “It’s been helpful to lean on his knowledge and experience, especially in my rookie year.”


iRacing has also been a great tool for the young driver and has provided Nemechek with a chance to learn different tracks and setups.

“iRacing is a useful tool as a driver,” stated Nemechek. “I have my own rig set up in my house and I’ve been able to learn different tracks and setups. It’s taught me a lot about how to adjust the car just by messing around and turning laps – and being able to hit that reset button!”

Definition of a Good Season

Once racing resumes, what would be a good season for the rookie driver in his first full-time season at NASCAR’s elite level? Well, Nemechek weighed in on the fact that a win would be huge for him and his team, and he feels they’re close to making that a reality.

“Winning a race this season would obviously be a huge success for us and I don’t think we’re that far off,” said Nemechek. “As an organization, our goal is to ultimately make progress. We want to finish the season stronger and faster than when we started, and we want to be contenders every time we are on track. We are on our way to making that a reality, so as long as we can keep that up, it’ll be a good season.”

Stay Connected with John Hunter 

(Photo By: Nigel Kinrade Photography / NKP Photo)

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Twitter: @JHNemechek 

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