Without a well known father, a big checkbook or a brillant career in dirt track racing, Daniel Hemric is advancing towards NASCAR’s highest levels of competition.
Hemric, 24, has carved his own path to the top with winning performances at every stop. This year he’s a full-time rookie on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, currently ranked seventh in the point standings.
The Kannapolis, N.C., native, began his career at age five in Go-kart racing. He advanced to Bandoleros and when he was 16 he went Legend Car racing.
Hemric won at every level. It was with the Legend Cars, however, that got people talking about him. In 2008 and 2009 he won the Legend Car National Championship. Traveling the country in 2009, he won an amazing 60 of 80 feature events!
His biggest triumph would come in 2010 when he won the Legends Million at Charlotte Motor Speedway. His share of the earnings was an unbelievable $250,000!
“Winning a race of that magnitude helped put my name on the map,” said Hemric. “I was just an unknown short track racer at that point. I am so thankful that Bruton Smith and Charlotte Motor Speedway put that event on. It helped proprel my career and got me here to Pocono today.”
Along with the money came some chances to drive different forms of race cars and Hemric was up to the challenge. He went Super Late Model Racing on pavement and then spent three years racing the Hillbilly No. 79 asphalt Modified on and off on the north and south circuits.
“It was a lot different car than I had ever driven,” said Hemric of days driving the Modified, “but I had a lot of fun doing it. There is a lot of tire and a lot of horsepower. That makes for an exciting event. It’s cool I was able to experience that, and ultimately that path led me in this direction. I’d love to go back and drive one again some day.”
His big break in NASCAR came in October of 2013 when he made his Truck series debut. The following year he debuted at the end of the season for NTS Motorsports. They they hired him to run full-time this season.
At Pocono on Saturday, Hemric stayed out of trouble and registered his seventh top-ten finish of the year.
“We struggled all day, but we never gave up,” said Hemric.
Hemric is locked in to drive the No. 14 Truck for the rest of the season. He’s tight-lipped about his future.
“Our focus right now is this year,” said Hemric. “I’m committed to this year with California Clean Power on board.”
He makes no bones, however, that his goal is Sprint Cup.
“Absolutely,” said Hemric, “but that’s what 90% of us out here want as well. At the end of the day, I just want to race and do well at a competitive level and win races. This has been my goal since I was five years old racing Go-karts. I just keep chugging along hoping to get that first win.”
Open-wheel dirt track racers Christopher Bell and Rico Abreu have gained much national attention as they follow the same path used by Kyle Larson to NASCAR Sprint Cup racing. Hemric feels he’s not gotten the same attention racing the asphalt short-tracks.
He did, however, enjoy squaring off with Bell at the recent NASCAR Truck race held on the dirt at Eldora Speedway. Despite having never raced on dirt, Hemric was a surprise fifth place finisher.
“That was really neat,” said Hemric. “I got a lot of experience and a top-five too, that’s hard to beat.”
He was really amazed how much the dirt track surface changed during the event. He ran the bottom early, then moved to the top and then to the bottom at the end.
He said he had zero practice on dirt before the race. But then, that’s something he used to in his career.
“Every race track I go to this year is new to me,” said Hemric, “so I always talk to a lot of people in advance. I was teammates with Austin Dillon at Eldora so I was able to lean on him and his dirt experience. We grew up together and we were able to go off his notes in practice. The Trucks were very similar and I ended up fifth and he was sixth, so that was a good day.”
Hemric’s life is changing rapidly. Not only did he finish ninth at Pocono, he also got engaged to NASCAR K&N East driver Kenzie Ruston.
A Truck win for Hemric this year isn’t out of the question nor is an advance up the ladder in NASCAR racing next season.
While Hemric loves to race, he is now limited in what he can do. Last year he ran about 60 events, but he’ll run only 30-35 in 2015, citing it’s difficult to do so because a lot is invested in him and they don’t want him getting injured.
By the way, Hemric said he’s still got that $250,000 he won from that Legend Million. He didn’t spend it on race cars to get his career to the next level, but has been able to move up and obtain rides on his own talent.
“I was told spending it on racing wasn’t a good investment,” said Hemric with a laugh.