MOORESVILLE, N.C. — John Hunter Nemechek’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series campaign for next season can be characterized by a single tagline he uttered Monday afternoon.
“I’m here to win races,” Nemechek said during a media conference call.
Those five words were apparent when Kyle Busch Motorsports announced the 23-year-old driver, who raced for Front Row Motorsports in the NASCAR Cup Series this past season, is joining the team for a championship run next season.
For Nemechek, dropping back from the Cup Series to the Truck Series — where he first made a name for himself with his family-owned NEMCO Motorsports team — was the most productive answer when it came to his ultimate goal of “trophy hunting” for the upcoming year.
“When it comes down to it, winning never hurts,” Nemechek stated. “Winning can only help you in your marketability. I want to win races. I’m here to win races and that’s ultimately what this came down to. I think being an experienced driver in the Truck series and in the Xfinity Series and having one year of Cup (experience) underneath my belt is definitely going to help as well. I feel like with all of the shows that we’re going to have no practice and no qualifying where we pretty much just show up and race, that it’s going to be tough on some of the rookies coming in.
“Hopefully, I can help from a team side as well, and we can be really consistent from the first race through the year. We want to have momentum going through the whole year; that’s our target.”
After a rookie year at the Cup level during which Nemechek only earned three top-10 finishes and had an average result of 22.4, he knew it was time to shake things up in order to have a chance at pushing his career forward.
However, Nemechek still recognized the positives from his year with Bob Jenkins’ Cup Series operation.
“I’m very thankful for the opportunity that Front Row, Jerry Freeze (FRM general manager) and Bob Jenkins gave me last year to make my rookie year what it was and as good as it was while I was there,” Nemechek noted. “There were some things at the end of the year to where I didn’t know where I stood on coming back to Front Row Motorsports and didn’t know if that was even going to be an option for me. When we started looking at options … I’ve had a great relationship with everyone at Toyota since the start of my career and I’ve created a pretty good relationship with Kyle (Busch) as well. I trust Kyle and he’s a great guy, a great driver.
“I feel like I can definitely learn something from him, being underneath him and in his organization.”
Nemechek’s move to KBM brings his family somewhat full circle, as team owner Kyle Busch began his Xfinity Series career driving for NEMCO Motorsports in partnership with Hendrick Motorsports during the second half of the 2003 season.
While Nemechek doesn’t necessarily have vivid memories of those days, he recognizes that period as an important chapter in his family’s racing legacy.
“It is pretty cool,” Nemechek said of getting to drive for KBM. “I don’t really remember Kyle running for dad (Joe Nemechek), because I was so young, but he and I still talk about it a little bit to this day, about his debut there. I remember I have the die-cast somewhere still, but when I was a kid, some of those paint schemes were some of my favorites when he ran for my dad and NEMCO Motorsports back in the day. So it is pretty cool to be able to come full circle. Even though I’m not really starting my career out, this is definitely the next chapter here.
“Kyle is such a great racer and such a great team owner,” Nemechek continued. “I trust in him and I trust his judgment, and he does a really good job with his program. We want to continue that into 2021 and see what we can do and what we can capitalize on.”
While Nemechek has had to work on his own trucks in the past, he won’t have to do that with KBM. Busch’s organization affords Nemechek the freedom to focus more on driving, a luxury he’s looking forward to.
That doesn’t mean he would change that path he took to get to this point.
“I definitely feel like having been one of the mechanics and one of the engineers, and then driving on the weekends … that was valuable and I wouldn’t change that for anything. I learned so much being one of the guys in the shop working every single day. I learned so much being underneath my dad,” Nemechek noted. “He was a driver coach and mentor, kind of everything to me, really. I will say that I feel like we always struggled to have the finances or the resources that some of the other teams had.
“The GMS Racings or ThorSports or KBMs, I feel like those are kind of the big teams in the Truck Series,” he added. “When it comes down to it, being able to focus on driving fully and maximize my potential as a driver, while still bringing the experience and the things that I learned racing for NEMCO Motorsports is something that’s important to me and something that I’m looking forward to for next season.”
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season begins Feb. 12 at Daytona Int’l Speedway.