179 races and counting. That’s how many NASCAR National Series events that 30-year old Daniel Hemric has competed in throughout his career without a win. It’s been such a long stretch without a win to begin his NASCAR career that many have forgotten, or aren’t even aware that Hemric’s patented victory celebration is a backflip off his car — much like Carl Edwards used to perform.
However, after a runner-up win this past weekend in the Alsco Uniforms 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the question isn’t if Hemric will finally win, it’s a matter of when.
Heading into the Call 811 Before You Dig 200 at Phoenix Raceway, the driver from Kannapolis, North Carolina is on an absolute tear to start the 2021 campaign with his new team — Joe Gibbs Racing. In four starts, Hemric has three top-five finishes in a row and he has yet to finish outside the top-10 in any race this year.
This past weekend was one of the most heart-breaking near misses of his eight-career second-place finishes, as he led a race-high 74 laps and appeared ready to finally roll into victory lane.
Then, at the end of the race, AJ Allmendinger’s No. 16 Kaulig Racing machine came to life and Hemric was forced to settle for second.
Hemric has now finished third, third and second over his last three races. It’s only the second time in his NASCAR Xfinity Series career that he’s had such a potent three-race stretch. Back in 2018, Hemric finished third at Pocono, second at Michigan and third at Iowa.
But it just feels different to me this time around.
It could be the sterling reputation of winning for Joe Gibbs Racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. It could be that Hemric is a few years older and wiser behind the wheel in 2021. Whatever the case, a win is near and it could happen as early as this week at Phoenix Raceway.
The 1-mile oval in the desert is one of the seven tracks that Hemric has scored a runner-up finish at in his career, and up until a bad luck-plagued partial season for JR Motorsports a season ago, Hemric had never finished worse than seventh in Avondale, Arizona in NXS competition.
In addition to the good runs at the track in Hemric’s past, Joe Gibbs Racing has scored 12 NASCAR Xfinity Series wins at Phoenix since the 2010 season, including Brandon Jones in this race a season ago. And if that isn’t enough to make you feel that it’s Hemric’s week, he is expected to be starting from the pole on Saturday, by way of NASCAR’s performance metric formula.
It feels like the planets are aligning for a special weekend for the man who has suffered bitter losses since entering the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2017.
But even if, by some force of nature, Hemric doesn’t win this weekend, rest assured he’ll find victory lane in the very near future with how he’s running.