Daniel Hemric can sleep a bit easier these days. Now a NASCAR champion with Joe Gibbs Racing, one of America’s most well-respected drivers is ready for a new challenge. In 2022, he moves back to the Chevrolet camp with Kaulig Racing, ready to see if he can get back to the Cup Series.
BY JOSEPH WOLKIN, @JoeWolkin
“Sleep has been a low priority. It’s been so much fun to go through the emotions from before the checkered flag fell at Phoenix to now. To have your closest family, friends and important figures in your life reach out, we’re able to enjoy the moment together. A lot of them are old car owners of mine who gave me shots when I didn’t have anything to drive and because of those rides, they were as integral to this as anyone. Obviously, I’ve been relishing the moment with the entire Joe Gibbs Racing team. All of the people on the No. 18 Toyota Supra have been through the good and the bad with me. To end with the ultimate good with them -- our last time together and the last time Dave Rogers is on top of the pit box for me -- you can’t script that. That’s not something we’ve lost sight of or taken lightly the last couple of days.”
“I was actually very calm because, with our points structure, all you can ask for is to get to Phoenix. If you make it to the Final Four, you’re playing with house money because it’s so hard to beat the rest of the competition. My crew chief Dave Rogers used words like ‘attack,’ ‘offense’ and ‘house money’ to continue to solidify the fact that nothing else matters right here. As the laps wound down and it was me and Austin Cindric vying for the championship, it was clear one of us was going to win the race and whoever did that would be called champion. But because of that, it kept me in the moment and I wasn’t losing track. It took three-quarters of the cool-down lap for me to realize it.”
“That was a good feeling. I got to do hundreds of those in the short track ranks growing up. I’ve fallen short at the NASCAR level in all three series. I’ve had doubters and people say to me ‘You don’t belong.’ Whatever I’ve been through, the backflip was the end and the staple to all of that. Something I’ve been striving for my entire life was to do one of those on that stage. It’s just an incredible feeling to know they can’t take it from you.”
“Joe Gibbs is the most stand-up individual I’ve had the pleasure of driving for in my entire life. He preaches people, trusting the process and he just wants to compete and win. The entire pedigree he’s built at JGR between himself and Toyota, TRD and the engine shop at JGR, that’s what they expect. To go through an entire season 32 weeks prior to Phoenix and not winning, that was something I didn’t take lightly. I wanted to make sure we gave ourselves a shot to pull that off. To get the phone call from Joe on the stage at Phoenix and to hear Joe say how proud he was that I should personally know he was smiling, it’s all I can ask for. To have Coach the entire season, I felt the gratitude of having it all come together. He told everyone, including my sponsors, that this will work out. We’re so thankful to be living this journey together.”