By Kent Whitaker

A movie plot unfolded last weekend at Gateway Motorsports Park, outside of St. Louis, during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race. Imagine this movie script; A small family owned race team, struggling with funding, once again poured everything they had into fielding a ride for the race. The team’s owner, a former fulltime NASCAR Cup driver, still jumps behind the wheel from time to time.

The elder driver has taught everything he knows about the sport to his young son. The son, now a skilled driver in his own right, has also learned just about every job in the shop. From hanging truck bodies and turning wrenches, to engineering and public relations.

Finally, as funding is running out, the team wins their first race of 2017. The checkered flag flies, father and son hug, fade lights! How’s that for a racing movie?

Wait – it’s not over because John Hunter Nemechek just rolled his No. 8 Chevy into victory lane again! Nemechek has won back-to-back races with his checkered at the M&M’s 200 at Iowa Speedway on Friday night.

Hard Work Pay off Again

Following the win last week, the team worked hard to turn things around for the race Friday night. According to Joe Nemechek, owner of NEMCO and father to John Hunter, the entire crew is around ten guys, including himself and his driver son. The younger Nemechek congratulated his team for making the second win possible.

“We put a lot of hours in the shop this week,” Nemechek said as he thanked his team and father. “Working until 2 a.m. to get this turned around and we got here and got it done. Somehow it all worked out.”

The team worked hard at getting a truck ready for a completely different type of race track when compared to the one they raced on last week. At the same time, the effort to keep bringing in funds to pay for everything continued. Heading into Gateway last week there were real doubts that the group could continue to run a full regular season – let alone compete in the playoffs.

Thankfully, for the Gateway race, a company with a growing St. Louis area presence, helped with enough funding to get their logo on the hood. Toenjes Brick Contracting (TBC), is a full-service masonry contracting company founded in 1996 by Dan and Lynette Toenjes. Based in Millstadt, Ill., TBC is family-owned and operated, and includes five father and son duos who work throughout the metropolitan St. Louis area.

The No. 8 D.A.B Constructors/TBC Chevy had just enough sponsorship to make it to Gateway. It paid off with a win. Things eased up a bit as a regular sponsor for the team, Fire Alarm Services, upped their sponsorship deal following the first win. As a result, the No. 8 Fire Alarm Services / Romco Eqipment Chevy pulled out the victory in Iowa in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

NASCAR NOTES

Erik Jones and Chase Elliott both wrecked during final practice at Pocono. Each of the drivers will move to backup cars for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race in California. According to Jones, road course racing is new to him and he just made a mistake.

“I just got some wheel hop and then got loose and hit the fence,” Jones said. “I’ve been frustrated all day and this just compounds that. We have to get the backup out and try to learn more.”

The driver noted that the lack of testing allowed by NASCAR for all teams this season has been an issue. Drivers now rely on testing and practicing on driving simulators.

“I don’t have a lot of road course experience anyways, and then to get thrown into the fire,” Jones said. “I wish we could do any kind of testing anywhere. It’s hard to show up and get out there to do it. Just one of those things trying to learn and you make a mistake.”

Elliott noted that his issue came when he simply made a mistake by hitting a turn too hot. The driver apologized to his team for a wreck that he walked away from uninjured but destroyed his primary car.

“Just made a mistake,” Elliott said about the move to a back-up ride following his wreck during practice at Sonoma.  “It was really my fault.  I hate it for my teammates on the No. 24 team. They sure don’t deserve it.  They worked hard this past week to get this car ready to come out here a long way from home.  So, made a mistake and we shouldn’t be having that.”

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kent Whitaker, often called 'the Deck Chef,' is a sportswriter, culinary writer, and cookbook author with fourteen titles. He covers NASCAR, racing in general, Football, barbecue, grilling, and tailgating. You can visit him on www.thedeckchef.com."

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