If you liked my Riggs, Mayfield's New Teams, Entries into Daytona 500 Prove Desire To Race article on the struggles behind small teams, hopefully you will enjoy this recurring piece I hope to continue all season long looking at the small, less fortunate teams who try and do what the bigger teams take for granted every day.
In the new economic reality of NASCAR, perhaps you have not noticed the No. 87 driven by owner, driver, and NASCAR veteran Joe Nemechek.
Not only is this single-car operation, dubbed NEMCO, a reminder of yesteryear when you came to the track and raced with what you brought. But it is also a sad, but true reality of the effects of NASCAR in a recessive economy that we must recognize.
Nemechek, a Lakeland, FL native, has been racing professionally in NASCAR since 1993. While he has not won a race since 2004, he does have four career victories to his credit and currently sits 37th in the points standings.
Why does this matter?
Nemechek has successfully qualified for three of the four races to date, which is more than can be said for Scott Riggs, Jeremy Mayfield, and several of his fellow upstart teams. The fact makes his current 37th position all the more impressive since he clearly took a points hit for not qualifying in all of the races.
He also holds ten career poles to his credit, with his most recent coming last year at the spring Talladega race. Therefore, it should not be all together surprising if Nemechek should earn another one this year. After all, this is the man who once earned the nickname "Front Row Joe", specifically for his penchant for good qualifying runs and for his ability to get to the front of the field.
This past weekend at Atlanta, his normally unsponsored car ran on a family-owned shoestring budget had a local flavor, when it was sponsored by Huckleberry's BBQ sauce of Pine Mountain, GA.
We have seen this throwback single-race sponsorship by a local merchant before. Recently at the 2008 race in Darlington, Travis Kvapil, driver of the No. 28 Ford for Yates Racing, was sponsored by Lafayette Ford, which is regional and based out of Fayetteville, NC.
There were also rumors that Tommy Baldwin Racing had secured a two race deal with Red Bank Outfitters for driver Scott Riggs concerning sponsorship, but since he has failed to qualify for those two races. It is unsure if the sponsors are still on board whenever he does qualify again.
Need another reason to cheer for Nemechek?
Like Gaye Busch, the mother of Kurt and Kyle Busch, Nemechek's mother never misses a race as was announced at the 2006 driver introductions as part of the Mother's Day weekend festivities at Darlington.
Apparently she also makes special "Joe Nemechek's mom" shirts and clothes for family. She was an integral part of his past ARMY sponsorship and tributes to the troops.
In two weeks when Nemechek tries to qualify for Bristol, let's all hope that he makes it.
In keeping with the barbacue sauce theme, maybe Memphis-based Corky's BBQ can sponsor his ride for the race. He is one of the few throwback drivers in more ways than one. Let's hope he can lock himself into the field, which freezes after the fifth race that being Bristol race.
This is why it is all the more important that Nemechek and the other small teams have successful practices and qualifying runs in Thunder Valley.
Driven by simple desire over dollars, Nemechek remains a constant reminder of those that simply run each week out of pure passion that NASCAR sorely lacks. His love for the sport is evidenced by his very driving and competitive vision that we can all learn from and appreciate.