In this economy, the search for nice stories throughout the NASCAR garage area are few and far between.
Most of them are like Jeremy Clements' family-spun race team, piecing together sponsorship and making the most of what they have.
But Clements is doing more. He's actually competing.
Clements ran partial schedules in 2009 and 2010. He caught the eye of this writer in 2010, when he took Johnny Davis' No. 0 Chevy and ran 10th with it at Gateway. Since then, the kid from Spartanburg, South Carolina has done nothing but impress.
In 2011, he announced that he and his family would start their own No. 51 race team. I figured this would be another start-and-park effort. Just another family-ran team starting-and-parking to keep their name out there.
But that all changed once I got to the Daytona International Speedway. It was late Wednesday night, and my brother and I went to the track to get our first taste of the 2011 season. Nationwide Series practice was out there, and there was one car on the racetrack: Jeremy Clements.
Right then and there I knew this team was for real, at least for Daytona, because they wouldn't be practicing like that if they weren't running the race.
The No. 51 team picked up a 16th place finish in Daytona.
Pretty impressive for a team that doesn't have a big name.
But hiring veteran wrench-turner Ricky Pearson is what's made this team different.
Sure, they've started and parked sometimes over the course of the season—twice to be exact. But when they've run, they've run well.
In 17 of the 26 races in 2011, Clements' team has finished in the top 25. That shows me one thing: He's keeping the car off the wall. This includes a streak of back-to-back 14th place finishes at Atlanta and Richmond, two companion weekends with the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series—that's very impressive.
And yet, why should I feel the need to write about it? It's 2011 and NASCAR has better TV coverage than most sports. Because sometimes things don't always work out like they should. When the TV coverage should be showing Clements' team, they're showing Danica Patrick's car falling a lap down. Teams like this just don't get a fair shot, and I bet half the fans have no idea who Jeremy Clements is.
That's wrong. This guy's had an unbelievable season. If you look at his stats, they may not be so great, but in this sport you've got to take people's situations into consideration. They have no full-time sponsor and no Cup affiliate—they're all by themselves—and just to stick it out there and run is a feat in itself.
I hope this article reaches all of you and makes you watch this 51 team in the next eight races of 2011. Hopefully the TV coverage will do the same and give this team and driver the exposure they deserve. With a little bit more funding, who knows what they're capable of.
Jeremy Clements' name is not even being mentioned for the few available seats in this series, but it darn well should. He won't wreck your race car, and that'll save teams a lot of money—and in this economy, that'll make your team a whole lot better.
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