By Justin Schuoler, Staff Writer
HAMPTON, Ga. – After a three-way domination by Kaulig Racing, a shuffle of the running order with overtime fuel issues keeps the Chevrolet trio out of Victory Lane.
For Daniel Hemric, he believed he was the last chance for their organization.
“These things are so hard to win,” Hemric shared after a runner-up finish in Saturday night’s Alsco 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
That dominance ended as Chandler Smith ran out of fuel and the rest of the field broke up the first, second and third positions that were once held by Kaulig cars for most of the race. Despite that shuffle in overtime, Justin Haley connected with his teammate Hemric and started to build a run to charge after race leader John Hunter Nemechek.
But Haley’s car sputtered as he started to run out of fuel.
“My car was just sputtering,” Haley explained. “The 16 ran out of fuel, then out of 4, my car started sputtering so I got low just to not cause a pileup. Then it kinda regained. Frustrating end.”
However, the frustration was a double-edged sword as Hemric too was visibly irritated.
“Thought we had put ourselves in position to get into Victory Lane after pushing the 20 (Nemechek) there,” Hemric explained. “Everybody was short or iffy on fuel, and with me running third majority of that last run, I thought, allowed me to save enough. I drug the brake back to get the 10 (Haley) car coming off (Turn) 4 coming to the white (flag) – the 20 was too far out – I thought we were in good shape. I drove back and was expecting the big shot in the back and tandem up to the 20 with the big run to make the move for the win, and whatever happened, I guess he said he lost fuel pressure.
“When that happens, you pull out of line but when he did, it put him on my left rear and drug us even further away from the 20 and killed all our momentum. At that point, it was trying to scramble just to stay second. Had to block the top row through 1 and 2, and the 20 was just gone.
“Disappointing for us to be coming down to the end and get Kaulig a trophy but fall short like that, that hurts.”
The script of Hemric’s side of the tale didn’t start in the final laps. Of the three, Hemric was third in line. That meant his primary role was to hold back the rest of the 38 competitors. He was mostly successful with that job, but felt when roles were reversed that the favor wasn’t returned.
“It’s one thing if you’re third in line not with your teammates in front of you, but if you’re third in line and the laps are winding down and you’re trying to put a trophy on the shelf at the shop, I knew my job was as important as Justin was leading,” he continued. “I was trying to do the best I could to give ourselves the best opportunity as a company. We had a moment there in lapped traffic right when that last yellow came out and I got shuffled to fifth, and that put me in the back where I could play offense. That was the plan.
“I guess for me personally, take teammates out of it and I played blocker back there for 50 laps trying to help those guys out. As soon as the shoe was on the other foot, I got irritated. That was the frustration.”
Hemric’s hardware goal fell short by 0.245 seconds when the checkered flag flew. He was visibly crushed as he climbed from his Camaro and noticeably disappointed with Haley before learning about his fuel issues. The two talked things over, along with team owner Chris Rice, before calling it a night.
“That’s a bitter feeling. We just executed poorly on our part.”