Joe Nemechek is on the cusp of setting the NASCAR national series start record. When he takes the green flag in Friday night’s Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, it will be his 69th NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race but his 1,186th across NASCAR’s three national series (including Cup and Xfinity). This breaks a tie with seven-time Cup champion Richard Petty for the most national starts by a single driver.
Nemechek has raced in NASCAR’s national series since his debut in the Busch Series (now Xfinity Series) in 1989. The 1992 Busch champion with sixteen career victories, he has 444 starts in what is now NASCAR’s second tier. He began racing in the Cup Series in 1993, where he has 673 races and four wins under his belt. Although he has never won a Truck race, he has nineteen top-ten finishes and four top fives among the 68 starts.
Much of Nemechek’s career was spent as an owner/driver for NEMCO Motorsports, though he bounced between various teams like Team SABCO, Hendrick Motorsports, and MB2 Motorsports at the Cup level. When NEMCO ran in Cup from 2009 to 2012, Nemechek was limited to start-and-park efforts to save costs, though he still contested the full schedule.
During the 2019 Truck season, he has run twelve races with a best finish of sixteenth at Daytona International Speedway. In August, he ran his first Cup race since 2015 at Darlington Raceway; of his six Cup events in 2019, the last two and the upcoming Ford EcoBoost 400 have been run alongside his son John Hunter Nemechek, making them the first father/son duo to compete in the premier series together since 2005.
Having his record-breaking start at Homestead perhaps also comes with emotional value. A Florida native, Nemechek’s brother John passed away after a wreck at the track in 1997; John Hunter, who was born later that year, is named after his uncle in his honour.
To celebrate the feat, the Truck field for the Ford EcoBoost 200 will sport a special decal. John Hunter also presented his father with a special helmet:
Nemechek will drive the #8 Chevrolet Silverado for NEMCO in the 200.