Archive for Thursday, July 8, 2004

Fighting to finish

Nemechek’s team struggles with string of bad luck

July 8, 2004


Is it time to change Joe Nemechek's nickname to "Bad Luck" Joe?

It appeared for a while this season Nemechek couldn't get out of the way of his own shadow, or anybody else's for that matter.

All too often after a race in which they finished poorly, drivers claim they had a good car until something out of control took them out of contention.

But they hardly ever have the statistics to back it up.

Nemechek is another story.

And another. And another.

In nine of the 10 races prior to last weekend's Pepsi 400 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, either mechanical problems or another driver was involved in cutting short Nemechek's day.

In most of the races Nemechek was running in the top 10 or even the top five before things went sour. In that 10-race span his best finish was 14th, happening on two occasions.

During the stretch, Nemechek wondered aloud what he needed to do to get the monkey off the back of he and his No. 01 MB2 Motorsports team.

"What has been so frustrating about it is that we've had good cars just about everywhere we've been," Nemechek said.

"We've had top-five runs going at the majority of these races when we either break something or have a part failure or something happens.

"It's just been kind of crazy. Nobody has given up. We're going to win a race before the year is over."

Nemechek's luck finally seemed to take a turn for the better last weekend.

He qualified sixth and ran well much of the race, but still there was a hiccup. During one pit stop under caution, Nemechek had to pit twice to correct some loose lug nuts.

On the final green flag run of the race, however, Nemechek moved up 13 spots -- from 23rd to 10th, where he ended the night.

It was just his second top-10 finish of the season.

"We stayed patient and hustled our way back to the front. During that last green-flag run my car was perfect -- we were passing everybody," he said.

"I think our year is turning around -- we have showed in the last 10 races we can lead laps and run up front. This team is strong; we just keep finding that little weak spot every race.

"I guess a 10th-place finish wasn't that bad, but yet, I think we could have done even better."

Nemechek's season -- his first with MB2 Motorsports -- started with much promise back in February. He started 14th and finished sixth in the Daytona 500.

Nemechek struggled over the next few weeks, but soon he began picking up steam, particularly in qualifying. His qualifying prowess over the years has earned him the nickname "Front Row Joe."

Nemechek has four top-five and six top-10 starts this season, with all of his top-five starts coming in the past 11 races.

"It's been frustrating. We've had top-10 cars, even top-five cars at Sonoma, Pocono and Michigan. We're showing we can run fast. We just got to make sure the cars will finish," Nemechek said.

"I've put myself in a couple bad situations and wrecked a couple of cars. This team is learning. Believe me, everybody is pumped up big-time.

"We are ready to win races. We keep knocking on the door enough, we're going to win."'

And perhaps retain his "Front Row" Joe moniker.

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