DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Joe Nemechek wanted more.
In his first qualifying effort with a new team in a new season, Nemechek just missed securing a starting position on the front row of Sunday’s Daytona 500.
He did, however, did get the next best thing.
Nemechek finished third overall among 53 cars in qualifying speed on Sunday and is assured of one of the 43 starting positions. His exact starting position will be decided following Thursday’s Gatorade Duels at Daytona International Speedway.
“You always want more, especially when you get that close. That’s when it gets frustrating,” said Nemechek, who drove for three different teams in the Sprint Cup Series last season. He joined Furniture Row Racing in time for the Sept. 2 race at California, and ran nine races with the team.
“I have to say thankyou to all the crew guys for working on the car. That’s a big accomplishment for a single-car team based out of Denver, Colo. That’s a huge step. I think they know we’re here.”
Nemechek signed on to run a full season in 2008 with the team and the organization also added an engine-lease deal with Hendrick Motorsports, which certainly showed results. The only Hendrick driver to qualify better than Nemechek was pole-winner Jimmie Johnson.
“We’re leasing engines from Hendrick Motorsports and they definitely give us comparable engines. It’s just pretty awesome to have a good power plant in your car,” Nemechek said.
“With the way they build those engines, from driving for Rick Hendrick, and seeing how the whole operation works, it’s very interesting. Everything happened right; we just came up a tick short.”
Nemechek’s run in the No. 78 Chevrolet at Daytona was not a complete surprise. Using NASCAR’s new car last season at Talladega, Nemechek finished fourth – the best so far for the new team.
“It’s a big deal to get locked in the race. You’re always trying to be the best you can. These first five races, it’s very important to get a good finish in the first one,” Nemechek said.
“The momentum can carry you through the other ones.”
Now that he is assured a spot in the 500 field, Nemechek said the team will focus on getting the car to handle better before next Sunday.
“We get two practices on Wednesday for the Duels. You have to be smart. Thursday is going to be hot and slick and it’s going to be a tough day. It’s going to be a tough race. You don’t want to wreck your primary car for the 500; yet you want to learn.
“We haven’t done a whole lot of drafting. We did some drafting during preseason testing, that’s about it. You have to make your car handle. If you can make it handle for a long period of time, you’ll be good.”