Dale Earnhardt Jr. Gets Brutally Honest About Daniel Hemric’s Future at Kaulig Racing and It’s Not Good: ‘Maybe This Man Won His Last Race and the Championship in the Same Day’
Dale Earnhardt Jr. knows Daniel Hemric. The 30-year-old driver raced a part-time schedule for JR Motorsports in 2020 that included a dozen top-10 finishes but no victories. In 2021, Hemric joined the Joe Gibbs Racing organization and had his most successful year, which concluded with a fairytale sequence of events as he won his first race and the Xfinity Series championship in the same race.
Next year Hemric switches over to Kaulig Racing. On a recent episode of the Dale Jr. Download, the two-time Daytona 500 winner didn’t hold back and suggested Hemric should savor his win at Phoenix because it could be his last for a while.
Daniel Hemric wins first race and 2021 Xfinity Series championship
Throughout his six years in the NASCAR Truck and Xfinity Series, including 32 races into the 2021 Xfinity season, Daniel Hemric was known as the best driver without a win. Incredibly, in that period, he came close with 12 runner-up finishes.
This season appeared to be no different. Hemric started the season with a pair of third-place finishes and a runner-up in the first four races. In July, he finished second at Road America. It was the same theme in each race. Hemric runs near the front for much of the race, leads laps, but fails to close the deal.
In this year’s playoffs, Hemric found himself in a familiar position at Texas, leading multiple laps as one of the dominant cars. Unfortunately, the other top car was his Gibbs teammate John Hunter Nemechek. Nemechek won and Hemric finished second.
While the No. 18 car wasn’t winning, he was pointing his way through the playoffs. And then, on a November night in Phoenix, the stars aligned and Hemric broke through in dramatic fashion, battling defending Xfinity Series champion Austin Cindric through the final corner in the Championship 4 race and edging him out across the finish line for the win and season title.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. suggests Hemric’s win might be his last
Dale Earnhardt Jr. called the exciting racing action from the NBC broadcast booth as Daniel Hemric pulled off the double. A couple of days later, the Hall of Famer talked about it on his podcast, and things took an ominous turn when talking about Hemric’s future.
“There were some great fireworks. The Xfinity race with Austin Cindric and (Daniel) Hemric coming down to the last corner. Good stuff,” Earnhardt said. “Hemric wins his first race ever and the championship at the same moment. I think he’ll have — I say this because I think he’s moving to a team that the car is not going to have the same type of performance or speed on the racetrack than the one he’s been driving. So maybe this man won his last race and the championship in the same day. We’ll never know. I guess time will tell.
“Matthew don’t like that,” Earnhardt said, referring to podcast producer Matthew Dilner. “I think Matthew thinks Daniel is going to go out there and win some races next year because he’s a huge Daniel Hemric fan. But I’ve got a realistic point of view. Look at that No. 11 car. It’s not out there competing. That’s the car he’s going to drive. The one that’s been on the track all year long. Not really been up there trying to win races. Hadn’t been a fast race car. It might win at Daytona and Talladega.”
Earnhardt details why he thinks Hemric will struggle in 2022
Dilner willingly admitted it has been Hemric and not his equipment in the past that’s prevented him from making a trip to victory lane. Earnhardt said equipment is the reason why he thinks the 2021 Xfinity champ will struggle in 2022.
“I’ll be interested to see what kind of performance he can get out of the No. 11 car. I think that’s going to be a new problem next year,” Earnhardt candidly suggested. “I feel with the Kaulig team going to the Cup Series when they can focus 100 percent on the Xfinity Series; they get performance with AJ (Allmendinger) and everything else they’ve done this year. But now they’re going to take a lot of their focus as a business and a company and primarily focus on the Cup side. Even if the performance is better in the Xfinity Series, they’re still going to put more energy and more time and money into their Cup operation. I think it’s going to suffer on the Xfinity side. I really do. I think it’s going to be a frustrating year for Daniel next year. I’m just going to predict that right out of the gate.”
If Earnhardt is right and it is Hemric’s last win, at least it will go down as one for the ages.