Daniel Hemric is the student who took incompletes in all his classes as a senior except for acing the Atomic and Molecular Physics of Controlled Thermonuclear Fusion seminar conducted by the university’s Nobel laureate.
The 31-year-old NASCAR driver owns one victory in 208 starts, but he made it count. He flipped the win in that pressure-packed race into a contract to drive for Kaulig Racing in the Xfinity Series. And then he turned that deal into something bigger without so much as firing up his engine for the first time.
The Xfinity Series champ changed teams in the offseason
Daniel Hemric has driven for big-name teams in NASCAR’s three national series, ranging from Brad Keselowski Racing in the trucks series to JR Motorsports in Xfinity cars and Richard Childress Racing in the Cup Series.
A year ago, he found himself short on options. Consequently, the North Carolina native accepted a lopsided Xfinity Series offer from Joe Gibbs Racing. According to The Athletic, Hemric had to forego a salary. He only cashed in when he finished in the top five in races. Fortunately, that happened 15 times in 33 races.
After qualifying for the playoffs on the basis of points, Hemric was exceptional down the stretch. He finished in the top 10 in seven of the final eight races heading into the Championship 4. There, he edged Austin Cindric for career victory No. 1 and the Xfinity championship.
His strong work attracted the attention of owner Matt Kaulig and team president Chris Rice, who signed Hemric to race in the 2022 Xfinity Series. But that was just the start of the relationship.
Daniel Hemric will drive in some NASCAR Cup Series races
Kaulig Racing jumped into NASCAR in 2016 as an Xfinity Series team. After no victories the first two seasons, Kaulig drivers have gone on to take the checkered flag 14 times. Along the way, owner Matt Kaulig began mapping a course for adding a Cup Series component to the team. He entered cars in a handful of races last season, earning an unexpected reward as AJ Allmendinger took advantage of some late chaos on the Indianapolis road course to win a race.
Kaulig also secured two charters during the season to accelerate the organization’s move. Kaulig quickly announced that Justin Haley, who already had Cup Series experience, would move out of his Xfinity duties to take the driver’s seat in one of the cars.
The second car, however, remained unsettled. Kaulig wanted to enter Allmendinger in races on the road courses, but the receptiveness of sponsors would determine the schedule for ovals. Late last year, the team reached the point at which it could run the second car for a full schedule.
Team president Chris Rice decided to split the duties between Allmendinger, Daniel Hemric, and Noah Gragson. Each could still run a full Xfinity schedule and not struggle with too many doubleheader weekends.
“He said, ‘Hey, man, do you want to run some Cup races?’” Hemric recalled to Fox Sports. “I said, ‘It’s a trick question. Is there any other answers other than absolutely?’
“That was not in the cards when I had to make that career decision to move to Kaulig Racing. But I’m thankful I made that decision, thankful for the move, and exceptionally thankful to have a chance to mix it up with the best in the world again on certain Sundays.”
Kaulig Racing chooses Daniel Hemric to race in the Daytona 500
Once the decision to employ three drivers in the No. 16 Chevy came down, there was still the matter of how to divide the workload. Each driver landed a schedule that included a high-profile event:
- Allmendinger will run all six road course races, eight other points races, and the All-Star Race. He opened the season at the Los Angeles Coliseum in the Busch Light Clash.
- Gragson gets 14 points races, including April 17 on the dirt at Bristol.
- Hemric gets eight points races and the bulk of the early-season work. One assignment stands out above all the rest: the Daytona 500.
“I had zero Cup races when I signed on with Kaulig Racing,” Hemric said. “Getting the phone call [saying] you’re going to be in the 500, I didn’t know if I would have a chance to mix it up with those guys again, let alone the Great American Race.”
It’s amazing what one well-timed victory can do for a guy’s career.