After racing a full season in the Cup Series last year, John Hunter Nemechek is burning up NASCAR's Truck Series.
It might seem like a step back to race somewhere besides the sport's biggest stage, but for 24-year-old Nemechek, it hasn't been.
Last year, with financially limited Front Row Sports, Nemechek competed in 36 Cup races and finished in the top 10 only three times. His best two finishes were at Talladega — eighth in both races.
He finished the season ranked 27th in the Cup standings, and rarely began the day with a realistic chance of winning.
Now, he is racing for Kyle Busch's motorsports team, which has deeper pockets and a better chance of fielding winning racing teams.
Through 16 Truck Series races, Nemechek has won five times. He's finished in the top five a total of nine times.
The future is bright for Nemechek, and racing is more fun.
He's having fun off the track, too. On March 31, his wife, Taylor, gave birth to their daughter, Aspen Palmer Nemechek.
John Hunter Nemechek took a few minutes recently to talk about racing, his daughter and, of course, his favorite snack.
Question: You're having a great year on the track? Can you sum up what's been working for you?
Answer: I think it comes back to chemistry and communication. Kyle Busch Motorsports, Kyle himself, Toyota TRD have assembled a very strong team around myself. Our No. 4 team is really hard-working, puts in a lot of hours, pays attention to a lot of details and wants to win. We all have the same goal in mind, and that's to win races. We're #HereForWins.
Q: You probably could've driven at a higher level for another team, but could you go over the process of deciding to drive for Kyle?
A: I was able to run in the Cup Series last year and had a great opportunity to go and run for a mediocre-equipment team. So, for myself, I'm not one to just want to be in the NASCAR Cup Series and say that I'm a NASCAR Cup Series driver. I want to excel at everything that I do, and that's winning races in this sport.
So, it was definitely a tough decision whether to stay in the Cup Series or move to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Kyle and I had some long heart-to-heart talks on some of our flights last year, flying back and forth. Ultimately, it came down to coming back to the Truck Series to win races. Luckily it's been paying off.
Q: You've had good races and some tough races at Talladega. How would you describe Talladega racing for somebody who doesn't know a lot about the sport?
A: Anyone has a chance to win. Hectic, chaotic. A lot of fun. Different type of fun, I would say. Talladega all-in-all, it's a pretty awesome race track. The atmosphere is great. The infield is awesome. All the fans that show up definitely feed the whole place with a lot of energy.
I enjoy going to Talladega. You can control as much as you want to try to control, but in the end, sometimes it's out of your hands. Talladega is a wild card for sure.
Q: When you were growing up, who was your favorite NASCAR driver, besides your dad? (Joe Nemecheck won four Cup races and 16 on the Xfinity Series. He also won the Xfinity Series championship in 1992.)
A: Good question. I've always looked up to Dale Earnhardt, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch. I feel like when you look at all those guys, they all have some characteristics they're really good at. Some are really consistent. Some are multi-champions. Some are really good at winning races. Dale Earnhardt was the Intimidator for a reason. He went out there to win.
If you can take a core value from each one of those guys and put it into one, that's a pretty amazing talent. Those are the guys I looked up to coming up through my life and my career.
Q: It wasn't unusual to see you at the race track when you were a little boy. We can find all sorts of pictures of you as a child at the race track. What's your earliest memory of being at a track?
A: I don't remember everything. I was a couple of years old. It was one of dad's first Cup wins, I believe, where we were able to go to Victory Lane. There's definitely a lot of pictures floating around within our family and shop of us being there in Victory Lane. I remember bits and pieces.
I'd say the one that really stands out is 2004 in Kansas, Dad was able to sweep both the Xfinity Series race and the Cup Series race in the same weekend. Being able to be there and go to Victory Lane twice with him was a pretty amazing experience.
Q: Considering that history, can you describe what it means to you that you also have a victory at Kansas? (Nemechek won an Xfinity Series race there in 2018.)
A: It's pretty neat to be able to go to Kansas and win there in the past. It's always been a special place, especially for myself being able to go there as a kid and see Dad sweep the weekend, and now us having a win there.
I believe our win there was 14 years to the day of when he won there. It's a really neat accomplishment to be able to add to the docket.
Q: This spring, you and your wife released the news that you guys now have a daughter. How is life different for you and your wife?
A: I think it has put a lot of different things in perspective for myself. It's been a really fun journey to see her grow up so fast. Now being four months, it's pretty amazing to see the motor skills she's gaining every single day and how much she changes every single day.
Being able to become a dad, there's no words to be able to describe it. She's been awesome. We've been having a lot of fun with it. I'm enjoying the new role.
Q: Any plans to take her to the track any time soon?
A: She actually went when she was a week-and-a-half old to Richmond. We actually won in Richmond for her first-ever trip to the race track. They go quite often with us. It's a whole family affair.
Q: Last question: what's your favorite snack? Denny Hamlin says it's anything with peanut butter; Chase Elliott says nothing beats a big bowl of cereal; and Austin Dillon says a chocolate chip cookie is hard to top.
A: Peanut butter and jelly. It's hard to top that.