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Daniel Hemric Leads Eight Laps, Records First Top-10 of 2024 at Talladega

Pacing the field for eight laps, Hemric led more in Sunday's GEICO 500 at Talladega than in any of his previous 56 NASCAR Cup Series starts.


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Anytime you get out of here with a top-10 and a clean racecar, it's a good day.

Daniel Hemric, Driver of the No. 31 Cirkul Chevrolet (Finished 9th)

In the currently hyper-competitive landscape of the NASCAR Cup Series, even the smallest gains in performance made by any organization can show up in a significant way on the racetrack.

This past weekend at Talladega Superspeedway, Kaulig Racing showed off some improvements to the team's superspeedway package, putting together strong runs for drivers Shane van Gisbergen (No. 16) and Daniel Hemric (No. 31).

After being shuffled while trying to run point on a third lane, Van Gisbergen came home 28th in his first oval start in the NASCAR Cup Series, leading three laps around the 2.66-mile superspeedway.

For Hemric, living out a second chance in the NASCAR Cup Series with Kaulig Racing, things certainly played out better than they did for his New Zealand-born teammate.

After the dust settled from a huge accident on the final lap of Sunday's 500-mile contest, the 33-year-old driver was credited with a season-best ninth-place finish -- his fourth top-10 at NASCAR's top-level and second for Kaulig Racing.

Earning a solid result is a plus, but for Hemric and Kaulig Racing, it's the strong run throughout the afternoon that should have the driver-team combination building momentum and confidence heading into the Spring and Summer months.

"I'm really proud of how far we've come with this No. 31 Cirkul Chevrolet from Daytona, as far as speed goes," Hemric said after the race. "It's hard to make gains there with everyone being so close."

In an event that saw an incredible 72 lead changes, the Kannapolis, North Carolina native was able to take the race lead on three separate occasions, leading a career-high eight laps at Talladega Superspeedway.

"We qualified right at about 30th in Daytona, and then we came here and qualified inside the top-20, which is a big deal as we saw today with fuel saving," added Hemric. "You have to have a faster race car, that lets you save more fuel and do the stuff that you need to do."

As cited by the 2021 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion, both Kaulig Racing entries made a significant improvement in single-vehicle qualifying from the season-opener at Daytona.

Van Gisbergen (17th) and Hemric (19th) both earned top-20 starting spots for Sunday's GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, in contrast to neither entry touching the top-20 in Daytona 500 pole qualifying -- clocking in 21st and 24th in February's session.

Even when the speed is found, the car is good enough to win, and the driver is strong enough to put it in the lead, sometimes the hardest part about superspeedway racing is finishing with all crucial components still attached.

"I'm proud to have a clean race, not too much attrition," Hemric reflected. "Proud that everyone had each other's backs there as the laps wound down, to stay disciplined to the bottom lane and have it work out the way it did for us."

With a strong top-10 finish at Talladega, Hemric and Kaulig Racing have begun the journey up the NASCAR Cup Series point standings, picking up two spots to take over 29th place.

As things stand, a post-season berth via points position seems next to impossible (sitting 105 points below the cutline), but with the penultimate event of the regular season being at Daytona, there is certainly a race being circled on the No. 31 camp's calendar.

Photo Credit: Chris Owens, HHP, Chevy Racing