NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series
Friday NASCAR Daytona Notebook
Aug 26, 2022
Jeremy Clements gets to drive race cars at the second highest level of NASCAR, so it’s not the worst life in the world, but it’s not exactly easy -go-lucky either.
His eponymous family owned team has just four employees, and maybe a fifth when there are fires that need to be put out over the course of the year, and there have been a lot of fires over the course of a frustrating 2022 season until Friday night.
Clements drives his hauler across the country, puts together the partnership proposals that allows him to race in the Xfinity Series, and competes on a budget that is best described as middle of the pack. They build their own engines.
"I would love to just burn through a lot of money and, and make our stuff the best," Clements said. "I would love to rent the best engines, but we have zero engineering. We have zero engineers.
"There is a lot I would like to do but we can't do them if we're going to keep doing this."
But this keeps them in the game, and it makes it awful rewarding when August 27 rolls around every five years. On the fifth anniversary of their first victory on a wet Road America, Clements upset the Xfinity Series again in a crash filled finish at Daytona International Speedway.
Coincidentally, the triumph comes five years to the day of that inaugural win and comes in a campaign that is statistically their worst since that 2017 win.
It’s no doubt a testament to their resolve to keep pushing forward, even when things are hardest because that’s when they have been rewarded the most. Clements has been involved in numerous crashes this year, none of them of his making and it was going to take a win to make the playoffs one year after they made it in on points in an arguably tougher field.
And yet, even in a season like this there is always Talladega and Daytona, the lands of opportunity where anything can happen.
On Saturday night into Sunday morning, the figurative seas continued to part until he was alone out front at the time of the final caution, winning for the second time across 421 starts through 17 seasons.
"It's been tough, obviously," Clements said of the past five years. "Winning at Road America, that was unexpected too. We had a fast car that day, played some good strategy and we won. That was incredible for the small guys.
"Now, Daytona is an equalizer. You can get here, survive, be in the draft and have a shot. We showed that tonight. I backed out several times because I thought 'these guys are going to wreck,' and they did. For once, I was right. I've been here so many times, and I think my best finish is eighth, and had so much bad luck here so I think it was just our time to have some good luck."
The Clements family are a few of the good ole guys of the NASCAR Xfinity Series and have been here since 2003 when it was still the Busch Grand National Series. That journey has included missing a couple of years for a hand injury sustained in a crash that required 10 surgeries to correct.
All of this is even more remarkable when you consider that Clements is still just 37 and in the prime of his career.
How the family has kept racing when so many of their peers have either closed up shop or been forced to rent out their equipment to funded drivers is something that has earned the admiration of the rest of the garage.
Of course, engine builder (father) Tony Clements already had it, as did (grandfather) Crawford Clements who led AJ Foyt’s team to victory in the 1964 Firecracker 400.
Noah Gragson, laps after wrecking out while racing for the lead was amongst the first in Victory Lane to congratulate Clements, with several other drivers and crew members either joining him or sending countless texts or DMs.
The Clements are NASCAR racing personified and Jeremy hopes the victory and impending playoff appearance gets their No. 51 some extra funding or firepower to prove what they’re capable of when they’re not counting pennies.
"Hopefully Chevrolet can help get us what we need for the playoffs," Clements said.
The playoffs begin next month with a three-race round that includes Texas, the Charlotte Roval and Talladega.
"Wow, okay," Clements said. "I feel good about one of those tracks, but not Texas and Talladega. Like, just because we won here tonight does not mean anything about Talladega.
"We're just going to give it our all. We've got nothing to lose. From here on, after tonight, everything is a bonus. I'm just happy to be here with you guys drinking a Busch Light."
Clements was in disbelief crossing the line under caution as he was announced the winner. He still doesn't think anyone else will believe it upon waking up on Saturday morning too.
"Hell, I bet a bunch of people went to bed," Clements said. "They don't even know it. I bet they're going to wake up and see 'Jeremy Clements won. 'What the hell happened? Did everybody wreck?'
"I mean, seriously, it's going to be like, can you imagine? Like the front page of the sports paper in Spartanburg (South Carolina, hometown): Jeremy Clements won what? I can't believe it. Wow. Do I need to just shut up?"
Keep the party going.