BRISTOL, Tenn. — Daniel Hemric had himself a day on Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway. It began with Kaulig Racing announcing his promotion to the Cup Series to pilot the No. 31 Chevrolet for the 2024 season.
While that future news was exciting, reality set in moments later. Hemric’s task at hand was to maximize his night in the Xfinity Series playoff opener at Bristol.
That didn’t look pretty early. Hemric dropped almost immediately from his fifth starting position to outside the top 10. He ended the opening stage in 12th, missing out on valuable stage points.
During he second stage, Hemric avoided the early chaos and was among the nine lead-lap cars to pit on a caution for Joe Graf Jr. spinning on lap 147. That gave the No. 10 Chevrolet the fresh tires it needed to make a late charge to seventh place, running just ahead of the JR Motorsports trio of Josh Berry, Sam Mayer and Brandon Jones when they were collected in each other’s mess to end the stage.
Hemric scored four stage points — and track position to start the final stage.
“We were struggling for the first three-quarters of the race,” Hemric said after the race. “Got off sequence, pitted early and got track position at the end of Stage 2. Then it went sideways again with an over-adjustment and didn‘t get a chance to come down pit road and ultimately ended up helping me get to the top and try to keep the conveyer running.”
Hemric was able to hold off the likes of Cole Custer, John Hunter Nemechek and Dale Earnhardt Jr. running the top. His only problem became Justin Allgaier, who pitted as the race leader with more than 50 laps remaining in the race. Allgaier mowed through the field and caught Hemric for the lead.
The two battled side-by-side for a handful of laps. Finally, Allgaier prevailed with 13 laps remaining, checking out to a lead of 1.7 seconds. Hemric finished second for the 13th time in his career.
“When we took off there, I didn‘t think I stood a chance to ever clear up for the lead,” Hemric said. “When I got to the lead and [Allgaier] came and got side-by-side, I thought he‘s going to roll the bottom and get right by me. I got enough momentum going and got back into my rhythm and found a little bit more.
“The next thing I know, we start clicking the laps off and thought if maybe I could hold him off until we get to that last little three of four car pack, maybe we could keep him honest down to the checkered flag.
“It was too much to overcome. I wanted it so bad, so frustrated to finish second. But as a group, we overachieved when it came down to it.”
Despite another runner-up finish, Hemric avoided the carnage that some of his playoff competitors didn’t. He entered the race as the No. 11 seed, five points below the elimination line. Following 300 laps in Thunder Valley, Hemric jumped five positions on the playoff grid to sixth, 12 points to the good.
“It‘s just what the playoffs are about,” Hemric said of his positioning. “It takes grit, it takes heart and this race team has a lot of all of that.”
The series heads to Texas Motor Speedway where Hemric has three top-five finishes in eight starts.