Daniel Hemric was the fastest qualifier for Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) playoff race at Kansas Speedway with a quick lap around the 1.5-mile tri-oval of 178.047 mph in 30.329 aboard his No. 8 Caterpillar Camaro ZL1. He was the only driver in the 40-car field to surpass the speed of 178 mph, and it marked the first MENCS career pole win for Hemric.
The feat was also the 15th pole for the Camaro ZL1 thus far in the 2019 season, the 11th pole for Chevrolet at Kansas Speedway, and 714th for the manufacturer in NASCAR’s premier series.
Kyle Larson, who recently won at Dover, was 5th quick in his No. 42 Credit One Bank Camaro ZL1. Hemric’s Richard Childress Racing teammate, Austin Dillon, was the 9th fastest in today’s qualifying session in his No. 3 Roland Camaro ZL1. Bubba Wallace put his No. 43 Victory Junction Camaro ZL1 in 10th place in the order to give Team Chevy four of the Top 10 qualifiers.
David Ragan (Ford) was second, and will start alongside Hemric on the front row tomorrow; while Ryan Blaney (Ford) and Brad Keselowski (Ford) qualified third and fourth, respectively, to round out the Top 5.
DANIEL HEMRIC, NO. 8 CATERPILLAR CAMARO ZL1, PRESS CONFERENCE HIGHLIGHTS:BASED ON PRACTICE SPEEDS AND BEFORE YOU CLIMBED IN THE CAR, HOW CONFIDENT WERE YOU TO SIT ON THE POLE TODAY?“I should know better not to count out the guys on this Caterpillar Camaro ZL1 team. I’ve been on the good qualifying side of things with a couple of top-five qualifying efforts this year. Our teammate has knocked a couple of them out of the park with Austin Dillon and his group. We’ve always knew we can qualify up near the front and have cars that are really fast by themselves. We wanted to at least get one of these poles before the season wrapped up. When I got out of the car, I wasn’t aware of what happened with the No. 4 car with inspection and all that stuff. I felt like he was the guy that was going to be the top pole threat. I thought we would end up between 5th and 8th. That’s what I told my guys when I got out of the car, so I wasn’t too pumped up about the lap I ran. As every car went by, I felt like our odds continued to increase. We got down to five or six and I looked at who was left to run, and I began to feel better and better about it. It is just a pole award, but it’s a bigger moment for this race team. To do something good together, have something to say that we accomplished together. I was thinking about it when I was getting the pedal car a minute ago, I sat on the pole here in the Xfinity race last year. So, it’s good to get a little stock of pedal cars at the house now. I’m just really proud of this group for continuing to come to the race track and work hard every week, and give me an opportunity to go out there and have fast race cars. We look forward to have it hopefully as good in the race.”
HOW HAS WINNING THE POLE CHANGED YOUR OUTLOOK ON TOMORROW?“It doesn’t really change the outlook. I say that, but when we qualified fairly decent throughout this year, we’ve always been in traffic. Now, we have the opportunity with a clean start tomorrow to control the air and be the guy out in clean air. If we can do that, I feel fairly good about what we can do with a clean race track. If not, we’ll try to battle what we’re faced with tomorrow. It definitely changes the confidence level as we go down into turn one.”
HOW MUCH IS THIS A CONFIDENCE BOOSTER FOR YOU THROUGH AN UP AND DOWN SEASON?“I wouldn’t say I’ve lost confidence, it’s just cool to get a checkmark off for this race team. Myself being a small part of it, it’s good to get that. Through all this stuff, I feel like my confidence hasn’t really waivered one way or the other. In the mix of everything that’s going on right now, from a personal side to the racing side in trying to align all that stuff and position yourself for the future, this definitely doesn’t hurt all that.”
WITH ALL THE ATTENTION ON THE PLAYOFF DRIVERS, DOES IT FEEL GOOD TO SNEAK IN THERE AND GRAB SOMETHING FOR YOURSELF?“That’s a good point. There’s no better way to get talked about than to go out and outperform those guys. That’s why I’m proud of this No. 8 team for allowing us to do that. I have to leave pit road and get up to speed good and try to make the shortest distance I can, but if the race car won’t do it, then it won’t do it. So, those guys deserve all the credit for this pole. To know that we are able to take some focus off those guys and have some attention on us, man these guys have busted their tails every single week since we said we were going to do this deal together and it’s good to see them get some recognition.”
WITH EVERYTHING IN THE UNCERTAINTY FOR 2020, HAVE YOU PUT ANY ADDED PRESSURE ON YOURSELF FOR THE REST OF THE SEASON?“Not at all. I’ve always said that if you lay your head down at night and know you couldn’t have done anything different or second guess anything you’ve done, you’ve done all you can do. Through everything, the mistakes I’ve made, the mistakes we’ve made as a team, through all that stuff this year; I know we’ve all given 110 percent in effort. That’s all you can ask for when you’re in this position. It hasn’t really changed any of my outlook or where I feel like I’m at throughout the season. We just go out there and achieve the goals we’ve set before us. This was one of them. I didn’t necessarily think it was going to come here at Kansas, but it did and hopefully we can continue to mark one of those off in the coming weeks.”
WE’VE HEARD A LOT OF DRIVERS SAY IF YOU QUALIFY GOOD, YOU PROBABLY WON’T RACE GOOD. YOU’VE MENTIONED YOUR CAR DIDN’T REALLY SEEM TO CHANGE MUCH IN PRACTICE. WHAT IS YOUR OUTLOOK FOR TOMORROW? HOW GOOD IS YOUR CAR FIRING OFF? IT SEEMS LIKE RESTARTS HAVE BEEN KEY LATELY.“I told my crew chief when I got out of practice yesterday, no matter what we did, my car felt really good firing off. Being in the position we are with clean air and whatnot, I think it will be huge for tomorrow. I do believe a lot of the guys’ thought process is if you qualify good, you’re not going to race good. But I feel like a lot of the Stewart Haas guys, especially the 4 team, has kind of been on their own island in being able to do it and do it effectively over the last couple of weeks. It can be done. I’m not going to lie to you, I’ve been on the other side pushing for a slower, single car race car and give me the drivability. But when you get to the race track, you’re committed. I’m not hands on, I’m not building the bodies. There are a lot of smarter people way above me that are making those decisions. When it gets here, it’s our goal as the 8 group to make the most out of what we got. It just so happened that it’s a fast race car and that’s what we have to deal with this week. We’re going to try to make it drive the best that it can in traffic. But nobody’s car drives better than the guy that has clean air and hopefully we can continue to maintain that tomorrow after the start of the race.”
WOULD YOU SAY THAT KANSAS SPEEDWAY IS THE BEST TRACK YOU CAN PERFORM AT?“I wouldn’t say that, but after we left here last fall, I felt really confident in what I wanted and what I needed. It’s such a totally different race car from the Xfinity car. We have a different left side tire this week. A lot of differences allow me to tell you yes, but I do think there are certain things that you look for your car to do really well here. We got my race car here this weekend to do some of that stuff. Hopefully, with having clean air here tomorrow like we didn’t have when I was putting myself in dirty air situations yesterday, will pay off and allow me to continue to perform here. We’re just trying to not get too far ahead of ourselves. We have a long race for us tomorrow and hopefully it leads to us having a solid day.”
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