March 25, 2014 — Audio and story by Jacob Seelman for Speed77 Radio and Race Chaser Online — photo courtesy Kenny Nemire — TOLEDO, OH — Austin Nemire knew from the beginning he was going to end up behind the wheel of a race car at some point.
It wasn’t a question.
His great-grandfather was a racer back in the mid-1900s. His grandfather Jerry campaigned in the USAC ranks as early as 1981, competing in the Silver Crown and National Midget series for more than two decades, and began his career in the All-Star Super Sprint Series back in 1979. He competed in the ARCA Racing Series in 2003 and scored two top ten finishes in an Indy car under USAC sanction in the early 1980s, showcasing versatility and skill that young Austin not only heard stories about, but saw some of as he was growing up.
So it was only natural that in 2005, a then-five-year-old Nemire looked at his dad and grandfather and said, “I want to race.”
“It might not have been quite as simple as that, but I tried to make it that way,” Nemire grinned as he recalled the earliest moments of his career. “I grew up going to the racetrack, watching my granddad race and going to the race track a lot of weekends. And I wanted to be a part of that, and I started realizing I wanted to be behind the wheel. I wanted to feel that rush, that speed, and I wanted to compete.”
Now 14, Nemire is looking to build his open wheel career in much the same way that his grandfather did three decades ago. The young man will compete this season for the team that has helped to launch his budding career over the past two years, Hemelgarn Enterprises, led by 1996 Indianapolis 500 champion Ron Hemelgarn.
Nemire says that working with the Hemelgarn race team has taught him a great deal over the past couple of seasons about the foundation he needs to build in order to move through the ranks and what it takes to succeed in the sport.
“Working with Ron definitely gives us credibility; even though I’m only fourteen, people are looking at us as someone to watch,” Nemire said during a recent interview with Race Chaser Online. “He may not be able to be at the track every weekend we race, but every time he is, he always finds something that he can take and say ‘Try this’, so that I can get a different perspective on what it takes at a certain racetrack.”
“It’s special for us too to fly Ron’s traditional colors, but my Grandpa was thrilled when he realized that Ron’s 91 turned upside down is his 16. It made him feel good to know that even though we’re in the purple and yellow Hemelgarn 91 we still have a link to the Sweet 16 that he ran back when he was competing regularly.”
Nemire competed in quarter midgets for six years at the onset of his career and stormed through the ranks, both on a regional level and at his home venue, the Lucas County Recreation Center in Maumee, Ohio. Nemire scored more than one hundred feature victories in the USAC quarter midgets and eight championships in a variety of classes throughout the division.
After conquering the little cars, Nemire was ready to advance, and did so in 2012, moving up to the USAC HPD Ignite Midget Series (formerly the Focus Midget class) under the direction of Hemelgarn Enterprises. The last two seasons have not been exactly what Nemire had hoped so far as the numbers show, but the Ohio native is confident that the results are coming.
Nemire finished third in both the dirt and asphalt divisions of the Midwest HPD Midget points standings in 2013 despite not winning a race, and watched fellow young guns Cooper Clouse and Gage Walker go home with the big hardware.
If anything, that inspired the young man even more.
“I’m more excited for 2014 I think than any season yet,” Nemire expressed as he begins gearing up for the start of his season, which gets underway on Friday, April 4th at the Montpelier Motor Speedway in Indiana. “I feel like with everything we’ve gone through over the past couple of seasons and everything I’ve learned, we have a good shot to contend for wins and championships this season. We met our goals last year, finishing third in the points in both divisions, but my goal this year is a championship. I feel like we can achieve that.”
“More than anything though, I want to win,” Nemire added. “We came so close last year, racked up so many podiums, but didn’t get that ‘W’, I’m overly ready for that. This team is ready for that.”
In addition to his HPD Midget schedule, Nemire will contest races in a full-size midget at Montpelier, where he looks to gain the experience in the high-powered car before potentially making a run at USAC Rookie of the Year honors when he turns 16. While it isn’t determined yet whether the young man will run for track rookie honors at Montpelier, Nemire says he is excited about the chance to continue moving up the ladder.
“Montpelier is going to be a challenge, especially because it’s our first race of the season, but the Hemelgarn team has always put some great equipment underneath me, and we just finished a brand new full-size dirt midget for this season, so I know we’re putting the best effort possible at going after results this year. I’m truly excited about all that’s in store for this year.”
Nemire is not a stranger to strong runs in a full-size midget, however, becoming the youngest driver ever to qualify for the “Rumble in Fort Wayne” annual indoor midget championships this past December in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and scoring a top ten finish in his first-ever appearance at the indoor bullring, racing against drivers who were two and sometimes three times his age.
Did that bother him?
“Not a bit,” Nemire answered without hesitation. “To me, when we got out on track in Fort Wayne, everybody was just another driver. Even Cooper (Clouse, whose record for youngest starter Nemire eclipsed), and you know, guys like (Mike) Fedorcak who have raced here for years and years, it doesn’t matter. Behind those helmets, they’re just competitors. I try to block all the rest of it out of my mind as much as possible.”
“I was proud of how we ran at the Rumble, running in the top five pretty much the entire race, and winning our heat the first night. That was big, right there. And then to add a second place heat finish the second night, even though we had mechanical troubles that kept us from starting the main, we knew we had a fast car and that was a big confidence boost.”
With everything on his plate for 2014, Nemire will look to advance his career on the track while balancing his studies off-track at Sylvania Northview High School, where he is a high school freshman. But if you think it’s going to be a struggle, think again.
This kind of lifestyle is in his blood.
Listen in as we sat down with Austin Nemire to talk about his 2014 season plans, outlook and family history in the open wheel motorsports world: