PENSACOLA, Fla. — official release — Scott Neal photo —
When conversations begin about short track racers who deserve a shot at the next level, the name Daniel Hemric is one of the first names brought up in discussions.
Hemric of Kannapolis, North Carolina has sprinkled in three NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts over the course of the past two seasons while competing in the Super Late Model ranks. Despite his success, he’s yet to get the opportunity every race car driver dreams of competing regularly in one of NASCAR’s top-three series.
The 23-year-old who has earned the nickname “Hotshoe” knows that a win in the 47th Annual Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida could be the addition to his resume that leads to that opportunity. But that’s not the biggest reason why Hemric wants to be holding the Tom Dawson trophy on December 7.
“A Derby win definitely wouldn’t hurt me I don’t think,” Hemric said with a laugh. “It would definitely be huge for my career, but the biggest thing would be just winning it for everybody that has helped me throughout my career. Just being able to accomplish something like that for them would be unbelievable.”
In two previous Snowball Derby starts, Hemric has shown the speed to contend for wins but hasn’t had luck on his side. He was involved in an accident on lap 125 in his first Derby start in 2012 and led 13 laps in last year’s running of the event before mechanical problems (suspension) relegated him to a 20th-place finish.
This time around the driver of the No. 98 Carswell Motorsports machine believes he and his team have things figured out so that they can be in contention in the closing laps. According to Hemric, that’s all you can ask for in a race as big as the Snowball Derby.
“The biggest thing different from years past is that we’ve figured out, or I feel like we’ve figured out, these long distance races a lot better this year,” said Hemric, who picked up the win earlier this year in the prestigious Redbud 300 at Anderson Speedway (IN). “We’ve been able to run a lot more of them. We’ve really figured out how to put ourselves in position come lap 300 or 400 or whatever it may be.
“I feel like as a team at Carswell Motorsports that everybody has gotten better at setting ourselves up for the long run and how the race is going to unfold. In the past I feel like I lacked a little bit of experience knowing what I needed to make the car last and be there at the end, but I feel like as a whole we’re a lot better at that going into this year’s Derby.”
Hemric enters this year’s Snowball Derby as a two-time Southern Super Series winner in 2014. He also picked up four Pro All Stars Series (PASS) South wins in five races this season. His biggest win of them all, however, may have been his SSS win at Five Flags Speedway in late July.
Although the win at Five Flags gives Hemric the confidence that he can run well at the track, he understands that the race is coined as “the race like no other” for a reason.
“I think it’s just how big everybody makes it,” Hemric said when asked about the difference between the Snowball Derby and any other short track race in the country. “It is the substantial event for short track racing in general. To have the list of winners and people that have accomplished winning the Snowball Derby over their careers, all of that stuff adds so much hype going into the race.
“The emotional side of it, for me, is what is way more different than anything else. It’s easy to put a lot of pressure on yourself, but really going for it this year I feel at ease, I feel real calm and I’m really excited to get there.”
Like he has been throughout his entire racing career, Hemric is extremely grateful to have the opportunity to compete in a race as prestigious as the Snowball Derby. He’s hoping a great finish in the race may lead to future opportunities, but for now he’s just thankful to be in the position he’s in.
“I’m just excited to have another chance at it with Carswell Motorsports,” Hemric said. “I just want to do it for myself more than anything. I really feel like we’ve been so close, it’s just that little bit that we need. Hopefully this year we’ve got it.”