NASCAR: Why the pressure will be on one particular driver in 2021

Daniel Hemric is set to be back in NASCAR full-time next year, and in a car more than capable of winning at Joe Gibbs Racing’s Xfinity Series team.

Following a season of part-time competition with the JR Motorsports NASCAR Xfinity Series season, Daniel Hemric is set to compete full-time at NASCAR’s second highest level of competition in 2021, it was announced last week.

Hemric is set to replace Riley Herbst behind the wheel of the #18 Toyota at Joe Gibbs Racing next year, marking his first full-time ride since he drove for Richard Childress Racing in the 2019 Cup Series season.

The 29-year-old Kannapolis, North Carolina native will be expected to win early and often, given the fact that the team’s two other drivers, Brandon Jones and Harrison Burton, combined to win seven races in 2020 and the fact that Christopher Bell won a combined 15 races for the team in 2018 and 2019.

Unfortunately for Hemric, he has yet to prove he can win in NASCAR on any level, and at 29 years old, he is running out of time for more competitive opportunities.

It’s not like he hasn’t been competitive, however, and it’s not like he hasn’t competed for teams absolutely capable of winning. He has been in position to win; he simply hasn’t managed to do it yet.

In the 2015 Truck Series season, he competed for NTS Motorsports behind the wheel of the #14 Chevrolet and recorded four top five finishes and 14 top 10 finishes in 23 races en route to a solid seventh place finish in the championship standings. But he didn’t win. In the 2016 Truck Series season, he was even better. He competed for Brad Keselowski Racing behind the wheel of the #19 Ford and recorded 11 top five finishes, including nine top three finishes, and 17 top 10 finishes in 23 races en route to a sixth place finish in the championship standings.

But again, he didn’t win, and that cost him a chance to compete in the series’ inaugural Championship 4. In the non-playoff standings, he would’ve finished in third place in points.

In the 2017 and 2018 Xfinity Series seasons, he competed for Richard Childress Racing, and he qualified for the Championship 4 in both years.

He didn’t win in either year.

In 2017, he recorded seven top five finishes and 16 top 10 finishes in 33 races en route to a fourth place finish in the championship standings. In 2018, he recorded 16 top five finishes, including 12 top three finishes, and 23 top 10 finishes in 33 races en route to a third place finish in the championship standings.

His solid performance landed him a Cup Series ride with Richard Childress Racing, but he lost that ride after only one winless year.

While he won Rookie of the Year honors, he only secured one top five finish and one additional top 10 finish. He was solid in qualifying, even taking a pole position, but his average finishing position was 4.4 spots lower than his average starting position, third worst among full-time drivers, and he lost his ride to 2019 Xfinity Series champion Tyler Reddick.

In 2020, he returned to the Xfinity Series in a part-time capacity with JR Motorsports. He competed in 21 of the 33 races on the schedule and recorded 12 top 10 finishes in the 14 races he actually finished, including seven top five finishes.

Once again, he did not win.

Hemric has now competed in 175 races across NASCAR’s three national series over the last eight years, many of which with top-tier organizations. Despite recording 46 top five finishes, including 27 top three finishes and nine runner-up results, and an additional 37 top 10 finishes, he has yet to win.

While you could make the case for him as the greatest non-winner to ever compete among NASCAR’s top three levels, the flip side to that is the fact that the 2021 season absolutely needs to be his year.

Fortunately, he had no problem challenging for a championship in his first two full Xfinity Series seasons despite not winning, but he needs to take that next step next year and actually win en route to doing so.

In fact, not just contending for but winning the title is a reasonable goal.

Joe Gibbs Racing had absolutely no problem getting rid of Herbst after his rookie season with the team, and he is only a 21-year-old. In fact, it was pretty much expected after he finished in 12th place in the championship standings with no wins.

It’s hard to see them not doing the same thing with the soon-to-be tricenarian Hemric if he doesn’t perform. Should that happen, it’s hard to see him getting another chance as good as this one.

Daytona International Speedway is scheduled to host the 2021 NASCAR Xfinity Series season opener, the NASCAR Racing Experience 300, on Saturday, February 13.