NASCAR: The record under threat as 2021 season begins

Joe Nemechek, NASCAR (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)
Joe Nemechek, NASCAR (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images) /

Joe Nemechek is currently NASCAR’s all-time most experienced driver, but that record will be under threat early on in the 2021 season.

Joe Nemechek broke seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Richard Petty’s all-time starts record in the 2019 Truck Series season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway with his 1,186th career start across the three national series. All of Petty’s 1,185 starts came in the Cup Series.

Since then, Nemechek has competed in 11 races, including both the 2019 Xfinity Series and Cup Series season finales, as well as eight Xfinity Series races and one Truck Series races throughout the 2020 season.

Entering the 2021 season, he has made 1,197 starts (674 Cup Series, 453 Xfinity Series and 70 Truck Series) across these three series over the last 32 years.

But despite the fact that he hasn’t missed a season since 1988, which was before he had even made his debut, his record is under threat entering the 2021 season.

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Kevin Harvick, who is signed to drive the #4 Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cup Series team through the 2023 season, has been a full-time driver since replacing Dale Earnhardt following his fatal last-lap crash in the 2001 Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.

He has only missed one Cup Series race since then, all while also competing in hundreds of Xfinity Series and Truck Series races. He is set to enter the 2021 season having competed in 718 Cup Series races, 346 Xfinity Series races and 123 Truck Series races, giving him a total of 1,187 starts throughout his career.

This mark ranks second all-time and sits just 10 starts shy of Nemechek’s record.

With Harvick set to compete full-time again in 2021 and Nemechek’s plans for the upcoming season unknown, aside from the fact that he could compete in select races for Mike Harmon Racing’s Xfinity Series team, the 57-year-old Naples, Florida native could very well see his streak atop the all-time NASCAR starts list come to an end after just over one full season.

Nemechek did attempt to compete in the Truck Series season opener at Daytona International Speedway for NEMCO Motorsports yesterday, but he failed to qualify.

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When Harvick breaks this record will depend on the races in which Nemechek competes throughout the 2021 season. If Nemechek competes in quite a few races, it could be later in the year. In fact, if he competes in 30 races like he did in 2019, Harvick may not be able to quite break the record this year. But if he doesn’t compete in any, Harvick could break it rather quickly.