By David FerroniNovember 13, 2006
PHOENIX (Army News Service, Nov. 13, 2006) - It was another top-20 finish for Army driver Joe Nemechek, who posted a 19th place finish in yesterday's Checker Auto Parts 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.
But the top-20 streak, now at six straight, didn't offer any comfort to Nemechek.
While finally feeling comfortable with his No. 01 Principal Financial Group Chevrolet and running in 15th place with fewer than 40 laps remaining, Nemechek's day took a turn for the worst. His right-front fender was clipped in a multi-car melee on the one-mile oval.
At first, the slight fender damage didn't appear to be significant enough to make an unscheduled pit stop for repairs. But after consulting with Nemechek and the team's spotter, Clayt Spruell, who was perched at the top of the grandstand with binoculars, crew chief Ryan Pemberton made the call to come into the pits for repairs and a set of fresh tires.
"It was one of those safe or sorry calls; we just didn't know if we were 100 percent OK from the hit," explained Nemechek. "It turned out that it was a good call, the fender was knocked in enough that it would have eventually been an issue with our performance."
By making the pit stop, Nemechek lost 10 spots in track position, dropping from 15th to 25th place.
"I felt if we didn't have the damage, we would have had a shot at a top-10," said Nemechek. "The Principal Financial Chevy was moving forward just before the incident. But when you lose 10 spots, it's hard to make up those positions with not too many laps remaining."
Nemechek's top-20 streak started in Talladega in October. During this six race stretch his finishing average has been 15th.
Nemechek will be looking to extend that streak at this Sunday's final race of the year, the Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.