FOX Sports analyst Vince Welch dropped some news during the Truck Series race when he commented that Eric Phillips would not return as John Hunter Nemechek‘s crew chief in 2023. This obviously created questions for the winner of the Kansas race, and he responded with some emotional comments.
Nemechek met with media members on September 9 after a dominant win at Kansas Speedway. He explained that Phillips has been like a second father figure to him during his career and that he has received a considerable amount of advice over the years.
“He’s been a tremendous help to me, my career, growing up,” Nemechek said during his post-race availability. “I mean, he was changing my diapers when I was first born. My uncle John, who I was named after, actually gave Eric his first job in NASCAR, so there is a lot to that.
“There’s a lot to the family aspect, but I’ve always been close to Eric. I didn’t know if he would come off the road on the Cup side with the position he was in, being Denny [Hamlin]’s car chief and working under Chris Gabehart. He was in a really good spot. Luckily enough, he decided to come off of that and come back truck racing with me.”
Nemechek Wants To Deliver a Big Trophy for Phillips
Phillips has worked with a variety of drivers in the Truck Series, and he has helped them achieve a considerable amount of success. This includes 44 trips to Victory Lane in 271 races along with 99 total top-five finishes. One particular season, 2010, featured Kyle Busch and Phillips combining to win eight races in 16 starts.
While Phillips has achieved success as a Truck Series crew chief, he still remains without a key trophy. He hasn’t celebrated a driver’s championship during his career. This is a streak that Nemechek plans to break during the 2022 season.
“To continue to add wins, currently, to the most winningest record with him is pretty freaking special,” Nemechek continued. “I think that being able to do this with him… he doesn’t have a driver’s championship, so we definitely want to get that for him, and I want my first one to be with him.”
Nemechek Has Put Himself Back in Championship Contention
The trip to Kansas Speedway continues a strong partnership between Nemechek and Phillips. The two men have celebrated seven total wins, including five during the 2021 season. Though this first year together ultimately ended with them falling short of their ultimate goal.
The No. 4 Kyle Busch Motorsports team reached the championship four during the 2021 season but dealt with major issues early in the championship race at Phoenix Raceway. Nemechek started 16th but fell back in the pack after moving up the track. Kris Wright then collided with the side of his No. 4, causing damage that would eventually cut both tires on the left side.
Nemechek fell multiple laps down early in the race, and he spent much of the remaining time trying to get back into contention. He was able to get back on the lead lap and work his way into the top-10 after passing Crafton. Though Nemechek was unable to track down Ben Rhodes and Zane Smith, who finished first and second in the championship standings, respectively.
With the win at Kansas, Nemechek is back in contention for a spot in the championship four. He is well above the cutline with three pivotal races remaining in the Round of Eight, and he should have a solid opportunity to get back to the finale and fight for the driver’s championship.