Minter: ‘It Keeps Coming Back to Money’
It kind of slipped under the radar, but an honest-to-gosh good ‘ol NASCAR boy from Spartanburg, S.C., scored his first-ever top-10 in the Nationwide Series on Saturday in the final race at Gateway International Speedway.
Jeremy Clements, who comes from a long line of NASCAR racers, finished 10th in the No. 04 Boudreaux’s Butt Paste Chevy owned by his father and crew chiefed by Ricky Pearson, the son of David Pearson.
Clements’ father Tony is a long-time race engine builder, and Tony’s uncle Louis was the crew chief for Rex White back in 1960 when White won the championship in what is now the Sprint Cup Series.
Jeremy Clements, now 26, first showed his potential on the dirt tracks of the Southeast, where he won often but also suffered serious injury in 2004 when the driveshaft in his car came loose and beat his right hand so badly that doctors were challenged to save it.
He rebounded and scored an impressive ARCA win at Nashville Superspeedway in 2007, driving a car No. 3.
He’s also practiced and qualified a Nationwide car for Kyle Busch during stand-alone Nationwide races where Busch was tied up with his Cup duties elsewhere.
But so far, the big career break hasn’t come his way.
There’s a growing sentiment out there that one of the main things lacking in NASCAR these days are star drivers from the sport’s long-time Southeastern base. Clements and other young drivers like him could be the answer, but it’ll take a lot more backing than what he has now to make it happen.
On race weekends, a stop by Clements’ garage stall and a conversation with Ricky Pearson is always worth the price of admission, or more.
Pearson grew up knowing what it feels like to win, to be expected to win and to win often. It’s evident that the competitive fires still burn inside him, but now he has to use all of his skills and wits just to get his fellow Spartanburg native up to speed and qualified for races. The funding to do more just isn’t there.
So far this year, the team has made 14 races, failed to qualify for seven and didn’t attempt the rest. They’re no start-and-part outfit. When they show up, they come to race. And despite the shortcomings, he’s been better than a mid-pack driver. In spite of the four races he’s failed to finish, he still has an average finish of 25th.
Like any dad, Tony Clements, whose racing engines are among the most competitive on the short tracks of the Southeast, wants his son to have at least a sporting chance.
At Gateway, he dug deep into his wallet for a more experienced pit crew, but needed a lot more.
“They got all the wheels tight,” he said of the performance of the five he hired, which wasn’t saying a lot but was an improvement over the week before when a loose wheel ended a promising run at Charlotte.
But he’ll never really know well his son could have done at Gateway.
“We got tires from teams that didn’t make the race, so they all had laps on them,” Tony Clements said. “He never had any new tires the whole race.”
The team will continue racing when they can, but will skip Phoenix because of the cost of travel.
“It all keeps coming back to money,” Clements said.
– Rick Minter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments