Nemechek And Team Are Making A Small Comeback
By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
FORT WORTH – The story of SWM-NEMCO Motorsports goes well beyond Joe Nemechek’s third-place NASCAR Camping World Truck Series finish at Texas Motor Speedway last weekend.
But for a fledgling organization featuring “Front Row Joe,” teen-aged son John Hunter and a team-owner living-in-the-moment, that’s the perfect place to start.
“It’s really good to be back in the Media Center. It’s been a long time since I’ve been here,” a beaming Nemechek said after finishing behind winner Matt Crafton and runnerup Justin Lofton in last Friday night’s 18th annual WinStar World Casino & Resort 400. “This is really neat. You look at what our team is. I think we have seven or eight guys total on our whole team. We’re building everything and it’s a lot of work at the shop. We’ve built seven trucks so far this year and just trying to get performing better. The people that are really responsible are Sid and Dawna Mauldin from SWM.”
The Mauldins are proud residents of Pampa, the Texas Panhandle home to SWM International, Inc., a manufacturing facility specializing in the design and development of oil field completion tools including oil well perforating guns.
“It (the business) does well and I always wanted to get into NASCAR and was trying to figure out a way to slide in,” Sid Mauldin said pre-race in the garage area at TMS. “You know, I thought it’d be a little bit of a miracle that we got into it fully, but this gave us the opportunity. Now I’m (majority)-owner on the truck _ I furnish the money and they furnish the know-how. John Hunter and Joe have that ability. Poor Joe, he does all the work and I gave him five percent, just to aggravate him.”
Joe and John Hunter Nemechek are sharing the team’s basic black – as in, unsponsored – No. 8 Toyota Tundra this season. Prior to Joe’s third-place run on TMS’ high-banked, 1.5-mile quadoval, the team’s best finish had been John Hunter’s sixth-place result the previous weekend on Dover International
Speedway’s all-concrete “Monster Mile.” John Hunter, who turned 17 on Wednesday, is limited by the NASCAR rulebook to competing on tracks of 1.25-miles or less.
“This is a big shot in the arm, and I can tell my son I have a third-place finish now and he has a sixth,” said Joe Nemechek, 50. ”He’s been rubbing that in. So it’s all good.”
Joe Nemechek won the NASCAR Busch Grand National (now Nationwide) title and was voted the series’ Most Popular Driver in 1992 while driving a family-owned car. Joe made his Cup debut in another family-owned car at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 1993. As Joe’s competitive career winds down, John Hunter clearly is the future of this partnership.
“I’ve been racing for a long time, and it’s his turn to get going,” Joe said of his son. “It’s been really cool. I’ve been able to spend more time with my son and try to educate him. I know how hard it was for me starting and if someone new is coming in that doesn’t know this stuff _ he’s a helluva race car driver. I’ve got 30 years of racing experience I’m trying to pass onto him about all the tendencies of all these tracks.
“It takes time to do this especially with a team like ours. We’re still learning; we can’t get the trucks perfect yet and it’s double-hard. So to see him run good just makes me proud. I’ve been there. I want to win a race in the Truck Series this year; it’s the only thing I haven’t won in. You’ve still got to have a truck you can drive, that’s the bottom line. Doesn’t matter how good a race car driver you are, if your truck’s not right you’re not going to be at the front. We’re getting better. We’re building our notebook.
“Where’s he going to go in the future…John Hunter is one of the ‘next drivers,’ just like Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney. These kids are coming and you’ve got to have the technology to be able to move up to Nationwide and move up to Cup. And you’ve got to have the funds to be able to do it. I don’t know if that will ever happen here in my organization but we’re trying to give him the basics, give him as much quality seat-time as we can. The big thing is just be competitive, finish races, learn what you’ve got to do and go on. And who knows, maybe a Hendrick Motorsports or a Penske or somebody picks him up. And if he’s not here, our race program is still here and we’ll have other drivers coming through that we’re going to educate.”
Sid Mauldin said he met and began watching John Hunter race when he was 13, at a time when he had just begun sponsoring Joe’s Nationwide Series efforts.
“John Hunter was a little bitty tiny guy and such a well-mannered kid,” Mauldin said. “I said to myself, ‘This is my driver.’ That goes back to 2008 to 2010, somewhere in there…I just can’t remember. There’s been too many things happening to me here lately.”
Sid Mauldin, 59, is battling stomach cancer, a condition diagnosed in February 2013. He has been an in-and-out patient at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston since October, a typical stay lasting four days. Mauldin said a cancerous lesion that originally measured six centimeters has been reduced to below one centimeter.
“Basically, when I looked at the initial scans, my liver looked like a leopard skin coat,” Mauldin said. “The original provider was unable to adjust the treatments for me to make them work and we came to MD Anderson. They have me on an experimental treatment where they go in through my groin and they go up and instead of turning to go to the heart they turn and go to the liver. They’re spraying this drug right directly on my liver because the cancer spread to my liver, and they always said, ‘That’s what’s going to kill you.’ They’re spraying that on the cancer in my liver. A lady from Greece invented it (originally to treat pancreatic cancer) and she comes by and checks on me every once in a while.”
MD Anderson is one of only 41 comprehensive cancer centers designated by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). For 10 of the past 12 years, including 2013, MD Anderson has ranked No. 1 in cancer care in “Best Hospitals,” a survey published annually in U.S. News & World Report.
The word “Cancer” has a red line drawn through it on all printed materials referring to MD Anderson. At TMS, the hood of the No. 8 was billed as the MD Anderson Cancer Center/Smoke -N- Sear Toyota as an in-state tribute to Sid’s medical friends in Houston.
“It’s not really a sponsorship,” Joe Nemechek said. “It’s Sid saying ‘Thank you’ to MD Anderson and making people aware of his story and what he’s been through, and the technology and the science that is happening as far as the research.
“I know at one point he didn’t know if he was going to survive or not. He went down to MD Anderson and those folks have done wonders. All this stuff, I can’t say it’s stopped. But I know they’ve shrunk tumors and it’s going in the right direction. They have extended his life and that is an awesome, awesome thing. I’ve been able to learn about a lot of the things that happen down at MD Anderson and it’s just incredible, the technology coming along for fighting cancer.”
MD Anderson again will be featured on the truck’s hood when the series competes at Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Ill., outside St. Louis, this weekend following a three-year absence. The Drivin’ for Linemen 200 will be run Saturday night. Four hours of practice, in two sessions, are scheduled for Friday. Two laps of qualifying are scheduled for late Saturday afternoon, with the green flag set for 7:30 p.m. (EDT). The race will be shown live on FOX Sports 1 and also be broadcasted via the Motor Racing Network and on SIRIUS XM NASCAR Radio Channel 90.
The Mauldins, who launched their oil field repair business in 1979, purchased all of Red Bull Racing’s former NASCAR machine shop equipment “wall-to-wall“ when the team folded. That German-made multi-tasking CNC machinery and software, now located in the company’s 18,000 square-foot home base in Pampa, was purchased to produce equipment used in the oil field industry. However, the Mauldins also are producing suspension and frame parts for the NASCAR market on a limited basis.
“Beyond this year, we’ve got to get us some good sponsors,” Sid Mauldin said. “We’ve got everything else we need to an extent, we just need a good sponsor or two. We’d make them an excellent group to work with. John Hunter seems to be on it and Joe always is on it.
“As we get a regular sponsor we’ll put it on there (hood), and then we’ll come back to MD Anderson. We want people to know what they can do and what’s offered out there. There’s so many good things about it. I just can’t stop saying it and there’ll be more things coming.”
Sid and Dawna will celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary Friday. Having reached that milestone, Sid is confident he will be healthy enough to watch his team and John Hunter move up the NASCAR ladder under Joe’s tutelage.
“I think we’ve got a good chance,” said Mauldin, specifically referring to beating cancer. “I mean, there’s some publications that tell you what’s happening at MD Anderson and the group around there and if I’m correct, they’re building a heart from scratch. They’ve grown a heart, they’ve grown lungs. They’ve got this amino therapy out and it’s probably the thing that’s going to cure cancer, or bring cancer into a manageable state.
“So I have a funny feeling that I might actually _ unless something abnormal comes up and bites me _ I think I’ll be able to play for a while longer.”
– John Sturbin can be reached at email@example.com Comments