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Daniel Hemric gets out of his car after qualifying for the Southern Super Series race at Mobile International Speedway in Irvington, Ala., on June 22, 2013. (Mark Inabinett firstname.lastname@example.org)
Daniel Hemric's 2013 driving championships are like Russian nesting dolls: One fits inside another that fits inside another. Hemric won the Blizzard Series at Pensacola's Five Flags Speedway, which helped him win the super late model title of the Gulf Coast Championship Series, which helped him win the first championship of the Southern Super Series.
The Kannapolis, N.C., driver won Pensacola's super late model championship in the four-race Blizzard Series. He'd raced one time at Five Flags before this season, but outpointed Bubba Pollard of Senoia, Ga., 430-403 for the track title.
That went a long way toward securing the Gulf Coast championship for Hemric, 22, because the other part of the equation consisted of only two races. The Gulf Coast championship combines the results at Five Flags and to produce a unified champ, but rain claimed half of the planned Miller Lite Series at MIS in 2013. John Hunter Nemechek of Mooresville, N.C., outpointed Hemric for Mobile's track title, but Hemric won the Gulf Coast crown over Nemechek 625-610. Pollard, the two-time defending champion, finished third with 582 points.
"It's really impressive," Hemric said of his Gulf Coast title, "solely because of the people who have won the Gulf Coast championship with Pollard and Chase Elliott and the list goes on and on. It's crazy to put my name on the list with the people who have done it, and it really kind of establishes my name in the super late model ranks. A couple of years back, I would have never dreamed I would have been able to run at Pensacola and Mobile, let alone be able to win races there. It's been a dream come true, and the season's been awesome."
Hemric said the competition at the two tracks tests a driver like no other place in the super late model world.
"I really feel like if you look through the talent level and the competition every week down in the Deep South, it's higher, to me, than any other series across the country," Hemric said. "To go down there and run against Augie Grill and Bubba Pollard, the Nemecheks, the Garveys, everybody you run with from week to week, it's unreal to say you were able to run with those guys, compete for wins and actually go to Victory Lane on occasion. It's really big for anybody to say that. I'm just glad my team was able to do it."
The Blizzard and Miller Lite races were part of the Southern Super Series, a first-year racing circuit that also included races at Montgomery Motor Speedway, Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville and Gresham Motorsports Park. Hemric won two of the 13 Southern Super Series races - on at Five Flags and Mobile International - and took the series championship by one point over Pollard.
"It was huge for myself and the entire Carswell Motorsports team," Hemric said. "We embarked on the Southern Super Series, hopefully, just to be able to run up front week in and week out. After the first couple of trips down to Pensacola for the Blizzard Series, we thought we'd have a legitimate shot at pulling the championship off. With the last two races unfolding like they did, it was really just huge for myself."
The Southern Super Series season ended on Nov. 2 with the All American 400 at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville. Hemric started the race 53 points behind Pollard, but he said that wasn't what was foremost on his mind.
"Not until the very end did we think even one time about the points situation because it would be huge just to win the All American," Hemric said. "The way the cards unfolded, it put us in the perfect position for the championship."
A wreck on the 283rd lap took out Pollard, and he finished 20th. Hemric's second-place finish behind Elliott was enough to win the title with 1,372 points to Pollard's 1,371.
"It sounds really unreal because of how the dramatic finish went down in Nashville for the season finale," Hemric said of being the first Southern Super Series champion. "When Carswell Motorsports decided we wanted to run for the championship, your biggest focus in the first couple of races is just to make sure you can finish races and put yourself in contention. As the weeks went by, it kind of played out with me and Bubba at the end of the races. If he ran fourth, I ran fifth. If I ran second, he ran third. We were always right there together.
"It was unreal to get to race with him throughout the whole deal, and I was really happy we were able to pull it off in the dramatic fashion we did."
Hemric drove in two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races late in the season. He finished 32nd at Martinsville on Oct. 26 and 13rd at Phoenix in the No. 6 Jack's Link Beef Jerky/Valvoline Chevrolet of Sharp Gallaher Racing.
"It's been really big for myself and my family to be part of SGR," Hemric said. "I hated we had the luck we did at Martinsville. I appreciated the opportunity to go to Phoenix after that, and it was unreal for my family to be able to sit down at home and watch me on TV. I'm just happy to be in the dream, and I'm trying to let everybody across America, kids especially in unfortunate situations, know that you can do it."
Hemric spent the weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where NASCAR held its season finale.
"I'm working on it and seeing where it's going to go," Hemric said of the 2014 racing season. "I'm down in Homestead this weekend trying to walk around and talk to people and get everything lined up. Hopefully, if everything goes well, we can race on TV some more next year."
Hemric's next race, though, will be back at Five Flags Speedway. He's entered in the Dec. 8 Snowball Derby.
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