By Brody Jones
The path Jeremy Clements has taken to the NASCAR series has been a long, hard road with many twists and turns, but through it all, Clements and his small family-operated team have managed to survive and even thrive in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, going up against teams with far greater resources than they have available to them. Clements started his career in the dirt track ranks, going from modified 4-cylinders to dirt late models. “It was a pretty huge transition to go from modified 4-cylinders to dirt late models.” recalled Clements. “Everything was different from the steering to triple the horsepower in the engine. It was fun, though. I won my first dirt late model race and it was a great learning experience for me.”. Back in 2003, Clements got his first taste of the Triple A level of NASCAR in a Busch Series race at Pike’s Peak. “We didn’t have a clue what we were getting into.” Clements said. “We had been running ARCA at the time and wanted to get into the Busch Series. We went to Pike’s Peak with a car we bought and we were so loose there, and in fact, we ended up wrecking early and it made me realize how tought it was at that level.”
But just as Clements career was starting to take off, a freak accident put his career on hold for over a year in 2004. As he recounted to me “That weekend it was like it was meant to be. That Friday night before, we had run at a 5/8 mile dirt track in Tennessee and Bill Elliott was there and it was so rough it knocked a hole in the oil tank. We got home about 6 AM and headed to the shop at Noon and everybody was really tired and the track was about 3 1/2 hours away. We washed the car and got ready to go. I didn’t want to go. I wanted to stay home and sit that one out, but my dad and I got into an argument over it and we wound up going. We got there in time to qualify and pretty much sucked. We were like 10th in the race and it was five laps to go and the torque broke off and made the drive shaft come up and get my hand. It’s got hoops in there, and it was a Barry Wright car, one of the best kind of cars you can get and it was a freak deal, like it was meant to happen. It’s funny how it all worked out and it was the same day my grandfather, Crawford Clements, died and it was kind of freaky to look back on that and think about it. Luckily, it was just a memory.” As a result, Clements had to undergo rehabilitation for his injured hand. “Oh, rehab was terrible and we went there for a year and honestly, the doctors told me I was never going to race again and I wanted to prove them wrong. When I first went to therapy, I couldn’t move nothing there and there was rods. I got really close to my therapist and we’re still friends to this day. he fixed me up. The problem with my hand was there’s so much stuff in your hand that makes it all work.”
A little over a year later, Jeremy made it back to the ARCA Series back in 2006. “I gained so much in experience in ARCA, it was a good series to race in.” Clements stated “We never could afford to run the full schedule, but when we were there, we were always a contender. In 2007, we ran up front a lot and won Nashville and should have won Pocono. But it was a great series and I learned a lot in it.” Speaking on the Pocono and Nashville races Clements said “I wanted to cry so bad after that Pocono race to run out of fuel in the final yards. We were a family run team and we got so close to winning and ran out of gas and Josh Wise and Michael McDowell passed me in the final yards. The very next week we went to Nashville and dominated the race and won it.”. In 2008, Clements went back to the Nationwide Series. “I loved running in ARCA but you couldn’t make any money running in that series and we basically had to give the Nationwide Series another try basically because it paid more.”
Clements’ family-backed operation has certainly seen its share of adversity over the years but despite everything, they keep pressing forward. “We have to build our own engines and get our own parts to save money, plus we can only run one set of sticker tires so it’s hard to be competitive at times without the backing of a major sponsor so we can get stuff like new tires and new equipment so we don’t have to run things until they’re junk.” Clements explained. At Gateway in 2010, that hard-work paid off as Clements got his first career Nationwide top 10. “Oh, that was such a good weekend for us.” said Clements. “We got that car from Childress and we knew if we could get it hooked up right, we’d have a heck of a car. We kept working on that car and working on it and that top 10 proved to me that I’m just as capable as anyone else in the Nationwide Series.”
Late last year, Jeremy got some sponsorship from RaceDaySponsor.com to help his team out. “Basically, RaceDaySponsor.com is a way for smaller businesses to get into the sport for a certain amount of money and it helps out the businesses by getting them some exposure annd it helps us out a little bit along the way.” said Clements. As far as his schedule for the rest of the year, Clements had this to say. “Right now, we’re just going to take things one race at a time and see how things go. We hope to run the full season, if we can.”. Jeremy has lofty, albeit realistic goals for the 2011 season as well. “We want to try to stay locked in the top 30 in owner points so we can be able to be locked in for every race and see if we can get more backing.”. So if you’re looking for a bit of an underdog to cheer for in the Nationwide Series, who would fit the role better than Jeremy Clements?