This is the second of two pieces based on an interview done with NASCAR Xfinity Series regular Jeremy Clements. This driver, himself a former dirt racer, comes from one of the most noteworthy engine building families in the sport of Dirt Late Model racing.
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The Clements family of Spartanburg, SC is one of the most noted clans in all of dirt racing. Their engines are used with great success in Dirt Late Model race cars all over the country. So it would seem logical that a young man growing up in such a family would himself become a racer. And that has indeed been the case for Jeremy Clements.
But one aspect of the young Clements’ racing career that might come as a surprise to some is that he currently applies his skills on the NASCAR Xfinity Series rather than in a Dirt Late Model. But the 32-year-old driver did in fact begin his racing career on dirt. And he believes that racing on clay surfaces is a great way for a young driver to prepare himself for a career in any form of the sport.
“It most certainly is,” Clements declared in an interview with InsideDirtRacing.com. “That’s all I ever did was dirt race until I raced my first ARCA race at Talladega. That was my first time on asphalt. Dirt racing taught me a lot about how to drive all sorts of different things as far as stuff like track conditions when it’s slick and how to feather the throttle. I feel like places like Bulls Gap, Crossville, and Atomic Motor Speedway helped me out with a place like Bristol, for example. When you have dry slick conditions it helps you out, when you go to these places where you’ve got to manage your tires and you have to keep all the drive in the car coming off the corner. All that stuff applies to both types of cars.”
That first ARCA race at Talladega came in 2002 when Clements was just 17-years-old. But he only raced sporadically on pavement for the next several years while at the same time gaining experience on dirt surfaces all over the southeast.
The top-3 series in NASCAR are limited to only one race on a dirt track, that being the Eldora Dirt Derby at the famed Eldora Speedway in Ohio for the the Camping World Truck Series. So would Clements like to see NASCAR expand its dirt racing presence for his own Xfinity Series?
“I’d love to see it,” Clements said. “I’d be on board for that. I wish we could do something like that. People ask me why I don’t race the trucks at Eldora. I’m like ‘If you want to pay for it, I gladly will’. I’ve talked to a couple of teams but you’ve got to pay $50,000 just to get a decent truck to do it. We can’t just do it ourselves because you have to buy licences and you’d have to buy a truck. It would cost a lot of money to do a one-off race like that. You’ve got to have sponsors. That’s what it all comes back to.”
Even though he could have had a somewhat easier path in dirt racing, Clements chose to give NASCAR a shot while he was still young. It’s a chance that he didn’t want to miss out on and have regrets over later in life.
Clements still loves dirt racing, but he stays away from dirt tracks nowadays for a reason.
“I miss it. I haven’t been to a dirt race in a while because I miss it so much that I don’t want to see it because I’d want to do it again. I keep up with it though. But if I went to one it would make me want it bad.”
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association
Respond to this piece on Twitter –> @RichardAllenIDR