It has been said that working hard is not necessarily to key to success. Instead, some argue that working smart is actually the way to go when one wants to come out on top. Jeremy Clements Racing is actually trying to work both harder and smarter within the cozy confines of their Spartanburg, SC shop in order to keep pace with the powerful opponents they go up against on a regular basis.
In 2017 driver Jeremy Clements pulled off one of the biggest upsets in recent NASCAR history when he and his single-car team that has no affiliation with any of the powerful Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series organizations won a NASCAR Xfinity Series event at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. It was the driver’s first victory in 256 starts on that series.
The work ethic and ingenuity that led to that unexpected triumph is exhibited on a daily basis by Tony Clements, father of Jeremy, who along with his brother Glen are known for producing some to the top power plants in the Dirt Late Model racing business from their Clements Racing Engines shop located alongside the JCR facility. The elder Clements has known nothing but working hard and smart for the 44 years he has headed his engine building enterprise.
While it may seem as if working on cars for the NASCAR Xfinity Series and Dirt Late Model engines are almost like working in two different worlds, Tony Clements explains that there are also significant similarities in the two.
“It’s not necessarily harder or easier either way,” the 62-year-old engine builder said in an interview with InsideDirtRacing.com. “It’s still basically the same competitiveness that drives you but on that level over there you’re racing against so much money and so many people and so many resources that these big companies have. They have several teams and they’re all tied together and they’ve got a lot of engineers and you’re just working against a really tough situation that you can’t fix just by giving it all the effort because you have to have a lot of resources and those resources cost money.”
Clements says that efficiency is the key to the effort that keeps his son on the track against those powerful teams. Allocating money in the wrong places could lead to a disastrous ending in a short amount of time. However, the father says that the financial risk he has taken over the past seven years at the Xfinity Series level has been one well worth taking.
From his karting days that began at age seven when his grandfather Crawford Clements first put him on the track up through the time he raced in full bodied cars on dirt, Jeremy Clements has been a winner. And Tony Clements believed his prodigy earned the opportunity he has been provided.
“You can easily spend yourself right out of a program and go broke and have to quit,” Clements pointed out. “We’ve tried to pay attention to keeping ourselves in that mode that we can only spend so much to survive. I guess I’ve put Jeremy out there myself as much as I have because he deserved a chance. With the way the market and the racing has developed, it’s a whole lot about whoever has the big checks is going to get the best rides. It’s not like the days when people got in a good ride or got a good car because they showed they had so much talent. It’s all about money nowadays.”
But like any endeavor that calls for a father and son to work together, there are sometimes challenges in the highly competitive and pressure filled world of racing. In particular, those in-the-heat-of-the-moment conversations that take place over the team radio can be tough. Clements says that he has devised a way to communicate with his son through crew chief Danny Gill and spotters Brandon Benesch and Chad Sims when there is the potential for things to get heated.
“Oh my goodness, for sure,” Clements answered when asked he has to measure his words when talking to Jeremy during a race. “I basically end up telling the crew chief or the spotter what I want to say to Jeremy and then let them convey it. It seems like he accepts that criticism, or whatever you want to call it, better from those guys because he respects them. I know he respects me too, but I’m still his father. I try to work that way and keep it in check.”
For the Clements family, all of that hard work and smart work paid off last August when the No. 51 Chevrolet pulled into victory lane at Road America. And it proved Tony Clements had been right to believe in his son’s abilities.
“Oh my gosh,” Clements beamed as he remembered Jeremy’s win. “That was a blessing. I had told these guys back at the shop for years that if we just ever give him a chance, he’ll win a race. If we could just put him in a good car and not mess up the pits or not have a problem some place. If we could just give him a chance and give him a fast car, he’ll beat them. It all came to light right there. It was awesome. He drove that whole race just perfect and we didn’t screw it up.”