South Carolina’s Jeremy Clements Captures Shocking Win At Road America; Enters Darlington Raceway With Playoff Berthby Hunter Thomas August 27, 2017
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – It took Spartanburg, South Carolina’s Jeremy Clements 256 races to finally win in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, and on Sunday in the Johnsonville 180 at Road America, he did so while piloting a car that was built in 2008.
Clements, who competes for his family-owned team on a shoestring budget, chased down Joe Gibbs Racing’s Matt Tifft in the closing laps of the Johnsonville 180 to challenge for the race lead. Driving the No. 51 RepairableVehicles.com Chevrolet, Clements dove underneath Tifft in Turn 14 with the white flag in sight; however, the 32-year-old South Carolinian lost control and spun, collecting Tifft. Both drivers were able to get their cars pointed in the right direction and continue, but it was Clements who had an enormous lead with just a lap to go.
“I got in there and got loose up under him (Matt Tifft) trying to keep off of him,” Clements said in Victory Lane. “I’m very sorry to Matt. I definitely didn’t mean to wreck him, but I definitely had the better car in my opinion, but hats off to those guys. That’s a Gibbs team, that’s the best. To be faster than them was pretty dang cool!”
In the end, Clements took the checkered flag and pulled off the upset. Finishing behind him was Michael Annett, Matt Tifft, Justin Marks and Brendan Gaughan. Clements only led 10 laps throughout the afternoon. Prior to Sunday’s race in Wisconsin, Clements’ best-ever finish in the NASCAR XFINITY Series was a fourth-place effort that he captured at Talladega Superspeedway last year. In fact, Sunday’s win only marks his second-career top-five finish. He has been racing in the series since 2003, but he didn’t start competing on a full-time basis until the 2011 season.
“I don’t even know what to say,” Clements said. “I’m just shocked. This is a car that was built in 2008. Everything that we’ve got is old and used. I just can’t believe it. I’m just like, is this real?”
Following the crash coming to get the white flag, third-place finisher Tifft was obviously disappointed that he didn’t capture his first series victory, but as of right now, he is still within Playoff contention.
“Well I mean, obviously no matter what it’s tough,” Tifft said. “You could see there he got a little bit free underneath me. I wish we could have raced it out to the last lap. We were really struggling on old tires. I don’t know if he had newer tires there or he just had a lot of speed there at the end, but we were struggling in some of the breaking zones – just getting some wheel hop and stuff, but our Dragon Alliance Camry was awesome today.”
As for Clements, he entered the weekend outside of the cutoff to the Playoffs, but with the win, he will now catapult into the top-five and compete for the series championship this fall.
“My gosh it’s crazy,” Clements said. “We’re spending – our budget a year is a fraction of a big team. This is just a dream come true. I want to drive for a big team, but it just hasn’t been the way that it has gone. I try to keep doing this to keep my name out here and get as much experience as I can in case I ever did get the call. Hey, any big team guys! Look at me! Let’s go!”
With momentum on his side, Clements will now visit Darlington Raceway on Saturday, September 2 for the Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200. In last year’s race at Clements’ home state track, he finished a strong eighth. Live coverage of the NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Darlington Raceway will broadcast on the NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) and the Motor Racing Network (MRN) at 3:30 p.m. ET.
Photo Credit: Stacy Revere/Getty Images