When Clements earned his stunning first career NASCAR victory in 2017 at Road America, it helped catapult his team into the playoffs.
But his small, underfunded family organization wasn’t in a good position to capitalize on it but did manage to finish a career-best 12th in the series standings.
“We were not prepared honestly at the time. We weren’t running very good that year in a lot of other races. NASCAR had changed the rules, changing the splitters and the spoilers entering the season, and we were still racing with the same cars and the same suspension and it did not work,” Clements said.
“As a small team, we’re often on an island all our own. We kept chasing our own tail. It was kind of disappointing going into the playoffs and we knew we weren’t where we needed to be in order to be competitive as a team.”
Two years later, Clements, 34, and his team are in a much better position.
He is coming off a season’s-best fourth-place finish at Bristol, Tenn., and is in the midst of his best three-race stretch of the season, finishing 11th at Watkins Glen and Mid-Ohio in the weeks before Bristol.
Clements’s No. 51 Chevrolet ran top-10 in both of Friday’s practice session in preparation for Saturday’s race at Road America.
“We’ve brought a (road course) car that we’ve raced twice now and got the bugs worked out of it. Last year, the car we had never even raced before so we had some problems in practice,” he said. “Now if we went to the playoffs, we’d be a lot better off.
“We have a lot more speed than we did in 2017. I think we could take much more advantage of the opportunity this time around. Plus, the Roval is in (the playoffs), which would bring a whole new opportunity to it as well.
“I would definitely feel a lot better about the opportunity this season as a team with our cars, our speed, and we’re getting some better stuff. There are some exciting things happening within the team.”
For the first time, Clements has a fulltime crew (Andrew Abbott), who works with the team every day, not just coming in to call races on race days.
“I haven’t really had that in the past. It can only get better from here honestly,” Clements said. “We’re getting some better components, speed-WISe, to make our cars faster, so I’m definitely excited to try them out at some of the oval tracks coming up, too.”