12 Questions with Ty Dillon

The 12 Questions series of interviews continues with Germain Racing’s Ty Dillon, who finished 11th last weekend at Talladega Superspeedway. Dillon’s average finish this season is 20.6, which is up from the No. 13 car’s average finish of 25.6 last year.

1. How much of your success is based on natural ability and how much has come from working at it?

That’s a good question. I think 85 percent of your success is from natural ability, which stems from your alertness and keeping yourself out of trouble. Just the natural ability to be running at the end of a race is a big thing to being successful in this sport.

But if you don’t have that next 15 percent, working hard and studying in the sport, doing all the things that you need to do, you can’t compete at the highest level and be successful. It seems like it’s a smaller percentage, but it’s a very important percentage.

2. Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards and now Dale Earnhardt Jr. have all either retired in the last couple years or will retire soon. What’s your pitch for fans of theirs to become fans of yours?

Just get to know me. I’m a pretty interesting guy on and off the racetrack. I’m pretty outgoing, I think. once you get to know me. And I’m pretty aggressive, and I have certain styles that are my own and unique, and as a rookie, you can learn my style and who I am and kind of grow with me as I grow in the sport.

3. What is the hardest part of your job away from the racetrack?

The hardest part of my job away from the racetrack is just keeping myself relaxed throughout the season, or just keeping my mind in check. With so many appearances and being at the racetrack from Thursday to Sunday, and then you’re at the shop with meetings and on the phone, I think it’s important to make sure that you detox your mind a little and get your sanity checked back throughout the week. That way, you’re fresh every weekend to give it all you’ve got.

I thought you were going to say it was not being able to check your fantasy football team on Sundays.

That’s pretty troubling, too. That’s one of the first things I check when I get out of the race car. (Laughs)

4. Let’s say a fan spots you eating dinner in a nice restaurant. Should they come over for an autograph or no?

Yeah, definitely. Maybe just wait until I’m not eating, or wait until a good moment. But I always like to meet fans at anytime and I always want to be approachable because I’ve got a lot of people that I’m a big fan of, and I would like them to treat me the same way.

5. What’s a story in NASCAR that doesn’t get enough coverage?

I think our rookies. Personally, we haven’t gotten as much coverage for how all of us have ran in our different situations. Daniel Suarez has only been racing in NASCAR for a couple of years and Erik Jones has been running up front and competing for wins at a lot of races. And then for my team, we’ve been running the best our team has ran in a long time and led more laps than all the (Richard Childress Racing) cars combined in our rookie season.

So there’s a lot of good stories that kind of get washed under the table with Junior retiring — which is obviously a huge story — and so much going on in our sport. But I think if our sport’s gonna grow and we need these fans to be attached to new drivers, why not the rookie class? And I think there should be more attention drawn to that.

That’s a good point. Honestly, just sitting here thinking about it as you’re saying that, I’m like, “Oh yeah, I forgot you’re a rookie.”

For sure. But I probably seem like the least “rookiest” — I don’t know if that’s even a word — because I’ve been around the sport for a while and kind of paid my dues at every level. I’m still 25 and I’m still a rookie in the sport.

6. Who is the last driver you texted?

Other than my brother (Austin), probably Bubba Wallace or (Ryan) Blaney or Denny Hamlin. We’re all in a basketball league together so we’re constantly talking to each other about stuff outside of racing, mainly sports stuff.

So you’re part of the Hoop Group? Is that right?

Yeah, I’m in the Hoop Group. I led the league in rebounds last year, so I’m not really the offensive star, but I’m a hustle defensive guy.

You’re not one of the biggest guys — but you’re still getting the rebounds?

Oh yeah, I can jump out of the building. I think Blaney and I have the best hops in the league. I’m a little taller, so I can get the rebounds.

7. Do you consider race car drivers to be entertainers?

I do. I think we’re definitely entertainers when people tune in on the weekends and are watching us on TV. If you’re being watched on TV, you’re an entertainer. That’s just part of what makes our sport what it is, and what launched our sport into the next level was a fight on the backstretch, and that was entertainment, you know? And some of the things that we’re able to do in the race cars are what really spikes interest in our sport, and that’s all entertainment to me.

8. What is your middle finger policy on the racetrack?

I use it a ton. (Laughs) I probably use it too much. It’s an easy go-to to let somebody know how you feel. Honestly, I think there should be a middle finger cam on the cars, because I’m pretty sure every single driver throws at least four to five birds a race, and it would be pretty interesting.

I’d like to see a tally of that. Like, “Oh look, he just threw his fifth middle finger!”

Just put a camera on each straightaway, because no one wants to do it in the middle of the corner. Some people do it in the middle of the corner and that’s pretty impressive. But you can probably catch them, because there’s enough guys with white gloves and stuff to just keep a tally someday. That would be a good deal for one the TV shows.

A couple drivers this year have answered this question and said it’s an instant wreck if somebody does that to them. Are you worried about that at all?

I haven’t been instantly wrecked yet and I’ve done it a lot, so I’d like to know who that is.

9. Some drivers keep a payback list in their minds. Do you also have a list for drivers who have done you a favor on the track?

Yeah, I think it goes both ways. I think it’s kind of “Race the way you want to be raced” — the old cliche. When somebody every single week wants to bear down your doors and make it impossible for you to pass in situations in the race where it’s really not necessary, you remember that and you return the favor. And when you’re faster than somebody and you run them down and they get out of your way, you remember it because you race so many laps so many times a year that things like that come back around. So there’s definitely a rolling tally on who’s racing you hard and who races you good.

10. Who is the most famous person you’ve had dinner with?

That’s a good one. I’ve had some dinner with some really famous people. Probably most recently we went to dinner in Charlotte with Steven Soderbergh, the (director). So that was really cool, really interesting. He produced the Oceans movies and then Logan Lucky that just came out. I was talking to him and hearing some of his stories and talking about his profession was really cool.

11. What’s something about yourself you’d like to improve?

I carry a lot of stress on my shoulders and I really want to be the best at everything I do, and sometimes in racing that makes me a little more stressed out than I really should be. And I allow it to impact me a little deeper than I should. Hopefully, as I grow out of being a rookie and get more seasoned in the sport, you grow more comfortable in what you’re doing and in your ability. I guess to be able to leave the moment in the past every weekend so you can reset and be ready for next weekend.

But it’s really hard in this sport, because it’s so “What have you done for me now?” to not let one bad weekend carry into the next, and I kind of struggled with that this year because it’s been up and down, this being my first season. I think that’s kind of the rookie wall that everybody goes through. So hopefully that’s one area that I can grow in. And I know I will. My wife (Haley) does a good job on keeping me on equal ground and keeping me grounded and keeping my head in the right spot. And with a little girl on the way too, I think that’s gonna help.

12. The last interview I did was with Trevor Bayne, and he said he struggles at times when he doesn’t make the playoffs with keeping his head up and going through the grind of the rest of the season. He was wondering if you have any tips for what you’ve been doing to finish out the season strong even though you didn’t make the playoffs.

It’s kind of hard being a rookie going through it for the first time, but I think my plan, since the Chase has started, is to start building momentum for next year and start racing for next year. That’s kind of how this sport goes: you start preparing for 2018 in August, November, October, that time, and if you start rolling good momentum at the end of this year, it really jump-starts you into next year. So that’s kind of been my game plan.

Next week I’m going to the F1 race in Austin, so I’m going to potentially do a 12 Questions with one of the Haas F1 Team drivers. Is there any question you have that I could ask to them?

Who do they think are more athletic: F1 drivers or NASCAR drivers?

12 Questions with Trevor Bayne

The series of 12 Questions interviews continues this week with Trevor Bayne of Roush Fenway Racing. Bayne is carrying a career-best 19.6 average so far this season and is 21st in the Cup Series point standings.

1. How much of your success is based on natural ability and how much has come from working at it?

Growing up, most of it came from natural ability — but once I got to this level, I realized that you’re gonna have to work at it. I sat down in the office with (Roush Fenway competition director) Kevin Kidd probably two years ago and we talked about that exact topic: How far is your natural ability gonna get you versus your work ethic?

You look at the best guys and they work hard. So I’d say in the last year, I’ve ramped it up to about my max. This year, I said my goal was to try and burn myself out, to try to work as hard as I could and see if results came from that and see where it got me.

2. Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards and now Dale Earnhardt Jr. have all either retired in the last couple years or will retire soon. What’s your pitch for fans of theirs to become fans of yours?

I don’t know if I have a pitch. Man, I just always try to be myself, try not to compromise any of my values or anything like that. So, if they want somebody that’s just gonna be themselves, that me.

That was weak sauce, wasn’t it? (Laughs)

3. What is the hardest part of your job away from the racetrack?

The hardest part of my job away from the racetrack is just managing time with family. I know everybody in our sport has that. I bring my two kids (Ellie and Levi) and my wife (Ashton) with me every weekend. (The kids) were screaming on the (team) plane this weekend on the way here, and I felt so bad for my team having to listen to it. They act like they don’t mind, but…

My family means so much to me, so it just requires so much time and so much effort. Listening to Carl Edwards in his retirement speech or whatever you want to call that, he talks about how racing requires every bit of your attention all day, every day. And like I said, I’m working at it, I’m giving it all my attention. So just managing family and racetrack (is difficult).

Most people, if they have screaming kids on a plane, they don’t know anybody and it’s all strangers. If you’re on a plane, and it sounds like it’s all your friends and your team and you’re like, “Oh no!”

We sat on the plane last night, and (Trevor and Ashton said to each other), “We’re flying commercial the rest of the year, because at least we won’t know the people.” (Laughs) They can’t be mad at us.

I think dragging your family around 38 weekends a year, four days a week and having them cooped up in a motorhome, I just feel bad about that. But it’s probably harder on my wife than it is for me.

4. Let’s say a fan spots you eating dinner in a nice restaurant. Should they come over for an autograph or no?

That’s fine with me. Actually here in Dover last year, my wife didn’t come for some reason and I was up in the restaurant right there on the backstretch, and a fan recognized me and I sat down and ate dinner with him the whole time. He bought my dinner; I thought that was really nice. So I sat with him and ate with him and his wife. They’ve been coming here for years and got to know him a little bit. But I think stuff like that is cool and it doesn’t really bother me.

So they were eating and you sat down with them, or they sat down at your table?

We were in line together and they were kind of doing the look — looking back, trying to be not obvious — and then finally they just turned around and said, “Hey, are you Trevor Bayne?” I said yeah. So I got up to the line and when I got up to pay, the (cashier) lady said, “They got it.” So I thanked them and they realized that I was by myself and said I could sit with them, so I did.

5. What’s a story in NASCAR that doesn’t get enough coverage?

It’s just the work ethic of these guys. I don’t know anybody in any real-world jobs that work as hard as these guys do — the hours they put in, the travel, the time commitment that it takes. We try to show that (through) the media coverage and TV coverage, but my job is really dependent on them. I can only do as much as my race car allows me to do, and so they determine how we run on the weekends (along with) their work ethic and what we do in the shops.

So I think just painting that picture of just how important it is to work together as a team, how important it is for these guys to be as committed as they are and for me to be successful and for us as a team to be successful.

6. Who is the last driver you texted?

We’ve got this whole cycling group text going on, so I don’t know if that counts, but we’re always talking about when we’re gonna go ride.

I actually talked to Carl Edwards on the phone this week, just checking in with him, seeing how he’s doing. That’s probably the last guy I talked to.

Is he gonna come back?

No. (Laughs) He’s loving life, man, I’ll be honest with you. He’s been all around the world bicycling and sailing. It sounds pretty crazy. But we were just talking about life.

It’s funny how people are gone for a few weeks and they’re just forgotten about. It’s unbelievable how quick our sport does that to you, so I think about those guys a lot and try to stay in touch with them.

7. Do you consider race car drivers to be entertainers?

Some of them are. (Laughs) Some of the personalities around here are entertainers. I mean, that’s what we’re here for, right? For entertainment. I try to do my entertaining on the racetrack, try not to do it on social media or after the races or whatever. But that’s our sport: Entertainment.

8. What is your middle finger policy on the racetrack?

Give me the middle finger and you’re gone. Yeah, you’re dumped. That’s like cussing me out to my face. Michael McDowell and I always talked about that –we’ve got a no middle finger policy. I got it (at New Hampshire) and the guy got sent, so that’s just how it is. I don’t think you and I standing here would talk to each other like that, so I expect the same respect on the racetrack. Most of the time, it’s just heat of the moment when those guys do it and they would never say that in person, but still you’ve gotta have self control. So I am partially an enforcer on that one.

Do people know realize that if they do that to you that’s gonna happen? It seems kind of dumb if that’s your policy and people know that. Like why would they even do that?

I think they found out a few times. Then they’re mad, like “What was the deal?” I’m like, “You’re flipping me off!” How many times have you been flipped at on the road and wished you should send somebody? We can here, and I do. So that’s kind of my policy.

9. Some drivers keep a payback list in their minds. Do you also have a list for drivers who have done you a favor on the track?

Yeah, I think I am actually more that way than the negative side. Maybe in that race, if someone ticks you off and you have your mindset or whatever that is, you’re gonna race them, make it hard on them. But same thing goes for someone who lets you in; if you catch them a straightaway back and they don’t race you super hard and let you in early in the race, I think you definitely pay that back more so than the negative side.

But it’s kind of that race (only). For me, I don’t carry things week to week. I can be just fuming mad at somebody at Loudon and we show up at Dover and I don’t even think about it. I feel like if you try to keep a checklist of good and bad in your mind, you’re just gonna be a mental head case. There’s no way you can keep up with it, and then you’re just gonna be out to get somebody every week or out to help somebody every week instead of running your own race. So I just try to clear the list every week.

10. Who is the most famous person you’ve had dinner with?

I’ve had dinner with a lot of people. I don’t know. I mean, obviously all the race car drivers in here, I have eaten dinner with them. Man, it’s been a few years since I’ve been in the famous club, hanging out with people. Right after the 500 (win) obviously I was able to do all kinds of stuff like that. But honestly, I couldn’t tell you. I don’t think about it.

11. What’s something about yourself you’d like to improve?

I think my goal this year was to finish as strong as we started this season, and I still think I have room to expand on that. You come to Daytona excited and ready to go racing, and by this point in the season, if you don’t make the playoffs, you’re kind of burned out, you’re ready for Homestead to come and go race and get a month off or so. We just have a long season. So for me, it’s just continuing to figure out how I can manage my season better, how I can finish as strong as I start and get the results at the end of the year.

12. The last interview I did was with Chase Briscoe, and his question was: Outside of NASCAR, what would be the biggest race you would like to win? 

I’d love to say go run an F1 race or run the Indy 500, but there’s no way my wife would let me get into an open-wheel car. So I’m not even gonna go there. I think it would be really fun to run a Rallycross race and win an X Games gold medal or something. I was friends with Scott Speed and he was talking about how he never thought he’d get an X Games gold medal, how cool that is because of action sports athletes. I think that would be kind of neat to run one of those and get a medal at the X Games.

That would be pretty badass. I don’t know who the next interview is with, so do you have a question I can ask another driver in general?

(Ricky Stenhouse Jr. walks by.)

Stenhouse: It’s not me.

Yeah, I already did a 12 Questions with Ricky.

Bayne: Ricky, how many Pop Tarts do you eat everyday? I’m just kidding. What do you think, Ricky?

Stenhouse: Take a chance. Ask them if you can have their car.

Bayne: At what point in the season do you start thinking about Homestead and get to the last race? There we go. I know for me, if we don’t make the playoffs, I’m ready to go. I said a couple of weeks ago, it should maybe be like football: If you don’t make the playoffs, you don’t get to come play.

Nah, I think for the next driver (the question is): “How do you keep your head on to finish the season strong?” Since that’s something I’m working at, I’ll have to read their answer. But at what point in the season do you feel like the fatigue of the season and start looking forward to the end, and how do you keep your head on and keep pushing forward to the end?

12 Questions with Chase Briscoe

The 12 Questions series of interviews continues this week with Chase Briscoe, who is currently fifth in the Camping World Truck Series playoff standings entering next week’s race at Talladega Superspeedway. Briscoe, 22, drives for Brad Keselowski Racing.

1. How much of your success is based on natural ability and how much has come from working at it?

I think to a certain extent, natural ability can carry you a certain way, but you’re not gonna get good at pit stops or restarts just by natural ability. You have to work at that, and I think that’s where you see guys win a lot of races — they do that extra work and they do their homework. I feel like that’s what kind of separates the champions from the non-champions, is the champions work at it in all areas and know where they can win and lose races.

2. Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards and now Dale Earnhardt Jr. have all either retired in the last couple years or will retire soon. What’s your pitch for fans of theirs to become fans of yours?

I feel like me personally, I’m kind of that old-school driver. I don’t have family backing or a big sponsor. Literally straight out of high school, I moved to North Carolina, sleeping on couches and volunteering at race shops and somehow convinced a team to let me drive for them. So I feel like that’s kind of like the old days, how all those guys were. That’s probably my sales pitch, is that I’m kind of a throwback guy that’s kind of one of the few that’s done it that way, at least in the last 10 or 15 years. So that’s why I should be your guy.

What was the limit for sleeping on somebody’s couch? Did you overstay your welcome at times?

I stayed at one in particular for a really long time, and we worked a deal — like $50 for two months. So I could at least afford that. But yeah, after awhile you could tell he was kind of getting upset. I stayed there for a year and a half; I was there for a long time. But he was nice enough to let me stay there. If I wasn’t staying there, I don’t know where I would have been. I would have been on the streets, I guess.

Whose couch was this?

His name is Ross Wece. Me and (Christopher) Bell actually both stayed there for a couple of months. (Wece) works for the World of Outlaws, so I know him from sprint car racing. He always says that if me and Bell ever make it to Cup, that couch might be in the Hall of Fame or something crazy.

3. What is the hardest part of your job away from the racetrack?

Just the sacrifice you have to make, not being able to be at family events or family holidays. That part of it is tough for sure. I don’t think people realize how much goes into it outside the racetrack. I personally didn’t realize how busy NASCAR guys were. I thought they raced on weekends and had the whole week off, and that’s definitely not the case — it’s not the case at the Truck level and I know for sure it’s not at the Cup level. It’s just tough to balance everything outside of the racetrack, I think.

4. Let’s say a fan spots you eating dinner in a nice restaurant. Should they come over for an autograph or no?

Yeah. I’d be surprised if anyone even recognized me, though, honestly. (Laughs) But I’m all for that. I always try to go out of my way, even when we’re walking out to the starting lineup or whatever, I at least try to stay there as long as I can. So yeah, absolutely.

5. What’s a story in NASCAR that doesn’t get enough coverage?

I think the behind-the-scenes guys, the guys at the shop. I feel like you’re only as good as the race car that you’re in, and there’s a lot of people that put countless hours in it. There’s guys who stay in the shop until 10 or 11 at night who never even get recognized when it comes down to it. The drivers and the crew chiefs obviously get a lot of coverage, but if it wasn’t for that guy doing tear-down or building truck arms or whatever it is, we wouldn’t even get to go to the racetrack.

6. Who is the last driver you texted?

There’s a lot who I’ve texted (at New Hampshire) trying to figure this place out. Actually the last one would have been (Kyle) Larson. I texted him a little bit ago. He was curious about what the VHT stuff was doing, and I’ve been asking him a ton of questions.

Are there a lot of Cup guys that will help you out if you have questions?

Yeah, for the most part. A lot of the times it’s the sprint car guys, so obviously Larson. I’ve reached out to Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon has helped me out in the past. Between Brad and Kyle, those are normally my go-tos. And outside of the Cup guys, I do talk to Bell and Cole Custer quite a bit. So there’s a couple guys at least that I have to lean on and that makes it really nice going to a lot of these racetracks.

7. Do you consider race car drivers to be entertainers?

Yeah, I think so. People come for entertainment, so they’re paying to watch us race. A lot of the entertainment at times is not on the racetrack — so whether that’s guys getting into arguments or fighting or whatever, I think we’re entertainers.

8. What is your middle finger policy on the racetrack?

I’ve never given one, so I don’t have one, to be honest. I’ve received a couple, but I’m not a guy that’s gonna go out there and cuss somebody out after the race or flip somebody off. If you want to do it, more power to you, but I’m not too worried about it.

Is that because you don’t get mad inside the truck, or do you just keep in internal?

I was just raised different. Like if I ever got into somebody, my dad would make me go over and apologize to him, because I knew I would get my head thumped if I didn’t. So I was kind of racing the old school way. I was just taught you don’t need to be doing that; just focus on the racing.

9. Some drivers keep a payback list in their minds. Do you also have a list for drivers who have done you a favor on the track?

Yeah, I race people how they race me typically. I’ve never tried to wreck anybody on purpose, but if guys give me a little extra room and it’s early in the race or we’re struggling, then I’ll typically give it back to them or whatever. I feel like there’s guys I definitely race harder than others; we’re racing everybody hard, but there’s guys you tend to give a little bit of a break to.

10. Who is the most famous person you’ve had dinner with?

Probably Brad. He’s probably the only famous guy I’ve ever really had dinner with for sure.

11. What’s something about yourself you’d like to improve?

My eating habits. I’m like the pickiest eater in the entire world. Like I just ate pizza rolls. I’ve never had a hot dog, I don’t really eat fruits or vegetables. I could work out as much as I want to, but until I get my eating habits right, there’s not gonna be much benefit.

Is it not enough healthy food or just there’s just certain foods you just don’t like?

I just don’t like a lot of the foods. Like the texture and the taste of it. I don’t know. I’ve always been that way ever since I was little. I’ve only had steak maybe two or three times in my life. I’m just super picky.

Chicken?

I eat chicken, but not very much grilled chicken. Just recently, within the past year and a half or so, I started eating grilled chicken. I can’t eat chicken on the bone. It’s just a very processed diet.

So what’s a typical meal then? You’re just heating something up in the microwave?

A lot of the time, or going to fast food. Yeah, the only healthy healthy thing I eat, which is not the healthiest thing, is grilled chicken and rice. I like a lot of rice and pasta. It’s a very narrow path of stuff I do actually eat.

12. The last interview I did was with Jimmie Johnson, and I asked him to give a question for you.

He’s probably like, “Who is that?”

He seemed to know. But his question that he passed along was: What kind of underwear do you wear? Is it boxers or briefs?

I’m a boxers guy. Yeah, definitely boxers. Always have been. I never thought Jimmie Johnson would ask me that, personally. That’s one thing I’ll have to tell my buddies: Jimmie Johnson was curious about what kind of underwear I wore.

I don’t know who the next interview is going to be with. Do you have a question I can ask him?

My question would have to be: Outside of NASCAR, what would be the biggest race you would like to win? For me, personally, it would be the Chili Bowl.

12 Questions with Jimmie Johnson

The 12 Questions series of interviews continues this week with seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson of Hendrick Motorsports, who heads to Dover this week looking for a 12th win at the Monster Mile.

1. How much of your success is based on natural ability and how much has come from working at it?

I think the majority of it has come from working at it. When I look at my early years of being on motorcycles and early years of four wheels and so on, I’ve been a slow learner to a certain degree, and I really had to focus and work hard to polish up that last bit to make me a champion. So I’d say I put it at 50/50.

2. Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards and now Dale Earnhardt Jr. have all either retired in the last couple years or will retire soon. What’s your pitch for fans of theirs to become fans of yours?

If I haven’t won them over yet, I don’t think I’m going to. (Laughs) Just stay in the sport, stay a fan of somebody — and if you’re booing me, just boo louder; if you’re cheering for me, cheer louder.

3. What is the hardest part of your job away from the racetrack?

I would just say managing it all. It’s so tough to manage a personal life and professional life, and the kids are growing and have interests of their own. My wife has her own small business. So to balance it all really is the tough part as life goes on.

4. Let’s say a fan spots you eating dinner in a nice restaurant. Should they come over for an autograph or no?

Yeah, absolutely. If I’m eating, let me finish my food, that would be really nice — but after that, go for it.

As long as it’s not mid-bite, maybe?

Mid-bite is very awkward and makes for a bad photo. (Laughs)

5. What’s a story in NASCAR that doesn’t get enough coverage?

The unsung heroes behind the scenes. It’s something that we have a great privilege to experience working week-in and week-out. You might not know a person’s name, you know the team they’re on, the face, they’re always cheery, happy-go-lucky, there for you. There’s more of those unsung hero experiences I think than people would ever realize.

6. Who is the last driver you texted?

Matt Kenseth.

Bike-ride related?

Basically. So he decided to run a half marathon at the end of the year, and he wanted to run some miles this morning. I haven’t run in a long time, so I’m like, “Sure, I’ll go with you.”

So you’ve pretty much been biking instead of running recently?

Yes, and then I re-discovered my hatred for running this morning. It’s very effective and I was good at it at one point in time, if I can get back there, but cycling is definitely where it’s at for me.

7. Do you consider race car drivers to be entertainers?

By definition, yes — but by my own experience, no. I feel like what we do in the car is absolutely a form of entertainment, but as society has grown and as the spotlight has grown, I find that there is a great pressure to have a personality that fits the masses or do things that will help you in other ways outside of the car and entertaining people, being a big personality.

To me, I’ve always been a bit more on the quiet side, so certainly I’ve had my challenges with all that. But a guy like Clint Bowyer can come along and light up a room, light up an autograph session, whatever it might be, and then he gets in the car and wheels it, too.

8. What is your middle finger policy on the racetrack?

It’s changed a lot over the years. It’s been everything from, “Hey buddy, how are ya?” to what you intended it to mean. I’ve calmed way down with it, and I don’t know the last time I used it, to be quite honest.

Do you ever get it done to you?

Yeah, and as a guy who has passed them out, sometimes I laugh, sometimes I get mad, but I have run across a few who’ve been really upset with the middle finger over the years.

9. Some drivers keep a payback list in their minds. Do you also have a list for drivers who have done you a favor on the track?

Yeah, that stuff is in your mind. It usually comes back around in that particular race. And then if there’s enough consistency with working with one another on track, you’ll remember that and cut somebody a break.

10. Who is the most famous person you’ve had dinner with?

I’ve had lunch with President Obama. That’s a good one.

That’s tough to beat right there, a president.

That wasn’t bad at all.

Do you remember what you ate for lunch?

I don’t. We were in a small room, and I don’t think he technically sat down and ate with us, but he was there. So maybe that doesn’t qualify. But we were deep down inside the White House in some room stashed away in a corner with the team. That was really cool.

11. What’s something about yourself you’d like to improve?

There’s plenty of things to improve on. Generally speaking, I just find the older I get, managing emotions and being more patient has served me. Getting started, I had older mentors always tell me, “Be patient, be patient,” and it got under my skin and made me mad. But now as I’m in that role, I can see the benefits that come with it and I find myself preaching it to the young guys that are coming along now.

12. The last interview I did was with Scott Dixon.  His question was: What kind of underwear do you wear? Is it boxers, briefs or tighty-whities?

(Laughs) Thank you, Dix. Appreciate it, buddy.

It depends on the attire and time of day. Evening, going to bed, I’ll go with boxers. And then jeans and pants in general seem to be more slim-fitting these days, so the tighty-whities definitely come into play then.

This room just got really uncomfortable for me.

And me. (Laughs) Thanks, Dixon!

The next interview is with Chase Briscoe. Do you have a question I can ask him?

Let’s just keep the theme going. Boxers or briefs? (Laughs) Thank you, Scott!

Thanks to Dover International Speedway for sponsoring the 12 Questions over the last few months. If you haven’t bought tickets for this weekend’s race yet, please use my link so they won’t think they wasted money by advertising on my website. Here’s a link to buy tickets (and make sure to come say hi at the tweetup).

12 Questions with Scott Dixon

The series of 12 Questions interviews continues this week with four-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon, who came up short of his quest to win another title Sunday at Sonoma Raceway. Dixon, who drives for Chip Ganassi Racing, is fourth on the all-time IndyCar wins list with 41 victories.

1. How much of your success is based on natural ability and how much has come from working at it?

I think it’s always a compromise, but it’s a team sport, so it’s definitely across all platforms of the good people on the team — engineers, mechanics, strategists — so it’s never just one person. I think that’s the most important thing, is you gotta work together as much as you can. And for myself, yeah, some of it is natural ability, but I think to keep consistency and win championships and so on, it takes a lot of hard work.

2. What’s your pitch for people to become fans of yours?

I think across the board, the Verizon IndyCar series has so many different personalities. There’s so many people from different countries, different backgrounds, so everybody has someone they can kind of relate with, and I think that’s pretty cool. But I don’t know — because I’m a ginger, maybe? 

3. What is the hardest part of your job away from the racetrack?

I think the separation sometimes from family life to racing life can be tough, but it’s also been really nice to have kids, because it helps you mentally kind of disconnect and helps you to not overthink things. So I think actually my outside family life is very important to how my racing career has progressed.

4. Let’s say a fan spots you eating dinner in a nice restaurant. Should they come over for an autograph or no?

Yeah, absolutely. Whatever they need. I’ll get their meal, too. (Smiles)

5. What’s a story in IndyCar that doesn’t get enough coverage?

Probably this Aussie guy, Will Power (who was walking by at the moment). He’s always moaning about being sore or a bad leg.

I don’t know. I think the racing is the best in the world. I think once people tune in, they’re hooked, and it is the diversity between the short tracks and the superspeedways, road courses, street courses — it’s just getting the person engaged, and once they’re engaged, they’re hooked.

6. Who is the last driver you texted?

Probably Tony Kanaan, my teammate.

You frequently text him?

Group messages, yeah, there’s quite a few. Yeah, that was probably him. He was probably the last, or Dario (Franchitti). He’s an ex-driver, but we text a lot.

7. Do you consider race car drivers to be entertainers?

Some of them for sure are very big entertainers. Helio (Castroneves). (James) Hinchcliffe did pretty well on Dancing with the Stars, so sure.

8. What is your middle finger policy on the racetrack?

On the racetrack? Use it at will.

What happens if you get it done to you?

I’ll probably do something back, probably the same thing. Maybe two of them.

9. Some drivers keep a payback list in their minds. Do you also have a list for drivers who have done you a favor on the track?

No, only a list for bad things. (Smiles) You know, I don’t keep any kind of lists. Depending on what it is, you have memories of what stands out, but I think you should be nice to people.

10. Who is the most famous person you’ve had dinner with?

Probably Marco Andretti. (Grins)

11. What’s something about yourself you’d like to improve?

I should probably stop biting my nails.

Is it a long time habit?

My wife hates it.

12. The last interview I did was with Chris Buescher.  His question is: What makes you crazy enough to strap into one of those things?

I don’t know. It’s just natural, man. He needs to try it out, then he’ll understand.

He said he can’t do it.

Yeah he can! Come on.

The next interview I’m doing is with Jimmie Johnson. Do you have a question that I can ask Jimmie?

What kind of underwear does he wear? It is briefs, boxers or tighty whities?

This interview was brought to you by Dover International Speedway. The cutoff race for the first playoff round takes place NEXT WEEKEND(!!!) at Dover. Here’s a link to buy tickets (and make sure to come say hi at the tweetup).

12 Questions with Chris Buescher

The 12 Questions series of interviews continues with Chris Buescher, who is currently 26th in the standings for JTG Daugherty Racing. Despite missing the playoffs after making it in 2016, Buescher’s average finish has improved by five positions over last year.

1. How much of your success is based on natural ability and how much has come from working at it?

I’d to think that it’s been 50-50. I feel like I’ve been able to hang tough. Early on, I kind of had some idea I could do this, and from then on it’s just been working at it to to fine-tune it through the years.

2. Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards and now Dale Earnhardt Jr. have all either retired in the last couple years or will retire soon. What’s your pitch for fans of theirs to become fans of yours?

That’s all the guys that I grew up watching before I was even racing, before I was racing hardly anything. So for me, I feel like I can relate to a lot of the drivers from a lot longer ago. I feel like I’m a pretty normal person. I’ve worked on race cars all my life. I’ve been able to be a big part (of the team), being in the shop and working through the last handful of years to understand what goes into them. So I feel like I’m a bit more hands-on, I’d say.

That actually reminds me: When they announced that you had re-signed with JTG, they said you’re in the shop more than any other driver they’ve worked with. Why do you go in the shop so much?

Because I have friends there. (Laughs) I like going in and just seeing what’s going on. I don’t really get my hands dirty anymore; I think everyone’s scared that I don’t know what I’m doing, and I probably don’t at this level. This is the best of the best that work on our race cars every week and that are on the track every week.

So it’s a way for me to go in and hang out in a much less stressful environment. Race weekends are very much down to business and get things done, and you can goof off and have a good time, but everybody’s stress levels are a lot higher. I feel like when you’re at the shop, you get a little more personality out of everybody and can hang out, go to lunch, talk about something other than racing sometimes. I think everyone likes to take a break every now and then with the length of the season and how often we are traveling. So for me, it’s just a good way to go catch up.

3. What is the hardest part of your job away from the racetrack?

A lot of that, for me, is trying to dress up. I don’t get too fancy most of the time, so a lot of our functions we go to, a lot of events, I have to really focus on that.

JTG Daugherty has a thing with golf around here that everybody likes to go have meetings and hang out with sponsors and discuss business on the golf course, and I’ve played two games in my life — both this year as a matter of fact — and I’m horrible. So I’d say that’s got to be the hardest part of my non-driving part of this thing, is trying to figure out how to play golf at this point.

That’s gonna be a work in progress. Golf takes a long time to learn, so that’s pretty frustrating.

Yeah. AJ (Allmendinger) is very good, Ernie (Cope) is very good, Trent (Owens) is very good — and I’m not. We were at the shop hitting a couple the other day and I actually hit the building on my first shot. So, not good.

4. Let’s say a fan spots you eating dinner in a nice restaurant. Should they come over for an autograph or no?

I’ve had that a couple of times. It’s actually kind of fun because I feel like I’m still under the radar enough to where no one’s ever sure of themselves. It’s always like, “Well, maybe…”

They’re like, “Is that Chris Buescher…?”

We get a lot of that, and that’s actually kind of fun. I like to mess around with people for a little bit and then yeah, we’ll sign stuff. It depends on how nice of a restaurant, I guess.

So wait — do you try to tell them at first that you’re not Chris Buescher and see the look on their faces or something?

I’ll usually tell them I work in racing or I’m a mechanic or something and then kind of ease into it and see if they catch on or see if they believe it. I like to play games for a little bit.

5. What’s a story in NASCAR that doesn’t get enough coverage?

Something that I think a lot of fans don’t realize is how much time and effort our teams put in. (Richmond) being a Saturday night race is actually very nice for teams, especially the crew members. They get back from a Sunday night race and they’re back at work mid-morning Monday and roll right up until that plane takes off. It’s a very long season, and it’s a commitment by everybody in the garage area that’s very time-consuming. It’s very difficult to live any kind of normal life in this business, and I think everybody deserves a lot more credit than what they get on the amount of dedication they have to this sport to make it what it is today.

6. Who is the last driver you texted?

Probably AJ. And before that it was probably (Matt) DiBenedetto, I would say. That might have been social media though. He wanted to go four-wheeling with us next time.

He felt left out?

Yeah, we had a little fun in West Virginia last off-weekend, and I guess I forgot to invite him. I didn’t know he wanted to go.

7. Do you consider race car drivers to be entertainers?

Certain ones. (Laughs)

8. What is your middle finger policy on the racetrack?

My policy is trying to keep it down to three times a year or less. I used up one (at Darlington), and I think I had one earlier this season as well. White gloves are bad for that policy. I try to do it discreetly.

What did the person do last week (at Darlington) to deserve that?

I kind of just got run over. We all but wrecked. It was Turn 1 all the way to the exit of Turn 2 sideways, and it was bad. I felt it was very deserving.

9. Some drivers keep a payback list in their minds. Do you also have a list for drivers who have done you a favor on the track?

I don’t think it’s a case-by-case deal. I think you get to know who you race around a lot of times. I think you just kind of build up a resume, so to speak, with other drivers. So when you’re around certain ones, you kind of know what you have from a good side. And I’d say on the bad side of things, I think more or less, more times than not it’s unexpected, and so that’s why you feel like you deserve retaliation. And then there’s those where you fully expect it going into it and you know that’s how you get raced.

10. Who is the most famous person you’ve had dinner with?

I just happened to run into Miss Brazil at a steakhouse like eight or nine years ago. That was kind of neat. That was in Vegas.

How did you know it was Miss Brazil?

She was wearing her sash. She wasn’t trying to hide it by any means.

She was in the restaurant with the Miss Brazil thing right on there?

Yeah, so we got to sit down and talk to her and the people she was with for a while. That was kind of neat. At the time, I was nobody, so that was pretty cool.

Did you just go up and say, “Hey Miss Brazil, mind if I sit down?”

I don’t remember exactly how it happened. I don’t think that’s how it went; I’m not that slick. But between the people I was with and the people that she was with and had there, I think something about racing came up and then we got to talking.

11. What’s something about yourself you’d like to improve?

A lot of things. (Laughs) Just a lot of things come back on the track, trying to go faster in these things, trying to understand these cars, trying to understand the bump stops, the splitters on these things. It’s all very different from everything I grew up racing, and I think that’s been the hardest thing for me to adapt to. I feel like the cars feel more like a go-kart now than a stock car in a lot of ways, and that was not my upbringing. So it’s been a challenge for me.

12. The last interview I did was with Aric Almirola.  His question was: Why did you agree to do this interview?

Why the heck I agreed to do this interview? Because Kelly (Boyd, his public relations rep) told me I was going to do this interview.

It’s that simple, huh?

Yeah, pretty much. It’s always fun to do something that’s a little bit outside of just the racing questions that you get every week, and I think you’ve hit on something here that makes it a little more enjoyable than the normal one.

You’re making me blush. Anyway, I’m going to the IndyCar championship next week, so I’m probably going to do the next 12 Questions with an IndyCar driver. Do you have a question I can ask one of them?

What made them crazy enough to strap into one of those things? And that’s not insulting in any way — they’re braver than I, I will give them that.

Those dudes, I watch them and go, “What are they doing?”

(Laughs) It looks awesome and I bet it is so much fun to drive, but I could never convince myself to do it. No way.

This interview was brought to you by Dover International Speedway. The cutoff race for the first playoff round takes place at Dover on Oct. 1. Here’s a link to buy tickets (and make sure to come say hi at the tweetup).

12 Questions with Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

The series of 12 Questions interviews continues this week with Ricky Stenhouse Jr., a two-time race winner this season for Roush Fenway Racing. I spoke with Stenhouse at Bristol Motor Speedway.

1. How much of your success is based on natural ability and how much has come from working at it?

That’s a tough question. I think a lot of us feel like we got here on our natural ability, but a lot of hard work goes into that as well. Growing up racing sprint cars, I had to work on all my cars and do all the work with some buddies. When I got here to NASCAR, you try to refine and hit your marks and maybe get a little more patient. So I don’t know if there’s a percentage, but it definitely takes both.

2. Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards and now Dale Earnhardt Jr. have all either retired in the last couple years or will retire soon. What’s your pitch for fans of theirs to become fans of yours?

I’m not really good at sales pitches. But I think right now we’re doing a good job at trying to get (Dale) Junior’s fans. Obviously, winning the superspeedways, Junior’s fans, I feel like he got a ton from his success on those, and he’s kind of got a big group of followers. So I’d like to snag a few.

But really, I just need to keep going out and getting us to perform better. I know that our best performances are still ahead of us. We’re still gaining on it, so I think if the fans want something to look forward to as we keep building, definitely come be a fan of ours.

3. What is the hardest part of your job away from the racetrack?

The hardest part is really just managing time. We don’t get a whole lot of time at home. There’s things that we have to do for our job, but there’s things that we want to do for our fun time outside of it, and it tends to end up causing a lot of travel. Sometimes I think you just get run down. So really trying to manage all of that — like right now I’ve been home one night in three weeks, so I think it’s just trying to not run yourself down too much and manage that.

4. Let’s say a fan spots you eating dinner in a nice restaurant. Should they come over for an autograph or no?

Yeah, I don’t mind at all. I think that’s cool, being recognized outside the racetrack. It’s funny, I got a lot of people coming up to me outside the racetrack at dinners and stuff, asking me if I did American Ninja Warrior. So that’s kind of cool. But yeah, just come on up.

So they recognize you from the show? They’re like, “Hey, aren’t you that guy?”

Yeah, and I told (Ryan) Blaney that — since he did it with me this year — and he’s said he’s gotten that a few times as well.

5. What’s a story in NASCAR that doesn’t get enough coverage?

There’s teams that do a lot with a little — and you recognize it, people talk about it a few times throughout the year at superspeedways. There’s points in the weekend that a car that doesn’t have as much resources is able to go put some fast laps down for the equipment that they have. Not necessarily go to the top of the board or anything like that. But I feel like that happens quite often.

6. Who is the last driver you texted?

Last driver I texted? (Kyle) Larson.

You have golf game coming up or something?

No, we went to dinner last night. We went to play golf yesterday on our golf group (the Golf Guys Tour). Last night we got back and we were like, “We’re tired, let’s go to bed.” Then he texted me, “Hey, are you still gonna go eat?” And I was like, “Yeah, let’s go.” So we went and had some Mexican (food).

7. Do you consider race car drivers to be entertainers?

Yeah, I think we are entertainers. I think everybody in sports is here for entertainment. Is it circus entertainment? No, it’s competitive entertainment where a lot of fans enjoy what we do and the show that we put on, and we try to go out and do the best that we can for our fans and our sponsors. But really, we want this to be a good race, which will be a good show for people to watch.

It does seem like a circus sometimes, though.

(Smiles) Yeah, I wasn’t gonna say that, but it seems like a circus sometimes.

8. What is your middle finger policy on the racetrack?

I may have done it one time. I get really mad if somebody does it to me — I feel like it’s kind of rude. Every now and then people will give a hand out of window and it’s like, “Oh, OK, they’re not super happy about that.” But the finger, I feel that’s a little far and I’ll try to run into them if they do it. So it really gets me kind of irritated.

So you’re not a finger-giver. Only one time.

Yeah, maybe once. Maybe. I’m saying maybe because I don’t recall. But yeah, I think it’s a little disrespectful.

9. Some drivers keep a payback list in their minds. Do you also have a list for drivers who have done you a favor on the track?

One hundred percent. I think that’s really the key if you want some of your races to go smoothly. If somebody lets me by and I’m way faster, if that position gets reversed, I try to remember that so I can pay that favor back to them and you can kind of expect that a few times. It goes both ways, but I think it’s starting to get back around.

I feel like back in the day, that was kind of known to be the code. Now I think people are realizing that they can make it tougher on themselves if they want. 

So after Mark Martin left, it kind of went the other way and now it’s sort of getting back to being more respectful because the younger guys sort of figured things out, perhaps?

Yeah, I guess so. From the sounds of it, Mark was really good at really…I don’t know if you say “courteous” on the racetrack. But some of your fans don’t like (being respectful) and some of your teams don’t, so you gotta balance it. You can’t just let everybody go; you have to race. We’re out there to race. So you just pick and choose your battles: When do you think it will pay off better for you to let somebody go, or to really push it?

10. Who is the most famous person you’ve had dinner with?

I don’t know. Probably Luke Bryan.

He’s pretty popular.

At that dinner, Pharrell stopped by. We didn’t technically have dinner with him, but he came by and hung out for a little while. That dinner was Blake Shelton, Luke Bryan, Pharrell stopped by and Little Big Town. It was a big group.

That’s a good dinner right there. That’s pretty epic.

Yeah, it was good. It’s fun sometimes. At the ESPYs you get a lot of good dinners as well — before Peyton (Manning’s) last year, we all had dinner. And there were also a lot of other people eating dinner — Blake Griffin, too.

You’ve had a better answer than a lot of the drivers this year.

Oh, that’s good. Yeah, Danica and I get to meet a lot of cool people.

11. What’s something about yourself you’d like to improve?

Patience. I get a little irritated pretty quick. Even if it’s throughout practice and we make changes that don’t quite go the right way. I’ll come in and talk to (crew chief Brian) Pattie and he’ll say, “Look, we had to do that. That was on the list of things we needed to try.” And I’m like, “Well if you felt like it wouldn’t be better, we shouldn’t do it!” So I get a little frustrated pretty quick, but sometimes it’s better. Not all the time. (Smiles)

12. The last interview I did was with Chase Elliott.  His question was: How is your golf game, and are you expecting to win the Golf Guys championship this year?

Oh wow. (The Thursday before Bristol) my golf game was not good, but I’m sitting third in points, so I feel like I have a good opportunity to win our championship. I really want to. Denny (Hamlin, who founded the competition) won it last year and we say he makes all the rules, so it kind of worked in his favor. But he’s second in points right now, so it’s gonna be a good battle.

I’ve got to go work on my game. We’ve been really busy this whole year, so I haven’t been able to work on my game as much as I wanted to. But we’re running better over here, so that’s really what matters to me.

How many matches or rounds do you have left?

I believe four rounds. We do eight events. The points increase as we go the last two events or three events. You want to run second or third every event, so then you can win the points by a lot.

When you win, it puts you at deficit. I won one event so far, but you gotta get so many points based on your handicap. Well when you win an event, we always add two points to your points that you have to get, so it makes it difficult and challenging to keep scoring those points. So you want to come on a run right as the Tour Championship (is approaching).

I don’t know who the next driver is, but do you have a question I can ask another race car driver in general?

My question for any driver would be: What did they do on the off weekend? And if it was fun, why didn’t they invite me?

I mean, I got plans, but…

At least you could get the invite.

Yeah, I mean a little reach-out like, “Hey, we’re doing this. Do you want to come?” That would be cool.

This interview was brought to you by Dover International Speedway. The cutoff race for the first playoff round takes place at Dover on Oct. 1. Here’s a link to buy tickets (and make sure to come say hi at the tweetup).