DraftKings Fantasy NASCAR picks: Talladega playoff race

I’m playing DraftKings this season and will be posting my picks here each week. Disclosure: If you want to play and sign up using this link, DraftKings will give my website a commission.

Last race’s results: Played $4 Brake Pad contest. Finished 650th of 1,300. Won $0.

Season results: $97 wagered, $104.50 won in 25 contests.

This week’s contest: Due to stupid Alabama law, I cannot submit an entry this week.

Talladega strategy: Don’t look at practice times, just look at qualifying and focus on place differential. In this year’s Daytona 500, the perfect lineup was made up of drivers who all started 30th or lower. Try to find drivers in the back of the field who can make up spots, regardless of how much salary cap money you leave on the table. It’s all about place differential.

Talladega picks: 

— Aric Almirola ($6,300): Since the start of last season, Almirola has the third-best average finish in restrictor-plate races of any driver (11.67, which is behind only Kurt Busch and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.). That makes him worth including, especially since he starts lower (26th) than other expert plate drivers.

— Michael McDowell ($6,000): He starts 29th in his first plate race since finishing fourth in the Daytona July race. He crashed in the Talladega spring race, but was 15th in the Daytona 500, 16th at Talladega on year ago and 10th in last year’s Daytona July race. Another good value pick.

— David Ragan ($5,800): A past Talladega winner who has finished 10th and sixth in his past two restrictor-plate races — and he starts 33rd? Put him on the team.

— Landon Cassill ($5,600): He starts 30th and his Talladega history in the last three years includes results of fourth and 11th (twice). Even if he gets a top 20, that’s picking up some decent points for you.

— Brendan Gaughan ($5,300): His three restrictor-plate races this season in the Cup Series include finishes of 11th and seventh. Pretty incredible value if he can do it again at Talladega after starting 35th.

— Cole Whitt ($5,000): He starts 38th, but that’s an opportunity. Before blowing an engine in the July Daytona race, Whitt’s previous restrictor-plate finishes were 16th (at Talladega in the spring), 18th (Daytona 500), 11th (July Daytona race last year) and 18th (Talladega spring race last year). So…hello!

Stage points will change the face of Talladega race

Sunday’s race has a chance to be the most action-packed playoff event at Talladega in years — at least from start to finish.

That might sound like hyperbole — the kind you see in all the TV commercials that try to get people to tune in — but there’s reason to believe it might actually be true.

Why? Because two major changes have made it to where playoff drivers simply cannot afford to ride around for 500 miles and wait to race until the end.

First of all, Talladega is now the second race of Round 2 instead of the elimination race. That means drivers have less of a points cushion than they would if two races were already under their belts, so they can’t just try and protect a lead.

Second, the stage points are going to be a massive factor in shaping the race. Playoff drivers absolutely cannot afford to lay back and pass up the opportunity to get a potential 20 stage points.

That means the scramble for stage points at the end of Stages 1 and 2 — which conclude on Lap 55 and Lap 110, respectively — might be extremely dicey.

“We’ve seen in the past that drivers come in here and say, ‘I’ve just got to finish 25th,'” Joey Logano said Friday. “Then they just ride around the back all day until it’s the end of the race and they go up and finish 25th.

“Well, that’s pretty boring. Fans don’t want to see that, so NASCAR has made some good decisions, I think, by making this not the final race in this round, and then also adding the stages you can’t afford to give up those stage points.”

Let’s say a driver gets a fifth-place finish but ends up with no stage points. That’s only 35 points, which Logano noted isn’t that great of a day considering five drivers scored more than 40 points last week at Charlotte.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who needs to rely on stage points to overcome his current deficit, predicted “at least 10 of us racing really hard for that.”

“There are a lot of us within 20 points of each other, so I think that’s gonna be key is how hard we’re gonna race for those stage points,” he said.

Stenhouse isn’t the only one looking at stage points as a key factor in the race. Chase Elliott said his philosophy has been his team needs to use stage points to make up for a lack of playoff points at the start of each round.

“Stage points are really our only way of catching up,” he said. “That’s something I have looked at and something everyone else is looking at, too.”

That said, Elliott doesn’t think those points will be worth making an overly aggressive move at the possible expense of the overall finish.

“I definitely think there is going to be some emphasis on running well in the stages, but I just hope that everybody will want to get to the end as much as they want to have stage finishes, too,” he said. “So I really don’t know, but I could see it being pretty wild to try and get those points.”



Was Parker Kligerman too aggressive? He explains winning strategy

En route to taking the underdog No. 75 truck to a win at Talladega Superspeedway on Saturday, Parker Kligerman ruffled feathers with some aggressive pushing that left drivers complaining on the radio.

Christopher Bell, Ben Rhodes and Grant Enfinger were among the drivers who told their spotters to tell Kligerman to back off at various points during the race.

“Try not to let that 75 get behind me,” Rhodes said at one point.

“Get him off me, man!” Bell said late in the race. “Get him off me!”

So were all the complaints justified, or were those drivers just not used to taking a push?

“There’s some incredibly talented drivers out there, but I think we forgot how to tandem a little bit,” Kligerman said when asked. “We’re not allowed to tandem, but if you watch Joey Logano in the Xfinity car (at plate races) in the last couple years, he does that tap-tap-tap thing.”

That “tap-tap-tap thing” is a borderline bump draft, but legal because the vehicles are not locking bumpers. So as long as the bumpers aren’t together for more than a couple seconds, NASCAR is fine with that.

Kligerman decided if he could make that happen with the current rules package, “then we’ve got to do that.” And the best time to do so would be in the first two stages, when there were built-in cautions to help with experimentation.

His reaction to hearing a few drivers were upset?

“Whatever. I thought we were here to race,” he said. “… I didn’t spin anyone out, so I think it worked. We passed a lot of trucks and got ourselves to the front a couple times. And when it came down to it, all of them were doing the same thing. So I don’t see any harm or foul.”

Chris Carrier, Kligerman’s crew chief, heard the question and asked if he chimed in. His take was decidedly more blunt.

“I’ve been a crew chief for 40-some years,” he said. “The guys I see complaining are the guys who want to be Sunday drivers. They’d better grow up. If you don’t want to cut the grass, you’d better not mind getting grass in your shoes. That’s part of it, like it or not. Grow up.”

Brennan Poole on his future: ‘I don’t have anything set’

Brennan Poole’s 2018 plans were the subject of conflicting reports this week. First, Motorsport.com reported Poole was out at Chip Ganassi Racing and could be heading to Richard Childress Racing’s No. 27 car in the Cup Series. But then Chip Ganassi Racing co-owner Felix Sabates told Sirius/XM Radio the Xfinity Series driver would likely be returning to CGR next season.

So what’s the deal?

“I don’t have anything set,” Poole said via phone on Friday. “Like I don’t really have any plans. I don’t really know what’s going to happen. I haven’t really had an in-depth conversation with Ganassi. So I really just am not sure.”

Poole said he’s “definitely open to all opportunities,” but insisted he sincerely doesn’t know where he’ll be racing next season. That murky future includes whether sponsor DC Solar will continue to align with him.

“Honestly — honestly — I really don’t know,” he said. “I’ve had a great relationship with them over the past several years, but there hasn’t been any talks. So I really just don’t know.”

What the 26-year-old does know, he said, is his team has a great chance to win a championship this season — and that’s where his attention lies after three straight top-five finishes helped him breeze through the first round of the playoffs.

“I’ve certainly been flattered with everything that’s happened course of this week, and my name being out there and tossed around,” he said. “But really, I’ve just been focused on a championship this year.”

A driver whose career once seemed completely done, Poole got the opportunity to run part time in the Xfinity Series in 2015 when co-owners Harry Scott and Ganassi offered him a ride a month before the season began. His results were impressive enough to land him a full season in the series last year — when he finished eighth in points — and he then returned this season.

After a rough start, Poole has scored 10 top-10 finishes in the last 13 races and was the highest-finishing playoff driver in two of the Round 1 races.

“We didn’t have the best start to the season, but the past couple months have just been outstanding,” he said. “We’ve been bringing really fast race cars and putting ourselves in position to win. I think it shows a lot about where our team is at and how much I’ve grown as a driver.”

That’s why Poole said he “wouldn’t say I’m nervous or anything” about his 2018 plans. He’s confident that if he can go win the title, the future will take care of itself.

“I’ve got four races left to get this championship done,” he said. “We have what it takes. I’m just excited to see what’s going to happen on the track and what’s next for me.”

Social Spotlight with Paige Keselowski

Each week, I ask a member of the racing community to shed some light on their social media usage. This week: Paige Keselowski, wife of Brad Keselowski. Note: This interview is not available in podcast form this week due to a microphone malfunction. Apologies. 

One thing that you’ve been part of over the last year are these Facebook Live visits that Brad has been doing, where you and Brad will go out to the campgrounds and surprise people and bring them goodies. You’re usually the camera person. So how did that all get started?

It started in Watkins Glen over a year ago. We didn’t have the baby for the weekend and we were like, “Oh, let’s do something, because it’s too late to go anywhere.” So Brad was like, “Why don’t we just ride around the campgrounds?” I said, “Oh, that sounds fun.” I’ve always liked to ride through with the scene and see everyone having a good time, especially at night, chilling here. It’s a good time.

Brad said, “We’ll take a few gifts and maybe we’ll see some 2 fans and we’ll surprise them.” I said, “OK, that sounds good.” And he said, “Why don’t we try it on this new Facebook Live?”

So that’s really how it got started and it was really a successful thing. There were like thousands and thousands of views, a lot of people commenting. At the time, I used to try to read off questions so Brad would answer them. Because at first, the plan was, “Let’s turn on Facebook Live, drive around and if you see someone, then we’ll stop.” So we kind of searched people out as we were driving and we were able to just have a Q and A with Brad.

And then as it’s kind of evolved, we’ve done it a little differently. Brad will tweet out that we’re gonna head out to the campgrounds and fans will tweet us their locations. So now we try to choose someone and we literally go out and search for their campground. That makes it a little more exciting, trying to find them. Like at Bristol this year, we had a family tweet us and they had literally put up directions to their campsite. Like they would have signs in their campground area all the way to their little campsite. Unfortunately, we made a huge effort to go find them, but the track wouldn’t let us in their area with the golf cart, so we actually did not get to meet them.

Now, even like for weeks before, people are like, “I’ll be at Dover, I’ll be at campsite such and such. Here are my directions, please come see us.” They’ll like tweet us pictures. It’s evolved.

(The campers) are really cool because they’ve been at the same campgrounds for years and they know all their neighbors. So when you get there, it’s actually like their neighbors are benefiting, because they’re like, “This is my friend Joe! He’s been here with us for years. Can you get a picture with him?” It’s a really cool thing. They become family out there and they’re enjoying our sport, and that’s what really matters.

And I think for Brad, it means a lot to him to be able to go and have a personal conversation in a comfortable, relaxed, fun setting with his fans who appreciate him and want to tell him about who they are, and he gets to really know their families and people around them.

I will say that sometimes, it makes me a little anxious going out there just because it’s usually at night and everyone’s been drinking and it’s like a big party. You’re going out to this campsite and you don’t know these people and you have no idea who the people are around them. They’re either really excited or they’re really chill. You don’t know what you’re gonna get.

And then it’s like a domino effect. The whole campground finds out Brad is there and it’s just like bees — they start swarming. I’m like, “Oh no! How are we ever gonna get away?” But everyone has been so nice, so welcoming. It’s really kind of an exciting thing. I don’t really say a whole lot on the camera, I just like to video and I like to take in everyone’s reaction to Brad showing up.

So in general, how do you see your role with Brad’s fans? Do you consciously try to keep people informed, or are you just being yourself?

I guess maybe I’m trying to figure out a role  — if there is a role. I don’t feel like I’m here to really inform them. I tweet out things when I want to about Scarlett or the three of us, just because I like it. I’ll like this picture, this video of her, and I just want everyone else to get a smile or laugh because of something that she’s done.

But other than that, I think Brad does a pretty good job himself of keeping his fans informed of who he is or what he cares about and what he thinks about things. I just feel like my role is to be a mom and support the Miller 2 Crew. So when I have to opportunity to put things out, I’ll do it. Other than that, I try to just enjoy social media myself. I don’t want to be part of the PR team.

So your Twitter is public. You have other private accounts as well, so obviously you don’t want to share out everything in the world. What is the balance? How do you manage privacy on social media with such a public platform?

It’s funny you say that, because we’ve been having these discussions lately with Instagram accounts, because I have Instagram and I do have Facebook, but both of those I basically keep private.

But I’ve been pushed lately — not in a bad way — to open my Instagram or to open an Instagram for our family that Brad and I would do together. Then I’ve had people ask me, “Why don’t you open your Instagram? You have so many good things on there and your (Instagram) Stories of Scarlett are so funny.”

I want to be able to post whenever I want to post and not have people going, “Ugh, you post all the time,” or, “Why is she posting that picture?” I feel like for Instagram, I hope it stays around for a long time so it’s like an album that I have of all my photos, you know? And if you want to follow them, fine; and if you don’t because I post too much, you don’t have to follow me.

But I guess that’s why I keep it private, it’s because I post so much on there and I enjoy it. I think Instagram is probably my favorite social media (platform).

You seem like an opinionated person, from what I know of you. Sometimes you may have an opinion of something that goes on during a race. Have you ever gotten in trouble from one of your tweets?

Yes, I did get in trouble for one of my tweets. And I didn’t even think it was that bad. The funny thing is, I feel like I barely tweet, and when I do tweet, it’s not about controversial things. It’s mainly of Scarlett or…what do I tweet? I don’t even know myself.

But yes, I got in trouble, and it was over the NASCAR app where you can listen to the scanners during the race. And I just said it was disappointing that (the app) was behind when we were trying to listen — and I got told that I need to shh and enjoy the sport. So I said, “OK.”

And it’s stuff like that that makes you not want to be a part of social media and be involved with the fans, because when you’re involved with the fans, you want to be honest with the fans. You want to have authentic, real conversations with the fans. You don’t want to just tell them this because that’s what other people want to hear. You want to be open.

So a lot of times, that’s why I don’t tweet a lot, it’s because I feel if I tweet something and it’s not what other people want to hear, then you’ll get in trouble with it. And that doesn’t make social media enjoyable, if someone takes 140 characters that you type and they dissect it all to what they think it might mean. So I guess in that sense, it’s why I don’t tweet a lot and I just stay off of it; then I don’t have to get the tweets saying how I don’t know what I’m talking about.

It’s interesting that people would think you don’t know what you’re talking about, because you grew up in a racing family and your dad still races. You sometimes post about his victories and his races in eastern North Carolina. Do you feel like your history helps inform your opinions about racing?

My daddy’s been racing since well before I was born — dirt racing and now asphalt — and he still does it today. That’s basically his hobby and that’s what we did every weekend, even when I went to college. I felt like I needed to be there to support him. So you go on Saturday night, you watch your dad race, you drive back and then you go out with your friends or catch up. And I did that often, and even now Brad is good about getting me back to be able to see some of his races and bring Scarlett to share that with him. So since I know a lot about the sport, I know a lot about racing — I don’t know it all, and that’s OK, too. I just like to share and be a part of it.

Do you ever have moments where you see something that Brad has tweeted or shared, and you cringe and go, “Honey, why did you go there?”

Yes, I do that to him all the time. I’m like, “Oh, Brad.” And it’s not that I disagree with what he’s saying, I just know what’s coming behind it. I’m like, “Alright, let’s get through this.”

What happens when that negativity comes your way? At times when people are hateful or negative, how do you deal with that?

I block people.

You’re a blocker?

I’m a blocker. It’s funny, because we went out to dinner last night and I was telling Brad that I had with interview with you today, and I was like, “Yeah, I went to my Twitter to see how many people I have blocked.” It was 37, which is not a lot. I had 37 blocked, and two muted.

He was like, “Wow, let me see who they are!” So he started scrolling through and was like, “These are the same people I have blocked!” I’m like, “I wonder why?” (Laughs)

So I just block people. If you say something mean to me, if you say something to me about Brad, you have free right to say that. But whatever you want to say and you believe, I have just as much right to not want to read it. And I don’t. I don’t want my social media filled with negativity or mean remarks about my family, because that’s not fair to me, and so I’ll just block you.

That’s another reason why we’ve had the debate over Instagram, why I haven’t opened it: Because it’s going to be another opening of the floodgates to people who put negativity in your life, and that’s really sad, because you want to share these things. There are people out there who genuinely care or who are just interested in your life and watching Scarlett grow up, and they feel this connection to Brad because they’ve been a fan of his for years and now he has a family. And I don’t mind sharing those things; I’m happy to share those things. I love them.

But I don’t want to have to deal with the negativity, because that gets to wear on you. It’s like, come on. It just gets depressing at times, and you’re like, “Geez, is there nothing else in your life that you’re grateful for and you have to be negative towards someone else?”

I feel the same way. I’ve recently changed my philosophy, because I was just muting people, and now I’ve just decided, like you, to block them.

I don’t really know all the ins and outs about the mute, but definitely the block button. And Brad sat there last night as we were reading through them and he’s like, “I’m just gonna unblock some people tonight.” I’m like, “OK…” He says, “Everyone deserves a second chance. People change.” I’m like, “That’s why I love you.” (Laughs)

What’s the future for you on social media? As you navigate all this stuff, as Scarlett continues to grow up, do you feel like you’ll still want to continue to be on it or do you feel like you’re back off at some point? How do you think it’ll turn out for you?

I feel like in some ways, I have backed off. I’m less active, especially on Twitter. On race days, I’m here in the bus with Scarlett and I usually try to time it where she naps and I get to lay around and watch the race. So I’m definitely on Twitter during the race. Occasionally I’ll tweet my opinion, but I’ll probably cut back on that now since I got shushed.

I really rarely get on Facebook to look at things. Occasionally, I will post photos on an album. A lot of my Facebook is people from back home who don’t have Instagram or don’t follow me on Instagram. They always like to be in the know of what’s going on. But Facebook’s always out of order, and I can’t keep up. I’ll take time scrolling through and it’s like, “I’ve already seen these 10 posts.” So I’m not very active on there.

Now Instagram, I’m pretty active on it. I love to scroll through and look at pictures while Scarlett’s playing outside or whatever, taking a nap, and I love to follow her around. But I feel like from before she was born to now, I’ve been off of my social media a lot more.

But as far as Instagram, we’re still debating in the Keselowski household if we’re gonna open it or not. Brad wants me to, but we put out that poll a while back (asking fans whether they should make Brad’s account public) and everyone basically was like, “Just keep it closed.”

I was shocked at that. You ask people whether you should open a personal Instagram account to the public and people were like, “No, you have the right to privacy.” I was floored by that. I thought everyone would be like, “Yeah, we want to see more!”

We were, too. I was really shocked. I think Brad thought he was gonna win that because he’s like, “We’re gonna put a poll out, and if they say no, then we won’t, but if they say yes, we’re gonna open it.” I’m like, “OK.” And I thought I was gonna lose, honestly. But then we got back and we were just sitting there staring at it. We’re like, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe this!” So I don’t know.

They said no, so that’s fine, but we still get pushed from different angles for us to open it. And I told him if we did open it, I wanted it be our family account –maybe with some stuff from the Checkered Flag Foundation to be posted up there — and for the two of us to run it. It’d be really who we are in our day-to-day lives.

MORE: Social Spotlight with Brad Keselowski

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?

Landon Cassill won’t return to Front Row Motorsports, becomes free agent

At just 28 years old, Landon Cassill has already made 253 starts in the NASCAR Cup Series. If it’s possible for a Millennial to be considered a veteran driver, that’s Cassill.

But the journey will have to continue elsewhere next season. Cassill said he was informed Monday he will not return to Front Row Motorsports in 2018, and he will now begin the process of finding a new ride.

A driver with a cult following on Twitter, Cassill has been behind two popular social media campaigns during his time at Front Row. Last year, he got fans to tweet “38, nice” in honor of his car number at the time; this season, he’s been retweeting fans who take a photo at sponsor Love’s Travel Stops and say they can’t find the driver there.

Cassill said via phone call on Tuesday he was not told why he was out of a ride, other than the team was making “radical changes” for next season. In a statement to this website, the team said it was appreciative for his time there but offered no further details.

“We’re thankful for the last two years having Landon as a teammate and an ambassador for our sponsors, and we’ll keep working hard with him and the No. 34 team for the best possible results the remainder of the 2017 season,” a spokesperson said.

Cassill acknowledged he was surprised by the decision, but said “there’s no message of despair.” After getting over the initial shock, he said, there’s been a feeling of anticipation to see what else is out there.

“I’m kind of excited to see what doors open up for me,” he said. “I have a unique resume in this sport right now. I think my youth is what kind of helps stay plugged in on a social side and off-track side, and then I just have a tremendous amount of experience in the Cup Series — maybe not having the limelight of a top-notch team, but I’d like to work myself into one of those scenarios where I can showcase what I’ve learned.”

This position isn’t new for Cassill, who has driven for seven race teams in the Cup Series as well as four different teams in the Xfinity Series while making 118 starts there.

The Iowa native was originally a Hendrick Motorsports development driver but ultimately had to come up through the Cup ranks in an old-school way: Starting with start-and-park teams, then slowly climbing the ladder in the small team ranks.

His latest stop was Front Row, where he’s averaged a 26th-place finish over two seasons for a team that counts a top-25 result as a good day and a top-20 as a great one.

Along the way, he built a following of underdog-loving fans who appreciate Cassill’s savvy when it comes to the Internet culture.

“One of my big motivations right now is to succeed for all these people who are so emotionally invested in following me and see where I go and what I do,” he said. “I don’t want to let my fans down. And I say that genuinely and feel that, because I know there are fans who have stuck with me for a long time. I feel a sense of responsibility for them as much as I do my own family that I have to provide for.”

Cassill said he would be open to talking to anyone across NASCAR’s three national series (“I don’t turn down any phone calls when I’m in these situations,” he said) but would prefer to land somewhere that has a “road map for me to continue to grow my success.”

“I’ve had a lot of things in my career where my hard work has paid off and put me in positions to keep myself in the business, and I don’t really plan on stopping that at all,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of confidence in myself in how I do things to go about being a professional race car driver that I don’t think will change. I think for me this is just another chapter in my career and my life.

“It’s tough, because sometimes these changes are the best things for opening doors, but they’re the hardest thing in the moment. That’s probably what my family and I are going to be dealing with right now.”