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.”

 

Getting The Green: How NASCAR Can Help Race Teams Survive, by Tommy Joe Martins

Tommy Joe Martins, 30, is a driver in the Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series. His family’s race team, Martins Motorsports, currently fields entries in the Truck Series.

By Tommy Joe Martins

When NASCAR announced a 10-year, $8.2 billion television rights package with NBC and FOX in 2013, it became perhaps the greatest TV deal in the history of sports.

At the time the deal was signed, NASCAR Cup events averaged a 5-plus rating — and now that number is down to less than 3. But no matter the ratings, that $8.2 billion, long-term contract is locked in.

NASCAR hit the lottery and Brian France bought the ticket. He and his team deserve plenty of credit for negotiating a superb deal.

But how that average of $820 million per year is split has been a topic of much discussion lately — with Denny Hamlin among the recent voices to question the arrangement.

NASCAR gets 10 percent, so let’s round off and say that’s $80 million per year. The tracks get 65 percent — roughly $530 million — and if that sounds like a lot, then you’re not the only one that thought so.

I’m not going to act like I know the first thing about the expenses of running a racetrack. So for now, let’s just assume they need every dollar of it.

The teams get the remaining 25 percent of the deal, which is roughly $200 million per year — and that’s distributed through the purse money for each race. That money is then split again among the top three national series. And if you’re not sitting down, you’re going to want to before you read this next part.

As of 2014, the Cup Series got 93.75 percent of the team cut. NINETY-THREE PERCENT. The Xfinity Series got a whopping 5.75 percent (although maybe that wasn’t seen as a big deal since almost half of the Xfinity field is made from Cup teams or affiliates).

But the Truck Series? It got an almost unimaginable 0.5 percent. Half of a freaking percent. That worked out to roughly $1,000 per race, per team.

The entry fee alone for the Truck Series is $1,650 per race.

Thankfully, that horrendous split got restructured in 2015. But best I can tell, the Truck Series still only receives around a 2 percent take. Not exactly the jump we were looking for.

My family’s team, Martins Motorsports, received roughly $14,000 per race in prize money last season. A set of Goodyear tires costs roughly $2,300 per set, and we’re allotted five sets on most race weekends ($11,500). If we didn’t buy used tires from other teams, we’d be broke in a month.

Clearly, there needs to be a change. The goal should be to make teams profitable. Just like teams in every other pro sports league, NASCAR teams should operate in the green.

Now, that’s not to say that team ownership should be lucrative. For a team to do that, it’s always going to take sponsorship. I want small teams to be able to eke out a small profit — around 10 percent each year. It costs a LOT of money to start a NASCAR team. With equipment purchases, engine costs, shop expenses and weekly salaries, the initial investment is massive before ever receiving an awards check from the racetrack. There should be a return on that investment.

So how do we make the adjustment? I think the TV ratings are a good place to start. The ratings for this season are public knowledge, but I did the math for you. The averages are: Cup 2.8, Xfinity 0.8, Trucks 0.4. Theoretically, a TV revenue split based on ratings could be: 70 percent Cup, 20 percent Xfinity, 10 percent Trucks.

That wouldn’t change much for big teams. They don’t count on the prize money to balance the budget — it only makes up 15-20 percent of their income. A reduction to 15 percent of their income isn’t a big deal.

Taking the charter-weighted math out of it (I don’t even want to try; I’m struggling enough as is), each of the 40 Cup teams would still get roughly $3.5 million from the 36 points races. Factor in traditional prize money at only $30,000 per race (and I’m sure I’m low on that number), and that makes for a $4.58 million dollar budget.

Assuming they qualified for all 33 races, Xfinity teams would earn roughly $1 million from the TV money alone. That would be a huge increase from the current deal, and that doesn’t account for traditional track-paid prize money. Let’s say that’s around $15,000 per team, and would make a $1.25 million budget for each team.

It would be an even bigger deal for Truck teams. A $625,000 TV share would be close to double the total prize money our team won in 2015. Factor in $10,000 per race in traditional purse monies (which I’ve averaged out over the past two Truck Series seasons), and that would make for an $855,000 budget per team.

Big teams would tell you that’s not even close to enough cash to run a team for a season. For example, the Lilly’s sponsorship for Roush Fenway’s Xfinity team was reported at $10 million per year — $5 million competition, $5 million activation, while Cup sponsorships can range anywhere from $5 million to $35 million.

So when those teams say this wouldn’t make a difference for them, they’re not wrong. The prize money I’m talking about isn’t enough to run their teams for the season.

Rich teams will always be the best teams. They have the best facilities. They have the best people (because they can pay them more). They have more people and resources. So of course their costs are going to be higher.

But those aren’t necessary costs. They’re optional, self-inflicted costs. If you want to be a big team and you have the money, go for it! Money will always help in motorsports. But you shouldn’t have to spend big money to be successful. And sponsors should be a luxury, not a necessity to break even!

Can you imagine if the Minnesota Twins shut down because Target decided not to sponsor the team’s stadium anymore?

Small teams should always be the backbone of the sport, and if they’re financially viable on their own, they can develop talent for big teams to eventually steal away. And I don’t mean that as a negative thing. That’s no different than how the Yankees treat the rest of baseball. But the Yankees also don’t win every year, and nobody brings $5 million to play first base for New York.

Here’s a scenario: A small team takes a chance on an unproven, talented driver. Maybe they’re discovered in a Late Model or a sprint car. He or she does great, attracts a sponsor, makes the team and driver some money — and at the end, the driver gets a great offer from a better team.

Everyone wins.

Here’s another: A big team cuts a veteran loose, so the small team picks them up. The team gets a great leader to help develop their program and an experienced driver to take care of equipment and a name to sell to potential sponsors.

Everyone wins.

But right now, NASCAR owners have their hands tied. With the financial model we’re currently under, those scenarios are becoming rarer because driver talent is a secondary attribute — and that’s never going to work long term. Quality, veteran drivers are losing rides because they don’t have the funding behind them to balance the budget. Meanwhile, unproven drivers are getting top-flight rides because they have the financial backing.

It’s backward. We need to reward the people that invest in this sport with the power to control their team’s future — not have it decided by outside money like a sponsor or a funded driver.

NASCAR isn’t dying. Far from it. As a sport, we’ve never had more money flowing through the garage area in our history. We’ve got a die-hard fan base that we’re making some great strides to reconnect with.

But we’re never going to be where we want to be unless that kid at the local short track knows that if they keep winning, they’re going to get a shot in the big leagues.

The cream should rise to the top. It’s the same dream all of us have had since we first fell in love with this sport — or any sport — and it needs to come true again.

How this could work

Below are some hypothetical budgets of Cup, Xfinity and Truck Series teams, all under the current schedule and all of which would wind up with a profit at the end of the year.

These budgets assume five things:

1. All budgets assume teams own all necessary equipment.

2. No crash damage cost has been added (from my experience, if you tear up
race cars, you’re always going to be over budget).

3. Races are shortened, tire prices adjusted, or some other form of savings in
the tire budget (bias ply tires, just saying) to keep Xfinity and Truck teams from
spending the full $10,000-$12,000 per race on rubber.

4. Spec motors are used in Trucks and Xfinity competition – drastically reducing operating cost after initial purchase.

5. Travel budgets are kept light by the team driving to most events.

 

Monte Dutton: Money Can’t Buy Love, But It Works Pretty Well With Speed

By Monte Dutton

Resistance is futile. Martin Truex Jr.’s season is a wildfire, out of control, fueled by drought conditions elsewhere.

The Bank of America 500 came down to an overtime finish matching the indomitable Truex against a host of NASCAR immortals — genuine, would-be and arriving soon — who didn’t have a chance.

Denny Hamlin, who started the Charlotte Motor Speedway autumn race on the pole, said that where speed was concerned, Truex had it — and has it every week — in reserve, with whipped cream and cherries on top.

Truex’s sixth victory of the season was an excellent time to make that argument. Truex qualified 17th on Friday. Only twice — both times on plate tracks where it doesn’t much matter — has he qualified worse. Seventeen times Truex has started on the front two rows.

Many observers, including virtually all those who describe races electronically, thought Truex starting 17th suggested a certain susceptibility to grim defeat. More likely, he was just having a little fun.

Cole Pearn, the unassuming crew chief, said they sure messed up in qualifying and added that it was evidence of “how close everyone is.” He couldn’t keep his face completely straight.

Say whaaaaaaaaaaat?

A lot of the Truex case has been tagged as evidence for how far away everyone else is. On the two laps noted for a green, a white, and a checkered flag, Truex’s Camry laid close to a second (.911) on Chase Elliott, and even young Elliott couldn’t beat himself up too much for that.

Yeah, I mean, it’s nice to run in the top five solidly,” Elliott, who has done it two weeks in a row and three of the last four. “Obviously, you hate to run second because that means you were close to first, but hopefully we’ll have our day sometime.”

In two late-race restarts, Truex’s Toyota took off as if it were a blue streak. On second thought, it was a blue streak.

If the season has a mystery regarding Truex, Pearn, Barney Visser, Denver, Colo., and Furniture Row, it is why hasn’t the team won 16 races instead of six?

The winner’s press conference seemed ridiculous. Most of the questions asked what made the team so strong, and most of the answers were because of how great the competition was. The question may have many answers, but that one isn’t it.

For what it’s worth, the answers to all questions regarding strength — by Truex, Toyota, the team, the State of Colorado — are not to be found in the conspiracy files, either. The grapes of Ford and Chevy wrath are sour. The overwhelming reason for Toyota supremacy in NASCAR, circa 2017, is not that NASCAR’s best and brightest have been paid off. Nor is it that its engineers are double-aught spies from the Organization Formerly Known as the KGB.

A NASCAR legend named Banjo Matthews, now looking down from heaven at Toyota with serenity, is associated with a slogan: “Money buys speed. How fast you want to go?”

The Toyota answer: Pretty damned fast. In NASCAR, the way one tells that a company has barely limited money is when said company says it doesn’t. It’s the same principle as chalking up a football team’s 59-0 victory to the incredible level of the opponent’s “athleticism.”

In modern-day NASCAR, points don’t mean much, but it doesn’t look bad on a resume that Truex has led them 13 weeks in a row.

Know what? Strip away the high level of pontification that often accompanies press-conference questions, and Truex is a straight shooter. Six victories, given his and his team’s performance week after week, from the high banks of Talladega to the flat concrete curves of Martinsville, are damned near the Marty Truex minimum.

“We could have won 10 or so,” Truex said. “That’s a realistic number. Winning six seems ridiculous, though. You don’t worry about the ones that got away.”

No. That’s Chase Elliott’s role. His day will come. At age 37, Truex knows some things that Elliott doesn’t  at age 21.

Editor’s Note: Longtime racing journalist Monte Dutton covered the Charlotte race for this website. If you’re interested in more of his racing-related work, check out his novels “Lightning in a Bottle” and its sequel “Life Gets Complicated.”

Monte Dutton column: Singin’ In The Rain (What A Lovely Feeling, I’m Happy Again)

By Monte Dutton

On my way to Charlotte Motor Speedway, I learned from a radio personality that, up ahead, it was “pouring mist,” and I picked up the pace because I wanted to experience the phenomenon of mist that would pour.

My God, it’s misting sideways! Alert Jim Cantore!

Here I sit, at 4:32 p.m., in the CMS infield media center, and Top Gun is showing on the monitors, now that Duke-Virginia is over, along with Cars and, according to tweeted reports from chums who were here, Speedway with Elvis Presley before I got here.

If the advance of this storm gives us a worst-case scenario, I may get to watch Rory Calhoun in Thunder in Carolina by, oh, Tuesday.

Surely not. The Bank of America 500 is optimistically scheduled even earlier than before!

This morning I arose sorrowfully, knowing that even though I haven’t experienced one of these long, rainy journeys into night in a while, a few of them remain vivid in my psyche. It’s not like the old days when NASCAR officials waited to announce a postponement until Dale Earnhardt was safely out of the track and boarding a plane. The discerning scribe could simply find a vantage point where he could see Earnhardt climb into a black limousine, then he could go to his rented Ford Contour and beat the traffic a short distance behind the seven-time champion. He could then wrap up the day’s activities from the motel room while his ears were ringing from less astute scribes, ensnarled in traffic, cussing him from afar.

Everyone from that era misses Earnhardt. That’s my reason.

It was long ago and far away (Pocono), when men were men and race tracks had traffic.

It rained in varying degrees, from the regular, non-pouring variety of mist to the kind that made me cuss every driver on the road who didn’t know how to turn his lights on, from the South Carolina Upstate to the grandeur of the Queen City. I stopped at a truck stop for gas and considered a hoodie that was day-glow yellow but sold for a mere $14.99. Instead, I bought a Diet Coke and a corn dog because not even a truck stop can mess up a corn dog.

I still own a Winston Cup Series umbrella. As I walked into the media center, a fellow looked at it and said, “Duude, that’s, like, serious old school. Cool. I like it.”

I looked at him and didn’t say a word. He probably thought I was a serious sort. It was just the umbrella that’s been behind my seat since I bought my truck and the one before it.

The word has just come down from Imperial NASCAR that the driver introductions are going to take place momentarily. Technically, no announcement has been made regarding the running of the NASCAR Xfinity Series Drive for the Cure 300 presented by Blue Cross Shield of North Carolina, but, as a general rule, one is not held without the other.

I’ve left the infield now because I like press boxes, never more than the present, because I watch races the way they do in the infield – on TV – every week. I like to watch a race without conforming to television’s judgment. Sometimes I use primitive instruments such as stopwatches and radios that just go one way.

Besides, before the race, I heard Dale Jarrett say that this race –- because of all the rain and all the hocus-pocus stick’em and unexpected nighttime running (when all the goblins come out) — would have more uncertainty and pure madness than any race he could remember (and he remembers a lot).

What about the 1954 Carrera Panamericana, won by Umberto Maglioli? Dale might have to ask Ned.

They’ve completed a stage now, and the field seems full of professional drivers unfazed by the predicted madness. Literally hundreds are in the stands.

Tomorrow – if a scheduled Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race is run ahead of a tropical storm with a bigger advance team than a Trump golf outing – the 40 greatest drivers in Cabarrus County will take to the track without having practiced on Saturday.

I’m sorry I am unable to provide you, gentle readers, with more hard-hitting, gritty racing coverage, but I’d have had a better chance of bumping into Tiger Woods at the Family Dollar than a prominent driver in the garage. They were all holding virtual practice on simulators somewhere.

It’s after 11. Alex Bowman is in Victory Lane. It’s all been worth it … for him. I’m hoping that coffee at the truck stop I visited earlier is hot and plentiful, but truck stops are more reliable in coffee than day-glow hoodies.

What I miss most about the racing lifestyle is the glamor.

DraftKings Fantasy NASCAR picks: Charlotte 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 850th of 1,200. Won $0.

Season results: $93 wagered, $104.50 won in 24 contests.

This week’s contest: $4 Brake Pad contest (single entry).

Charlotte strategy: Without reliable practice results to use for the race (both practices were washed out on Saturday), I’m relying heavily on position differential to get points. So that’s where most of these picks come from.

Charlotte picks:

— Martin Truex Jr. ($10,900): Picking Truex here this week works two different ways. First of all, he’s the best car every week and gives you a great chance to have fast laps and laps led. Second, he had an uncharacteristically mediocre qualifying spot — 17th — which offers an opportunity for easy place differential points.

— Joey Logano ($9,600): The decision here came down to Logano or Jimmie Johnson ($10,000). I couldn’t afford both. So I picked Logano because he’s $400 cheaper and has a slightly worse starting spot (28th compared to 25th for Johnson).

— Jamie McMurray ($8,800): Making this pick solely based on place differential opportunities compared to similar drivers at this price. McMurray qualified 18th and I figure he might get a top 10, so that’s worth the cost.

— Erik Jones ($7,900): Jones seems like the biggest no-brainer pick of the bunch this week, since he didn’t make a qualifying lap and will start 38th with one of the fastest cars.

— Ty Dillon ($6,700): This pick is just to make my lineup work. I looked for the cheapest driver who starts the furthest back with the most reasonable chance to gain spots. So that fell to Dillon, who starts 27th and is capable of a top-20 (his average finish this season is 20.9).

— Michael McDowell ($5,900): McDowell probably starts too high to make this a smart pick (16th), but the price is tough to beat. And compared to other drivers at this price range, it seems like the safest pick.