The Top Five: Breaking down the Richmond race

Five thoughts on Sunday’s NASCAR race at Richmond International Raceway…

1. Back it down, Joey

Joey Logano won on a day when he had to start in the back, and the performance was helped by some gentle reminders from crew chief Todd Gordon.

Gordon began the day by texting Logano at 9 a.m., telling him to run 80 percent. The crew chief then repeated it in their pre-race meeting: Go 80 percent, go 80 percent.

Why? Because with Logano starting in the back of the 38-car field due to a transmission change (the team discovered debris in the transmission on Saturday), Gordon knew his driver might try to go all-out in getting back to the front; and that probably wouldn’t be a good thing at a place where tires and equipment seem to get used up.

Logano turned to Penske executive Walt Czarnecki and said, “You pay me to run 100 percent.”

“Today will be a little different,” Czarnecki replied.

As it turned out, Logano listened to Gordon — albeit reluctantly.

“I did (listen),” Logano said afterward with a brief tone of disappointment. “I hate it, too. I am not wired that way. I’m a balls to the wall type of guy, all the time. That’s what’s proven to be successful at certain racetracks.”

But not Richmond. Running consistent, smooth times and saving his stuff allowed him to get in position for Todd Gordon’s strategy gamble, which put Logano off sequence from the rest of the field (along with Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski, who ultimately finished second).

Logano said his mindset changed at the end of the race (“Take that 80 percent thing and throw it out the window”), but it helped put him in position to overcome a bad starting spot on a day when he didn’t have the fastest car.

The best drivers and teams end up winning on days when they aren’t supposed to, and that was Logano on Sunday.

2. Why not Logano?

It’s interesting Joey Logano won the first race after Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced his retirement, because it comes at a time when many in the NASCAR world are talking about the next face of the sport.

Names like Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson keep popping up, but Logano would be a good candidate if fans gave him a chance. After all, he’s only 26 years old — two years older than Larson.

I know I just lost most of the people reading this story, so you probably won’t even see the rest of this item. In that case, I guess it’s OK to tell you I am secretly a CIA spy pretending to be a NASCAR journalist and my real job is to gather intelligence on everyone who tweets questions to Bob Pockrass.

But for those of you still with me, I’m serious: Logano would seem to check a lot of boxes for fans looking for a new driver. He wins a lot (18 career wins, including 15 in the last four seasons), is a very aggressive racer (one reason some fans dislike him) and is one of NASCAR’s nicest guys off the track.

The silver-spoon stigma has hurt him, though, along with the amount of times he’s clashed with popular drivers. So Logano might end up going through his career hearing loud boos instead of cheers, which seems like a huge missed opportunity for both fans and NASCAR.

I mean, even Brian France’s six-year-old son, Luke, picked Logano as his favorite driver. Although I guess that’s another reason for some people not to root for him, so forget I mentioned that part (along with the whole CIA spy thing, please).

3. Dale Jr.’s secret pet?

Dale Earnhardt Jr. often shows animals on his social media accounts, including his dogs and pet bison.

What he’s apparently not been showing is the black cat that surely walks in front of his path every day.

How else to explain the rotten luck he’s had in the first nine races?

“This luck this year is just awful,” he said after finishing 30th. “I don’t know what else we need to do. We’re just out there taking care of ourselves and running along, and something always seems to bite us.”

This time, it was his friend and teammate Jimmie Johnson — of all people! — who came out of nowhere to take him out with 42 laps to go.

Johnson obviously felt terrible and said he had no idea Earnhardt was outside him when he came off the corner and bashed the 88 car into the wall.

“I just have to try to figure out if I just didn’t hear it being told to me (from spotter Earl Barban) or if it wasn’t told to me,” Johnson said. “I’m surprised our cars even kept rolling after that because I just body-slammed him into the wall and I could have easily not heard the ‘clear’ or something else happened.”

Immediately after saying that, Johnson went down pit road to find Earnhardt and the two talked for a couple minutes before Johnson huddled with Barban to go over what happened.

Either way, though, it’s just another weird incident to add to Earnhardt’s list this year. As a result, he’s now 24th in the point standings — 60 points out of a playoff spot.

But Earnhardt said he’s not even looking at points for now.

“We’re sitting so far back, we’ve just got to get this thing to where we can finish,” he said. “I’m just going to concentrate on getting about five or six races put together in a row, top-15s, and see what the points look like after that.”

Clearly, though, the 88 team has work to do. As was the case last week at Bristol, Earnhardt wasn’t going to have an amazing finish even before the incident. Things have to turn around at some point, right?

“Racing’s more frustrating than it is joy,” he said. “But the joy is worth hanging around for.”

4. Commitment issues

The commitment box rule nailed six different drivers, including Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Clint Bowyer. Each of them expressed disagreement with the call (“They have the wrong guy,” Busch said after being told of the penalty) and Danica Patrick accused NASCAR of not being clear enough about the rule in the drivers meeting after she was penalized.

Unfortunately for those drivers, it’s a black and white — or orange — issue. The drivers meeting video clearly said to have all four tires below the orange box (not on, but completely below) and then NASCAR’s Richard Buck echoed the rule after the video played.

It might be dumb to have a driver lose a race that way, but NASCAR has to set the line somewhere, right? If a football player is out of bounds by a toe, he’s still out of bounds.

Anyway, the rule especially stunk for Busch, who was behind Logano entering pit road and probably couldn’t see the box at all. Some people wondered if Logano purposefully tried to get close to the box in hopes Busch would follow, but nah.

“There was no strategy behind it, just a late call to pit,” Logano said. “It’s a very late call that Todd said, ‘Pit,’ and I said, ‘OK,’ and I took a hard left and was able to get down. But when you’re the trailing car, you’re looking at a rear spoiler so you’re not 100 percent sure where that box is. It’s a tough situation.”

Busch felt he was inside Logano’s line, but if he was, it wasn’t enough.

The whole situation might be unfortunate for the drivers who got caught, but there’s really no arguing it.

5. Kinder, gentler BZF?

The last time NASCAR reporters got a chance to speak with Brian France at a racetrack, the NASCAR chairman and CEO was combative, defensive and defiant in his answers. That was at Homestead last season.

He answered some sponsor-related questions at a December news conference in Las Vegas introducing Monster Energy, then opened the stage format news conference in January with a few remarks before quickly ducking out.

Other than that, France hadn’t spoken to reporters at any race this season — including Daytona.

So it was quite a surprise, then, when word suddenly trickled in following the drivers meeting that France wanted to come in and address the media at Richmond.

In the wake of Earnhardt’s retirement announcement, there wasn’t really anything newsworthy to come out of his remarks; France basically said all sports go in cycles when it comes to stars and NASCAR will be just fine with the next generation.

But it was notable France was there in the first place. Under the direction of new NASCAR communications chief Eric Nyquist, NASCAR officials seem to be taking a softer approach to the media this year. So far, putting media on blast — even for critical stories — has been much less prevalent (or at least from what I’ve seen), which is a nice change.

France looked comfortable in stating his opinions Sunday, with son Luke at his side. He even took a moment to thank reporters for being there — which is at least a gesture to potentially thaw a frosty relationship with the media.

“I want to thank you guys and gals,” he said. “This is a tough sport to cover. It’s multiple days away (from home), it’s not one game. It’s a lot of work to cover this sport. I know…our entire team thanks each and every one of you for helping tell the NASCAR story. Thank you.”

DraftKings Fantasy NASCAR picks: Richmond

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. Disclosure No. 2: I might be America’s worst daily fantasy player.

Last race’s results: Played the $3 Hot Rod game with a three entry max. Finished 600th out of 7,800 and won $7.

Season results: $15 wagered, $7 won in eight contests.

This week’s contest: $4 entry Brake Pad game with only one entry per player allowed.

Richmond picks:

Kyle Busch ($10,600). He’s the most expensive at Richmond for a reason. Busch leads all active drivers in wins (four), top fives (15, including six second-place finishes) and average finish (7.0, more than three positions better than the next-closest driver).

— Denny Hamlin ($9,300). The hometown favorite won last fall’s Richmond race from the pole and has an average finish of 10.1 — second among active drivers. In addition, he was second-fastest for 10-lap averages in final practice.

— Matt Kenseth ($8,800). I’m making a big bet on the Toyotas this weekend, as you can tell. But he starts from the pole, and I’m really looking for a driver who can lead laps (which is so key on short tracks). Since moving to Joe Gibbs Racing, Kenseth has six top-10 finishes in eight races here. He was fourth-fastest in 10-lap averages in final practice.

— Erik Jones ($8,100). As long as he’s relatively cheap, I’m going to keep picking him every week. In Saturday’s first practice, he was fastest in both single-lap and 10-lap average, although he dropped to 14th in best 10-lap average.

— Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($7,000). So cheap for how well he might run. Worth taking a chance on, especially because he was seventh in 10-lap averages for final practice.

— Aric Almirola ($6,200). If this pick works, it’s just going to purely be dumb luck. Almirola was the top driver left with the unused salary cap money (I ended up using all of it) since I spent so much on the Toyota drivers. He was 20th in both 10-lap average and single lap for final practice.

Richmond News Roundup: Day 1

Here’s a quick roundup of what drivers were talking about Friday at Richmond International Raceway:

Dale Earnhardt Jr. gave a couple more hints about what he might want to do in the future (coughTVcough).

“Obviously I enjoyed my fun in the booth (as a guest analyst),” he said. “If that’s an opportunity for me, I’m certainly going to have those conversations to find out.”

He added: “One of the people that I really respected a lot was Benny Parsons (who was also a well-known TV analyst in addition to his driving career). I thought that he left as important of a mark outside the car as he did inside the car. Whatever mark I can leave, I would love to be able to be as big an asset to the sport as I can be beyond driving.”

— The speculation about a possible Carl Edwards return still won’t go away, so I asked his former Denny Hamlin — who is very good at predictions — to estimate the odds of a Carl comeback.

“I would just be guessing, but I would say 50 percent,” Hamlin said. “Carl is a competitor. At his age (37), I’d find it hard to believe that he would just step away and not do it ever again. I think him leaving the window open in his press conference to say he’s not retiring, he’s just stepping away, I think it depends.”

Hamlin then cracked a smile.

“Has anyone found out whether he’s having a good time right now or not?” he said. “I think that would tell the story about whether he’s interested in coming back or not. From what I hear from all the retired drivers, it’s awesome for like a few months — then you kind of get bored a little bit.”

Kyle Larson and Brad Keselowski both were noncommittal when answering questions about the status of their contracts and whether they would be interested in replacing Earnhardt in the No. 88 car.

Larson, who is believed to have a contract with Chip Ganassi Racing beyond this year, would not say there was zero possibility of him leaving the team when asked.

“Oh, I’d have to talk to Chip before I came out in public about anything that serious,” he said. “So I won’t talk about anything like that because I don’t even know if I’m allowed to or not. I know Jamie (McMurray) is very secret about all his stuff. But I don’t know.”

Keselowski, speaking to a small group of reporters later in the day, wouldn’t say whether he is working on a contract extension with Team Penske (“There’s some stuff going on, but I’m not (able) to mention it in detail”).

And of any interest of returning to Hendrick Motorsports, where he began his Cup career on a partial schedule, to drive the 88?

“Do I have to have a yes or a no?” he said with a laugh. “It’s a Hendrick car, which by nature means it’s going to be one of the best cars available for a long period of time. But I would also say the car I’m in is one of the best available, and the team I’m with, I have a lot of equity in. So I’m pretty darn happy where I’m at. But I’ve learned in this world to never say no (definitively).”

Matt Kenseth won the pole for Richmond, followed by Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr., Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Joey Logano.

It’s Kenseth’s first No. 1 starting spot since Kansas last fall and his seventh consecutive season with at least one pole — this after failing to get a pole in eight of his first 11 seasons.

Austin Dillon crew chief Slugger Labbe was kept back in North Carolina by Richard Childress Racing after the team failed the laser inspection station five times at Bristol last week. Operations director Sammy Johns is crew-chiefing for Dillon this weekend instead.

Dillon lost his pit selection for this week and had to start in the back as part of the inspection penalty.

There were also a host of teams that lost practice time due to Texas and Bristol infractions, including a 30-minute penalty for both Kenseth and Logano for swerving after the race.

Social Spotlight with Brennan Poole

Each week, I’m asking someone from the racing industry about their social media use in a feature called the Social Spotlight. Up next: Brennan Poole, the Xfinity Series driver from Chip Ganassi Racing. You can follow Poole’s vlog on YouTube here or check out his Twitter and Instagram feeds. This interview is also available in podcast form.

You’re into a lot of different forms of social media. What’s your favorite?

That’s a good question. I was trying to come up with something funny to say there, but I just don’t have anything. I totally bombed it.

But I like YouTube. I like creating the vlogs and doing the videos. Like you said, it’s Friday here in Bristol and I have vlog coming out today, so I’m excited about that. It’s a West Coast Swing vlog. I got to go out there and run Corvettes and I went hiking and I was in Vegas. We ran into Siegfried from Siegfried & Roy, so I have a lot of cool content for the vlogs. That’s what’s really fun to me — trying to make a little movie every day. So I enjoy doing that. It is tough, though. It does take up a lot of time and I end up becoming slack and missing things and whatever.

But I also enjoy Twitter and Instagram. What’s cool about Instagram is that it’s just pictures. I think nowadays, we all live in this world where we want to see images and we want to watch video — we don’t really want to read much of anything. So on Twitter, I watch the videos and I look at pictures on Twitter that might not be on Instagram. I like Twitter because I can share news and articles and post links that you can click on to go right to things, but I’m probably on Instagram more than anything else.

I did like Vine, but it doesn’t exist now.

Yeah, what the hell? Vine was a big loss.

Yeah, Vine was like, when I’m in the restroom, I’m just on Vine the whole time scrolling through every video. And when I see something funny, I send it to a friend and it just grows out of control and then my entire friend group is watching this one stupid Vine.

But I had some Vines that I thought were funny, but it seemed like Vine was hard to gain followers yourself. If you weren’t a Vine star, you weren’t gonna gain traction because everybody was only watching their content, so that part of it was tough.

Where like YouTube, your content is just out there for everyone and you can just push out whatever you want and you can really start to grow. I think my subscribers have been growing, and of course all my content now is on, so you can watch all my stuff on their YouTube channel or whatever, but it’s on their website. We got 1,200 views on the Daytona vlog, so I’m kind of proud of that. I’m hoping that it’ll continue to grow.

Let’s talk about the YouTube stuff for a little bit. How did you decide that you wanted to be a vlogger, and is it one of these things where everything you do, you have to remember to take your phone out and film it?

I wanted to become a vlogger because of Casey Neistat. I was watching his vlogs every day and I was like, “Man, this guy is really good. He’s really interesting.” I was so influenced by listening to him talk about his struggles and how he became successful and stuff that he was working on to still become more successful, and so kind of being able to watch that journey with him day by day, I was like, “Man, this is something that’s special.”

And so I thought that a NASCAR driver needed to do this, somebody in NASCAR needs to do this. And the more I watched him, the more time that went by, I was like, “Screw it, I’m gonna just buy a camera and do it.” Now, I do shoot a lot of it off my phone now because in the garage and when I’m doing stuff for DC Solar and NASCAR, it’s hard to be carrying a camera around or have a backpack for the camera and everything.

Nowadays on your phone you can shoot 4K, so I just grab my phone and start shooting whatever I think is interesting and I do time lapses and everything off my phone. All that stuff comes out in really good quality, and the audio sounds great, too.

You know, I think for me, I keep plugging Casey Neistat because I want to meet him one day, so I’m like, “Casey Neistat, Casey Neistat” in the media center or whatever and the random chance he may see it, (it might) get him to race me, get him to vlog his race experience. But most of his stuff just inspired me to do something different. It’s been a lot of fun.

What’s the editing process like? You take all this footage of your daily life, you’re going around doing all this stuff, and then you have to sit down once a week or once every couple of weeks and try to put all this together. How long does that take you and what all goes into that?

You know, everyone’s vlogs are different, so when I talk about mine, I don’t want to discourage anyone from doing a vlog because you can literally just do it on iMovie and cut it up and whatever, and you can do it that way.

But for us, one of my really good friends, Bryan Baumgartner, does most of the editing because I simply just don’t have time. You know, I’m training, I’m in the shop for meetings, I’m riding my bike, I’m in the pool swimming, I’m in the gym lifting, I’m studying film, I’m going over notes and pre-race notes and getting ready for the weekend. There’s just no time for me to sit down and edit a vlog and put one out every week.

So he’s been able to influence the vlog a lot and put in a little bit of his creativity, and he kind of sees some things a little bit differently than I see. And something that I may not really want to put in there, he’ll put it in the vlog and make it where I’m comfortable with it. And it ends up making the video even more interesting than what I thought because it’s always awkward when you’re filming yourself and then you’re judging yourself on what you should put in there.

So he kind of sees it like, “No, that’s really interesting, we need to have it go this way,” and so having that really helps me. But he spends 10 to 13 hours a week on the video because there’s so much content that he has to watch all of it. I try to point out things that I really think should be in the vlog or kind of how the stories went, and I have to give him when I shot what so he kind of knows the timeline, and then he just busts it out and he does a fantastic job.

Now is the vlog almost a year old, or not quite that long?

Not quite. I started it last year at the second Iowa race. That was the first one I ever did. So (the anniversary) is coming, it’s not too far away. But I had to learn through the process to film and record interesting things. If you watch the first couple, you’ll see that I just film in my car or I film in the shop or I film in my house — I’m not like walking around filming.

I think that’s what makes Casey Neistat’s vlogs so interesting, because one he lives in New York City and he’s riding around on his Boosted Board and he’s just shooting all this stuff and you kind of feel like you’re in New York and you’re experiencing some of his experiences.

So for me, I’m still trying to work on that, to make my fans and the audience feel like they’re there and a part of it, too. That’s what’s tough — getting those shots that make you feel like you’re actually there. So I feel like I’ve gotten better at that. My last several vlogs have been, in my opinion, really good, but I’m still working on creating that feel.

You talked about your subscribers growing a little bit. How tough is it then to get that audience? I’m sure at times, you put out a video and you’re waiting for the reaction and you’re like, “Hello?” You know, just the feeling of, “Does anybody see this? How can I get this in front of more people?”

For me, that’s why I try to do this stuff with to help more people realize that it’s there (NASCAR has been uploading Poole’s videos to its own YouTube channel). I think for me on my social media and stuff I’m almost at 10,000 followers on Twitter and I’m close to 6,000 on Instagram, so I’m trying to push it to an audience that I just don’t quite have yet.

But I feel like if I have the content and it’s there, when people find out about it, they can go back and watch from Vlog No. 1 and there’s literally like a whole story there.

I think one thing that’s important is being consistent with putting videos out, which is something that I’ve struggled with. I’ve got a new deal in place now where I will have a video out every single week, which I’m really excited about starting this week — but it was just tough. Everyone has jobs to get done, so it’s really difficult to put time towards a product that you’re just trying to grow by yourself. It’s really tough. So I’m excited about the next several weeks.

Some of the new videos, the content that we have, I think is really funny, so I hope a lot of the fans and some of the drivers enjoy it. I’m only up to 400 or 500 subscribers, so I’m still trying to grow. But like I said, the thing is starting to get more views and I’m starting to get up over 1,000 views on some of my videos, which for me is a big step. I think when you’re at a smaller number, getting to that first 1,000 is really hard, and then getting to the next 1,000 is a little easier, and the next and the next and the next, it kind of gets a little easier as it grows.

Hopefully by the end of this year, my goal was to get 50,000 views on a video or like 50,000 subscribers — 50,000 subscribers is insane, I try to be realistic — maybe 20,000, but that’s just really what I want to try and do because I like vlogging and doing it so much, and I feel like there’s a space there to create some interesting content and really give people a bit of a behind-the-scenes of what a race car driver really goes through.

I’m still a normal guy and a normal kid and I do normal things, but also you get to see a little bit of the training and the work side of things, being at the shop and kind of what I’m dealing with. I think it’s kind of cool because through video, you can really experience what someone’s going through, where  through a tweet or a picture, you might not necessarily see all that.

Do you want your vlog to be something that is mainly consumed by race fans, or do you have a vision of it becoming something that can attract the mainstream audience?

Yeah, I want it to attract the mainstream audience. I want it to be where people are tuning into the vlogs just because they’re interesting. I feel like that’s what people do with Casey Neistat’s vlogs and some of the other vloggers on YouTube; people just tune in because they’re invested in them as a person and so I really want to grow. Not that I want attention or anything like that, I just want to be a normal guy who’s filming normal stuff who happens to be a race car driver and just inviting everyone in to see what that’s like.

Does anybody around you question the commitment level? Because it sounds like you’re really committed to this, and they’re like, “Are you sure you want to do this?”

(Laughs) Yeah, I mean a few people like some of my teammates and stuff are like, “Man, you just walk around and video everything and yourself and it’s gotta be timed and it’s awkward?” I’m like, “Yeah, it is.” But when I go back and I watch the video or I watch something that I felt like was awkward but I just acted through it, basically, I watch it like, “Man, that was actually really good.” So I try to be comfortable and just not really care as much about what I’m filming. Like now, I’ll just walk through the airport, I’ll walk to dinner, I’ll walk on the street and I’ll just be filming and recording and I don’t really care.

Are people looking at you funny?

Yeah, people are like, “What is that guy doing?” So now, because I capture a lot of stuff on my phone other than my actual camera, I think people just think that I’m Snapchatting or posting an Instagram story or something; they don’t really know. I’m like, “They don’t know what I’m doing, so whatever, it doesn’t matter.”

Let’s talk about a few other social media networks. You touched on Twitter. How much are you on Twitter, looking at tweets?

I probably look at Twitter everyday. I read something the other day that’s like people look at their phone within the first 10 minutes of waking up or something, but I would say I’m probably one of those people. I mean, that’s where I get most of my news. I don’t really watch the news on TV, I’m not searching the web or anything, I’m not really on BuzzFeed now.

Lindsey (Giannini, his girlfriend) is obsessed with BuzzFeed; I looked at her data the other day and 78% of it was from BuzzFeed. So, I was giving her a hard time about that because BuzzFeed is just kind of ridiculous. They do a great job and there’s some good news on there and the quizzes are fun, but BuzzFeed, you’re taking over my girlfriend’s life, so please, settle down!

But Twitter, I’m on there and usually I try to answer every fan, too. I don’t have an insane amount of followers yet — like I said, I’m almost at 10,000 — so if someone asks me something, I usually answer. Or if somebody gives me a compliment or whatever, I’ll like the tweet. I always try to interact with everyone as best as I can, you know?

I had a lot of people talking to me this past week about the NBA playoffs and the NHL playoffs, too, because I posted one tweet where I was like, “Man, the NBA playoffs are awesome.” And then people were like, “No, watch hockey!” And people were talking about like, “No, what are you talking about? Watch basketball!” I’m like, “Guys, I watch both, calm down.” But I think that’s what’s cool about Twitter — being able to interact with fans instantly. It’s kind of like texting, but through the Internet.

You touched on Instagram. Do you prefer Instagram stories or Snapchat stories?

When Instagram first put out their stories, I was like, “Come on guys, stop stealing other people’s things. It’s just kind of getting ridiculous.” Like on all social media, there’s a giant war going on that none of us even know it happening between all of them.

But I look at all the Instagram stories because I get bored and I’ve already scrolled through so many pictures on Instagram. If I’m on a flight or waiting to get on the plane or at a restaurant by myself, whatever, I scroll though it. So I’ll look through everyone’s stories, but for me, I like Snapchat a little bit better.

Plus, they’re the original guys. It’s kind of like my favorite Mexican food restaurant, well one of them, it’s the original Ninfa’s in Houston and the original is just better than all the chain Ninfa’s around. All my friends are on Snapchat, so we just use Snapchat.

I kind of agree with you in that even though there’s more people on Instagram, I prefer Snapchat. I almost get annoyed when people post Instagram stories. It’s kind of like, “Great, now I have to look at this.”

You have to look at it twice! And now Facebook has stories, too. Did you see that? So it’s like, “What’s happening?” And that’s what’s interesting, too, that’s why I come back to YouTube all the time because YouTube’s like you can make a mini movie. It’s like making stories and people are seeing what you’re doing and it’s kind of like a vlog through your story, but on YouTube there’s this content that is there forever, and you can always go back and look at it.

I think that’s one thing for me that’s special, because I’m recording all these moments in my career as I’m moving forward and I’m always gonna have that to go back and look on, which is pretty cool.

How do people subscribe to your channel if they’re listening and they’re not huge YouTubers?

If you just go to and you search “Brennan Poole,” my channel actually will come up and you can click on it. It’ll list all my vlogs, you’ll see all of them. You’ll also see some other random videos in there, perhaps me crashing somebody a few years ago, or Talladega race is very common with my name if you search it, but my videos are there.

And in the video I give you an option at the end of the newer vlogs that you can click there to subscribe, and basically when you have a YouTube profile and you subscribe to a channel, it’ll give you a notification whenever I post a new video.

This interview is sponsored by Dover International Speedway. If you’re planning to attend the Dover race in June, please consider using my ticket link. Thanks!

Survivor Game Changers Power Rankings: Week 8

Last week’s merge and double elimination took out both Hali (who was ranked No. 4) and Ozzy (who was ranked No. 12) — and it nearly took out top-ranked Zeke after he seemed to ruin his own game by going to Debbie and Sierra to try and organize a coup against Cirie and Andrea.

With Zeke hurting his chances, there’s a new No. 1 this week. Here’s how the 11 remaining castaways stack up, ranked by best chance to win:

1. Troyzan (Last week: 2). Here’s why I continue to be so high on Troyzan: He’s the No. 3 in his alliance, meaning Brad and Sierra might be targets first; he doesn’t seem to be on many radars; and he has an idol. That’s sort of the Adam formula from last season.

2. Sarah (Last week: 3). I’m not sure where Sarah sits right now, and that’s a good thing. She’s certainly not a target, and she could also have some influence over the direction of the game by playing in the middle for a couple more votes. She voted with the majority to boot Ozzy, but that doesn’t mean she’s committed to them.

3. Brad (last week: 9). I’m finally starting to get on the Brad bandwagon as far as his chances. I was so skeptical for the first few weeks, but he really seems to have changed as both a person and a player from his other Survivor appearance. He’s making bonds with people like Aubry and, even though guys like Zeke can see through him, what he’s doing is working so far.

4. Aubry (Last week: 8). Although she’s with the minority alliance, she’s not one of the top targets there (Cirie and Andrea are). So perhaps that will help her stay safe as others continue to go after big threats — and remember, it also looked like she bonded with Brad (which could help keep her off the chopping block).

5. Sierra (Last week: 7). Surprisingly, Sierra is actually the leader of the majority alliance. She is running the game in some aspects. However, I’m not sure that’s a good thing for her at this point — because people might recognize that and come after her.

6. Andrea (Last week: 5). She’s either the leader or No. 2 in the minority alliance (along with Cirie), and I don’t think that bodes well if the majority group (Sierra, Brad, Troyzan, Debbie and Tai) are able to stick together.

7. Michaela (Last week: 10). There was a nice moment where Michaela and Cirie bonded, and you could tell Michaela really listened. But listening is one thing; acting on the advice is another. Let’s see if that was a turning point.

8. Tai (Last week: 11). I still don’t think Tai can win, but with every week that goes by and those two immunity idols remain in his pocket, his chances improve.

9. Debbie (Last week: 13). OK, Debbie — nice move. Nice, niiiiiice move. Debbie, if you recall, was the one behind booting Ozzy; not only was it her idea, but her extra vote came into play. I’m still not high on her game and overall chances, but she now has a big move to claim on her resume.

10. Cirie (Last week: 6). She’s the leader of the smaller alliance and a threat, so she’ll be an easy target sometime in the new few weeks if the majority alliance stays together. I think she’s playing great, but she doesn’t have much protection.

11. Zeke (Last week: 1) Dammit, Zeke. My favorite player of the season goes from first to worst after nearly blowing up his own game last week. Now he’s not only broken the trust with his former alliance, but he doesn’t appear to have anyone to work with (despite what the previews hinted). I hope he can salvage his game, but he’s also being talked about as having too compelling of a story for people to let him reach the end.

12 Questions with Kyle Larson

The 12 Questions series of interviews continues this week with Kyle Larson of Chip Ganassi Racing. I spoke to Larson at Bristol Motor Speedway. This interview is available as a podcast and is also transcribed below.

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

I would say up until I got to NASCAR, it was probably all natural and I didn’t have to work at anything. But once you get here, it’s really tough and everybody else is working hard, so you have to at least do what they’re doing to try and become better. A lot of that is studying. I still don’t really work out, but I try to do that a little bit. So it’s become more of having to work for it when you get to this level, but still natural ability takes over everything else.

2. Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards have all retired in the last couple years. What’s your pitch for fans of theirs to become fans of yours?

I’m very similar to — I guess all of them kind of have an open-wheel background, so I got that going for me. I’m kind of a throwback racer where I’ll race anything as long as I’m allowed to, and I would love to race every day of the week if I could. So I would say I’m one of the only real racers left out here. So that can be my pitch, that I’m the last true racer.

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

It’s probably that our season is so long and our weeks are so short. There’s so much stuff that you want to get done during the week and it’s hard to accomplish all that. There’s lots of times where I see what my friends are doing, and I’d love to be doing what they’re doing, but our weekends are kind of our weekdays and our weekdays are weekends, where it’s opposite of everybody else in the world. I would say that part of it is probably the toughest part.

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

Yeah, as long as our main dish isn’t on the table, I think you can definitely come over. I’m not like a germaphobe or anything, either, so I’m not afraid to shake hands as long as they’re a decent-looking human being. But yeah, as long as our main dish isn’t on the table, feel free to come over.

So as long as the guy doesn’t have flies circling around him or something like that, it’s OK?

Yeah. If it’s not 105 degrees outside, as long as you’re not sweaty and greasy, you can come over and I’ll shake your hand.

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

I think you guys all cover the sport very well — good and bad. There’s some stuff that probably shouldn’t be covered that gets covered. But I wish I would see more good stuff about sprint car racing rather than all the negative stuff (about deaths and injuries) because that’s some of the purest form of racing. All the media kind of covers is the negative, so I wish that we would get more of the exciting part of it and how it develops great race car drivers rather than the tragedies.

The mainstream media doesn’t cover it every week; they see the danger, they see the accidents and then that gets written up.

Yeah, it’s easier to get people to read your posts when you have a title that is touching a negative topic rather than, “Oh, there was an awesome race in Illinois this weekend.” It’s easier to get someone to click on your link when it’s got some negative in it, so I wish there was more positive stuff about the sprint cars.

6. Who is the last driver you texted?

Probably (Ricky) Stenhouse or Denny (Hamlin). I think we’re actually in a group text about golf, so probably those two.

How’s your golf game?

My golf game is really bad. Those two are really good. Denny shot a 74 (on Thursday), so two over par, and Ricky was five over par, so they’re good. I wish I could be 10 strokes better than I am, but I shot 101.

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

I guess we are in a way, but I don’t think of myself as an entertainer. I think there are some other drivers that do think of themselves as entertainers. (Grins)

But for me, racing is just my love and my hobby more than anything. I know it’s my job, but I just do it to have fun. But at the same time, I guess we are entertainers where we’re in front of big audiences live at the track and on TV as well. So yeah, I guess we’re entertainers, but I don’t try to entertain outside the car.

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

I don’t feel like I normally give the middle finger to a lot of people, but if you’re like four seconds off the pace and you’re multiple laps down and you hold me up, you’re probably gonna get the middle finger. Thankfully there’s no good drivers that ever really get the finger, so I would say that’s my middle finger policy. Just don’t hold me up.

So it’s reserved for the scrubs, basically.

Yeah, I guess you could say that.

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?

You keep a payback list for sure, but you also have a list of guys that you probably don’t race as hard. I think of Matt Kenseth: He’s somebody who’s a veteran and understands give-and-take, and I’ve learned a lot from him of when’s the right time to be aggressive and when not to be.

So you’ve got guys like him where if they’re faster, you just let them go and then they repay the favor later in the race. But when it gets down to the end of it, you can race really hard. I would say most of us young guys are probably not the best at the whole give-and-take thing, but we can learn a lot off of those guys.

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

Probably Danica. You know, (Larson and girlfriend Katelyn Sweet) are great friends with Ricky and Danica, so we go out to dinner with them all the time. We probably eat dinner at their motorhome more than anything because she’s a great cook. But it doesn’t matter where we’re at — we could be at the middle of nowhere and somebody recognizes her.

It’s funny too, because they’ll see her and not have a clue who Ricky and I are, so it’s pretty funny. So yeah, I would say she’s probably the most famous person I’ve had dinner with. I know she likes being noticed out in public, too, so it probably makes her feel good that she’s the famous person with us.

Does she ever get free desserts or anything from the waiters?

Yeah, there’s a lot of times when we’ll go to a restaurant and they’ll bring out free appetizers that aren’t even on the menu that the chef wants to cook up for her. So yeah, it has its perks to be friends with Danica for sure.

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

Probably staying motivated to do the not-fun stuff of our sport. I guess going back to the work part of it, being motivated for that stuff. You know, I guess when you grow up racing, the racing thing is all you do and it’s natural ability — you don’t have to work at it too hard. But like I said, when you get here, it’s a lot more work and staying motivated to put the effort into being a little bit better is important, and there’s a lot time times I slack off on that. So I would say probably staying motivated to do the business/work part of it.

12. The last interview was with Daniel Suarez, and he wanted to know: If a competitive young driver came to you and asked for advice, how much would you tell him? Would you tell him 100% of what you know, or would you tell him like 90%? How much would you offer?

I always try to be extremely honest whenever anybody asks me anything. And honestly, there’s not a whole lot of people that go around asking for advice. I guess it would be the young guys. At Homestead last year, I felt like half the Truck Series was calling me, trying to get around Homestead because I go really good there.

I remember last Atlanta, I was extremely fast in practice before qualifying because I was running a different line in (Turns) 1 and 2, and Kyle Busch was asking me how hard I would run up there and why I would split the seams and stuff like that. I gave him an honest answer, and he got the pole and I qualified bad.

But yeah, I’m always extremely honest. I think coming from a dirt background, it’s easier for us to be honest — where people who grew up in pavement racing, it seems like pavement racers are more secretive than dirt racers.

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

He’s been around, he’s seen it all in every series. I feel like the average age has gone down a lot lately in every series. So how has he seen the style of racing change with the average age going down?

This 12 Questions interview is sponsored by Dover International Speedway. If you’re planning to attend the Dover race in June, please consider using my ticket link. Thanks!