12 Questions with Landon Cassill

The 12 Questions series concludes for 2017 with Landon Cassill, who has been in the last-but-not-least position for six consecutive years now. Cassill will end his tenure at Front Row Motorsports this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway and is currently looking for a new ride.

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

I’m (leaning) more heavily toward working at it than natural ability. There’s a lot of people out there that are just good at everything and I don’t think I’m one of those people. I think I’m good at a lot of things, but I definitely am a person who learns through my mistakes and fixing my mistakes, so I feel like I kind of have to work at it.

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

I feel like I’ve made that pitch almost every day through my social media activity in the way I communicate with fans. I mean, you just have to meet me at the racetrack and kind of see and understand how I kind of conduct myself, the way my sense of humor works. If you’re looking for a driver on the entertainment side of things, someone you’d like to follow off the track — and I think my on-track story is kind of cool and compelling as well. I think I’ve been through a lot in the Cup Series and had unique opportunities. I haven’t had that breakthrough opportunity yet, so I think it’s kind of, as Mark Martin put it awhile back, I’m kind of coming up the old-school way and I feel like that’s the way I’m doing it. So that’s a cool story to follow on-track.

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

I think balancing the work between, “How do I make myself a better race car driver?” but also “How do I market myself?” and “How do I brand myself and spend time on social media?” Things like that.

It’s kind of going back to Question No. 1 a little bit. I work pretty hard on my feedback and my post-race reports and try to reflect on what I did at the races, how I can use that for the next race. Sometimes it’s busywork, like office work, and so much work that you have to get done at a desk. A lot of it is writing; I have an iPad Pro and a pencil and write a lot of my notes, whether it’s on the plane on Mondays or whatever. And it’s time sensitive, too, because I tend to forget what my car did as the week goes on. So I don’t write as well on Wednesday or Thursday after a Sunday race as I do on Sunday night or Monday morning.

So balancing that kind of stuff, getting that work done versus trying to be sponsor-friendly or fan-friendly and keeping up a solid brand and a good personality — because that stuff takes time, too — that balance definitely is a tough part of the job.

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

Absolutely. Yeah, just form a line and we’ll stop eating our dinner and I’ll sign autographs and take pictures until everybody is through. I do that on Wednesday nights at the Brickhouse in Davidson.

You have a big line, huh?

Yeah. (Laughs) I’m just kidding. I’ve never ever been to the Brickhouse in Davidson, that’s just the first restaurant I thought of.

Yeah, I don’t care. I’m totally fine with it. I really appreciate people who know who I am or know something about me — like if you feel like there’s one thing you know about me and you see me out in the wild, you feel like, “Landon, I want to remind you of this funny thing you did,” or something I did on the racetrack or whatever, I want to hear it. I think that’s cool. That’s the kind of race fan I am: When I see somebody I look up to or admire, that’s how I open a conversation. It doesn’t bother me to meet fans in the wild, in public.

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

(Long pause. His public relations representative Shari Spiewak notes he had all year to think of an answer.) I feel like this is important, this is like the story that hasn’t been covered enough. I don’t want to screw it up. I don’t want you to turn around and be like, “Well, actually, it was just written about last week in the New York Times, they did a big special about it in their sports section. Yeah, you’re gonna screw up the whole thing.”

I think we should talk more specifically about how drivers drive, what makes up their driving styles and what certain drivers do compared to other ones to make their cars go fast.

I think that’s a product of two things. I think number one, we don’t necessarily know. I think we do, but in all the money and engineering that we spend in the sport, we spend it all on the race cars because it’s kind of a long-hanging fruit in some ways. Because if we kind of put the drivers in the car and trust that they’re going as fast as they can, why not just build the car to go faster?

But we’ve never really over-engineered the drivers. I feel like there’s speed left in the drivers, learning their techniques and what Kyle Larson does differently than Jimmie Johnson, what Kyle Busch does differently.

And I think the second reason why we don’t talk about this a whole lot is because I think a lot of the way to talk about that and learn more about that is through data, through the feedback that we get back from the EFI and things like that. So I think the teams don’t want to give up a lot of information. But I think it would be really cool if you could get the engineers and the crew chiefs to be a little bit more open about their drivers and what they do specifically, what they do with the throttle, what they do with the brakes, if they’re really erratic with the steering wheel, if they use a lot of steering wheel, if they don’t use a lot of wheel. I think it would be cool to see a breakdown of how everybody drives, what path that sends them and their teams down.

6. Who is the last driver you texted?

David Ragan yesterday, and Dale Jr. before that. David asked me if I wanted to go hiking yesterday after we landed kind of early in Phoenix and I didn’t take him up on it. Usually I do. When David hits me up, we usually get dinner every few weeks, something like that, on the road.

In the past, you’ve tweeted a couple of screenshots of you having an incredible amount of unanswered text messages. Why do you not read your text messages? I understand not reading your emails, but how do you explain not reading your texts?

(Laughs) I don’t know. I don’t know, I just don’t open them. Like sometimes if we’re having a text conversation and it finishes and you’re the last person, like if you send the closing text to the conversation and I see it, then I just don’t open it. Does that make sense?

It pops up, so you don’t actually click on the conversation and read it. You just see it come up and you’re just like, “OK?”

And I have my read receipts on, so people know if I read it or not.

So you gotta be careful about that, because you don’t want people to say, “You didn’t write me back.” So it’s easier to say, “I didn’t read it.”

Yeah, kind of. It’s a way to maybe control the situation.

7. Do you consider race car drivers to be entertainers? Earlier this year, when we were talking about it, you predicted most would say no. It turns out that mostly everybody have said yes. So what’s your answer?

I mean, I feel like we’re entertaining for sure. I think we’re athletes and I think that NASCAR is an entertainment sport. But I don’t know if we’re entertainers.

I feel like professional wrestlers are entertainers, and I don’t want to compare NASCAR to professional wrestling. I think that’s a slippery slope and I don’t want to get in trouble for anything like that. And that’s not what I’m implying anyway.

But I think maybe we can be both. There’s some drivers out there who are not that entertaining — so would you call them entertainers? Or are they more like heavy on the athlete, not as heavy on the entertaining?

I don’t know. It’s up to the next person (in the 12 Questions). Well, I guess we’ll never know! We’ll never truly know the answer because I’m the last person to do that question.

8. This is the question you came up with last year: What is your middle finger policy on the racetrack?

This is such a good question. It really is. It is one of your all-time best questions for 12 Questions?

It has to be. Not to heap all this praise on you, but that’s one of my favorite questions.

Go ahead, heap all the praise.

So I feel like first of all, I’m guilty of it both ways. I’ve flown my share of birds in my career and I’ve received them in my career. When you take the emotion down and you think about it, I feel like it’s a sign of weakness on both sides.

It’s a sign of weakness if you’re flying the bird — it shows that you’re frustrated with the person behind you, that you’re letting them, whatever they’re doing to you, get in your head. I think back in the times that I’ve done that, and like I regret it every time because it shows I was more concerned being mad at that person, flipping them off, than focusing on the race.

So usually if nothing happens, that’s great, but if something happens, you end up in a pissing match with that guy. Then you just screw up your race because you’re worried about a middle finger. So I feel like it’s a sign of weakness if you’re flying the bird, and I also I feel like it’s a sign of weakness if you’re reacting to somebody who’s flying the bird.

Some people’s policy is, “I’m gonna wreck anybody that flies me the bird.” Well, that’s stupid, because you just let them potentially ruin your day. I mean, you might wreck them and ruin their day, but what if you damage your car? What if you ruin your own day? All because they flipped you off? And so I think it’s a sign of weakness if you fly the bird, and I think it’s a sign of weakness if you have a reaction to someone flying the bird.

When I get the bird, it makes me laugh because it lets me know that person in front of me, I’m in their head now, and it makes me want to keep doing whatever I was just doing to them to get them out of my way.

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

No. Not really.

You don’t? Most people said yes this year.

I don’t know. I generally race people pretty fair, but my number one rule of thumb is I do what gets me the best possible finish. So that’s why my knee-jerk reaction to that question is no, because I prioritize myself. And I guess I’m not implying that those other people that say yes would prioritize someone else over their own finish, but I definitely prioritize my finish over everybody else.

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

So I had a really cool dinner in England at the Goodwood Festival of Speed with some really cool guys, Dan Gurney and Sir Jackie Stewart. We were all at the same table, so there was maybe 12 of us there. That was a pretty cool dinner. I spent a lot of time with those guys at Goodwood. Those are definitely the most famous people I’ve ever been around.

At the time, I was driving a Chevy on the NASCAR side and my suit had a Chevy emblem on it. Sir Jackie Stewart said, “Oh, you drive a Chevy?” And I said, “Yeah.” And he said, “Someday, you’ll be good enough to drive a Ford.”

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

(Thinks for a moment.) I guess I’d like to get better at answering questions on the spot.

These shouldn’t be on the spot, Landon. You helped vet these questions.

I forgot about that. Man, you know, I feel like I have good communication skills, but I feel like I’m not always the best communicator. Sometimes I feel like I can be a better communicator.

That’s what I hear from all the people who haven’t gotten replies to their text messages to you.

Yeah.

12. Last week I interviewed Austin Dillon. He wanted me to ask you: If you could bring three sponsors into this sport to make it better, what would they be and why?

That’s a really cool question. I would bring in some sort of technology company like Apple or Google or Microsoft. And I would hopefully build a deal around accessing their smart people and using that to our advantage on the racetrack, whether it’s like developing artificial intelligence for a simulation program or something like that. I think that would be cool, so definitely one of the major technology companies.

I would definitely like to have Whole Foods as a sponsor because the discount card at Whole Foods would be great. That would be useful for me and my family.

And beer sponsors always seem to work out pretty well, too. I think it’s nice having a beer sponsor.

Now the question that you are going to ask is going to an unknown person before the Daytona 500 next year — provided I’m still employed by all my patrons. What is something I can ask somebody going into the Daytona 500 next year?

Kind of going off of the answers to one of the questions earlier, I wanna know: What is your driving style? That’s kind of my question. But I want them to answer specifically:”Do you use a lot of brake? Do you get to the gas earlier than most?” I’m curious what your driving style is.

So essentially, “From what you know from comparing yourself to other drivers, how much brake do you use, how quickly do you get to the gas, how do you make it through the corner compared to others?” Something like that?

Yeah, I think so. It would be useful to know if they drive the car loose or tight, but I don’t know how they’ll answer that. But yeah, I’d like to know, “How much data do you look at and what does that tell you about your driving style?” How about that?

Thank you for joining us, and I truly hope we are doing this together next year at Phoenix, which meant you would have found a ride.

Do I have to be a full-time Cup driver to do the 12 Questions?

No, definitely not, but it would just be convenient.

Would you do 12 Questions with a used car salesman?

Sure.

There we go.

12 Questions with Austin Dillon

The 12 Questions series of interviews continues this week with Austin Dillon of Richard Childress Racing. Dillon got his first career win earlier this season and is 13th in the point standings with two races to go.

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

I would say 60/40 working at it compared to natural ability. I really feel like you’ve got to work almost double what you do as far as natural ability, because it only carries you so far. And if you keep working at it, you kind of get the muscle memory right and you start making the right decisions under pressure more than you do just naturally. It’s more of a luck thing when it comes naturally.

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?

Well, I’ve got all the new guys covered as far as coolness goes. I’m a pretty cool guy — just ask me. (Smiles)

I like being real, having fun with my boys, I just like to have a good time. I feel like I’m a pretty honest guy to say it how it is and I want to make NASCAR better when I leave it. That’s another big part of it: I want to give something back to this sport when I’m done with it.

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

Definitely just traveling to sponsor appearances. Usually there’s probably one or two every week, just keeping up with those.

And then staying fresh for when you’re asked similar questions throughout the week and you’re just answering the same ones. You’re trying to not get frustrated if you have a week where the same questions are getting answered.

So somebody asks you a question one day about how your season’s going, and the next day it’s like, “How’s your season going” again? That kind of thing?

Yeah, for sure. And if an event happens — like making the playoffs — and you have to do like seven interviews in a row in an hour-and-a-half period or something like that, it’s literally just like I’m repeat. I wish I could get everybody to call in at once and just do one really good interview and that’s where it’s tough, because you’ve got to go through and say the same thing to everybody — because that’s truly the answer. But by the seventh one I’m just dead. I’m like, “I’m OK, the car’s driving good, hopefully we can have a good race.” The first one, I’m pretty witty and fun, but then it gets a little monotonous.

I actually always wonder how you guys do that, because I feel like I’d want to have a recorder I take out and be like, “Here’s what I just told this person,” and just play it, you know?

Exactly, and I think it would be cooler. The ones that I like is when everybody listens in on a conference call, that seems to go pretty well. But when you have to go to different radio stations across the state or a couple of states, it gets pretty bad.

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

Yeah. I mean, I will sign for anyone. I think the best way to do it for a fan is don’t let me leave the table at the end. If I’m eating, just let me finish and then I’ll sign it. Usually that’s what happens. They’ll like, “Hey, big fan, Austin, can I get an autograph?” “Yes, as soon as I’m done, I’ll come sign.” So that works pretty good, where I’ll come to them if they ask.

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

That’s a good question. I think the media could do a better job covering aero advantages you see on other cars, like getting more technical with our sport and finding the differences between cars. Like if you visually see something on a car, putting it out there earlier than what it usually (gets discovered) to help create an even more fair playground.

Then another story is the penalties. There’s no one that keeps tally, I feel like, of minutes of sitting out on pit road (during practice). I wonder who has the most minutes sitting out on pit road this year for being late through tech. And I bet it averages out where the top couple guys are some of the best guys in the sport. So the guys that are sitting on pit road the longest for missing practices or whatever it might be, for rolling around (through inspection) too many times, I bet if you look at that and tallied all those minutes up, it would come out with the pretty good guys at the top.

So it’s actually sort of a good thing because they’re pushing it?

Either that, or it’s telling you that they’re cheating the most to get the most. Is cheating rewarding the guys that are up front?

6. Who is the last driver you texted?

My brother (Ty) about 10 minutes ago. We were talking about fantasy football. We made a trade.

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

Entertainers on the track, yes. Away from the track, some of them aren’t entertainers. I feel like some are boring. Some are exciting and funny and have personalities, but some just don’t in my opinion. But all of them are entertainers when it comes to being on the track. Some of the most boring guys out of the race car are some of the most exciting in the race car.

What do we have to do to get the boring guys off the track to be more exciting?

I think make them feel comfortable to where if they do mess up or say something wrong, they’re not just shut down instantly from a fan standpoint. You’ve got a lot of fans supporting one, two, three guys and then one guy steps out of his comfort zone that’s not supported by all the fans, (he shouldn’t have to) feel like he’s going to ruin his career due to a fan base booing him.

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

Man, mine flies all the time. I’ve got to do a better job with that, actually. It’s just when I’m mad, that’s just what happens. I know one thing, if I see the middle finger, I really fly hot in the race car because I want to get to that guy, move him or do whatever I can. But I don’t know, I wish I would just wave more. That would be better.

If you wave, people are like, “That could mean something else.”

Yeah, it could mean something else. And sometimes, I’ll throw the peace sign out the window and I don’t know if that’s just worse than the middle finger, like “See ya, guy.”

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?

Oh, for sure. I think certain guys you put in your head that have given you a break at certain periods of time. Tony Stewart was one of the best at it. If he was having a bad day and you were coming forward and he knew you were there, he would get out of your way pretty quick. But I’ll tell you what, if you didn’t have that same way of driving style on the way back when he was coming through, he would let you know really quick. So I think I knew in the back of my mind, “OK, he let me go really quick, I need to let him go.”

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

I don’t know if this counts, but Donald Trump Jr. sat behind me once. Gary Player, I sat with him at a dinner. I don’t know. I’ve eaten with Dale Jr. — he’s pretty famous.

Man, I’m trying to think of somebody outside the sport who would be really cool. Oh, Jimmy Carter — former President. I ate lunch with him. So that was pretty cool.

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

My (fiancee, Whitney Ward) says compassion. I need to have more compassion, so I’m working on that.

Like just for other people in general or what?

Yeah, I’m kind of black and white on certain situations, so I should be a little better — just a little easier, I guess, on certain people.

12. Last week I interviewed Danica Patrick. She wanted me to ask you: If you could live on Earth forever and eat the steak that’s on Earth and have your current life that’s on Earth and be happy, would you rather do that or would you rather take a risk and go to another planet where it’s potentially way happier? You don’t know what it’s going be, but you’ll be way happier than where you are now. Would you stay in your current Earth situation or go to this other planet?

And I’m happy with the steak where I’m at right now though? But it could just be way better at the other one? The potential is way higher, but it could also be bad.

Correct, yes. That’s what I understood from the question.

Man. I’m not a huge food guy — like food does not make or break me because I can eat about anything. So I would have to know more details when it came to if my fiancee was with me, if my family was gonna be there, if it was just for me. If my family’s still (on Earth) and I’m leaving them, I would stay. I would be eating the same ol’ steak, chilling. But if I could take my whole crew with me, if there’s an opportunity, I’d probably push for the opportunity.

The next interview is going to be with Landon Cassill. Do you have a question I can ask Landon?

If he could bring three sponsors into this sport to make it better, what would they be and why?

12 Questions with Danica Patrick

The 12 Questions series of interviews continues with Danica Patrick of Stewart-Haas Racing. I spoke with Patrick at Martinsville Speedway. This interview is available both in podcast and written form.

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

Are you talking about me, or are you talking about in general?

Your success as a driver, like how you got here. Is it because you’re naturally talented or your hard work?

Well, I got here by determination and believing I could. It’s that simple. And then I would say that to open it up to something that your question wasn’t exactly — I would say once you get to this level, I think we’re all talented, so then it depends on so many other circumstances, which is why you see a driver all of a sudden emerge and maybe submerge every now and again, depending on circumstances.

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?

Man, I don’t think you can pitch a fan. I think a fan is your fan because they decide to be and not because you’re offering free candies or a lifetime of happiness.

I think you decide who you cheer for based on perhaps history, family, maybe who you used to cheer for — like if you cheered for Jeff Gordon, you may cheer for Chase Elliott now just based on the alliance with that number and team and history. But otherwise, it’s personality, and I can’t fake a fan. You really can’t. It will all come out eventually if you can for a little while.

So I don’t think you can make a fan yours just by saying, “Be my fan” and telling them a good reason why.

But if you offered free candy or a lifetime of happiness, I might be convinced.

(Laughs) It’s a pretty good promise and I can do the candy part, but I can’t control the other one.

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

I would say that the hardest thing away from the racetrack is balancing out all the other things I have going on. It’s decompressing when things get busy. If I had to pick one thing, it’s when things get really busy, it gets hard to sort of regroup and you really have to look day by day instead of just the next month because you might not have a lot of room to breathe. But that’s just kind of in life for everybody; there are phases that you go through where you’re like, “Man, I just gotta focus on today.”

But I think pertaining to just what I do — it’s not necessarily hard, it’s just different — and this is just because of what we do and who we are and being exposed publicly, it’s just even simple things like the safety stuff. Just being smart about what you do and what you put your name on and access that’s available, things like that. Just simple safety protection, whether it’ll be safety from people or just safety from people wanting to know more about you.

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

I don’t mind, but I would say if I was out to dinner, the most desirable communication would be if someone came over after dinner was over and just said, “Hey, I just wanted to let you know I’m a huge fan, good luck this weekend.” That would be like, “Wow, that was super polite (and) they acknowledged, which takes guts.” I know, because I’ve been in that position before when I don’t want to go up to somebody and say anything because I’m embarrassed or I don’t want to bother them. So it took the bravery, but they were polite enough to keep it very simple and acknowledge instead of trying to have something to take with them.

So they get respect points for playing it cool.

Yeah, because the bravery is just coming over. That’s the hardest part. And sometimes it’s almost easier to say, “Will you sign this?” because it’s a very simple request, but it’s harder to have to say something sometimes, I believe. So for me, that’s the most perfect kind of situation that you can have in public with a fan.

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

I don’t know. I feel like you guys have so many races and so much time, there probably isn’t much that you don’t cover. Is there something that you wish you could cover more of that you’re not allowed to?

What goes on in the driver/owner lot. You know, who’s friends with who.

(Laughs) That’s easy, we’ll tell you.

6. Who is the last driver you texted?

Well outside of Ricky (Stenhouse Jr.), because we live in the same house … probably Ryan Blaney. We stopped by and said hi after we went to the Aaron Lewis concert, and so that was the last. He’s having a Halloween party, so I requested that he change the date from Sunday to Monday, but he informed me/us that he has something to do on Monday.

So you’re like, “This is much more convenient if you change the date to Monday,” and he’s like, “No?”

He said, “I could, maybe,” but he has something Tuesday morning or something. He had a good reason. So I understand now.

It’s gonna be a late night after the race.

I just thought it was a young buck in his 20s who was like, “Let’s party after the race,” and here I am, 35, like, “Can we do it the next night?”

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

That is pretty much what we are. If you want to know, you just have to travel to another country and get a visa to go work and your visa says, “Entertainer.”

That’s interesting. That’s proof right there.

When I raced in Japan, my passport said “Entertainer” on it.

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

Bring it on. I can’t get my finger far enough out for someone to really see it, I mean, shoot, my fingertips (barely) get out there. Let’s say I’m hot and I wanna stick my hand out the window to bring in some cool air. It’s fingertips. That’s it. Like everyone can hang their (hands out), they’re resting on the window and hand all the way out. I can’t even get (fingers) out there. I guess if you saw one finger, just imagine it’s the middle one.

So you don’t mind if it gets done to you as well?

I don’t care. If I deserve it, you should give it to me.

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, for sure, absolutely. You’ve got the drivers that you know are difficult and you cut them no slack, therefore your situation perpetuates. And if you have someone that you get along well with, then that situation also keeps going because you treat them the same. Each are self-fulfilling.

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

Jay-Z and Beyonce.

When you filmed the music video (in Monaco)?

Yeah. Could Dale (Earnhardt Jr.) say the same, do you think? He was there, too.

I think that was his same answer.

That was a pretty baller week.

How were they? How did you find them?

Jay-Z was very nice and he was excited that he could facilitate Dale and I meeting, because we’d never met before. And Beyonce was very, very quiet. So yeah, she’s kind of shy. So it makes sense why she has an alter-ego diva girl. But everybody was really cool, and it was a first class production. I mean, we were in Monte Carlo, so it was pretty good.

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

I always kind of think to myself, “Be nicer.” But it’s just that my reaction to someone, if they’re not perfectly nice, is so ridiculous and over-the-top-mean that no one ever remembers the first blow. So yeah, I wish I could tone that down just a little bit. It doesn’t need to be so aggressive.

Like if somebody’s rude, you match them, so to speak?

Oh, no, no. I don’t even match. You can’t even remember the first mean when you get done with my mean. And I wish I could tone that down a little.

Maybe wait for Phase Three. Like Phase One, they’re mean. Phase Two, I’m like, “Come on buddy.” And then the next one is, maybe it’s (Phase) Four, and then he responds, and then it’s like, “OK, you wanna go? Let’s go.” Because yeah, I’m just not very shy and I have no problem with confrontations. So I kind of go right to the end of it. So I wish I was a little more patient in that category.

12. Last week I was at the F1 race and I interviewed Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean, and I asked them to come up with a question for you. Kevin wanted me to ask you: Who has bigger balls, NASCAR drivers or F1 drivers?

Collectively NASCAR, because we have so many more drivers. I mean, that’s 39 sets of balls versus like 22? How many are there (in F1)?

Twenty, I think.

Twenty. That’s a lot more balls in NASCAR.

But in a simple, diplomatic, honest answer, to get to the top level of anything is difficult. I don’t care who you are. And my balls are called ovaries, so I guess I count, too.

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

My first thought is to ask a really weird one so people will be like, “What?” My first question would be, would you rather stay on Earth and eat the steak and be kind of miserable but the steak tastes really good, or would you rather live on another planet in pure bliss? You don’t know what it’s gonna be like, though — you just know you’re always gonna be happy.

So basically, stay on earth in the current situation, how it is now, but if you’re taking a gamble, it could be way better on the other planet?

Yeah, what would you do? Would you take the chance, or would you stay here? Do you like it here?

That’s a good question. I may put that permanently next year on the 12 Questions.

Oh wow. I like that. Wow, what an honor! Thank you! I thought I’d be met with, “Yeah, think of another one.” (Laughs)

12 Questions with Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean

The 12 Questions interviews continue this week with the first Formula One drivers to be featured in the series: Haas F1 Team drivers Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean.

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

KM: It requires both. Getting to Formula One is a lot about the natural ability, showing that in the Junior Formulas and the categories you race before Formula One. You’ve gotta work really hard, that’s all.

RG: I guess we’re only 20 (F1 drivers) in the world, and my grandfather was vice world champion (silver medalist) of skiing, and he said it’s 80 percent work, 10 percent talent and 10 percent of chance. I think he was kind of right, because work is the main one. Of course, if you don’t have the talent, there’s no chance you’re gonna make it to the 20 top Formula One drivers in the world. So you need everything right, but work is what takes the most of us.

2. What pitch would you make to convince people to become fans of yours?

KM: I wouldn’t do that. (Laughs)

RG: I’d say never give up, because my whole career has been about ups and downs. I came to Formula One, got fired — same as Kevin — and then came back. Yeah, just never give up.

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

KM: The travel, probably. Going to the places that we race, it takes a lot of energy. But it’s not so bad a lifestyle, really, to be honest.

RG: The hardest part is being a dad. That’s not my job, so whenever I come to a racetrack, I’m like that’s something I control 100 percent. Being a dad is every day a new thing. But yeah, leaving the house is the hardest part, especially with the kids.

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

KM: Yeah, I don’t mind.

RG: I don’t mind as long as it’s when you’ve finished. Not like when you have a big piece of meat in your mouth and you’re like, “Yeah, I can’t do a picture right now.” But it’s always nice.

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

KM: I don’t even know.

RG: There are two things I see. It’s the teamwork, how much effort the mechanics and the engineers are putting in. And on TV, we’re never gonna replicate the G forces, the speed and the agility of the cars. I wish one day we’d get the TV to actually give us (the sense of speed). Like when you watch tennis, the ball goes pretty slowly on the TV, actually when you go to Roland-Garros (for the French Open) or the U.S. Open, it goes really, really fast and you’re surprised.

6. Who is the last driver you texted?

KM: Probably Romain.

RG: Probably Kevin.

That makes sense. In NASCAR, a lot of the drivers are friends and hang out a lot. Do you guys have relationships with other drivers at all?

KM: Not really. Not like relationships. We spend a lot of time because we do the whole season together, so when we get off the races, we tend to spend time with our families and friends outside of racing.

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

KM: In principle, not really. At least I don’t feel like an entertainer. I got here because I want to race and everything else around it is something that you have to do as well in order to get racing. The racing part is why I’m here and the rest just follows.

RG: I think we’re athletes. We do a sport. Sport is entertaining, so I guess we kind of are. But I think our first thing is to be athletes and doing high level sports.

8. What is your middle finger policy on the racetrack? Do you ever shoot the middle finger?

KM: No, only because you get a penalty if you do. Otherwise, it’s tempting sometimes.

Is that right? You get a penalty here if you do that?

RG: You better not do it. Sometimes I do it, but I just keep it in the cockpit so no one can see it.

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?

KM: No, not really. There’s not the same kind of teamwork in Formula One as perhaps in NASCAR. But I like the way it works in NASCAR, it’s just not the way we do things in Formula One, really.

RG: No, not really. Sometimes they do it, like they can block you on a fast lap, but I’m trying to be as fair as I can like everyone else.

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

KM: The most famous is maybe (legendary F1 driver) Stirling Moss? I think so.

RG: I had dinner with Rafael Nadal. He’s pretty famous, he’s a really cool guy. So yeah. (Rally driver) Sebastien Loeb as well. I’d go with Nadal.

Was Nadal pretty down to earth?

RG: He was really, really nice. We had a nice dinner and he’s a really cool guy. We chatted about everything and had a really great relationship.

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

KM: I don’t know. I’m going to go with a boring answer and say everything. There’s not one thing that I need to improve, I’m gonna try and improve everything. And every aspect of my skill set and aspect of being a racing driver, I need to improve.

RG: I think it was just managing the frustration. It’s something that’s getting better; I’ve been working on it this year. It’s getting better and better. But every year there’s something new that you can work on, and — who knows? — next year maybe it’s managing the lead in the world championship. (Smiles)

12. The last interview I did was with NASCAR driver Ty Dillon, and he wants to know: who is more athletic, Formula One drivers or NASCAR drivers?

KM: Definitely Formula One drivers.

RG: Sorry guys, we are.

The next interview that I’m going to be doing is with Danica Patrick. Can you guys come up with a question that I can ask Danica?

KM: Who’s got bigger balls — Formula One drivers or NASCAR drivers?

RG (pretends to leave): I’m out of that one. I wasn’t here. (Laughs)

12 Questions with Ty Dillon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. Who is the last driver you texted?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12 Questions with Trevor Bayne

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. Who is the last driver you texted?

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

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

Is he gonna come back?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Ricky Stenhouse Jr. walks by.)

Stenhouse: It’s not me.

Yeah, I already did a 12 Questions with Ricky.

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

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

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

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

12 Questions with Jimmie Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As long as it’s not mid-bite, maybe?

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

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

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

6. Who is the last driver you texted?

Matt Kenseth.

Bike-ride related?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you ever get it done to you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

That wasn’t bad at all.

Do you remember what you ate for lunch?

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

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

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

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

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

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

This room just got really uncomfortable for me.

And me. (Laughs) Thanks, Dixon!

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

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

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