12 Questions with Scott Dixon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. Who is the last driver you texted?

Probably Tony Kanaan, my teammate.

You frequently text him?

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

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

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

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

On the racetrack? Use it at will.

What happens if you get it done to you?

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

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

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

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

Probably Marco Andretti. (Grins)

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

I should probably stop biting my nails.

Is it a long time habit?

My wife hates it.

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

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

He said he can’t do it.

Yeah he can! Come on.

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

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

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

A NASCAR fan guide to the IndyCar championship race

Guess what race is on Sunday right after the Chicagoland race on the same channel (NBCSN)?

Yep, it’s the Verizon IndyCar Series season finale — a race which will decide the championship from among six eligible drivers.

I’m here at Sonoma and am going to be blowing your timelines up about the race, so you might as well watch with me. If you haven’t followed IndyCar much this year or are just a casual fan, here’s a quick guide to the race to get you caught up:

What’s at stake?

Sonoma Raceway is the 17th and final race of the IndyCar season, and six drivers can still win the title. They are the four Team Penske drivers — rising star Josef Newgarden, defending series champ Simon Pagenaud and veterans Will Power and Helio Castroneves — plus four-time series champion Scott Dixon and 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi.

Who has the advantage?

Before answering that, let’s take a look at the current driver point standings.

  1. Josef Newgarden  –Leader–
  2. Scott Dixon -4
  3. Helio Castroneves -23
  4. Simon Pagenaud -35
  5. Will Power -69
  6. Alexander Rossi -85

Those have been updated after Saturday’s qualifying session, because IndyCar awards one bonus point to the pole winner — and Newgarden put down a monster, track-record lap to start from P1.

Still, it’s tough to say who has the edge right now. In Friday’s two practice sessions, Newgarden had the quickest overall time. But in Saturday’s practice, Pagenaud, Dixon and Power all went even faster.

Plus, top five drivers in the point standings were also the top five drivers in final practice (just in a different order). Since they were only separated by 0.44 second, it really could be anyone’s race among the contenders.

So how does the championship race work?

Sonoma is a double points event — one of only two on the schedule, along with the Indy 500. That twist could play a massive role in the outcome of the championship, because the points are soooo close.

At a typical IndyCar race, first place is worth 50 points and second place gets 40. But at Sonoma, it’s 100 for first place and only 80 for second — a 20-point gap between first and second!

That means Newgarden, Dixon and likely Castroneves (depending on bonus points) are all in situations where a Sonoma victory will mean the championship (which has happened the last two years).

And really, Pagenaud isn’t in a bad spot, either (though he could use some help from his competition finishing off the podium). Power and Rossi are much bigger longshots at this point, even if they win.

How did they get to this point?

Newgarden has a series-leading four wins and eight podium finishes this season, but his lead is only four points thanks to a gaffe in the most recent race at Watkins Glen.

After entering the Glen with a 31-point lead over Dixon — thanks to winning three of four races — Newgarden locked up his tires in the pits while avoiding teammate Will Power and slid into the guardrail. That cost him 28 points of his lead, which was whittled to just four.

Dixon has just one win but has made finished on the podium seven times — second in the series. And he’s going up against the entire Penske team, which has been the most consistent this season.

What are they saying?

— Newgarden, who was totally fired up after his track-record lap to get the pole — his first since 2015 — is going into the race with a nothing-to-lose attitude.

“If I drop the ball and totally ball it up this weekend, I’m still going to be pretty happy with this year,” the 26-year-old American said. “That’s not to say I’m going to settle for that or that I’m looking to settle for something like that.

“But the only way I think you can approach this and get the most out of it and try and treat it like any other weekend. The moment you think, ‘Hey, this is championship week — you mess it up, you’re not the champion,’ then I think that can put you in a wrong place mentally.”

— Power, who qualified second, has a fast car but needs some help to pull off his second championship.

“It’s absolutely possible,” he said. “I mean, if Scott and Josef have a bad day, I can be right there. Yeah, see how it all plays out.”

— Pagenaud, who won this race en route to the championship last season, is feeling confident after qualifying third.

“Quite satisfied,” he said after his lap. “Overall it’s awesome for Team Penske, 1-2-3-4 once again here. A testament to the team doing such a good job. Nothing’s lost. Tomorrow is a long race. Lots of tire wear. I’m hoping for a really strong showing.”

— Speculation about Castrovenes’ future has been swirling lately, but it would certainly be nice for him to pull off an improbable title at age 42. He’s in a virtual win-and-clinch situation since there it’s a double points race.

“We wanted this championship as bad as anybody,” he said after qualifying fourth. “We do have a chance. We’re going to obviously try to execute. That’s our goal.”

— Dixon, the best driver of his generation, knows he has his work cut out for him. But it’s not like anyone can dismiss his chances.

“Sixth position, you can definitely make lots happen from there,” he said. “I think in ’15 we started ninth when we won that race. Definitely you’d want to be a little further up. But that’s the way it goes.”

The Top Five: Breaking down the Michigan race

Five thoughts following Sunday’s race at Michigan International Speedway…

1. Oh, that restart

Kyle Larson’s brilliance behind the wheel of a race car — it doesn’t matter what kind — is the sort of raw ability that every race fan can appreciate. And that was on display for all to see on Sunday.

Larson’s fourth-to-first move on the overtime restart — first slicing his way up the middle, then getting right to the bottom before anyone had time to really counter — was perhaps the best moment of his NASCAR career so far.

Today’s NASCAR is so much about the car and less about the driver, but Larson has shown several times how much the driver still matters. He is willing to try things others do not or cannot, and it provides for quite a show whether the attempt succeeds or fails.

This time, it worked — and Larson completed a week where he forced those who scoffed at his “last true racer” comment several months ago to wonder if maybe he was right.

2. Truex vs. Kyle

In the majority of races this season, the fastest cars have been either Truex or Kyle.

It’s just that the “Kyle” role has switched between Larson and Busch.

Larson was leading the points until he dropped off a cliff recently and tumbled to third with five finishes outside the top 20 in a seven-race stretch. It looked like he lost all his momentum as the Toyotas took over, but questions remained whether that was a product of losing his crew chief to a suspension.

That meant Michigan was going to be a huge test: Would Larson run well on a 2-mile track (a layout which has now generated all four of his career victories)? If not, that would seem to confirm his summer slump.

Apparently, things are just fine. Even though Larson didn’t have a dominant day, he was there at the end and figured out a way to win.

We’re back on the bandwagon now. Pencil him back in for the Final Four at Homestead, along with Truex, Busch and Jimmie Johnson.

3. Kenseth’s nightmare scenario

Matt Kenseth was in a lose-lose situation on the final restart that ended up with the lesser of two evils.

Going into overtime, Kenseth lined up third — on the inside of the second row — behind Erik Jones. His best shot would have been to push Jones on the restart and hope he could make it three-wide, but that could have resulted in a Jones victory.

And that was not going to be good for Kenseth. A new winner from below Kenseth’s spot in the points could have knocked him out of the playoffs (he’s currently holding on to the last spot). Plus, it would have meant helping Jones, the driver who is replacing Kenseth, get his first career win. That probably wouldn’t feel great.

I am not sure what happened and didn’t see any quotes from Kenseth after the race. But on the restart, Kenseth appeared to lay back and try to get a push from Chase Elliott (either that, or he spun his tires).

Ultimately, Kenseth ended up with a flat tire in the ensuing mess and finished 24th. He’s now 31 points ahead of Clint Bowyer for the final spot (see standings below) with three races to go.

The overtime finish cost Kenseth roughly 20 points, which is pretty painful in the battle for a playoff spot. But actually, that wasn’t the worst-case scenario. Because if Jones had won, Kenseth might not have had any points race to worry about at all.

4. Did you notice?

Chris Buescher is having a much better season this year than 2016, when he made the playoffs thanks to his rain-shortened Pocono win.

Buescher finished sixth at Michigan — his best finish of the year — and was right in the mix for a top five on the overtime restart. That was really impressive for a car that doesn’t typically contend there.

Overall, Buescher has improved his average finish from 26.1 to 20.7, already has as many lead-lap finishes as all of last year (11) and picked up his third top-10 of the season.

He’s not going to make the playoffs this season, but he’s trending in the right direction regardless.

5.  Uncertain futures

Bubba Wallace’s victory in the Truck Series race on Saturday was both a feel-good story and a frustrating reminder of the state of NASCAR.

Wallace has been sitting at home for a month, got into a truck for a one-off deal — and won. That’s great on the surface, because everyone watching probably went, “Yes! This will help his chances of getting a ride — and he deserves it.”

But will he get one? Despite being both talented and marketable, there’s no good news yet.

It’s the all-too-familiar problem of today’s NASCAR: Unless a driver personally has money — whether through family or a loyal sponsor — he can only hope the exact right opportunity at the exact right time magically comes his way.

I got another reminder of this on Sunday while watching the race with Gracin Raz (we recorded the post-race podcast, which you can find here). Raz finished fourth in K&N West Series points as an 18-year-old and then was fifth last year. Now 20, Raz has been forced to cut to a part-time schedule running a Late Model he and his dad work on in their garage.

We were chatting during the race and I was asking what the next steps are. The answers aren’t clear, but the solution is: Money. There’s not really much — if anything — Raz can do to jump in a car and prove himself, because that’s not what matters. It’s what money he can bring somewhere to get an opportunity.

Here’s a talented young driver who was just starting his career (and won a K&N West race in 2015), but there’s no pathway forward. The ladder to the top has broken rungs. The same can be said for Wallace, who waits in the same situation — just at a higher level.

It’s a sobering reminder: How many young drivers are there out there, scattered across the country, who could excel if they got the right opportunity?

Sadly, only a lucky few will ever find out — and that’s not healthy for a sport that should be built on the best talents.

———–

PLAYOFF PICTURE

By patron request, I’m going to start including the playoff picture at the bottom of the Top Five each week. Here’s how it looks now:

IN (13): Truex, Larson, Harvick, Ky. Busch, Keselowski, Hamlin, Johnson, Blaney, Ku. Busch, Newman, Stenhouse, Kahne, A. Dillon.

Points Bubble with four races to go:

14. Chase Elliott +62

15. Jamie McMurray +52

16. Matt Kenseth +31

—-

17. Clint Bowyer -31

18. Joey Logano -98

(Everyone else more than 100 points or one win behind)

Kyle Larson’s team keeps running afoul of NASCAR rules

Oh boy. Here we go again with Kyle Larson’s No. 42 team.

Two days after NASCAR slammed the 42 with a major penalty — a three-race crew chief suspension, $75,000 fine and 35-point deduction — Larson won the pole at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

At least for about 45 minutes. After Larson’s car went through post-qualifying inspection, NASCAR discovered the car’s rear decklid fin was unapproved. NASCAR indicated the fin was designed to move when it wasn’t supposed to be — and that’s a no-no, obviously.

That caused Larson’s pole-winning time to be disallowed, meaning he’ll start last for the second straight week. It’s starting to become a pattern.

At Kentucky, Larson couldn’t get through pre-qualifying inspection (for the third time this season) and never made it onto the track. Then his car had to make multiple attempts to get through pre-race inspection at Kentucky — something that resulted in a 30-minute penalty for Saturday’s final Cup Series practice at New Hampshire.

So yeah, it’s been a bit of a rough stretch for Larson’s team when it comes to dealing with NASCAR. Considering he said Friday he knows nothing about the race cars (he just drives), Larson must be wondering what’s going on.

As are we.

Has the team been doing things outside the rules all season and it’s just now catching up to them? Perhaps NASCAR is taking a closer look at a team whose performance has been the class of the field at times?

Larson was all smiles about his car on Friday after appearing to win his fourth pole position of the season.  His car was handling well and had excellent speed, and he was optimistic for a good race after leading practice and every round of qualifying.

But now his weekend just got a lot more difficult, and he’s going to have to pass a lot of cars to see the front on Sunday. Again.

News Analysis: Kyle Larson penalty costs him points lead

What happened: Kyle Larson’s team was hit with a significant penalty on Wednesday after NASCAR discovered an infraction during its post-race teardown following the Kentucky Speedway race. Larson crew chief Chad Johnston was suspended for three races and fined $75,000 while the team lost 35 points — this after NASCAR found the No. 42 team violated a rule that says: “Openings in the rear brake cooling hoses and/or tubes to exhaust air between the inlet and exhaust mounting points will not be permitted.”

What it means: Larson, who was up by one point over Martin Truex Jr. in the standings, is now 34 points out of the lead. That’s a big blow, because the regular season champion gets an additional 15 playoff points while second place gets 10. The difference between the two is the equivalent of a race win.

News value (scale of 1-10): Four. It’s noteworthy in that the penalty affects the regular season points battle, but there’s still enough time (eight races) for Larson to recover — especially with stage points in the mix. It would be a bigger deal if this occurred in the playoffs or if Larson had won the Kentucky race and the encumbered finish meant something.

Three questions: How much did this have to do with Larson’s impressive speed at Kentucky? If this was a performance advantage, will Larson now be slower in upcoming races? Will the points penalty itself turn out to play a role in the playoffs should Larson miss out on those five extra playoff points?

This image from the NASCAR rulebook depicts a proper rear brake cooling assembly. The infraction in question took place in the hoses shown in the upper right (I-2). (Screenshot from NASCAR rulebook)

12 Questions with Jamie McMurray

The 12 Questions series of interviews continues this week with Jamie McMurray of Chip Ganassi Racing, who is currently fifth in the NASCAR Cup Series standings. I spoke with McMurray at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

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

I think everyone is a little bit different. I think I work at it more than most. … That microphone is really close, Jeff.

I don’t have very good mic technique. Do the other interviewers, like the professional ones, hold it farther from your mouth usually?

(Laughs) I think the angle is off, Jeff. The angle’s a big deal.

So I need to hold it more straight up and down. I was holding it horizontally, and you’re saying that I need to hold it vertically. OK, that makes sense.

Yeah, I think I like this angle better. I don’t feel like you’re feeding it to me at this point.

Seriously though, I feel like through my whole career that I’ve worked a little bit harder than most. That’s not to take anything away from some people, but we know there’s some drivers who we say are just very naturally talented, and if they cared more, what could they do? I don’t feel like I’m that guy. I feel like I’ve worked really hard to get to where I am and I still feel like I study harder and work harder than most.

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 have a pitch. I don’t feel like you should try to sell somebody on becoming your fan. I think when you watch races on TV or you see interviews, if you like those people, if you like the way they race or if you like the way they live their life or if you just…you know, we all are turned on by different things. And I’m not a salesman.

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

I think the hardest part in general is always trying to be turned on. The reality is that we’re all probably not in as good of a mood as we show we are. My wife (Christy) tells me a lot of times, “It’s crazy how you kind of turn that on when you’re supposed to.” I don’t do it on purpose. I don’t consciously think, “Oh, Jeff Gluck’s going to interview me, I need to be this way.”

But we do, because the truth is, there’s some days where you’re not in a good mood, and what you really want to say, you can’t. So to me, that’s the hardest part —  just trying to always be turned on and say the right thing.

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

Everybody is different about this. I am completely different when I’m with my family than when I’m alone. If it’s a team dinner or if I’m with a couple of guys, that’s totally different. I would say no all the time because you’re eating, but it’s totally different.

When I’m with my family, I get really defensive of people that come up, and I’m not as friendly or as outgoing. I chose to race cars and to be on TV, and I know what comes with it. My 4-year-old and 6-year-old did not (choose that), and they don’t really have a choice when they’re with me. So it’s completely different when I’m with my family.

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

Well, I’m into fitness right now, so I think the story that should be out there, especially with what Matt (Kenseth) and Jimmie (Johnson) and I did, and a lot of the crew guys in the garage did last week (the Assault on Mt. Mitchell, a 102.7-mile bike ride with a climb of more than 10,000 feet). I think that covering the fitness level of a lot of people in the garage would be interesting.

There’s this huge debate of whether people are race car drivers or athletes or if they’re not, and I think people would be shocked by what some people are capable of doing outside of a car.

Do you think that since you’ve gotten more in shape, you can notice a difference in the car?

There’s maybe a small amount in the car. Honestly, what I have noticed, the biggest change is the attitude of everyone on my team. I think when those guys see you putting in the effort and the work — we have a super fitness-oriented team anyway. There’s a lot of guys who do marathons and a lot of training, so I have noticed the attitude of them.

This is the deal: If you’ve never driven a car and you work on a team and things don’t go well at the end of the race, in my mind I know that maybe the handling of the car went away. But I think there’s always a little skepticism in people, like, “Well, did they get tired?” You maybe hear the little rumblings, and I think the attitude on our team has been awesome with all that’s been going on this year.

6. Who is the last driver you texted?

I’m gonna look at my phone because I don’t know. (Pulls out phone) Greg Biffle. I texted him 32 minutes ago. Before that it’s gonna be Jimmie or Matt because we did that race on Monday, so probably Jimmie and Matt.

Are you a frequent texter?

No. My wife is the person who you can text and she will read your text then respond whenever she feels that she should respond. If I read, I do respond immediately because I know that people know that I have read that, or at least I feel like they know because they see (text) bubbles, right? But I’m not as into my phone as a lot of people are.

Does your wife put the read receipts on so you know what time she read it?

My wife doesn’t really care about her phone. If my wife lost her phone today, it would not matter. She would be like, “Oh well, it’s not that big of a deal.” So I don’t even know if her read receipts are on because she doesn’t know either.

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

I think some are more entertainers than others. Clint (Bowyer) would come to the top of my list as someone who’s an entertainer. He can turn it on, right? Although I will tell you that I have been around Clint a lot, and I don’t know if he turns it on. He’s basically that goofy the whole time. He’s always in a pretty good mood.

But yeah, I think that some people are certainly more entertainers than others. I don’t feel like I am that guy.

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

I haven’t done that in a long time. That used to be fairly common. That was once a weekend it happened. I don’t even see that anymore. I don’t know when the last time was when I got a middle finger.

I get a kick out of — I think they call it “Radioactive” (on FS1’s Race Hub) — I don’t know what that show is and I’ve only heard it a couple of times, but I love how mad people get. I have listened to like two of those, and they’ve been like after I’ve been at the airport, and the guy that MF’s me on the radio is like my buddy an hour later, so then you hear that and you realize that he was mad at what happened. So I love that they play that because that’s real.

Do you give anybody crap afterward? Like, “Hey, I heard what you said. That didn’t come up on our plane ride home or anything.”

No, because I know that’s the way you feel right then, and I don’t care. They feel how they feel.

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?

Yes. Look, we all race each other the way we are raced, and for the most part, you build relationships throughout the year or throughout your career with people who race you very well. What comes and goes, it goes both ways. So absolutely.

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

I don’t even know of anyone famous that I’ve had dinner with. Let me think. 

I’m gonna say Matt Kenseth.

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

I want to improve a lot of things about myself. But I think being kind to others. I feel like I try really hard at that, but I don’t go a good enough job, and I try really hard when I see someone to kind of know that they’re having a struggle and I feel like all of us should do a better job of being kind to others.

12. The last interview I did was with William Byron. He wanted to know: “What other sports do you watch outside of racing, and what things does NASCAR need to take and apply from other sports?”

That is a really deep question from Mr. Byron at (19) years old. I do watch some other sports, but mostly it’s racing: F1 or drag racing or IndyCars or sports cars or motorcycles.

My answer to that is what we’ve kind of done that this year with Monster being a part of it. When you watch Supercross or you go to a Supercross event, they do a really good job with the laser light show and those guys come out and ride wheelies and they do a little more interaction. I feel like we’ve had a little more of that this year, not because Monster is here, but because all the sports are trying to gear towards a younger audience and that’s kind of the way to get there.

I don’t know who the next interview is going to be with, but I’m trying for an IndyCar driver because I’m going to the Indy 500. So do you have a question to throw out there?

Are you excited that Fernando (Alonso) came to run the Indy 500 and got a crazy amount of attention, and at the same time how did you think that he did?

I just wanted to say thanks again, because I feel like you’ve changed my life now with holding this microphone. I feel like I’m doing it the right way now. So thank you for that help. It’s like having something in my teeth the whole year and nobody’s told me I had something in my teeth until you said I was holding the microphone wrong.

That’s funny, because I knew that was going to happen because we’ve been talking about it behind your back the whole time. They’re like, “Wait until Jeff Gluck interviews you, because the way he holds his microphone is really weird.”

I don’t believe that, but thanks for joining us.

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

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 NASCAR.com, 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 NASCAR.com 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 NASCAR.com 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 YouTube.com 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!