12 Questions with Hailie Deegan (2019)

(Photo by Loren Orr/Getty Images for NASCAR)

The 12 Questions series of interviews continues with Hailie Deegan, a 17-year-old who recently won a K&N West Series race for the second straight season. These interviews are recorded as a podcast but transcribed for those who prefer to read.

1. Are you an iPhone person or an Android person, and why?

iPhone all the way. My mom used to have an Android and I was like, “I cannot use this thing. It’s weird. No. Not normal.” (Laughs)

So did she have it when you had the iPhone and you would get the green bubble?

Yeah, so I had to get the green text and you never know if it delivered, you never know if they read them. And I like to be the person that sees if you read it.

You have your read receipts on?

No, I don’t have mine on — but I like it when other people have theirs on. (Laughs)

You expect that from other people?

Unless like I’m purposely ignoring you, I don’t have it on.

I’m not in favor of turning mine on. But I also like when other people have them on because it’s just like, “I saw what you did there.”

Like, “Did you leave me on read?” If not, then it’s like not delivered, which is even worse.

2. If a fan meets you in the garage, they might only have a brief moment with you. So between an autograph, a selfie or quick comment, what is your advice on the best way to maximize that interaction?

I’ll talk a lot. Like once you ask me a question, ask questions and stuff, I won’t stop talking. I won’t just give you one word answers. I talk a lot.

So if they bring something up, you’ll sit there.

Yeah, I’ll sit there and talk. I’ve got time.

3. When someone pulls a jerk move on the road when you’re driving down the highway, does that feeling compare at all to when someone pulls a jerk move on the track?

Yes. I will go and get close to you and stuff like that.

One time, Todd Gilliland — I was getting on the freeway in Mooresville and all of a sudden this guy in this Toyota, he goes and he like pinches me in the wall and I was like so man, laid on the horn, and then Todd pokes his head out the window and I was like, “Oh my God.” (Laughs)

So he saw it was you, you had no idea it was him.

Yeah, I had no idea it was him. He knew it was me.

You were like, “Dude!”

Yeah. I was mad. (Laughs)

4. Has there ever been a time where you’ve had a sketchy situation with your safety equipment?

No, not really. I’d say the only time is like when I’m on fire and your belt gets stuck when you’re getting out of the car. That’s like the biggest thing on your HANS, and so you’re just trying to get out like you have to angle your helmet the right way to get out of your car while like the flames are going. But other than that, not really.

There’s like a brief moment of panic?

Panic. It’s like a half second, and you’re like, “Ugh!”

5. If your crew chief put a super secret illegal part on your car that made it way faster, would you want to know about it?

Yeah, that’s one thing about me. I like to know everything. I’m good at keeping secrets, but I like to know everything. I hate when people withhold information from me. It’s like the biggest thing I hate.

Just in life in general?

Yeah, in life in general. I hate when people keep secrets from me, like, “Oh?” I won’t say anything — just tell me though!

6. What is a food you would not recommend eating right before a race and are you speaking with personal experience with this recommendation?

OK. So I can eat just about anything and not get sick, but Waffle House, I wouldn’t suggest Waffle House. I threw up after I had Waffle House.

Like on the morning of a race?

It wasn’t before the race, but that’s the only time I’ve ever really gotten sick from eating something. And I eat like a ton and don’t get sick; it doesn’t really mess with me, I don’t know why.

You have an iron stomach?

Yeah, but like Waffle House, for some reason…

It’s like your kryptonite?

Yeah. But it tastes really good.

7. Is there life in outer space, and if so, do they race?

Man, this question! Me and my dad have had talks about this question (of life in outer space). I think there might be something. I don’t think they race though.

So some sort of life, but they’re maybe not advanced enough to race? Or they’re just not into racing?

Maybe too advanced or something, and they’re just like past the point of NASCAR racing.

They’re like, “We don’t need to race, we’re just so civilized.”

Yeah, probably something like that.

8. What do drivers talk about when they’re standing around at driver intros before a race?

It’s usually really not about racing or about sketchy people that are racing. It’s usually just little drama, like what’s going on. Like everyone like spills the tea in their little group circles. Everyone usually has like their little clique circles, but occasionally you’ll go and you’ll hop in another one and hear their little drama that’s going on.

So like talking about some dude that doesn’t belong out there, that kind of thing?

Yeah, you talk about a guy out there that wrecks everyone in the back of the field that you’ve got to watch out for. It’s like those guys you talk about, and then there’s all this little drama. And usually we’re all like roasting each other just about stuff. That happens a lot.

Hopefully you haven’t walked up into a conversation about you.

Oh, you know when it’s about you. No…usually when I walk into a conversation and they’re talking about me, they usually just don’t even care and keep talking.

9. What makes you happy right now?

What makes me happy is winning. That’s the only thing. That and food. I love food.

But not Waffle House.

Well, I do like it, it just doesn’t like me. It’s like New Smyrna — like I love that track, it just doesn’t love me. (Laughs)

10. Let’s say a sponsor comes to you and says, “We are going to fully fund the entire rest of your racing career on the condition that you wear a clown nose and an 80’s rocker wig in every interview you do forever.” Would you accept that offer?

I’m down. I’ll do it. Do I get a PSA?

Like a what?

Personal (service) agreement.

Oh, like a vehicle deal out of it or something?

Like money besides racing.

Yeah, you can have that.

Yeah, I’d do it.

Yeah, they’ll do everything in this scenario.

I’ll promote it. I don’t care.

I’m fine with looking stupid. I usually make myself do that anyway.

11. This is the 10th year of the 12 Questions. There has never been a repeat question until now. Pick a number between 1 and 100, and I’m going to pull up a random question from a past year’s series.

We’ll do 19. I’ll do my race number.

This question is from 2011. It is: “What is the first thing you do when you get home after being gone for a long race weekend?”

I eat.

You’re really committed to the food thing.

Dude, I LOVE food.

What food are you so interested in that it keeps popping into your mind? Are you like pizza, sushi?

I get on kicks, like kicks of certain food. I’d say two months ago, I was on this California Pizza Kitchen kick, where like I went there and ate a gluten free pizza like every single day. And now I’m on this P.F. Chang’s kick. But like, I’m on a sushi kick too; I love sushi. And honestly, I love Mexican food. I love everything. Everything.

Just not that spicy. Not a big spicy person. But I’ll eat pretty much anything.

What food are you not touching? What cuisine?

Stuff that’s spicy. So like, I’ve never had wings before.

But they can make them mild though!

I’m not a big chicken person. I like chicken lettuce wraps from P.F. Chang’s.

How did chicken get the dunce cap of all your food selections?

We have chickens at my house, and my little brother is supposed to take care of them, but he doesn’t really take care of them and they kind of just live in their poop over there. And I see them and they’re just nasty, and I’m like, “I’m not eating that.” They have eggs and my mom will try cooking them and I’m like, “I’m not eating that” — even though I’ll go buy store-bought eggs and eat those.

So you’re not anti-eggs when you’re eating out, but just anti-chicken. You see the chickens and they’re dirty and you’re just like, “No.”

Nuh huh, not feeling it.

12. The last interview was with Chase Briscoe. He wants to know, do you think there should be multiple Cup races on dirt?

I think yes.

I’m not too surprised there.

I think because there’s so many guys out there that don’t know how to drive dirt and probably never have, that it would mix it up pretty good and make for a good race. Because how often would you see guys that are really fast in the Cup Series spin out on a dirt track? Not very often. So make something new.

The second part of his question is, can you name a couple of track where you think that would be a good idea?

I’m not big on the dirt track scene, so I don’t know what good tracks there are. But something like ARCA races on, because those tracks aren’t bad. I think we should put them on the Vegas dirt track just to show them how much that dirt track is, how hard it is to drive.

You might have an advantage.

I might, yeah.

Do you have a question I can ask another driver?

If you had one person to be your ride or die friend for everything, like you had to hang out with them every single day, which driver would it be?

So they have to pick a driver?

It has to be a driver.

To be their BFF forever?

Yeah, forever. Just one, no one else. Just one.

The Top Five: Breaking down the Fontana race

I normally post five thoughts in this space after each race. However, this week I only have one thought…

Never Trust A Test.

If there’s one thing this letdown of an opening month has taught us, it’s that just because you see drivers and cars act a certain way during a test session — or practice or qualifying, for that matter — doesn’t mean the race will actually look the same way.

Some of you are reading this right now going, “DUH! Racing is always different once a trophy and money are on the line.”

OK, well…I knew that on some level. I just didn’t expect it to be this far off.

But yeah. Never. Trust. A. Test.

This false sense of optimism started with a tire test — at Fontana, no less! — where three cars in early January hit the track with a variety of different tire combinations and ran laps together.

Remarkably, they mostly stayed together. The leader couldn’t get away. A normally-boring test session was suddenly intriguing enough to stand on the roof of the infield suites and watch the trio turn 10 or 15 laps at a time.

When I asked Martin Truex Jr., one of the drivers at the test, whether they were running hard enough to simulate race conditions, he said, “Absolutely.” And I’m pretty sure that was the truth.

Then came the organizational test at Las Vegas, where NASCAR had a dozen teams simulate 25-lap races. The mini races were quite interesting, with the field mostly staying together and drivers trying three- and four-wide moves in the pack. 

WHOA! Maybe this new package was going to work. Perhaps all of its promise to race like a combination of the Truck Series and the All-Star Race would be fulfilled. There seemed to be enough evidence to believe it would. (Here’s a recap, but it’s a bit cringe-worthy to read now.)

If only I’d known what I know now: Never. Trust. A. Test.

As it turned out, the partial debut of the new package at Atlanta looked like a typical Atlanta race. Then Vegas looked like Vegas (except without any cautions). Then Phoenix was plagued by a lack of passing. And Sunday, Fontana was below average by its own standards of the last five years or so.

Whatever NASCAR thought or hoped was going to happen with the new package, there’s no question it has not achieved the goals so far.

On the plus side, restarts have been more exciting. There are a few laps at a time during the race which are noticeably better than before.

But then that’s about it. Drivers fall into their positions and can’t really do much, hamstrung by dirty air and a lack of horsepower to overcome it.

No one wrecks (the cars are more stable now) and the racing largely looks like it always did. Just…slower.

That can’t possibly be what NASCAR had in mind when it implemented this. And although many people are still preaching patience, it seems at this point — after two 1.5-mile tracks, a 1-mile track and a 2-mile track with different degrees of pavement wear — that the package isn’t going to be some magic fix.

No, this package was NEVER going to produce pack racing. And NASCAR never said it would.

But it was definitely expected to keep the racing tighter and make it more entertaining, which hasn’t happened.

So what gives? Why didn’t Fontana, for example, look like it did in the test?

“We never ran that long (at the test),” said Joey Logano, who was one of the drivers who attended. “Nothing surprising there. I knew (Sunday) was going to be 10 laps of really aggressive, tight racing — and then handling was going to come into play.”

But wait. What about the hopes of creating a race where the cars mostly ran as a group?

“You’re never going to keep us all together,” Truex said. “There are going to be good cars; there are going to be bad cars. The equalizer is the slow speeds and new tires at the beginning of a run. Once the tires get worn out, we get separated. It’s just the way it is.

“Unless we go 60 miles an hour, that’s what’s going to happen.”

Well…damn. In other words, my personal preseason optimism appears to have been overplayed, false hope.

Maybe the package isn’t a failure yet — it’s far too early to call it a total loss — but it certainly has not achieved what a lot of us expected it would. And the immense expectations have played a massive role in making the package feel like a disappointment.

After all, this was a Faustian bargain on the soul of NASCAR racing — a theoretical sacrifice of all-out speed and elite driver skill in exchange for increased excitement that would lead to better TV ratings and attendance.

But that hasn’t happened to this point. If the package is going to deliver, it must be stuck in transit.

And honestly, here’s where I feel for NASCAR. Yell at officials all you want for going down this road in the first place, but at least they had good intentions at heart — making the product more entertaining for fans.

The early returns, though, aren’t good. We’re assured NASCAR will keep working on it, so let’s hope that’s the case sooner than later if this trend continues.

It seems all the testing or simulation or iRacing in the world can’t reproduce true race conditions, so the only way to find out if a package works is to try it in an actual event.

Two or three months from now, if the package still hasn’t done what was expected? Let’s hope those in power are willing to try some science experiments in real races this summer, lest this turn into a lost season at a critical juncture in the sport’s history.

After all, we might not be able to trust a test. But there’s a decent chance we can trust a race.

Welp, so much for that idea!

The instant all 12 cars failed to take the green flag of Friday’s final qualifying round at Fontana was the same moment this qualifying format died.

Austin Dillon won perhaps the most unique pole in NASCAR history by posting a speed of 0.00 mph in the final round of qualifying, beating everyone else based on his Round 2 time because not a single driver made an official lap in the completed session.

Just 39 days ago, NASCAR’s Scott Miller said the sanctioning body would retain group qualifying for this season — despite the probability of cars drafting at intermediate tracks.

That went against what NASCAR does with the Truck Series, where single-car qualifying is required on tracks where the drivers can draft. But when it came to the Cup Series, Miller had said, “We’re in show business.”

It was a fun and optimistic thought that lasted until Friday — when the show turned into a “mockery,” as Miller put it. Suddenly, that was the end of the current qualifying procedures.

“We hoped things would go better than that,” Miller said. “Obviously, we have a little work to do on our part to get a better format so things like that can’t happen. We certainly want to provide our fans with what they deserve, and we — and the teams — didn’t do a very good job of that today. So we’re certainly disappointed.”

Unfortunately, there aren’t any other obvious solutions out there. Drivers had more shoulder shrugs than suggestions when asked what NASCAR should do now.

Whether it’s one big round of group qualifying or a hybrid solution (two group rounds plus a single-car round), there’s no way to avoid drafting when cars are allowed to qualify at the same time.

“I don’t know what else you can do, because the lead car is at such a disadvantage in qualifying,” Denny Hamlin said. “You don’t want to be first (in the draft) — and when you don’t want to be first, it will be a waiting game no matter what.”

But for the most part, the drivers seemed to recognize change was coming — particularly after they heard boos from the stands after their almost-laps.

“I’ve seen it in other sports, but I’ve never seen it in ours: We just got booed,” a visibly discouraged Clint Bowyer said. “It’s disappointing for everybody involved. I saw this coming three weeks ago; I think we all did.

“I know we’re capable as an industry of putting on a better show than that and I know they’ll make the right provisions to make that correct. Unfortunately, it’s going to take something like that to make that adjustment.”

The adjustment — in whatever form — will likely come by Texas in two weeks (drivers can’t draft at Martinsville next week). But the solution is yet to be determined.

“We’ve been working on a few other things, but we really don’t want to go to back to single-car qualifying,” Miller said. “There may not be another way. But we want to try to exhaust every possibility before we do that, because it’s just not as fun, not as intriguing of a show as the group situation.”

Jimmie Johnson acknowledged single-car qualifying isn’t as entertaining, but said “we’ll have to pick from the lesser of two evils in the end” — though which one is lesser option remains unclear.

Other opinions ranged from being fine with the current format (“I don’t see any problem with it; it’s drama, baby,” Kyle Busch said, perhaps sarcastically) to calling for a return to tradition (“I am still a big fan of single-car qualifying. That is the way qualifying should be,” Ryan Newman said).

Regardless of the solution, there was a sense of disappointment for the fans in attendance who made their opinions known.

“I looked up there in the stands after we got out of our cars and I felt bad for those people, because they paid money to come watch us qualify,” Aric Almirola said. “And they didn’t even get to see us post a lap in the final round.”

Said Kevin Harvick: “I think the crowd booing tells the story.”


Related: My now-ice-cold take from Las Vegas in favor of this format

 

Guest Column: Modern drivers closer to legends than you might think

By Jason Higgins (@jayjaydean)

There seems to be a strong opposition to anyone daring to compare Kyle Busch’s soon-to-be 200 NASCAR national series victories to Richard Petty’s 200 Cup wins.

But when you look at NASCAR history, including much of the time Petty raced, there’s no doubt certain Cup races meant something different than they do today.

NASCAR really became the NASCAR of today in 1972, which signified the start of the Modern Era. Before 1972, there were many more races on the Winston Cup schedule, and many of them are simply not comparable to the Cup races of today.

Every Modern Era race has had at least 28 cars in the field and a scheduled distance that took over two and a half hours to complete. It is not that difficult to go back through the records and figure out which pre-1972 races are apples-to-apples comparisons to today’s races.

Many races, like the Southern 500 and Daytona 500, are virtually the same today as they have been from their creation, and should be counted as such.

Others, though? Not so much — including many Cup races that were held on dirt.

Take Richard Petty’s 1971 season. That season, the King ran 46 out of 47 possible races and won 21 times. Let’s go through and look at how many of those wins are comparable to today’s wins:

– Daytona 500. (Obviously, yes,)
– Richmond 500. (Yes.)
– Carolina 500 (At Rockingham. Yes.)
– Hickory 276. (22 cars in the field for a race that took 88 minutes? No.)
– Columbia 200. (Short field, short race. No.)
– Maryville 200. (A 200-lap race on a half-mile that took 70 minutes? No.)
– Gwyn Staley 400. (North Wilkesboro Speedway. Yes.)
– Virginia 500. (Martinsville. Yes.)
– Asheville 300. (17 cars! No.)
– Pickens 200. (Another race barely over 80 minutes. No.)
– Albany-Saratoga 250. (This race was 90 miles long. No.)
– Islip 250. (This race was supposed to be 50 miles long but ended 20 laps short due to a scoring error. I can’t even. No.)
– Northern 300. (40 cars. Earlier versions of this race were three hours, so yes.)
– Nashville 420. (Nashville was on the schedule through 1984. Yes.)
– Dixie 500. (Atlanta…yes.)
– West Virginia 500 (Yes.)
– Sandlapper 200. (Great name, but only a 90-minute race. No.)
– Delaware 500. (The fall race at Dover. Yes.)
– American 500. (The fall race at the Rock. Yes.)
– Capital City 500. (The fall race at Richmond. Yes.)
– Texas 500. (250 laps on a 2-mile track…sound familiar? Yes.)

If I were at NASCAR, I would create a statistic called “Era-Adjusted Career Wins.” That would help fans better compare past drivers with a bit more realism.

In the case of Petty’s 1971 season, his 13 Era-Adjusted wins would still tie the Modern Era record for wins in a season (by Petty in 1975 and Jeff Gordon in 1998). I don’t think that is short-changing the King at all. In fact, since it is easy to dismiss many of the King’s pre-1972 wins with “Well, he was the only car there,” when you adjust for era and he has another one of the winningest seasons ever, doesn’t the added context make the King look even more awesome?

In addition, races that counted toward the championship before 1972 included the Daytona 500 qualifying races. To be fair, the King (amazingly) never won a Daytona qualifying race — though he did win a qualifying race for the World 600 in 1961, which counts as one of his 200 wins.

Here is an excellent example of why the NASCAR record book could stand to be addressed: Junior Johnson is listed as having won 50 races; Tony Stewart won 49.

But Johnson won three Daytona 500 qualifiers — and those races count toward his total of 50 wins. Stewart also won three Daytona 500 qualifiers — but those races do NOT count toward his total of 49 wins.

Anyway, I went through all of the previous races in NASCAR history and applied the criteria to get era-adjusted wins, and this is my current top 10:

1. Richard Petty – 116
2. Jeff Gordon – 93
3. Darrell Waltrip – 84
4. Jimmie Johnson — 83
5. Cale Yarborough – 80
6. Dale Earnhardt – 76
7. Bobby Allison – 73
8. David Pearson – 63
9. Rusty Wallace – 55
10. Kyle Busch — 52

Again, your initial reaction to that list might be “Wow, you hate Richard Petty. You took away 84 of his wins.” But seriously, do you have any idea how many wins 116 is? Jeff Gordon only got to 93. He would have to get back into the car and have Ricky Rudd’s entire career starting today to tie the King. That’s how unquestionable the King’s dominance is.

Which bring us back to Kyle Busch. No, his 200 national series wins aren’t the same as Petty’s 200 Cup wins. But when you adjust Petty’s statistics to account for difference in era, it helps to see where one of the greats of today stack up to the greats of the past.

The Driven Life: Elton Sawyer on being a team player, managing curveballs and staying level

(Photo: Jerry Markland / Getty Images)

This is the latest in a series of self-improvement/motivational-themed podcasts (also transcribed for those who prefer to read) involving people in the racing world sharing insight into successful habits. Up next: Elton Sawyer, the former driver who is now NASCAR’s vice president of officiating and technical inspection.

Everybody has been in a work environment at some point in their life. This is a very dynamic one here at the racetrack because there’s all sorts of people who are under your purview and they’re trying to run a race and get everybody ready for a race. What are some of the things that you look at from your perspective as far as what’s important to building a team, letting them do their job and making sure it’ll still run efficiently?

As a youngster and a teenager, I played all the ball and stick sports. I played basketball, I played baseball, I played football. And what I gathered very early on was the discipline it takes to be successful no matter what we’re doing. Even at an early age, you’ve got to be at practice on time, you’ve got to be in uniform. We’re a team, we wear the same uniform. It’s about the team, it’s not necessarily about the individual.

What we do on a given weekend at NASCAR is the same thing, whether it’d be the race directors in the tower or our series directors that are running the garage from the day-to-day operations of what goes on there and the communication with their individual teams.

I think the real key is to be able to identify good people, put them in positions, give them the tools to be successful — and support them. Let them go out and do their job. There will be an opportunity…we will have our competition meetings and we will debrief on the things we did well, the things we didn’t do so well, and what are we going to do to get better. That’s our approach every week. There’s going to be items in each one of those buckets.

There’s going to be some things we’ve done well — and we don’t want to sweep them under the rug. I think it’s important that we all recognize and say, “We did a pretty good job here. But here’s some things we didn’t do very well.” We’ve got to identify them, we’ve got to attack them, we’ve got to figure out what we have to do to not let them happen again. And then the next week, there’ll be something else. But it’s kind of a reset after every event.

You mentioned the word “support” and you’re not trying to micromanage the people under you and the people who are tasked with these jobs. In a workplace, that’s one of the most difficult things people have to encounter, both with bosses and employees, because you have to trust the people that you put in the positions to be able to execute. Are there any tips that you’ve found over the course of your career for being able to trust in those people enough to do that? And how do you know when it is time to step in when they’re not doing things the way you would want them to?

I think the key there is experience. When you’re looking to bring someone on and put them on your team or bring them to your team, that interviewing process is really critical so they understand the challenges that are going to be presented to them — no matter what the task is, no matter what the role is. As long as they understand that and they’re coachable…

Some people have more bandwidth than others, and you have to recognize that as a coach, if you will. If I see a guy or we see an individual who is going to be really strong as a race director, then we’ve got to make sure we get him in a role where he can develop and be a good race director. Instead of maybe he’s not going to be very good as a series director or he’s not going to be very good as a track service worker.

It takes time, it’s not a perfect science by any means, but I think identifying if someone has that drive and that heart to want to be good at something, then you can make sure that you can get the tools around them and the support.

The support is key, sort of like training wheels on a bicycle. At some point you have to take the training wheels off, but you also have to understand they’re going to make some mistakes, and you’ve got to be comfortable with them. If you’re in the NFL, it’s no different than our sport: A young quarterback is going to throw interceptions. We have to be good with someone throwing a couple interceptions, but then we can’t go at them and say, “You can’t throw interceptions,” because you’re going to get them to where they’re not comfortable and they’re not going to be able to do their job at a high level.

So I think the number one thing is to be comfortable with them throwing the interceptions from time to time. But if I use a race director as a good example, it’s better to throw the interceptions on say one of our weekly shows or one of our support events. Although it’s not ideal (any time), we don’t want to be throwing interceptions on Sunday. That’s the thing that you, you’ve got to make sure of that you train them. When you put them in the game on Sunday to be calling a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup event, you’ve got to make sure they’re ready to go. They can still throw an interception, but we need to make sure that we’ve prepared them and had them ready to do (their job).

Elton Sawyer, then part of Red Bull Racing, speaks with Brian Vickers during 2008 NASCAR preseason testing. (Getty Images)

One thing that’s always fascinated me from a coaching standpoint where you’re managing people is sometimes there’s going to be conflict. There are so many different personalities and not everybody gets along the same way. How do you handle things when two people that you both value on your team are not seeing eye to eye? How do you know when to step in and how do you manage a disagreement with a co-worker?

You’re kind of the mediator. You’ll get the information from one side, you’ll get the information from the other side. There may be a conflict that you can just handle with them one on one, and I think to me that’s the first step. Then you say, “Look, here’s what we need to do going forward with both of you.” If that conflict continues, then we probably need to have the triangle; we probably need to bring both of them, myself or another management position to sit in on that discussion, and at that point you need to think from a company perspective, here’s what we need from you.

When we walk in the gate on Friday morning or Saturday morning or Sunday morning, we’re all here to do a job and to be part of the team. So I think the number one thing is to try to get it resolved on the first level there, and sometimes that doesn’t work and you have to continue to take the next steps. And then ultimately, you’ll get to a crossroads and say, “Well, I’ve got to make a move here.” You’re got to move them to a different department because they’re a good employee, this is just not quite working where we have them today.

If somebody reading this was having some tension with their co-worker at their job, would you encourage them to talk to a supervisor, or should they handle it with that person themselves? Is there any sort of general rule of how that’s supposed to go?

I think all situations are going to be different. If you as the individual feel comfortable going to your co-worker and saying, “Look, this is not working as well as either one of us would like to see it work,” then see how that step works. Or it may be, “I don’t feel comfortable that’s going to get me anywhere,” so then I would suggest going to your supervisor and getting some advice and then maybe they will turn it around say, “Look, here’s what I want you to do. I want you to try it this way, and then get back with me and see if we’re going in a better spot. If not, then we’re take a little different angle.”

I don’t think that it’s written in stone that you have to do it a certain way, I think every individual’s a little different, every situation is different. The personalities of each is something that you’ve got to take in and put it in the equation of how you feel like you need to handle it.

I really like that, because you’re not ratting someone out necessarily if you go to your boss — you can just approach it like you said and ask for a bit of advice on how to handle the situation.

Oh absolutely. And I think the other part of that is, you hear about the open door policy. I tell our guys and gals all the time: “When my door’s open, and even if it’s not, it’s OK to knock.” There’s nothing I’m doing that’s more important than listening to them if they’ve got a question about something. I put everything down that I’m doing, because if they are not comfortable and they need an answer about something, then the wheels are not turning in the direction we need them to. So I can always pick up what I’m doing at another time, I need to make sure that they understand and they can get them an answer so they can keep doing their job.

There’s a lot of moving parts here, literally, and things are in flux all the time. Little fires might pop up that you need to put out, little crises. How do you stay calm in those moments? Is that just your personality that you’re very even, or is there something you do like take a deep breath?

I think the key there is you take the deep breath, because you try to keep the emotion out of it. Step back (and realize) we’ve got a situation, we have a crisis. Whatever you have, if you keep the emotion out of it, then 99 percent of the time, over time, you’ve had some experience in those situations in the past. And it will give you a first step — here’s what my first step is, here’s the box I need to check on this one to help me make those decisions going forward.

As an example, we deal with weather (during race weekends). We wake up in the morning, and we talk with our partners at the weather company, we’ve got some input there, we’re going to have rain for x amount of time. So then you just start checking the boxes: It’s raining. OK. At some point, it’s going to stop. We’ve got that information that it’s going to rain all day and you may have some periods of time where you can get the track dry. So you start from there making your decisions on, “All right, it’s going to stop raining here shortly.” We’ll start drying the track, we’ll look at how long that’s going to take.

My point is, you to a point where you’re checking boxes on your decision making. Being frustrated or being upset or having the emotion in it, a lot of times will make it very cloudy in the way that you make those decisions. So stand back and just take a deep breath and be able to basically make those decisions with a calmer thought process.

What are some other general tips that you like to see out of your employees or you think that other people could use in order to be a good team player?

The number one thing for me I always use is I reset every day. What happened yesterday is history, it’s in the rearview mirror. Good or bad, I need to get a good night’s rest, I need to be ready to go the next day, look at what the schedule is, whatever event — if it’s a Truck race, if it’s a Cup race, if it’s Xfinity, whatever that may be.

Don’t get too high on the good days, don’t get too low on the bad days, and then be able to reset the next day — and that comes from not just a mental aspect, but physically as well. You’ve got to make sure you’re getting the proper rest and nutrition, because you’re asked to make some really important decisions throughout your day.

It doesn’t matter what role or responsibility you have within your company — you’re there for a reason. You’ll be the guy that’s there at 5:30 in the morning to make sure all the offices have been vacuumed and all the trash cans have been cleaned, but it’s an important task. If it wasn’t, it wouldn’t be on the agenda to be done.

Another thing for me as a ball and stick guy for years, athletes will get to the major league if they can hit curveballs. They’re not going to get there if all they can hit is a fastball. So I think in life, you’ve got to be able to hit the curveballs. Everybody can hit the fastballs, but you’ve got to be able to stand in there and be ready for the curves — and every day you’re going to get a curve. There’s going to be a curveball from the time you get up in the morning, there’s going to be one or two — there may be five or six — and you’ve got to be ready to adjust and hit the curveball.

And if you know it’s coming and expect it, then you’ll be better prepared.

You’ll be better prepared. Absolutely.

In this picture from 1998, Elton Sawyer and wife Patty Moise are shown in the Busch Series garage. Sawyer drove Fords for owner Bob Sutton while Moise drove for owner Michael Waltrip. (Photo by ISC Images and Archives via Getty Images)

12 Questions with Chase Briscoe (2019)

The 12 Questions series of interviews continues this week with Chase Briscoe, who races in the Xfinity Series for Stewart-Haas Racing. These interviews are recorded as a podcast but also transcribed for those who prefer to read.

1. Are you an iPhone person or an Android person, and why?

iPhone, 100 percent. So I was in like 10th grade and my parents were like, “Alright, we’ll get you a smartphone.” So we go, and I was committed to getting an iPhone, right? And we go and the (sales) lady was like, “You can’t get weather on an iPhone. The radar won’t work.” I was like, “OK…”

So I got an Android, and I hated it. It was awful. So now I’ve been an iPhone guy ever since. They’re just so much more simple. Like an Android, I feel like, never worked. I don’t know, I just like the simplicity of an iPhone.

And you can get the weather now.

Well, come to find out, you could have gotten the radar back then on the iPhone.

It was probably a sales thing.

They were probably getting a cut back of Android sales, so they were like, “We’re gonna sell this guy an Android instead of an iPhone.”

2. If a fan meets you in the garage, they might only have a brief moment with you. So between an autograph, a selfie or quick comment, what is your advice on the best way to maximize that interaction?

All three. There might be a rare instance where I’m in a hurry, but I always will stop. I think it’s so cool when somebody wants my autograph or selfie or anything. So going out to driver intros for example, (I’ll leave) 15 minutes early. Every single time. Like I’ll go and sign every single autograph.

I was in their situation at one point where I thought it was super cool to get an autograph or just get to see (drivers), so it drives me nuts when guys just walk by. Like I get that you have (somewhere) to be at some point, but don’t blow by everybody, and don’t even say, “Hey,” or wave or high-five or anything like that. It drive me nuts.

My biggest pet peeve is when guys act like they’re so cool and blow everybody off. Like I don’t get it, because without them, you don’t have a job. They’re the whole reason we get to go do this. So yeah, I’m pretty big on that. Anything you want me to do, I’ll do it.

What are some memorable autographs that you got when you were younger?

I didn’t personally get them, my dad brought them home. I got a Jeff Gordon one one time in his rookie year. It was personalized to me and everything, because he and my dad used to race together, so that one was cool. I had a Tony Stewart one. I remember when my dad brought home this sidewall with a Hoosier sprint car tire and it had Kasey Kahne’s autograph on it. So those were probably my favorite three growing up, was Tony, Jeff and Kasey.

3. When someone pulls a jerk move on the road when you’re driving down the highway, does that feeling compare at all to when someone pulls a jerk move on the track?

It’s worse. Way worse! Like to me, when we’re racing, it’s your job to make it hard to get passed. Where on the road, you’re just cruising down the road. Like if I’m coming up 15 miles per hour quicker, just let me go. The biggest thing that drives me crazy is guys are just riding in the left lane, and you get over in the right lane, and then I make it a point to almost cut them off back in the left lane just to prove, “Hey, get out of the left lane.” And then they just keep cruising down it, like less than the speed limit! So to me, it’s worse if somebody chops me on the road than it is on the racetrack. Like it literally makes me mad.

4. Has there ever been a time where you’ve had a sketchy situation with your safety equipment?

I personally haven’t. I know there was a time in a sprint car, I forgot to strap my HANS, but it was under caution before hot laps, so I clicked it and was good to go.

But I have a good story about safety equipment. So Jack Hewitt, legendary guy in sprint cars, drove for my grandpa. He ran at Eldora, I think it was the last half of the race, without seatbelts. They broke off at Eldora. Ran a whole half of the race without seatbelts.

He didn’t pull in?

He won the race.

What?

Yeah.

Oh my gosh, that is crazy.

Just running Eldora by yourself is sketchy. Now imagine in a race without seatbelts. And he was running like an inch off the wall.

Wow. One slip and it would have been it for him.

That’s brave.

5. If your crew chief put a super secret illegal part on your car that made it way faster, would you want to know about it?

That’s tough. So a little backstory on me, I know absolutely nothing about cars. Like I can’t work on them. I can do very basic things. Like I know what springs do, but I don’t. Like I know the basics of them.

So you could tell me that you had something super illegal on it, but I probably wouldn’t even know what it is in the first place. But I would like to know about it, because I feel like any time somebody gets caught cheating, the driver gets ridiculed for it online. Like just gets blasted. When at the end of the day, I had nothing to do with it. So I would probably like to know, just so I had a heads up.

But nobody cheats in NASCAR. (Grins)

I understand where you’re coming from, though, because you don’t want to have all these people tweeting at you and being like, “Chase Briscoe the cheater,” and you’re like, “I didn’t do anything!”

Yeah, I didn’t do it. Like, I drove it. I feel like that happens a lot, guys get in and they win — well, come to find out they’re cheating. But they didn’t know they had something illegal on the car. Like that’s the team’s job to push it each and every week, where I’m not the guy bolting the thing on there.

So I feel like I would like to know. But at the same time there’s a part of me that I would just rather not know, just get in and drive. Because if I win the race, I would like to know it wasn’t because of an illegal part. Like I would rather think, “Hey, our team did a really good job, they had the car set up right, I did my job behind the wheel” — not because I cheated. I would like to think we did our job right, not that a part did its job right.

6. What is a food you would not recommend eating right before a race and are you speaking with personal experience with this recommendation?

So I think I told you on our last 12 Questions that I’m super picky. Like never had a hot dog, never had peanut butter and jelly — I’m super picky. So what I eat is very limited and very fried food.

So before the Roval (where he ended up winning), I go to Ford’s little RV bus thing, and they have chicken tenders and nacho cheese. So I down these things, right? Well, last 10 laps of the Roval, I was starting to get a little sick. So as good as it was, and it obviously worked out for me, I feel like it probably wasn’t the best thing to eat before the race — chicken tenders and nacho cheese.

So when you win a race, does that stomach pain go away? Is that like the version of Tums or Pepto for a driver? Or were you still getting out of the car being like, “Ugh.”

No, I for sure forget about it as soon as we won. But 10 to go, I was like, “Man, my stomach is like…” I felt like I was gonna throw up. But then five to go, I was good after that.

The Ford people still give me a hard time, like, “We’re not having chicken tenders and nacho cheese again.”

7. Is there life in outer space, and if so, do they race?

I have no idea. I don’t get into that stuff honestly. I don’t care about aliens, if there even are any. I don’t think there are, but that’s like the least of things I think about.

Are you not like a Star Wars guy or anything like that?

Never watched a movie.

Never watched any of the Star Wars movies?

Never. Never saw Star Trek, never seen any of that stuff.

8. What do drivers talk about when they’re standing around at driver intros before a race?

So I always try to talk to guys about dirt racing and try to get them to come race dirt.

You try to convert them.

Yeah, I try to convert them. And then other than that, we always talk about how hot it is normally. Like “Man, it’s gonna be brutal today. It’s too hot to race.”

And then — I’m giving away my secrets here — but I always try to find out how their car is (by saying), “Man, I’m struggling over here.” And I may not be struggling there, but I want them to be like, “Yeah, I’m struggling there, too.” That way I know during the race that’s a spot they struggle with. So I try to make a little notebook.

Hopefully none of them will read this.

So you just kind of float it out there that you’re bad in a certain spot and hope to get information from it.

I’m like, “Man, I am terrible going into (Turn) 3.” And they’ll be like, “Yeah, me too. In practice, I was so loose.” And then in the race, I’m thinking, “If I just drive up on their back bumper (in Turn 3), they’re really gonna be loose.”

Now next time I’m going to ask somebody this, and they’re going to be like, “I ain’t telling you.”

Right, I know. Well, not enough people read this, so…

Well, I don’t know. I read it every week.

9. What makes you happy right now?

A lot of things. So I got a dog, so that’s one thing I never thought I would be into. Like I had a dog growing up, but I’ve never really took care of it or anything. But now that I have my own dog, I’m a helicopter parent. Like I’m always making sure he doesn’t get into anything or get hurt.

I’m recently engaged, so that’s fun. Me and Marissa do a lot of things together. Life’s good right now. Got a full-time ride for the guy I’ve always dreamed of racing for (Tony Stewart), so it’s good. Hopefully, we start running good now that the season’s started. And then it’ll be really, really good.

Well you’ve got to leave some room to be at max happiness. You don’t want to peak too early.

Yeah, you can’t.

10. Let’s say a sponsor comes to you and says, “We are going to fully fund the entire rest of your racing career on the condition that you wear a clown nose and an 80’s rocker wig in every interview you do forever.” Would you accept that offer?

Oh, I’d do it. Absolutely. I would do it probably just for the fun of it. Not the clown nose, but I would wear like a wig, especially a mullet wig. I don’t want to give away a secret, but I’m probably gonna wear one of those Rico (Abreu) mullet hats at Darlington. That thing is pretty sweet. So I would do something like that.

Did you purchase one at the Chili Bowl?

I didn’t, but I’m gonna get one.

I don’t know, I heard they sold out.

I feel like I could probably get one. But in high school, I was that guy who always used to go to the basketball game and just dress like an idiot. So that kind of stuff’s not out of the question for me. Those days have kind of passed, but I feel like down deep they’re somewhere in there or I could do stuff like that.

You don’t mind putting yourself out there that way?

I feel like I’m less likely to now, but before I didn’t care. Like anything that I thought would get people to laugh, I would do it. Where now I’m not as much like that, but I would still probably do it. Like I’ll probably definitely wear the mullet hat if I can get one.

11. This is the 10th year of the 12 Questions. There has never been a repeat question until now. Pick a number between 1 and 100, and I’m going to pull up a random question from a past year’s series.

55.

This is from the 2013 12 Questions. And the question is, “What is your song of the moment right now?” Something you’re listening to a lot or you think fans should download, or I guess stream?

That’s a good question. I’ve got a funny little story for you. So this song I heard coming back from Homestead, we were riding back with one of the crew guys. And I heard this song on the radio, I’d heard it a couple times, and I was like, “Man, that’s a really good song.” So I could not remember it. Like, looked everywhere for it. Me and Marissa both were like, “Man, what’s the song called?” She didn’t really pay attention to it, and I was typing in lyrics I thought I heard on Google and I couldn’t find it.

So I come down to Daytona, get in my rental car, and it’s on — after three months of trying to figure out what this song was. So I instantly called her and put her on speakerphone and played it all the way up, I’m like, “Listen to what’s on!” She’s like, “What the heck is this? I don’t even know.”

So the song is called “Burn the House Down” and it’s like got this really good little trumpet beat to it. I don’t know, I thought it was really good. So I’ve been playing it a lot lately.

Who is it by?

Some three letters, AJ something, I don’t know. AGR or something. It’s on a pop station all the time.

(Editor’s note: The band, actually named AJR, was announced as the concert act for the NASCAR All-Star race after this interview was conducted.)

 

12. The last interview was with William Byron. I think he was gearing it towards the Cup schedule, but he wants to know as far as a weekend schedule goes, what would be the ideal weekend schedule in your mind? How many days, how many practices, things like that?

I feel like the least amount of practice, the better. It’s tough because if I’m in the car that weekend and we’re way off, I want as much practice as I can get. But at the same time, like if you go dirt racing, you literally get two or three laps, and then you go racing. So like a lot of times you go to places you’ve never even been before and it’s, “Alright, here’s your two laps and you’re gonna go qualify.” And it’s hard to figure a place out. I don’t think we need to go that extreme, but I do feel like we can cut back on a little more practice.

I wouldn’t mind seeing almost a random draw race. Like go for a random draw, and then we line them up Friday night and the winner gets a (playoff) point. You don’t have to race if you don’t want to; say some guys are like, “Man, we know we’re not gonna win, so we’re not gonna race,” so you might only get 20 cars out there. But then we go race for an extra (playoff) point and it’s random draw. So one week you might start on the pole, the next week you might start 20th.

So this is like a short heat race or something?

Kind of. It’s like 30 laps — that way you got enough time to get up there. But you have to run on your tires that you practiced on.

And this would set qualifying? Or set the starting lineup?

No, we would still qualify for the race on Sunday.

This is just a total bonus race?

Yeah, it’s a bonus race. And it’s free admission. Free admission, Friday night, 30 laps.

Racing for a playoff point, optional.

Yup. You don’t have to race if you don’t want to if you don’t want to tear your car up. And you have to run on the first set of tires you run on practice. So you might have 20 laps on them, you might have five laps on them.

Where did you get this idea from?

I don’t know, it just came to my head, but I feel like it would work. Free admission would be a hit.

Everybody’s already here anyway.

Exactly. So let’s race Friday night. Get Steve O’Donnell on the phone.

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

I feel like the Cup Series is the best race car drivers in the world, right? So we go to short tracks, we go to intermediates, we go to road courses, superspeedways. Why don’t we run a dirt track? So would they be against running on dirt in the Cup Series or not? Because I feel like we should be challenged in every single discipline and that’s the best race car drivers in the world. So why not?

So would they be for or against a Cup Series race on dirt?

Yeah. Two of them.

Two?

Everything else gets two, so why not? And what two tracks?

OK. So if you are for the race, what two tracks would you want to see?

And if you don’t want to go dirt, what two tracks should we run in Cup that we don’t go to right now? It could be anywhere.


Previous 12 Questions interviews with Chase Briscoe:

Oct. 4, 2017