The 12 Questions series of interviews continues with Daniel Hemric, who is in his second year driving in the Xfinity Series for Richard Childress Racing. This interview was recorded as a podcast, but is also available in transcript form below.
1. How often do you have dreams about racing?
It’s kind of self-induced when I do have dreams about racing. It’s probably the anxiety of not running like I want to run, where I really have to put a lot more emphasis on that racetrack on a given weekend, doing a lot more studying or doing a lot more simulation. Whatever it is, when I lay down at night and that’s the last thing I’m thinking about, that’s when I dream about racing.
It’s more frequent, in all honesty, at this level than what I’ve ever had in the past doing short track racing. In short track racing, I would go through spells where you’re one of the guys to beat every single weekend, you’re winning races on a constant basis. So when I’d have those dreams, it was about winning races.
It’s crazy — over time, I’d win a race after I’d dream about it. And then (the dreams) happened often and I would win often in those situations. I was like, “Man, that’s kind of creepy.” But it always worked out.
At this level, I’ve had one of those dreams where we ran good. You know how dreams are — they don’t make sense a lot of how it’s all tied together. But it’s kind of all correlated. When I have dreams about running well, it all translates, and when I have dreams about rough weekends, sometimes we’ll overcome some of that, but a lot of it plays out roughly the way the dreams do.
So kind of crazy how it’s all worked out over the past, but I need more of those winning dreams. That’d be good for this series.
You might need to go down to one of those psychic places and if you need some extra income or something, just pop in the store front.
You’re exactly right. Honestly, I wouldn’t even tell my wife (Kenzie) about it for the longest time. But it was starting to happen more and more and I’m like, “I’ve gotta share this with somebody, because it’s a lot to hold in.” It’s pretty wild.
2. If you get into someone during a race — intentional or not — does it matter if you apologize?
For sure. I’ve got a new spotter, Branden Lines, and he’s doing an incredible job. But during Atlanta qualifying, we thought Joey Logano was on his fast lap and he was gonna shut down at the flag stand after making his one lap in qualifying. And so I rolled off pit road, only to find out he was getting the green. So long story short, I ran the top of (Turns) 3 and 4 coming to green, Logano goes to the bottom and he was coming to the checkered, but it just worked out that he merged right behind me — I’m talking two or three inches.
It didn’t mess him up, it almost kind of helped him draft to the line and run even faster, but I made sure when I got out I was like, “Hey man, it was just a miscommunication.” That’s more of a driver ethic code, because if I didn’t say anything, if we’d been in the race running side-by-side, if I was him, I would have been like, “Hey, this dude pulled in front of me in qualifying, I’m not giving him a break.” So I think it’s good to knock that stuff out and get ahead of it.
3. What is the biggest compliment someone could give you?
Coming from where I’ve come from and doing it the way I had to do it, often I’ll go back short track racing and because the parents of the kids that are trying to figure out how to get their kid to this level or even further, they’re always saying, “What is our next step? What should we do?” That’s always the question: “What do we need to do with our son or daughter next?”
That’s a huge compliment to myself without them saying it because (it shows) somewhere along the line, whatever you did made an impact on that level and they have enough respect andreally trust what you’re saying and how you can guide them.
And the answer to all that is there’s no right way. You just gotta make the most of every opportunity. That’s how I try to tell everybody what their next step should be with their children.
4. NASCAR comes to you and says, “Hey, we are bringing a celebrity to the race and we’re wondering if you have time to say hi.” Who is a celebrity you’d be really excited to host?
I think some sports icons or coaches, because all of our deals are so team-related. I was watching the Carolina basketball game — I’m a big Tar Heels fan — and coach Roy Williams. The passion and everything he shows on the basketball court, good, bad, or indifferent, you see him throughout the season change teams and change players and how they approach and handle situations. So if I had the opportunity to host somebody, that’d be the guy. I think it’d be cool to hear his knowledge, his info of how he handles every team different every year. He’s having to conform to whatever makes those guys tick. I’d like to get a little background and host that guy for a week.
That’d be awesome — get him to talk to the team, come to the hauler and stuff.
Oh my gosh, if you couldn’t get fired up after listening to one of those speeches, you probably shouldn’t be here.
5. In an effort to show they are health-conscious, NASCAR offers the No. 1 pit stall selection for an upcoming race to the first driver willing to go vegan for a month. Would you do it?
Absolutely not. No way. Would not happen.
I’m all meat, potatoes, and no, absolutely not.
Not one driver has said yes so far.
Well it’s still open. Sound to me like if nobody takes it, the No. 2 pit stall is just as good.
6. It’s time for the Random Race Challenge. I have picked a random race from your career and you have to guess where you finished. This is the 2016 Truck race at the May Charlotte race.
I would have been in (Brad) Keselowski’s truck. I remember this race now thinking back, because the race got rained out. It was supposed to be a night race, and we came back and raced earlier that day. Really hot.
How did I finish? We led laps early, me and Kyle (Busch) raced early in the race. I remember him running the top and me running the bottom. Probably the most fun race I’ve ever ran in a truck at Charlotte. It was so slick that day. Something happened, and we got off on pit cycle or sequence. So I’m gonna say…ninth to 11th. I can’t remember because we got off.
The answer is ninth.
Oh, how ’bout that? So the first one was right! Yes!
That’s pretty amazing. You started eighth, you led 15 laps, and you finished ninth. You finished right behind Christoper Bell and ahead of William Byron.
How ’bout that? I do remember that because that race in particular, it was cool because obviously Charlotte’s my hometown, and that’s where I got my breakout, really, was at Charlotte Motor Speedway. So moving into one of the top three series, being in a truck, you go there and it’s the first time to lead laps on the big track, it’s the first time to have a solid shot or run solid in front of the home crowd. So you picked a good one to remember.
So I should have made it harder.
No, that was perfect. At least you gave me some good memories, good vibes here as we start the weekend.
7. Who is the best rapper alive?
The only one I can really know and recite as a kid was Eminem. I can remember getting into a lot of trouble for saying a lot of stuff that he was rapping about.
Your parents didn’t like that?
My parents were not a big fan of that. I’m sure they have no idea how much I actually listened to it.
8. Who has the most punchable face in NASCAR?
There’s no way to answer this and not get criticized in some way or some sort. This is not necessarily because I want to punch him in the face, but it seems like the fans in the garage, Logano’s done it or tried to do it, and that’s Kyle Busch. I love the dude, I think he’s good as gold and he’s great for our sport, but a lot of guys take jabs at him. So I think from the fans as a whole, that’s probably the biggest answer.
9. NASCAR enlists three famous Americans to be involved with your team for one race as part of a publicity push: Taylor Swift, LeBron James and Tom Hanks. Choose one to be your crew chief, one to be your spotter and one to be your motorhome driver.
That’s tough. I’d have to go with LeBron as the motorhome driver for the fact that he’s always in different cities, he knows the spots. He knows what’s going on, how to get there. If not, he knows the people to talk to to get us where we want to go so far for that weekend. So he’d be the motorhome driver, get everything set up. And he seems like a really diligent dude, like his stuff’s all nice and clean. That’s how he presents himself, so he’d be my motorhome driver.
Tom Hanks would definitely be the crew chief, without a doubt. I mean, you see him play any role or in anything he does, it’s incredible. So to know he’s got ability to just keep a group of guys working in one direction and pulling the rope in the same direction, I think that’d be a very interesting setup on top of the pit box.
And the Taylor Swift deal, would it be modern day Taylor Swift or early 2010s Taylor Swift? If it’s earlier Taylor Swift, I’d go with her being on the radio. Modern… not as big as a fan. I definitely need to know which one I have there.
10. What is the key to finding the best pre-race bathroom?
A great PR person. And luckily I have Jay (Pennell) over here. He makes it happen for me. He knows, as soon as I walk off the stage or get done riding the truck, he knows exactly where I want to go, so he’s usually got it picked out for me. That’s key.
11. NASCAR misses the highlight reel value brought by Carl Edwards’ backflips and decides a replacement is needed. I’ve been asking people much money would they have to pay you to backflip off your car after your next win, but backflipping is actually your celebration, so I don’t think they’d have to pay you, I’m assuming.
That’s exactly right. And actually from the time we do this interview to when we actually make that reality, we’ll give them from now to the end to draw a crowd, make sure everybody’s tuning in, because it will happen the first time I can break through victory lane in the Xfinity Series.
So we talked about dreams earlier. That’s a dream of mine, is to be able to do that off a race car at one of these top levels. Whether the fans like it or dislike it with me doing the same thing Carl did, Carl was a guy I legitimately looked up to in racing. To see him do that, I was obviously young, racing Bandoleros at the time, and I thought, “Man, that’s pretty cool.” And nobody else for the most part is going to be able to do that, so that’s something I latched onto because I’ve got tons of respect for the dude. So hopefully I can be the guy that can latch onto it whenever it does happen.
Are you confident in your ability to do one? I heard a rumor that a couple of years ago, during a FOX preseason shoot, your leg caught on something or you didn’t quite execute it and you fell?
I’ll tell the story. We’re sitting in the green room and it was a “Three questions about yourself” where you said two true, one false, and let the fans decide what’s what. (One of the true facts was) I can do a backflip, and two other random things. (The producers) were like, “Can you really do it?” I’m like, “Absolutely.” So I sit there, and they say, “We’re ready.” So I take one step back, and me taking the one step back when I jumped, my foot caught the drop-down green screen and I went on and hit the ground. Very embarrassing, to say the least.
But a couple buddies in the garage, they’ve seen me do it. I can stand on flat ground and knock it out. So being on top of a race car makes it that much easier; you’ve got way less rotating and all that stuff. So I’ve got 100% faith in myself to do it. I’ve just got to be able to get to the chance where I can do it.
12. Each week, I ask a question given to me from the last interview. Last week, I interviewed Alex Bowman.
I’ve never even spoke to that guy.
Yeah, he said he didn’t know you well. But he apparently used to come to Summer Shootout and watch you. So he was saying that he would see you kick some butt and your career was really on the rise and then he said it seemed like for a couple years there, your career sort of stalled out as you were trying to get this chance, and he could relate to that because his career stalled out, too. He was in a different level at the time when his career stalled out, but he was wondering how during that time, how you were thinking and feeling about what direction your career was going and were you worried and things like that.
That’s a great question. I’ve gotta make sure I thank him, that’s a great question. I guess thinking about it, our paths really sound similar in that aspect at two different points for sure.
For me, I was in a spot there after Legend cars, I was trying to break into the Super Late Model ranks. For the people that don’t know, there was no path. I didn’t know what was next, I had no goals of when I wanted to be at a certain point by when because I was already older than most of the people I raced against or been racing against.
There was a lot of stuff stacked against me, but as the years went by and I saw the people I’d been racing with over the course of time, they would either go take that next shot and fall short and give up on it, or they’d quit working for it. I didn’t know how to get there, but I knew that to stop working at it was not gonna get me there. I had to figure out a way to be in something if I wanted to get to this level.
Obviously, there was more people than I could ever begin to thank or even imagine to say their names on here to thank them for keeping giving me that next shot. But just staying in front of people, not really knowing what the end result was gonna be. It was just giving everything you had, no matter if it was going to sweep the floor for Jeff Fultz, because that was the only opportunity I had and he had Late Models in his shop that maybe I could get in one one day. Or going to work for Eddie Sharp and getting hooked up with the Gallaher family out of California that invested in me over the years and got me to the Xfinity Series.
It was so much stuff that all ties together. There were so many things that didn’t make sense, but I always just tried to put myself in that situation. So in the middle of the career stall, it was just staying hungry. Knowing that I really didn’t know how to do anything else, I had to put 100 percent effort into every single day of whatever that was, and that’s how somehow I was able to keep going and got to this point.
I don’t know who the next interview will be with. Do you have a general question I can ask the next driver?
Recently there’s been a lot of hype around top-20 prospects, or who’s gonna be the next guy (because of a list compiled by ESPN.com’s Bob Pockrass). Looking at that list, there was a lot of guys that either are currently still short track racing or trying to get to this level, but they’re still dabbling in some of that.
My question for the next person is, if they had the opportunity and they had made it, and they had their race team and they knew it was a successful race team and it was gonna run good regardless of who was in it, who’s that one driver at the short track level that you feel like could get the job done but they’d need that shot, whether that’s Alex Bowman or myself or anybody’s that got that shot and went on and prevailed. Who would that kid be, and what rank would he come from?
So like a kid right now that you see could have some talent that if you had a team, you would bring up?
Yeah, 100 percent. That’s the goal, is I want to get them talking about some other local short track kid specifically that they feel like may not ever get that shot. And he may get that shot, but getting the hype around his name would be a good thing for everybody.
Previous 12 Questions interviews with Daniel Hemric: