The 12 Questions series of interviews continues this week with Truck Series driver Justin Haley of GMS Racing. Haley won the Truck playoffs opener in Canada last month and is locked into the second round of the playoffs. This interview was recorded as a podcast but is also transcribed below for those who prefer to read.
1. How often do you have dreams about racing?
I actually had a dream about racing last night, which is pretty rare, I’d say. I don’t dream about racing too much. I’m a pretty heavy sleeper. But last night I dreamt we won Vegas, so by the time this comes out, I’m sure that’s going to be true or false. (Note: He finished third.) It was a two-in-a-row deal after (winning in Canada), so that was kind of cool.
2. If you get into someone during a race — intentional or not — does it matter if you apologize?
I think there’s a certain level of respect. Normally if it’s not too big of a deal, I just let my spotter know and my spotter relays it. Especially if we’re early in the race, you don’t want someone hot at you. But if you go out there and get into someone, there’s going to have to be some kind of communication the next week.
3. What is the biggest compliment someone could give you?
I’d say it’s that I’m a hard worker and dedicated to what I do. I’ve put my all into it since I was a little kid. If I just keep working hard and putting everything into it even if it doesn’t work out, it’d probably be the biggest compliment.
4. NASCAR comes to you and says they’re bringing a celebrity to the track and they want you to host them. Who is a celebrity you’d be excited to host?
Man, I don’t even know. Kaz Grala? He’s a celebrity, right? (Laughs)
There’s some vloggers — I’m pretty big into vlogging. Like Casey Neistat or Roman Atwood. They’re pretty cool. I know Roman did a race awhile ago with Ty (Dillon).
I’m not really into the whole scene of music and TV. I don’t watch TV too much, unless there’s a hurricane coming.
I always tell everyone if I wasn’t racing and didn’t have to be on social media, I wouldn’t have any platforms. I like doing my own thing and bouncing off my family and friends.
Do you have to limit yourself on social media then?
I think you have to, to a certain point. I’ve been putting up some Instagram Stories and live videos with Kaz. He’s my best friend. He has a fan base and I have a fan base, so we like to connect them. I do spend quite a bit of time on Instagram — I usually do a post a day to try to engage fans and get my viewership up or whatnot. My tweets are kind of hit or miss. I don’t have a personal Facebook or Instagram, just for racing.
5. In an effort to show this is a health-conscious sport, NASCAR decides to offer the pole for an upcoming race to the first driver willing to go vegan for one month. Would you do it?
Oh, for sure. I’ve gone vegan just to go vegan.
Are you a healthy eater?
Yeah. I think my PR girl and my manager and everyone in my family, they get pretty hot-headed (about his eating habits). I am a very healthy eater. I haven’t had a slice of pizza in a few years. Haven’t had a soda in a few years. Any snacks. Every meal for the past two and a half years has been pre-calculated.
It gets hard while racing, but you just have to make smart decisions. I am probably one of the healthiest eaters in the whole garage area — I’d say I probably beat Jimmie Johnson, because I never treat myself. It’s just kind of a lifestyle. I used to eat nachos every day and whatnot. I just found a groove and I like healthy eating. I feel better and I feel like it really affects my performance.
Can you give me a quick tip? I really struggle to eat healthy on the road.
I don’t even know if it’s healthy foods, but it’s making sure you put the right foods in your body. If I go out to eat at a dinner — like last night, I did with my team — I eat steak and mashed potatoes. That’s not bad. It’s got good carbs; I’m racing tomorrow, so that’s going to be good. It’s got protein in it.
I’m not going to eat a cheeseburger. I haven’t had french fries in years. It’s hard to do. Growing up, my parents always wanted me to eat healthy, but I never could until I got something in the back of my head that just wanted myself to do it. It’s more of a want in your head. It’s just a will.
6. It’s time for the Random Race Challenge. I’ve picked a random race from your career and you have to tell me where you finished. This is the 2015 Watkins Glen K&N East race. Do you remember this race at all?
I do. I remember it clear as day. Dalton Sargeant was in it and William Byron. I ran third, I’m pretty sure — maybe fourth. Scott Heckert won — he was my teammate — and Dalton Sergeant passed me on the last lap for second.
Wow, that’s impressive. You did indeed finish third. You started fourth and led 12 laps.
I did lead? That’s kind of impressive, I didn’t remember that. But I was pretty salty. Even Sargeant, when he was my teammate this year, we’d always go back to that race.
I mean, there’s probably not too many races I couldn’t remember. Do people usually struggle?
It’s kind of 50-50. Some drivers can’t really remember and others can remember clear as day like you did.
I remember he shoved in my right-rear fender going into Turn 1 on the last lap. Then I hit him on the exit of the corner, and he had his tail cone flying after we got out of the carousel — his whole rear bumper flew off and hit my windshield.
7. Who is the best rapper alive?
Here we go back to the questions about musicians and whatnot. (Smiles) I don’t even know who rappers are these days. I’ve got no idea, to be completely honest with you.
8. Who has the most punchable face in NASCAR? Two people have said you for an answer this year. Noah Gragson said you and was serious about it, and then Kaz Grala said you, but he was kidding.
I’m not really sure who has the most punchable face in NASCAR. Kaz said me to be playful, and he actually called me up right after and was like, “Man, I said you!”
I don’t believe in violence. I like racing and beating people on the track, but I don’t ever find myself just going straight up and punching someone. It’s not really my style. I’d rather go talk to someone and have a conversation and become buds or something.
Is there still any bad blood with Gragson?
I’m good. Obviously Noah is a very aggressive racer and he likes to win as much as the next guy. I’m cool with Noah. I’m about cool with anyone in the pits. We race each other 20 weekends a year and you have to see them that much, and you just can’t have any bad blood with anyone. Life’s too short to do that. I’m good with everyone. I might be a little hot-headed after a race because we put so much into it, but at the end of the day, life is too short to hold grudges.
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.
Well I think Taylor is definitely my motorhome driver. That’s a no-brainer. (Laughs) And I think we all know the reason why.
I think Tom Hanks would definitely be my crew chief. And then LeBron would be on top of his game (as a spotter). He’s taller than everyone, so we’d never have trouble looking over anyone to see. I don’t think I’d be a good spotter, because I’m so short that I couldn’t see.
Those are my three picks. I feel like I nailed that one. (Smiles)
10. What is the key to finding the best pre-race bathroom?
You hydrate yourself so much that you always have to pee, until you get far enough into the race that you sweat it all out and don’t have to pee anymore. Usually I use a nicer restroom — if that’s the media center or whatnot — before I go to driver introductions. Then on the ridearounds in the trucks, you have to go again, so you just have to hit a port-o-potty because it’s the closest thing. Then you’re missing the national anthem and you have to run out. I think it’s whatever is easily accessible.
11. NASCAR decides they would like the highlight reel value brought by the former Carl Edwards backflips and want their own version. How much money would they have to offer for you to backflip off your truck following your next win?
I can do a front flip all day long, but I didn’t know how to do a backflip. We were on the boat one day — it was me, Kaz and some friends. I’m like, “I’m going to do a backflip.” Kaz was like, “Whatever.” So I did a backflip and ever since, I’ve totally sucked. I cannot do a backflip. I’ve tried it from five feet up and I still can’t complete the full rotation. So if you ask Kaz, it’s unbelievable.
No. It’d be enough money to have neck surgery. I’d really have to up my insurance rate. I know (Daniel) Hemric can do it and hasn’t gotten to do one (after a race) in a long time. I’m good friends with Hemric, so I’d like to see him do it.
12. Each week, I ask a driver to give me a question for the next interview. Last week was Clint Bowyer, and it was kind of a weird question.
Does he even know who I am?
It seemed like it, because he said, “I don’t have anything in common with those young guys. I don’t play Fortnite or anything like that.”
I don’t play Fortnite either.
Anyway, his question was like, “How does it feel to get beat by a guy like me who is so crazy?” But you don’t race with him.
I like Clint. He’s pretty down to earth. He’s a cool guy. Look at his playoff emoji. It’s a trucker. How much more down to earth can you be?
The next interview I’m doing is with Timmy Hill. Do you have a question I can ask him?
(Looks up Timmy Hill’s Twitter profile and sees a picture of mustache he grew for Darlington throwback week) As a 19-year-old driver who can’t grow facial hair, ask him how long it took him to grow that. Honestly, I’m kind of jealous.