The series of 12 Questions driver interviews continues with Aric Almirola, who is currently enjoying the best season of his career during his first year with Stewart-Haas Racing.
1. How often do you have dreams about racing?
Most of my dreams about racing stem from panic. Panic sets in because I’m late to the race. Like I’m trying to put my firesuit on as fast as I can, I’m trying to find my shoes, the cars are lined up, the national anthem just finished, everybody’s getting in their cars and I’m not dressed yet and I’m like in this massive panic to try and get in the car and hurry up and run to the car and get my belts on while the other cars are out on the track making pace laps.
And then usually I wake up in a cold sweat in the bed because I’m freaking out that I’m going to miss the race. So that’s usually what any racing dreams are about.
2. If you get into someone during a race — intentional or not — does it matter if you apologize?
I think it’s very situational. Most of us know when it’s intentional and unintentional. If it’s unintentional, you can typically take care of it on the track, you give a little wave out the window and it’s all good. Life goes on.
But when it’s flat-out intentional or an accident that takes them out of the race, then I think it’s important to be able to work through that and try to hash that out — or at least make an effort.
When everybody’s mad in the heat of the moment, I think it usually falls on deaf ears. But later on in the week or leading up to the next race, once everybody kind of calms down, it usually works itself out.
3. What is the biggest compliment someone could give you?
I feel like through the years, having people walk up to me and say, “Hey, we really think that you’re a class act.” Lately a lot of people have walked up and said, “Hey, the way you handled post-Daytona 500 media, you’re truly a class act and that was awesome of you and we really think the world of you because of that,” or whatever. That makes me feel good. The racing side is one thing, but character is a whole other thing and I think character is really important.
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?
I am totally drawing a blank on that. I don’t know.
Are you not much of a celebrity guy?
I’m not much of a celebrity guy. I prefer kind of my own little world and my own little group of friends. I don’t know. I got nothing for you on that one, Gluck.
That’s fine. That’s an answer in itself because it reveals something about you.
I’m not one who really cares or gets that excited or anything about famous people. I like real people. I like the people that are just normal, everyday people — not that celebrities can’t be real people.
5. In an effort to show this is a health conscious sport, NASCAR decides to offer the No. 1 pit stall for an upcoming race to the first driver willing to go vegan for one month. Would you do it?
Can I put bacon on everything?
I don’t think that counts as vegan.
Can I eat a completely vegan salad and then just top it with lots of Smithfield bacon? Would that be OK?
Let’s reverse this in light of your sponsor. What if they said you could get the No. 1 pit stall you went all-bacon for a month?
Like breakfast, lunch, and dinner? Well, I already do that, so I think sure, why not?
So all-bacon diet for the No. 1 pit stall?
That’s a deal.
When are we gonna do that? What race?
Which pit stall do you want the race for? Dover’s a pretty good one to have, right?
Yeah. Well this one (Sonoma). Let’s go with this one. This is like moments before qualifying, right? So can you just go talk to NASCAR and tell them?
Yeah, they’re over there. I can see what I can do.
See if you can do that. Then I’d be done for the day. Then I won’t have to qualify.
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 2013 New Hampshire spring race.
2013 New Hampshire spring race. Did I finish like fourth or fifth?
You finished fifth!
I remember that race. We had a good car, we ran top 12-ish most of the day and late in the race we took two tires and I restarted on the front row with my now-boss Tony Stewart and I lost a couple of spots to a few cars that had four tires and we finished fifth.
Wow. That’s a really good memory. Brian Vickers won that race, you finished right behind Brad Keselowski and ahead of Jimmie Johnson.
Yeah, there you go.
7. Who is the best rapper alive?
(Laughs) I’m not much into rap, so I couldn’t even guess and throw a name out there. But a guy that I listen to who plays country music, or like kind of somewhat of a new age style of country music, is a guy named Corey Smith. And he occasionally breaks off of a chorus and goes into somewhat of what you would call rap, I think. So I’m gonna go with Corey Smith.
8. Who has the most punchable face in NASCAR?
Does it have to be a driver?
No, it could be anyone. It could be me. But give me some warning.
Actually, it would be a toss-up between you and (Bob) Pockrass. I think you would probably get the nod because Bob wears glasses. What movie is that where the guy says, “You would never hit a guy with glasses, would you?” And then he hits him.
I don’t have that luxury. I have sunglasses. I feel like I want to take two steps back now.
No, it’s good.
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.
Oh wow. Hmm.
(Note: My recorder died right at this moment. Fortunately, Almirola was willing to resume the interview on the following day. However, he said this secured my position as having the most punchable face.)
I currently have a woman motorhome driver who is amazing. She is an incredible bus driver. She takes care of me like a mom. She cooks awesome. She loves our kids and she’s just great. So I’m going to stick with the woman theme, so Taylor Swift is going to be my bus driver.
I’m going to go with LeBron James as crew chief. He seems pretty methodical and he’s pretty intense, so that’s a guy you would want to lead your team. He does seem like a good leader from time to time. I think his intensity would rub off and motivate the whole team.
And then spotter is Tom Hanks. I think he role plays all the time — that’s what he does for a living. I’m sure if he could just listen to somebody else spot for a few minutes and he could pick right up on it.
10. What is the key to finding the best pre-race bathroom?
Experience. There’s a lot of experience that comes into play with that. Occasionally the racetracks will move where they position the port-o-potties. But usually they’re in the same location at the same track. So after several years of doing this, you get out of the truck you ride around in for pre-race and there’s usually a line of drivers waiting at the same port-o-potties.
11. NASCAR decides they miss the highlight reel value brought by Carl Edwards’ backflips and want a replacement. How much money would they have to offer for you to backflip off your car following your next win?
No amount of money. There would be no monetary figure that would actually help me complete the backflip. If I had a chance, I would throw a big number out there. But I know I have zero chance of completing the backflip. I feel like I would get halfway around and land on my head.
But I’d be willing to give a somersault a whirl.
Maybe they’d give you $1 for that.
That’s where you put your head on the ground and roll ass over teakettle. My 5-year-old son and my 4-year-old daughter can both do it; surely I can do it.
12. Each week, I ask a driver to give me a question for the next interview. Last week was Chase Elliott, and he wanted to know: What’s the biggest thing SHR does that has helped you this year or your favorite part about being there now?
The thing SHR does that helps me the most is they have the ability to pay attention to every single detail. And that’s something that is new for me. But they have the resources, the manpower and the ability to not only make race cars go fast, but deliver a lot of information to me — tons of data, tons of engineers and people willing to go and get data I’m looking for or sit down and talk with me.
The personal aspect is something I think has helped me the most. Being around a group of almost 400 employees who are hardcore racers and all are pulling the rope in the same direction. To have that many people and all of them willing to work together for a common goal, I just seem to fit in. Everybody has welcomed me with open arms, and they’re all willing to help in any way possible.
Not that I haven’t had that in the past — the attention to every detail — but (now) including me as a detail. At other race teams I’ve been at, the driver carries his own weight. You prepare in your own way and you show up and do your job. But at SHR, you’re part of the team and the detail. They put just as much time and energy into me as they do the race cars.
This might increase my face punchability, but I don’t know who the next interview is going to be with. Do you have a question I can ask another driver in general?
Ughhhhh. Are you really that unscheduled? Do you wing it this often?
Pretty much, yes.
How about you come back to me when you know who the next interview is with?
Will you make sure to give a question?
Yes. I could have left you (earlier)! It could have been Eight Questions with Jeff Gluck instead of 12 Questions with Jeff Gluck.
Previous 12 Questions interviews with Aric Almirola: