The Driven Life: Blake Koch on the power of positivity and passion

This is the latest in a series of self-improvement/motivational-themed interviews involving people in the racing world sharing insight into successful habits. Up next: Blake Koch, who founded the business FilterTime after losing his NASCAR ride.

We’re here at the track and you’re not driving. I’d think, “Oh geez, maybe he’s going to be down in the dumps.” But I follow you on social media, I see how your life’s going. You seem super happy. Obviously, you’ve had tough times and I’m sure you’ve had bad days, but you’ve managed to stay positive through all of it. How do you stay positive and how can people reading take some of that for themselves?

You’re right. I’m extremely happy, and to be honest with you, I had two good years there running in the playoffs and my career was taking a different path to the good side. It was fun, it was good — and then I lost my ride.

I was pretty upset and a little down for about a day. That was all I let myself kind of pout. I pouted for a day, like, “This shouldn’t happen,” and then you find yourself pouting and you’re like, “What’s that gonna do?” So I decided to pump myself up. You know me, I’m a Christian, so I prayed, like, “God, what do you want me to do next?” Nothing’s going to change from me sitting here and pouting, no one’s going to feel sorry for me, I have a wife and two kids, I’ve got to provide.

And I just started working. I didn’t even know what to work on, really, but I just was excited about what was going to happen next for me. I started doing the sponsor hunting, but doors were closing and no sponsors were showing interest, no teams were reaching out. I was like, “Man, God’s really shutting the door on driving. So what else should I do?”

An opportunity with FOX popped right up, and I was like, “Oh, this is great! I get to talk about the series I love, the Xfinity Series, on the show Race Hub. So that opportunity came in. And then (Matt) Tifft asked me if I was willing to help him. He was really looking forward to being my teammate over at RCR and asked if I’d be willing to help him work hard and teach him how to work hard, is what he said. And I said, “Dude, that sounds awesome, I’d love to help you!”

A part of the reason why I wasn’t a great driver is because I wanted to help people too much. I was too nice. So it really kind of fits me, because I get to be myself and actually help people like I really want to.

I know I’m going long on this answer, but how do I stay positive? I just start my day, every single morning, with some prayer, reading the Bible, and just motivating myself — listening to some motivational stuff (like) a podcast and just being grateful for everything I have: my wife, my kids, my family, my house.

I start my day like that every single day, and then I just attack. Whatever I can do to make today the best I can be is what I do. And I think what drives me is my passion, and my passion gives me that adrenaline — (even if) it’s selling air filters with FilterTime. Like I love FilterTime just as much as I did racing. I don’t know why, but I love when people email me and someone signs up and someone sends me a question about air filters. I just love it. So I think it’s just the passion that keeps me positive, motivated and just always on the go.

Going back to the times when before you realized there were other things out there like FilterTime for you and you’re on that sponsor hunt and the doors are closing, those had to be discouraging days. Even on those days, were you able to find some positivity? Let’s say someone’s been laid off and lost their job, they’re going through a job hunt right now. What advice would you give to people who are feeling like, “Man, I don’t feel like I have a sense of purpose right now, I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing, I’m looking for that next thing.” How do people sort of steer themselves in the right direction?

You just have to make yourself be positive, right? It’s not a natural thing for me. There’s days when I wake up and I’m just not motivated, not excited — but I don’t let myself think that way. I immediately stop and think about all the things that I’m grateful for; little things, right? Little things like I have a vehicle to drive, little things like knowing my wife and my kids, we’d be happy if we had to go live in hotels because we couldn’t afford a house, we’d be happy because we have each other. So me just knowing that we’d be happy in any and all circumstances is very comforting for me just to go where I feel led to go and work towards where I feel I need to be working at.

And like you said, there was a time where I didn’t know what I was going to do next. I carried a notebook with me everywhere, and I wrote down who I need to call today. Every morning I need to make five phone calls to teams or drivers, and then I need to make five phone calls to somebody in another area, and then I’m writing ideas down.

I’ve had ideas down on wrapping people’s garage doors to make it look good in front of their house instead of this white plain thing. I had an idea of a mobile oil change unit that I could start and go to people’s houses to change oil. I had all these ideas that I was ready and excited to go, but you start working on it and then you kind of feel like, “Ahh, that’s not really the direction I feel led, doors aren’t opening.”

Then when FilterTime popped in my head, I knew. The doors were just flying open everywhere and it was full force, everything was just lining up perfectly and that’s kind of when I knew my calling — my next calling was to start an air filter subscription business. (Grins)

What you said about forcing yourself to be positive is really interesting to me because I assumed in some ways, “He’s just a happy person. He’s just the kind of guy for whatever reason is not going to get down.” But when you say you had to stop yourself and say, “Wait, I see myself going down this path mentally, I’m starting to have negative thoughts creep in” — it sounds like it’s something you have to initiate within yourself. It doesn’t just happen.

Yeah, you just don’t lose weight by thinking about it. But a lot of that is surrounding yourself by good people, too. You are who you hang with, and there’s guys I can call — Trevor Bayne, Michael McDowell, Justin Allgaier — if I’m feeling a little down or whatever. And my wife, too, a lot of times I have to pump her up a little bit. But when she sees me getting down, she’s like, “Babe, it’s OK, it’s going to work out,” and she pumps me up, too.

But to give you an example, when I came to this track here in Daytona one year ago, the first time not driving in a decade, I was like, “Man, I’ve got to walk in this Xfinity garage and pretend to be happy.” But I committed to it, and people came up to me saying, “You were done wrong, it stinks you were bought out,” and my answer — I committed to making it positive — was, “No, it’s OK, it’s how it works, he deserves to be in the car.” And it’s just part of it.

Whether it’s social media or turning on the news, sometimes it’s kind of tough not to be affected by like what you see as the state of the world. How do you not let that seep into your life? How do you rise above that?

I think just not worrying about things. It would be really easy to worry about the world we live in and the direction it’s going and what kind of world are my kids going to live in. But there’s nothing you can do about it other than just have a positive attitude. For me, it’s being a great leader for my wife and my kids and just creating that positive energy in the house. And if I can help somebody else be positive, that’s one less person being negative on social media, you know?

Think about if everybody just stayed positive on social media. I think attitudes would be different, and quite frankly, the day would be a lot more enjoyable.

I’d also like to talk to you about the energy that you have to do this stuff. Where do you get the energy from? Is that a natural thing where you’re just feeling enthusiastic?

My dad is super passionate and energetic, too, so I do think there’s something in my genes that just gives me that drive. For me, I never drove a race car until I was 20 years old, made an Xfinity start at 24 or something. So that doesn’t happen by an unmotivated, undriven person. So I’ve always had it.

Even before I raced, before any of you guys knew me or who I was, I did pressure washing. I pressure washed houses for a paycheck, and I loved it. I wanted to be the best pressure washer in the world, I was so competitive to make sure people were happy with the work I did.

So I think just naturally, I just want to be the best at whatever I’m doing, and that all starts with goals. You’ve got to have short-term goals. I have a goal every day of what I want to accomplish in the day, I have weekly goals, I have annual goals and I have five-year goals. And you know, if you are being lazy that day, it’s not going to get you any closer to your goal.

It all comes down to starting your day off right. I don’t sleep in, I wake up early — 5:30 or 6:00, before my family — I go into my office, I read, pray, write down goals and mentally get prepared for life. Life is tough. You’re going to have to make so many decisions every day, you’re going to hear so many bad things throughout the day that you have to really get prepared for it.

You’ve talked about your goals. You said you have daily goals, all the way up to five-year goals. Is that stuff you write down in your notebook, or is that just in your head?

Yeah, I have a whiteboard in my office. It’s like a three foot by five foot whiteboard on the wall, and I just write them on that whiteboard. And those aren’t little goals; those aren’t like, “Call this somebody.” Those are big goals. Like with FilterTime, it was, “Start FilterTime.”

For me, what I knew I wanted to do was something that was helping people and competition and something that can help me provide for my family. So those were the three things I knew I wanted to do after racing.

Helping people is my driver coaching — I work with Harrison Burton and Tifft, sharing the stuff I’ve learned over 10 years that I can help these guys with and give them true honesty. I really love doing that. The competitive side is that and the FOX Race Hub thing, so I knew that was happening. And then when the air filter business started obviously, that was helping people change air filters and it’s making me money. So that was kind of tying it all together.

If somebody just needs like a kick or a pep in their step or something, what do you think is one thing or one change they could make to sort of just help their overall life?

Literally, you have to be positive and passionate. Life and careers and jobs is all about relationships, people. And people don’t like hanging around and talking to negative people. They just don’t. So if you’re expecting to advance in your career, advance whatever you are doing, it’s all about relationships that people like to be around. If you’re not naturally positive, you’ve got to make yourself be positive. It’s just really not an option.

12 Questions with Kyle Larson (2019)

The 12 Questions series of driver interviews continues this week with Kyle Larson of Chip Ganassi Racing. This interview was recorded as a podcast, but is also transcribed for those who prefer to read.

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

I’m an iPhone user. All Apple. It’s just simple. Life’s simple with Apple.

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?

Usually when a dirt fan walks up and starts talking about a race, that’s a good way to get a good reaction out of me. Or just have your camera ready, and then usually I think that would put all of us in a better mood and more willing to chitchat for a minute. But I enjoy interacting with people.

So it pisses you off when somebody comes up and they’re like, “Oh, let me get a selfie,” and then they’re trying to unlock their phone…

They don’t even have it out of their pocket yet. Yeah.

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?

Yeah, I guess a little bit. If somebody cuts you off or something like that, then at least in the race car, you can run into them and show your displeasure. Where I guess on the street, if somebody cuts me off, I just tailgate them for a couple miles.

A couple miles? Wow!

Yeah, or at least until they turn. So I would say it’s similar, just you can’t run into somebody on the street.

I don’t do any hand gestures though because when we’re on the racetrack, you can do a hand gesture because you know you have backup when you get to pit road (for a fight). If you do a hand gesture and somebody gets you to pull over on the side of the road, they’d probably beat you up and you don’t have any backup.

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

I’ve had times like where I’m rolling around yellow and maybe I didn’t get (the HANS device) clipped in all the way and it becomes unclipped under yellow, but I usually have enough time to get it hooked back up. Gosh, yeah, I don’t think I’ve had anything too sketchy. I feel like I have really safe equipment. My Arai helmet’s been safe and so yeah, knock on wood, I haven’t had anything crazy happen.

You wear like a strap version of the HANS, right…?

It’s a Safety Solutions (Hybrid Pro). Simpson owns it now, but it’s called a Hybrid Pro.

Why do you do that? More comfortable?

I was like their test dummy kind of back when I was 10 or 11 racing go-karts, back when they were first getting started, at least with the youth stuff. So I’ve always used their stuff; back then it was called like the R3. So I kind of developed their youth stuff and I’ve just always used it as I’ve gotten older.

I think it’s a safer device than the HANS, I think because it clips to you and it still is working somewhat if your belts were to slide off — which I’ve never had my belts slide off. But when I wear a HANS, I don’t feel like it’s that tight on me and it’s not doing as much for me. And it’s a lot easier on your collarbones too, especially for dirt racing. A lot of people break their collarbones with HANS (devices).

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?

(Editor’s note: I accidentally skipped over this question. New season goof-up. Sorry.)

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

Maybe like a couple cheeseburgers and a root beer float. I wouldn’t recommend eating any of that.

I hope that’s not a personal experience.

Maybe a little bit of a personal experience. I really don’t want to talk about it. (Laughs)

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

Oh. I believe there’s life in outer space. I don’t know if they race, though. Maybe. Wow. Yeah, there’s gotta be life in outer space. I feel like I’ve seen some UFOs before, so I think there’s life. Do they race? I don’t know. I would hope they do. That way I could maybe go race in outer space.

When you cross over to the various series, you can be one of the first intergalactic racers.

Yeah.

It’d be like, “Dude, Kyle Larson is good on any planet.”

He’s out of this planet. Yeah, you’re right.

Where have you seen UFOs? When you’re on the ground? Or when you’re flying, like, “That’s something weird out the window.”

Dude, so I remember, I was driving through Sacramento, so this is right by ARCO Arena where the Kings used to play, and I’m cruising up (CA Route) 99 and out the right side there’s a bunch of little colorful objects, like zipping around back and forth as random as could be, like all different directions for a least a minute while I was driving. And I was just staring at them, I was like, “What the hell is this?” It wasn’t like a drone, because there were multiples and they were flying fast. Pretty low to the ground. Probably 50 feet off the ground. But just little lights. Maybe I was crazy for a second. But no, I swear I saw something funny.

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

I dread driver intros. Davis (Schaefer, his PR rep) could admit that I’m the last one up to the intro stage, just because it’s awkward. It’s like going to lunch in junior high and you’re like, “There’s the cool table and there’s the nerd table and there’s my dirt friends. I’ll go stand with my dirt friends.” So we usually just talk about dirt racing, so I’ll stand around (Ricky) Stenhouse and (Ryan) Newman and (Clint) Bowyer, and Denny Hamlin’s getting into liking dirt racing, so he’s usually around. We’ll talk about stuff because we’ve all watched (streaming service) DIRTVision from the night before, so we’ll talk about that.

But yeah, I hate intros. I don’t go up there early. There’s drivers that get up there (early) — I feel like Martin Truex is always the first one up there and he qualifies good (which means he show go up later). I’m like, “Man, what are you doing up there so early?” Because he’s quiet, he doesn’t talk to anybody. But yeah, so I don’t like going up there early.

9. What makes you happy right now?

That I’m getting to knock these 12 Questions out of the way before I have to wake up early in the morning or something, or when I’m tired and grumpy and getting ready for practice like at Pocono or something like that. (Editor’s note: Larson was bored during Daytona 500 media day so suggested we do this interview now instead of during the season.)

That makes me happy as well.

Yeah, so we both get to get that out of the way. But I don’t know. Doing the 12 Questions and just getting ready to get this season started. It was a short offseason, but I get to go racing full-time again.

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?

No. (Laughs) There’s probably other sponsors out there that would sponsor us and not do that.

Take your chances?

Yeah, and I’d just go sprint car racing in that (case). So no, I won’t wear a clown nose. I would maybe wear the long hair, but not the clown nose.

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.

OK, 62. When is this from?

This is from 2015.

So I’ve had this question before.

That’s true, actually. I should look up your answer and see how it compares.

OK. But don’t tell me how I answered it.

Do you ever get mistaken for another driver or celebrity?

So that was back when I had Target, so I was red. I didn’t get Stenhouse all that much. So now I get Stenhouse a lot.

Stenhouse?

Yeah. It even happened today downstairs.

What?!

Yeah. So I get Stenhouse and Chase Elliott the most.

At least Chase Elliott has dark hair.

Yeah. And Chase Elliott and I actually look a lot alike in our baby pictures and such. But yeah, I get Ricky a bunch. Ricky probably the most. And Ricky gets me a lot, too.

What? I don’t see that at all. I don’t understand how that’s possible.

Yeah, I don’t know.

Do you want to guess who you said back in 2015?

Probably Ryan Truex.

That’s correct. Actually, you said, “I used to get mistaken for Ryan Truex but now it’s kind of the other way. It’s nicer that way for me.”

Yeah. (Laughs) I don’t get mistaken for him, he gets mistaken for me.

12. The last interview was with Joey Logano. He wanted to know: What is your plan to help our sport and our community in the next year? What are you goals to make what we do better outside of the race car?

That’s deep. Well, Joey does a really good job at all that. He’s probably like the best these days when it comes to community stuff. I don’t have a Kyle Larson Foundation or a charity really that I have focused on or spent a lot of time or effort on helping. So I guess that’s something I can do in the next year or so, maybe set up a foundation, figure out what I want to give back to and help out, whether it’s sick children or just people in need, really.

There’s a lot I can do. I guess try to take the next step into all that as a professional athlete, because I think a lot of professional athletes, that’s what they do, is give back to the community. So that’s something I need to grow up and do, but I still don’t really know how exactly I’m going to do that.

Do you have the question I can ask the next driver? It’s Aric Almirola.

He recently introduced me to his grandfather who raced sprint cars, so maybe ask him what race stands out to him of watching his grandpa the most racing sprint cars.

Do you regret doing these 12 Questions? That’s the last question.

That’s been more than 12 questions now.


Previous 12 Questions interviews with Kyle Larson:

— May 6, 2014

— March 18, 2015

— April 6, 2016

— April 26, 2017

March 20, 2018

 

The Top Five: Breaking down the Daytona 500

Five thoughts after Sunday’s season-opening Daytona 500…

1. Daytona’s lesson

Up until the green flag Sunday, the relentless hand-wringing over how the racing would look in the Daytona 500 was the theme of Speedweeks.

There were serious worries over seeing a single-file line cling to the top for hours in front of the biggest TV audience NASCAR gets all year. Ack! Any potential momentum heading into the season would be squandered. A disaster in the making!

The fears persisted until the start of the race. Even moments before engines were fired, a spotter for one of the top drivers confidently predicted the drivers would spend the first stage looking like the Xfinity drivers did in their awful borefest of a “race.”

I believed it, because it made logical sense. That’s how the Clash looked, how the Duels looked. There was no reason to think otherwise. Even the drivers thought it would be like that. Why would they push it and run double-file?

But…they did.

“I was expecting us all to be up against the wall, and quickly found out pretty early in the race that this was going to go a lot different than what we thought it was going to,” Joey Logano said.

Isn’t that incredible? Even the drivers, despite their group texts and manufacturer teamwork, are just as clueless as the rest of us when it comes to forecasting the rhythm of a race. The crew chiefs don’t know. The engineers don’t know. The media doesn’t know.

And yet we all work ourselves into a huge frenzy (see Twitter from Saturday night) after each little development leading up to the race.

The lesson from all this, once again: NASCAR is completely unpredictable. Just when you think you have a feel for what’s going to happen, you never do.

Let’s remember that for next week at Atlanta (new rules package), Las Vegas (extreme new rules package) and beyond. This is going to be a season of uncertainty, and it cannot be predicted with any degree of confidence.

In the absence of answers, maybe it’s OK to just let things happen, let the races breathe and maybe — MAYBE — even let ourselves enjoy the show along the way.

2. Toyota time

Speaking of nobody knowing anything, how about Toyota going 1-2-3 in the Daytona 500 and leading the most laps when most predictions had Fords dominating the race?

Toyota Racing Development head David Wilson was making rounds through the media center on Sunday morning, so I jokingly asked if he wanted to help with my NASCAR Fantasy Live team.

He inquired who was on my team, so I opened the page — forgetting I’d picked Ford, Ford, Ford, Ford, Ford and Ford. I cringed at his potential reaction, but he seemed understanding.

After all, Ford had the strength in numbers. Ford had dominated the Duels. Ford executed a near-perfect Talladega race last fall. Wilson conceded all those things.

But he gave a sly grin. Toyota had a plan, Wilson said. Hmm…

As it turned out, that creative plan apparently included teaming with Hendrick Motorsports cars to get the numbers that would take on the Fords. And together, the Toyota+Hendrick line actually seemed to work better than the pre-race favorites.

But the plan went out the window — for everyone — after multiple crashes narrowed the field. In the end, there were two Toyotas, two Fords and a Chevrolet lined up for the final restart.

Even then, the Toyotas — Hamlin and Busch — cooperated on the start of overtime while the Fords — Joey Logano and McDowell — didn’t stick together and ended up having words over it on pit road.

After the race, I bumped into Wilson on his way out of the media center. He broke into a wide smile.

“Sorry about your fantasy team,” he said, not actually sorry at all.

3. NASCAR’s Leader

One of the biggest moments of Sunday happened two hours before the race.

Jim France, the new CEO of NASCAR, got up in front of all the drivers and said a few words reminiscent of his late brother, Bill France Jr.

“I hope a few of you drivers will get down on the bottom with Denny and Chase and make a show today,” France said.

Ultimately, that’s exactly what happened. Now, was that because of France’s comment? Maybe not directly, but there was certainly a shift in tone and attitude among the drivers once the race began.

France clearly has the respect of the garage — I’ve heard nothing but universal praise for his consistent presence at the track — and the drivers are willing to trust his vision.

More than anytime in the last two decades, NASCAR seems intent in putting on a show. They use the buzzwords like “entertainment” — and for the most part, the drivers seem to be on board with the push in that direction. Or at least they’ve accepted it, even if they don’t agree.

Either way, France has their ear. His not-so-subtle message likely stuck in their memories as they prepared to take the green flag on Sunday.

That’s leadership, and it couldn’t come at a better time for a sport that has lacked in it from the CEO position for so long.

4. Hamlin HOFer

Last week, I made an innocent Twitter joke that turned into a reminder of how under appreciated Denny Hamlin’s career has been. In suggesting Hamlin was a Hall of Famer — something I thought was a given — I was surprised at the resistance to the idea.

I get that people aren’t necessarily fond of Hamlin (especially Elliott fans) and the Internet loves to poke fun at his “10,000 races.”

But damn. The guy is unquestionably a Hall of Famer. If you didn’t agree before, there’s no disputing it now.

Hamlin is now a two-time Daytona 500 winner and has 32 Cup wins overall — which ties him with Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett for 24th on the all-time list. He hasn’t won a championship, but he’s had 10 seasons of top-10 points finishes — a pretty solid run of consistency in the playoff era.

While Hamlin shied away from comparisons with Jarrett (“He’s so much better than I am. … I shouldn’t even be mentioned in the same breath as Dale Jarrett.”), the guy is only now entering his prime seasons age-wise. According to Motorsports Analytics’ David Smith, a driver’s peak age is 39; Hamlin just turned 38 in November.

And while this chapter of restrictor-plate racing may be over (Talladega will start the tapered spacer era at superspeedways), Hamlin should be noted as one of the best — along with Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Dale Earnhardt Jr. — of his era on such tracks.

5. The Brain Problem

As mentioned, restrictor plates won’t appear on NASCAR Cup cars anymore. But they sure had one last hurrah in the final laps as a wreckfest broke out and somewhat sullied what had previously been a very good plate race.

With 50 laps to go in the race, only one car was out of the race. But in the end, only 19 finished — less than half the field — and just a handful of cars escaped with no damage.

So what gives? How do drivers who used patience and talent for 400 miles suddenly lose their heads at the end?

“Brains come unglued,” Kyle Busch said. “That’s all it is. Everybody just ‑‑ the brain connection from right up here to the gas pedal foot doesn’t quite work the same anymore.”

Humans are imperfect, and drivers under pressure strapped inside hot race cars for four hours are even more imperfect.

In a way, that’s lucky for us. It gives us something to watch, something to react to, something to talk about.

And in that sense, the chance of highly skilled people making mistakes or bad decisions is the formula that makes these crazy races worth watching.

2019 Daytona 500 starting lineup and what it means for DraftKings

Brad Keselowski is the most expensive driver heading into Sunday’s Daytona 500 — and he’ll start almost at the back of the field.

Is he worth the pick for your DraftKings lineups, given his upside for position differential? Well, you’d think he would be highly owned — given fantasy owners often don’t need to max out their salary cap to get a winning lineup at a restrictor-plate race. But at $10,600, your money might be better spent elsewhere if you’re looking for someone to fade.

The same could be said for Kyle Busch ($9,600), who is the seventh-most expensive driver. He’ll start below 30th, so he seems likely to gain a ton of spots in position differential. But you might need to fade him as well, depending on where you fall on strategy.

One thing to think about is this could be a Daytona 500 where one driver leads a ton of laps. Even though there aren’t many points available compared to a typical race in terms of laps led, there could potentially be a dominant driver if the race stays single file against the wall like it did in the Clash and both Duels. You’d think that driver would be one of the Fords — either from Penske or Stewart-Haas — but that doesn’t exactly narrow it down since so many of them start toward the front.

As for value picks? Brendan Gaughan ($6,000) isn’t bad, but people have caught on to his restrictor-plate prowess and he’s actually more expensive than 12 other drivers in the field.

Ty Dillon (10th in his Duel) seems to have a fast car and Matt DiBenedetto (fourth in his Duel) are both cheaper than Gaughan — but they’re starting too close to the front to capitalize on position differential. A real bargain could be Parker Kligerman, who is tied for the cheapest driver in the field at $4,500 — yet is a good plate racer and has potential to gain a ton of spots.

Here’s a look at the Daytona 500 starting lineup, with each driver’s DraftKings price in parentheses:

1. William Byron ($6,800)

2. Alex Bowman ($8,000)

3. Kevin Harvick ($10,200)

4. Joey Logano ($10,400)

5. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($9,800)

6. Clint Bowyer ($9,900)

7. Paul Menard ($7,400)

8. Aric Almirola ($9,200)

9. Matt DiBenedetto ($5,900)

10. Denny Hamlin ($10,000)

11. Martin Truex Jr. ($8,800)

12. Kurt Busch ($8,700)

13. Bubba Wallace ($7,200)

14. Ryan Blaney ($9,000)

15. Chris Buescher ($6,300)

16. Jamie McMurray ($7,500)

17. Jimmie Johnson ($8,500)

18. Chase Elliott ($9,400)

19. Ryan Newman ($7,000)

20. Austin Dillon ($7,600)

21. Ryan Preece ($6,500)

22. Ty Dillon ($5,600)

23. Daniel Suarez ($8,400)

24. David Ragan ($6,200)

25. Parker Kligerman ($4,500)

26. Kyle Larson ($7,800)

27. Landon Cassill ($5,200)

28. Erik Jones ($8,200)

29. Daniel Hemric ($6,600)

30. Brendan Gaughan ($6,000)

31. Kyle Busch ($9,600)

32. Corey LaJoie ($4,900)

33. Matt Tifft ($5,000)

34. Michael McDowell ($5,900)

35. Brad Keselowski ($10,600)

36. Ross Chastain ($4,800)

37. Cody Shane Ware ($4,500)

38. BJ McLeod ($4,600)

39. Tyler Reddick ($5,100)

40. Casey Mears ($5,400).

The Driven Life: Jimmie Johnson on finding motivation to be healthy

This is the first in a series of self-improvement/motivational-themed interviews involving people in the racing world sharing insight into successful habits. Up first: Hendrick Motorsports’ Jimmie Johnson, who offers tips on how the average person can choose a healthier lifestyle.

I know you started a little bit later in life compared to some others. How old were you when you first started getting serious about working out and all that?

I swam in high school and grew up racing motocross — both super physical — and I was in great shape then. But as I started my four-wheel career, there was so much to learn about the vehicles and the tracks and there’s traveling and driving equipment to the races, and I developed all these bad habits along the way of eating at truck stops and fast food — and the fitness just tanked.

So I would say up until 17, 18, I was fit and an athlete and then had this hiatus for a long period of time. I would say probably ’08, ’09, somewhere around there is when I started to get serious again (in his early-30s), and it filled some piece inside of me from my day of feeling accomplished, feeling good about myself, confidence going up and I know that I’m doing that’s important for my career. There’s a lot of positive boxes that I mentally check when I get my workout in, and it’s evolved into many things. But just at a very basic level, that hour or whatever it ends up being in a day, is just vital for me and it gives me such a positive outlook on the rest of the day.

A lot of people have at least tried to get on a workout program, getting healthy habits at some point in life, or maybe they’ve tried diets that haven’t worked out. I noticed that you’ve really stayed consistent with it — and obviously part of it is you’re a professional athlete — but also a lot of it is that you’re doing it on your own. I see sometimes you’ll go on vacation, so you do get off it for a couple days and let yourself enjoy life, but then you go back on it. So how do people, if they want to be healthier, how do they stick with it? What are some of the steps they should take?

I think being honest with yourself about what works for you. New Year’s rolls around and we’re all guilty of saying, “I need to lose 10 pounds, I need to go on some crash diet,” and that’s not sustainable. Three or four days in, you’re like, “The heck with it. I’m out.” So I think setting realistic goals, trying to make just a small change to start with and carrying that for a month — if it’s your eating habits or your training habits, just put one foot in front of the other, literally. Just one step at a time, see what works for you.

And then from there, trying to find things that you enjoy. Being outside has been a big part for me and why cycling and running and all that has worked so well. I just like being outside and that pulls me out.

Signing up for a fitness event is another really good tool for me. For some reason, when I commit to doing some event, I’ll get up earlier or I’ll stay up later, I’ll eat better, like there’s motivation within that. So I think setting some realistic goals and then trying to chase them down from there is really important.

It sounds like to not put too much pressure on yourself. Like you want to better yourself, but without getting to the point where you’re going to fail and then you’re just going to fall off the wagon completely.

I think so. I honestly believe that fitness, health, quality of life, a healthy life — it’s a journey. It’s not like something you’re going to do (overnight). There’s no silver bullet, there’s no quick fix. You need to make adjustments that are going to last through your lifetime, and having a realistic approach and thinking of it as a long journey, I think, is much more useful. And maybe not for all personalities, but for most, I think having that long-term view is key, so you set some realistic goals.

If we can get kind of specific here, it seems like consistently you get up early to do a lot of your workouts, and you have two kids at home. My excuse for myself would be, “Well, I need all the sleep I can get, I’m maxed out with this, I’ve got a lot going on in my life. I just need that extra hour of sleep.” Whereas I see you, you’re getting up at 4:30, 5, something like that to go work out. How do you get yourself up out of bed to do that in the first place?

For me, it’s not easy, and the hardest part is literally putting my feet on the ground and getting out of the bed. From there, everything gets easier as I go. But the way my life works and the way our house works, the kids get up at 6:30, and they go to bed at 7:30, so if I’m going to work out after the house goes down, it’s just not going to work. I’m exhausted. And I find I don’t put in the effort or have the motivation to train later in the day, so I try to get it done early if I can.

Oftentimes, in order to get up early, I’ve got to go to bed early. So the kids go down about 7:30, and I put my phone on silent mode and I’m out most nights by 8, 8:30. That’s the only way. I still need my eight hours of sleep. I mean, I can get by on five to six for a couple days, but I get cranky and don’t function well, so I’ve just got to go to bed earlier to get up earlier.

And then how about with temperatures, because I see that as another excuse that I see myself slide by with. Like it’s either too hot outside or it’s too cold. You live in Charlotte and you also live in Aspen, so you’re having a lot of extremes with the temperature — and yet that doesn’t stop you from working out. So how do you not let that create an excuse for yourself?

I think that’s the nicest thing about my interest in being outdoors, there’s a lot of versatility and sports and a lot of opportunities that I have. In Colorado, one thing that I love to do is to go uphilling or go skinning — you have these downhill skis with carpets on the bottom and the boots and bindings work in a way where you can hike up the hill and you can lock in and you can ski down. So when it’s cold and I want to get a workout in, I do that quite often. I’ll just skip going up on the lift and at least do one trip up the mountain, which is probably an hour, hour and a half to get up. And then ski down and then jump on the lift and do it after that.

So you’ve just got to be creative and take advantage of the environment you’re in. Cycling is tough in the winter; I kind of cycle less because it’s hard to stay warm on a bike. But running works really well, and even going to a pool and swimming works really well.

So just keeping an open mind, and again, thinking of that long-term thing: I just want to have a healthy life and I want to feel good about myself, and I really like to eat — so if I wasn’t training and burning all these calories, I don’t think I’d fit in my suit.

Speaking of eating and diet and things like that, I was at Supercross earlier this year and Aldon Baker, who trains some of the guys, I mean he’s talking about no cheat days ever. He won’t let Jason Anderson and Marvin Musquin enjoy Thanksgiving, nothing. And I see you, you like ice cream, you said you like to eat. So obviously you allow yourself something while still trying to stay healthy. How do you manage eating well with also enjoying the food?

Everybody needs to be pushed and everybody needs to be uncomfortable to succeed, right? I firmly believe in that. I go through windows at times through the season where I get hardcore like that. The motocross world in general, their career span is much shorter than NASCAR. So there’s no way one of those riders is going to go 18 seasons living like that. I have many friends that have ridden for Aldon and they’ve got about a five- to six-year window where they can live life like that, and then they just can’t do it anymore. It’s a tough pace to keep up.

So it depends on what you’re doing. You’ve got to be realistic with yourself and your environment, what you need to be successful. In car racing, we don’t need to be as regimented as those guys do. We just don’t. I’ve found what works for me and I’m playing the long game. A lot of those motocross riders, it’s a short season for starters when you just look at Supercross alone, and then a short career where they’ve got to be so committed. And I respect them all for how high that commitment level is, not only from a fitness and nutrition side, but also the danger that’s involved in riding those things.

So if someone is reading this and they’ve never done anything or never tried to work out, they feel like they can’t do it and they’re just not an athlete, what are the basic first steps they can do just to start? How does somebody learn where to start that’s healthy for them?

I think first and foremost, it’s about not making excuses. And I’m not saying in a way that is harmful or dangerous for yourself, but we all have that little voice that tells us what we probably should do, and it’s usually a really faint soft voice in the back of our minds. Maybe listen to that a little more.

And then just take some realistic first steps to get going. Depending on your health requirements or issues, an event that you have coming up, whatever it might be, there’s different reasons to be highly motivated. And in most cases, and certainly for most of the readers, I think it’s about just consistency.

I see a lot of people start off and they do too much, too soon. If it’s too crazy of a diet, too much lifting, too much running, too much riding and they come out of the gate and they almost burn themselves out in a short period of time. My coach often says, “Quality over quantity.” Just get a quality base started, diet and fitness-wise, and then let the quantity show up down the road if you’re enjoying it.

Top 10 quotes from NASCAR Daytona 500 Media Day, ranked

Here are some notable quotes from Wednesday’s Daytona 500 Media Day, in order of interest.

1. Clint Bowyer on the end of the Clash: “Man, I hit the 21 car. I don’t even know how he got turned around. All I know is that I went to Disney World with 20 people. My God. That wreck was nothing compared to the hell I have been through the last two days.”

2. Denny Hamlin, reflecting on the $25,000 fine he received in 2013 for saying the Gen 6 car did not initially race as good as the Gen 5: “If you go back and look at the comments I made, I should get my money back. That’s BS. I didn’t hardly say anything! (NASCAR officials) owe me a beer or two.”

3. Martin Truex Jr., revealing Furniture Row Racing was at risk of going out of business after the 2015 season — something that was previously unreported — and required him to find sponsorship to keep the ride: “Furniture Row was the Furniture Row car every week in ’15, right? It wasn’t anywhere in ’16. That was why. Things change.”

4. Brad Keselowski on races for the lead in plate races turning into wrecks: “It seems like there are a number of people that get into the top two or three that really just have no clue what they are doing and they pull really bad, juvenile mistake moves and wreck the field. … People throw blocks that don’t understand the runs or what is around them. They don’t have full situational or spacial awareness — but they think they do, which is even more dangerous.”

5. Joey Logano on whether there will be more conflict between drivers with the new rules package this year: “I totally expect to crash more cars. As cars are closer and drivers are more aggressive, a mistake will create a bigger crash and we can’t get away from it if you’re right behind the guy. You know how it is on the highway and they check up right in front of you — you can’t stop quick enough and you’re only going 70. Try going 180, you know? So, yes, I assume there will be more crashes, I assume that we’re all gonna tear more stuff up this year — and usually when there are more crashes, there is more conflict. So it’ll be interesting. Hang on.”

6. Bubba Wallace, joking about the aftermath of finishing second in last year’s Daytona 500: “The media center was the highlight. Shed a little tear for TV ratings trying to get those up — that was all part of the plan. It worked out. Hell, I got a lot of people on my side over that. Got to pump up the waterworks again this year.”

7. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. on criticism after playing a role in multiple wrecks during July’s Daytona race: “The only issue I had with July is we didn’t win. I could care less what the perception of everybody else is.”

8. Kyle Larson on his new teammate Kurt Busch: “Everybody that I’ve talked to about him that’s been a teammate of his has said as crazy as he is, he’s a great teammate.”

9. Kyle Busch on the new rules package: “We’re just race car drivers. We don’t know anything. We just drive what we’re given to drive and the rules are what the rules are.”

10. William Byron on iRacing: “It helps. Does Michael Jordan play basketball without practicing? I think it’s the weirdest thing that our sport goes out there with no practice and races. I try to use it as much as I can.”