The series of 12 Questions interviews continues this week with Brett Moffitt, who recently completed a two-race stint for BK Racing at Watkins Glen and Michigan. Moffitt, 25, was the 2015 Cup Series Rookie of the Year and won the Truck Series race last year at Michigan.
1. How much of your success is based on natural ability and how much has come from working at it?
I would say up until I got to the Cup level, most of it was natural ability because it was all short-track racing. I didn’t really race any Truck races or Xfinity races, so it was all just short tracks — run as fast as you can and win the race.
After I got to the Cup level, it’s mentally a lot more challenging. I’d say that’s the biggest part I had to work at: Mentally how to break a race down and not get mentally exhausted by the end of the race, just know what strategy you’re on and everything like that. So I would say at this level, it’s probably 70 percent talent, 30 percent work.
2. Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards and now Dale Earnhardt Jr. have all either retired in the last couple years or will retire soon. What’s your pitch for fans of theirs to become fans of yours?
I would say I need to get a full-time ride here first. But I guess if you like me, that’s great, and if not, I mean, everyone has opinions. So I don’t really have a pitch, but I’m always just gonna be myself and if you like it, awesome.
How is the search for a ride coming? Do you just have to bide your time? Do you have to make phone calls? How do you work on that?
It’s all of the above. Starting the year out with Red Horse Racing, which was gonna be a really great opportunity for me, I was really heartbroken when that fell through (Moffitt was 10th in the standings when Red Horse shut down after five races this season). I felt like I was finally in good equipment and we could make something out of this.
So it’s been tough, but I guess everything happens for a reason, and that light came out of the tunnel (in late July at Iowa) by running the Xfinity race for GMS and now these next two weeks, running back in the Cup series for BK Racing. But yeah, you’re making phone calls, trying to stay in front of team owners and crew chiefs all you can.
3. What is the hardest part of your job away from the racetrack?
Finding a job. (Laughs) Yeah, for me, it’s trying to stay in a seat. I don’t have a bunch of money I can bring to the table, and I need to make a living doing this. So it’s really hard to just keep composure through all of this and not let your emotions get the best of you and just try to stay relevant.
Is it tough, staying patient like that and watching races on your couch at times?
It’s extremely hard. I’ve talked to a lot of people and they’re like, “Yeah, we really want you here, but we would need some (financial) backing to do it.” So it’s just tough. I want to be out there racing every chance I get, whether it’s Trucks, Xfinity or Cup. That’s why I’m just super excited for this month — I get to race at least three times. My birthday is (Aug. 7), so I guess this is a good birthday month. But yeah, it’s hard to watch.
4. Let’s say a fan spots you eating dinner in a nice restaurant. Should they come over for an autograph or no?
I’m all about it. Yeah. Bring me a beer, maybe. I’m good with that. (Laughs) I’ll trade you a Bud Light for some talking time.
Seems like a pretty good trade.
Yeah! But even if you don’t, I’m good with it. That’s why we do this sport: We’re entertainers. I think I would honored to have people come up to me and ask me for my autograph.
5. What’s a story in NASCAR that doesn’t get enough coverage?
I really like what they’re doing with all the pit crew guys now (on NBC), kind of spotlighting them because they’re extremely good athletes.
I would just say people don’t realize how much work truly goes into it, especially on these smaller teams who have a quarter of the employees and they still have to run the same 36 races that everyone else does. So just to see all these teams work with limited people is pretty amazing.
6. Who is the last driver you texted?
It’s actually my hero, Jimmie Johnson. He was silly enough to give me his phone number for some reason, so anytime I have a question about a track or anything, I tend to lean on him first because he’s always been nice enough to respond. So I guess I’m not too much of a nuisance yet.
I’ve always looked up to him and so I asked him what the shift points were (at Watkins Glen), because I’ve never been here in a Cup car, and he was gracious enough to tell me what he does. He said, “I can’t promise you that with the new package (they’ll be the same), but that’s what I’ve been doing and I’ll let you know if anything changes.”
So totally open book from what you can tell?
Yeah, as far as I can tell, unless he’s holding out on me — which I don’t think he is because we’re not in the same caliber stuff right now.
7. Do you consider race car drivers to be entertainers? I think you just said that you do.
I do. I think we’re definitely a sport, but at the same time it needs to be an entertaining sport. I think statistically we’re the second-biggest sport in the country, and I you’re not gonna compete with the NFL, at least in my mind. They play X amount of games in a week and everyone’s got a hometown city.
But yeah, I think we’re entertainers and it’s our job to put on a good show. I like the drivers that have been trying to have more personality outside of the car, too, and not just being a robot of just thanking sponsors and (saying) everyone had a good day and holding your tongue. I think that Monster helped influence that, where the more you speak out, the more rivalries, I think that’s gonna be better.
8. What is your middle finger policy on the racetrack?
I’ve given it a few times. I’ve gotten it a lot. (Laughs) I don’t necessarily mean it like, “Hey, F you,” but like, “Dude, cut me a break next time.” Some people will race you way harder than they need to for a spot or make it harder to lap them for a spot. I’ll use it every now and then, but I try not to.
What’s your reaction when somebody gives it to you?
I normally laugh. Most of the time I know when I’m going to get it, and then if I don’t get it, I’m kind of surprised and I laugh a little bit. But you know when you’re kind of expecting to get it and when you’re not.
9. Some drivers keep a payback list in their minds. Do you also have a list for drivers who have done you a favor on the track?
For sure. It all boils down to respect. If I respect a driver, I’m not going to give him as hard of a time probably racing him unless it’s the last few laps. If it’s early in the race, it’s not worth slowing us both down.
But also the opposite of that. I mean, I’ve had guys point me to the bottom (to pass) and then get on my door. It’s like, “If you take all the air off of me, I can’t pass you.” So there’s definitely that list of how you race people.
Racing in Xfinity race (at Iowa), I haven’t raced many of those people, so I had to kind of learn that real quick. But the more you race around people, you kind of just have that, “OK, he’s gonna race me like this, I’m gonna race him like this,” and so on.
10. Who is the most famous person you’ve had dinner with?
I always joke around about this, that the most famous person I know is Simon Pagenaud’s dog. So I guess we’ve had dinner at his house a few times, so probably Simon or his dog (Norman).
I hope you had different food at least.
We did. Well, he gives his dog some steak every now and then. He normally cooks a good dinner for us.
11. What’s something about yourself you’d like to improve?
I guess lately I’ve been trying to open up more and be myself — I’d like to keep improving on that. And just keep learning, you know? It’s good to be in the place to learn and I’d like to get back to a place where I’m consistently at the track and consistently in a car and just able to keep growing my knowledge.
12. The last interview I did was with Johnny Sauter. His question was: If you weren’t pursuing racing, what would be a career path that you would pursue?
Oh man, I was ready for Blake Koch’s question. For some reason I thought that was the last one. (Laughs)
That’s the last one I published (as of the time of the interview), so you can answer that, too, if you want.
No, I’ll go with Johnny’s. My dad grew up homebuilding in Iowa and I was around that a lot. So I would say if I wasn’t in racing, I would be in the lines of being a general contractor or something like that.
Did you help him out on that kind of stuff?
Every now and then, if I was home, I would drive his truck around because he used to have to run from job site to job site, house to house all day. So I would drive along with him and try to pick up on a little bit of it.
I don’t know who the next interview is going to be with, but do you have a general question I can ask the next guy?
Hmm. Has anyone asked, “Whiskey or beer?”
I don’t think anyone has asked that.
I’ll say for the next driver: Are you a whiskey or beer drinker, and why?
This interview was brought to you by Dover International Speedway. The cutoff race for the first playoff round takes place at Dover on Oct. 1. Here’s a link to buy tickets (and make sure to come say hi at the tweetup).