12 Questions with Paul Menard (2019)

The 12 Questions series of interviews continues this week with Paul Menard of Wood Brothers 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 guy. Not really sure why. I had an Android probably 10 years ago. I could never figure the damn thing out. I’m a big music guy, so I went to the iPhone because I could put all my music on there and just not have to carry an iPod or anything. I think it’s a lot easier to work, too.

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?

It probably depends a lot about when it is. If you’re rushing to the car for practice or something, they better be prepared to walk and I’ll sign whatever in the time that it takes to get to the car. If it’s something like this where we’re kind of just hanging out (Editor’s note: This interview took place in the garage), I see there’s a couple kids over there, I’ll just hang out and sign for them.

NASCAR does a good job with doing the red carpet thing for driver intros and stuff to actually give you some time to actually spend a little bit of time and sign, but if it’s practice or it’s a pressure situation, you gotta keep moving.

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?

A jerk move? (Laughs)

I was trying to be polite there.

I gotcha. I’d say it’s similar. On the track, you get mad and you get over it pretty quick. On the road, you just kind of feel like bad about it because there’s so many other people that are out there. You know, soccer moms, minivan packed full of kids and somebody’s driving aggressively on the road. I never really understand that.

I’d probably get more mad on the road honestly than on the track. One little mistake’s going to wad up a couple of cars and hurt some kids and adults too. So yeah, it’s pretty dumb.

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

No, not really. Nowadays, you crash a car and you get new seatbelts, so everything’s brand new. Back in the day, Late Model racing and things, we had those old latch and link system of belts where you had to kind of put everything together and basically run a piece of metal through and latch it, and I’ve had those where I’ve hit them with my wrist before and it’s come off. But that’s usually just sitting in the car waiting for changes and I’ll move my hands. I’ve never had it on track, so knock on wood, I’ve been pretty lucky, I guess.

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?

Probably not. I’d hope that they wouldn’t do that, knowing that it’s glaringly illegal. But if they did, I wouldn’t want to know about it, no.

Just be like, “Whatever you gotta do?”

Just play stupid, I guess. Easier to do when you don’t know.

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

A couple years ago I had some outdated yogurt before the Atlanta 500. Luckily it was a night race, so it cleared up, but I was pretty nervous. So yeah, stay away from the outdated yogurt. It was Labor Day Weekend, too, so it was like 100 degrees out. It was pretty brutal.

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

(Laughs) Yeah, there’s something out there. We don’t know what, but there’s definitely something out there. And if they’re smart enough to build machines, I’d say they probably do race or have fun with it somehow. That’s a really weird question. But yeah, I think there’s something out there, and they probably do race. Hell yeah.

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

Depends who you’re talking to. Usually not racing-related stuff. You might open up with, “Hey, how’s your car?” Then you might segue into, “What did you have for dinner?” the night before or something. It’s usually very random.

9. What makes you happy right now?

Being a dad, honestly. I have two little kids at home that are growing and they change all the time. I spent all winter with both kids and I went away for a weekend in Atlanta, I got home and my daughter was different than she was when I left and picked up new things. My son, he’s walking and he’s starting to talk and they grow up really quick.

How old are they?

My daughter’s almost 5 and my son is 16 months.

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?

At my age, life’s too damn short.

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.

There’s 100 questions total that you’ve asked?

There’s actually a little bit more, but I cut some of the bad ones.

So if I do 105 you won’t know?

I wouldn’t know.

Let’s go 50.

This is actually a question you have answered before from 2011. 

Let’s see if my answer matches.

How different is your personality inside the car than outside of it?

Pretty similar, I’d say. I’m pretty laid back until I get pissed off or something, then the gloves come off. But I’m pretty easygoing. You get in the race car and obviously your competitive juices start flowing and you do other things, but I’d say pretty similar.

Apparently you haven’t changed in eight years because you said back in 2011, “Probably pretty similar. I’m a pretty calm guy inside and out. I go about my daily affairs kind of the same way I go about driving the race car.”

There you go.

12. The last interview was with Hailie Deegan. Her question for you is: if you had to pick a driver to be your ride or die BFF and spend every single day with them, which driver in here would you pick?

That I’m racing against currently?

Yes.

Oh man. I’d probably go with Almirola. We go way back. We’ve known each other a long time. We’re pretty good friends. He’s my ride or die. (Smiles)

The next interview I’m doing is with Corey LaJoie. Do you have a question I can ask him?

I was walking in this morning and somebody said, “Hey Corey.” So I want to know how many times he gets called “Paul.”

It must be the beard, right?

It must be.


Previous 12 Questions interviews with Paul Menard:

March 30, 2011

April 11, 2012

June 25, 2014

Sept. 14, 2015

12 Questions with Hailie Deegan (2019)

(Photo by Loren Orr/Getty Images for NASCAR)

The 12 Questions series of interviews continues with Hailie Deegan, a 17-year-old who recently won a K&N West Series race for the second straight season. These interviews are recorded as a podcast but transcribed for those who prefer to read.

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

iPhone all the way. My mom used to have an Android and I was like, “I cannot use this thing. It’s weird. No. Not normal.” (Laughs)

So did she have it when you had the iPhone and you would get the green bubble?

Yeah, so I had to get the green text and you never know if it delivered, you never know if they read them. And I like to be the person that sees if you read it.

You have your read receipts on?

No, I don’t have mine on — but I like it when other people have theirs on. (Laughs)

You expect that from other people?

Unless like I’m purposely ignoring you, I don’t have it on.

I’m not in favor of turning mine on. But I also like when other people have them on because it’s just like, “I saw what you did there.”

Like, “Did you leave me on read?” If not, then it’s like not delivered, which is even worse.

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?

I’ll talk a lot. Like once you ask me a question, ask questions and stuff, I won’t stop talking. I won’t just give you one word answers. I talk a lot.

So if they bring something up, you’ll sit there.

Yeah, I’ll sit there and talk. I’ve got time.

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?

Yes. I will go and get close to you and stuff like that.

One time, Todd Gilliland — I was getting on the freeway in Mooresville and all of a sudden this guy in this Toyota, he goes and he like pinches me in the wall and I was like so man, laid on the horn, and then Todd pokes his head out the window and I was like, “Oh my God.” (Laughs)

So he saw it was you, you had no idea it was him.

Yeah, I had no idea it was him. He knew it was me.

You were like, “Dude!”

Yeah. I was mad. (Laughs)

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

No, not really. I’d say the only time is like when I’m on fire and your belt gets stuck when you’re getting out of the car. That’s like the biggest thing on your HANS, and so you’re just trying to get out like you have to angle your helmet the right way to get out of your car while like the flames are going. But other than that, not really.

There’s like a brief moment of panic?

Panic. It’s like a half second, and you’re like, “Ugh!”

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?

Yeah, that’s one thing about me. I like to know everything. I’m good at keeping secrets, but I like to know everything. I hate when people withhold information from me. It’s like the biggest thing I hate.

Just in life in general?

Yeah, in life in general. I hate when people keep secrets from me, like, “Oh?” I won’t say anything — just tell me though!

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

OK. So I can eat just about anything and not get sick, but Waffle House, I wouldn’t suggest Waffle House. I threw up after I had Waffle House.

Like on the morning of a race?

It wasn’t before the race, but that’s the only time I’ve ever really gotten sick from eating something. And I eat like a ton and don’t get sick; it doesn’t really mess with me, I don’t know why.

You have an iron stomach?

Yeah, but like Waffle House, for some reason…

It’s like your kryptonite?

Yeah. But it tastes really good.

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

Man, this question! Me and my dad have had talks about this question (of life in outer space). I think there might be something. I don’t think they race though.

So some sort of life, but they’re maybe not advanced enough to race? Or they’re just not into racing?

Maybe too advanced or something, and they’re just like past the point of NASCAR racing.

They’re like, “We don’t need to race, we’re just so civilized.”

Yeah, probably something like that.

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

It’s usually really not about racing or about sketchy people that are racing. It’s usually just little drama, like what’s going on. Like everyone like spills the tea in their little group circles. Everyone usually has like their little clique circles, but occasionally you’ll go and you’ll hop in another one and hear their little drama that’s going on.

So like talking about some dude that doesn’t belong out there, that kind of thing?

Yeah, you talk about a guy out there that wrecks everyone in the back of the field that you’ve got to watch out for. It’s like those guys you talk about, and then there’s all this little drama. And usually we’re all like roasting each other just about stuff. That happens a lot.

Hopefully you haven’t walked up into a conversation about you.

Oh, you know when it’s about you. No…usually when I walk into a conversation and they’re talking about me, they usually just don’t even care and keep talking.

9. What makes you happy right now?

What makes me happy is winning. That’s the only thing. That and food. I love food.

But not Waffle House.

Well, I do like it, it just doesn’t like me. It’s like New Smyrna — like I love that track, it just doesn’t love me. (Laughs)

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?

I’m down. I’ll do it. Do I get a PSA?

Like a what?

Personal (service) agreement.

Oh, like a vehicle deal out of it or something?

Like money besides racing.

Yeah, you can have that.

Yeah, I’d do it.

Yeah, they’ll do everything in this scenario.

I’ll promote it. I don’t care.

I’m fine with looking stupid. I usually make myself do that anyway.

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.

We’ll do 19. I’ll do my race number.

This question is from 2011. It is: “What is the first thing you do when you get home after being gone for a long race weekend?”

I eat.

You’re really committed to the food thing.

Dude, I LOVE food.

What food are you so interested in that it keeps popping into your mind? Are you like pizza, sushi?

I get on kicks, like kicks of certain food. I’d say two months ago, I was on this California Pizza Kitchen kick, where like I went there and ate a gluten free pizza like every single day. And now I’m on this P.F. Chang’s kick. But like, I’m on a sushi kick too; I love sushi. And honestly, I love Mexican food. I love everything. Everything.

Just not that spicy. Not a big spicy person. But I’ll eat pretty much anything.

What food are you not touching? What cuisine?

Stuff that’s spicy. So like, I’ve never had wings before.

But they can make them mild though!

I’m not a big chicken person. I like chicken lettuce wraps from P.F. Chang’s.

How did chicken get the dunce cap of all your food selections?

We have chickens at my house, and my little brother is supposed to take care of them, but he doesn’t really take care of them and they kind of just live in their poop over there. And I see them and they’re just nasty, and I’m like, “I’m not eating that.” They have eggs and my mom will try cooking them and I’m like, “I’m not eating that” — even though I’ll go buy store-bought eggs and eat those.

So you’re not anti-eggs when you’re eating out, but just anti-chicken. You see the chickens and they’re dirty and you’re just like, “No.”

Nuh huh, not feeling it.

12. The last interview was with Chase Briscoe. He wants to know, do you think there should be multiple Cup races on dirt?

I think yes.

I’m not too surprised there.

I think because there’s so many guys out there that don’t know how to drive dirt and probably never have, that it would mix it up pretty good and make for a good race. Because how often would you see guys that are really fast in the Cup Series spin out on a dirt track? Not very often. So make something new.

The second part of his question is, can you name a couple of track where you think that would be a good idea?

I’m not big on the dirt track scene, so I don’t know what good tracks there are. But something like ARCA races on, because those tracks aren’t bad. I think we should put them on the Vegas dirt track just to show them how much that dirt track is, how hard it is to drive.

You might have an advantage.

I might, yeah.

Do you have a question I can ask another driver?

If you had one person to be your ride or die friend for everything, like you had to hang out with them every single day, which driver would it be?

So they have to pick a driver?

It has to be a driver.

To be their BFF forever?

Yeah, forever. Just one, no one else. Just one.

12 Questions with Chase Briscoe (2019)

The 12 Questions series of interviews continues this week with Chase Briscoe, who races in the Xfinity Series for Stewart-Haas Racing. These interviews are recorded as a podcast but also transcribed for those who prefer to read.

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

iPhone, 100 percent. So I was in like 10th grade and my parents were like, “Alright, we’ll get you a smartphone.” So we go, and I was committed to getting an iPhone, right? And we go and the (sales) lady was like, “You can’t get weather on an iPhone. The radar won’t work.” I was like, “OK…”

So I got an Android, and I hated it. It was awful. So now I’ve been an iPhone guy ever since. They’re just so much more simple. Like an Android, I feel like, never worked. I don’t know, I just like the simplicity of an iPhone.

And you can get the weather now.

Well, come to find out, you could have gotten the radar back then on the iPhone.

It was probably a sales thing.

They were probably getting a cut back of Android sales, so they were like, “We’re gonna sell this guy an Android instead of an iPhone.”

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?

All three. There might be a rare instance where I’m in a hurry, but I always will stop. I think it’s so cool when somebody wants my autograph or selfie or anything. So going out to driver intros for example, (I’ll leave) 15 minutes early. Every single time. Like I’ll go and sign every single autograph.

I was in their situation at one point where I thought it was super cool to get an autograph or just get to see (drivers), so it drives me nuts when guys just walk by. Like I get that you have (somewhere) to be at some point, but don’t blow by everybody, and don’t even say, “Hey,” or wave or high-five or anything like that. It drive me nuts.

My biggest pet peeve is when guys act like they’re so cool and blow everybody off. Like I don’t get it, because without them, you don’t have a job. They’re the whole reason we get to go do this. So yeah, I’m pretty big on that. Anything you want me to do, I’ll do it.

What are some memorable autographs that you got when you were younger?

I didn’t personally get them, my dad brought them home. I got a Jeff Gordon one one time in his rookie year. It was personalized to me and everything, because he and my dad used to race together, so that one was cool. I had a Tony Stewart one. I remember when my dad brought home this sidewall with a Hoosier sprint car tire and it had Kasey Kahne’s autograph on it. So those were probably my favorite three growing up, was Tony, Jeff and Kasey.

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?

It’s worse. Way worse! Like to me, when we’re racing, it’s your job to make it hard to get passed. Where on the road, you’re just cruising down the road. Like if I’m coming up 15 miles per hour quicker, just let me go. The biggest thing that drives me crazy is guys are just riding in the left lane, and you get over in the right lane, and then I make it a point to almost cut them off back in the left lane just to prove, “Hey, get out of the left lane.” And then they just keep cruising down it, like less than the speed limit! So to me, it’s worse if somebody chops me on the road than it is on the racetrack. Like it literally makes me mad.

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

I personally haven’t. I know there was a time in a sprint car, I forgot to strap my HANS, but it was under caution before hot laps, so I clicked it and was good to go.

But I have a good story about safety equipment. So Jack Hewitt, legendary guy in sprint cars, drove for my grandpa. He ran at Eldora, I think it was the last half of the race, without seatbelts. They broke off at Eldora. Ran a whole half of the race without seatbelts.

He didn’t pull in?

He won the race.

What?

Yeah.

Oh my gosh, that is crazy.

Just running Eldora by yourself is sketchy. Now imagine in a race without seatbelts. And he was running like an inch off the wall.

Wow. One slip and it would have been it for him.

That’s brave.

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?

That’s tough. So a little backstory on me, I know absolutely nothing about cars. Like I can’t work on them. I can do very basic things. Like I know what springs do, but I don’t. Like I know the basics of them.

So you could tell me that you had something super illegal on it, but I probably wouldn’t even know what it is in the first place. But I would like to know about it, because I feel like any time somebody gets caught cheating, the driver gets ridiculed for it online. Like just gets blasted. When at the end of the day, I had nothing to do with it. So I would probably like to know, just so I had a heads up.

But nobody cheats in NASCAR. (Grins)

I understand where you’re coming from, though, because you don’t want to have all these people tweeting at you and being like, “Chase Briscoe the cheater,” and you’re like, “I didn’t do anything!”

Yeah, I didn’t do it. Like, I drove it. I feel like that happens a lot, guys get in and they win — well, come to find out they’re cheating. But they didn’t know they had something illegal on the car. Like that’s the team’s job to push it each and every week, where I’m not the guy bolting the thing on there.

So I feel like I would like to know. But at the same time there’s a part of me that I would just rather not know, just get in and drive. Because if I win the race, I would like to know it wasn’t because of an illegal part. Like I would rather think, “Hey, our team did a really good job, they had the car set up right, I did my job behind the wheel” — not because I cheated. I would like to think we did our job right, not that a part did its job right.

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

So I think I told you on our last 12 Questions that I’m super picky. Like never had a hot dog, never had peanut butter and jelly — I’m super picky. So what I eat is very limited and very fried food.

So before the Roval (where he ended up winning), I go to Ford’s little RV bus thing, and they have chicken tenders and nacho cheese. So I down these things, right? Well, last 10 laps of the Roval, I was starting to get a little sick. So as good as it was, and it obviously worked out for me, I feel like it probably wasn’t the best thing to eat before the race — chicken tenders and nacho cheese.

So when you win a race, does that stomach pain go away? Is that like the version of Tums or Pepto for a driver? Or were you still getting out of the car being like, “Ugh.”

No, I for sure forget about it as soon as we won. But 10 to go, I was like, “Man, my stomach is like…” I felt like I was gonna throw up. But then five to go, I was good after that.

The Ford people still give me a hard time, like, “We’re not having chicken tenders and nacho cheese again.”

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

I have no idea. I don’t get into that stuff honestly. I don’t care about aliens, if there even are any. I don’t think there are, but that’s like the least of things I think about.

Are you not like a Star Wars guy or anything like that?

Never watched a movie.

Never watched any of the Star Wars movies?

Never. Never saw Star Trek, never seen any of that stuff.

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

So I always try to talk to guys about dirt racing and try to get them to come race dirt.

You try to convert them.

Yeah, I try to convert them. And then other than that, we always talk about how hot it is normally. Like “Man, it’s gonna be brutal today. It’s too hot to race.”

And then — I’m giving away my secrets here — but I always try to find out how their car is (by saying), “Man, I’m struggling over here.” And I may not be struggling there, but I want them to be like, “Yeah, I’m struggling there, too.” That way I know during the race that’s a spot they struggle with. So I try to make a little notebook.

Hopefully none of them will read this.

So you just kind of float it out there that you’re bad in a certain spot and hope to get information from it.

I’m like, “Man, I am terrible going into (Turn) 3.” And they’ll be like, “Yeah, me too. In practice, I was so loose.” And then in the race, I’m thinking, “If I just drive up on their back bumper (in Turn 3), they’re really gonna be loose.”

Now next time I’m going to ask somebody this, and they’re going to be like, “I ain’t telling you.”

Right, I know. Well, not enough people read this, so…

Well, I don’t know. I read it every week.

9. What makes you happy right now?

A lot of things. So I got a dog, so that’s one thing I never thought I would be into. Like I had a dog growing up, but I’ve never really took care of it or anything. But now that I have my own dog, I’m a helicopter parent. Like I’m always making sure he doesn’t get into anything or get hurt.

I’m recently engaged, so that’s fun. Me and Marissa do a lot of things together. Life’s good right now. Got a full-time ride for the guy I’ve always dreamed of racing for (Tony Stewart), so it’s good. Hopefully, we start running good now that the season’s started. And then it’ll be really, really good.

Well you’ve got to leave some room to be at max happiness. You don’t want to peak too early.

Yeah, you can’t.

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?

Oh, I’d do it. Absolutely. I would do it probably just for the fun of it. Not the clown nose, but I would wear like a wig, especially a mullet wig. I don’t want to give away a secret, but I’m probably gonna wear one of those Rico (Abreu) mullet hats at Darlington. That thing is pretty sweet. So I would do something like that.

Did you purchase one at the Chili Bowl?

I didn’t, but I’m gonna get one.

I don’t know, I heard they sold out.

I feel like I could probably get one. But in high school, I was that guy who always used to go to the basketball game and just dress like an idiot. So that kind of stuff’s not out of the question for me. Those days have kind of passed, but I feel like down deep they’re somewhere in there or I could do stuff like that.

You don’t mind putting yourself out there that way?

I feel like I’m less likely to now, but before I didn’t care. Like anything that I thought would get people to laugh, I would do it. Where now I’m not as much like that, but I would still probably do it. Like I’ll probably definitely wear the mullet hat if I can get one.

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.

55.

This is from the 2013 12 Questions. And the question is, “What is your song of the moment right now?” Something you’re listening to a lot or you think fans should download, or I guess stream?

That’s a good question. I’ve got a funny little story for you. So this song I heard coming back from Homestead, we were riding back with one of the crew guys. And I heard this song on the radio, I’d heard it a couple times, and I was like, “Man, that’s a really good song.” So I could not remember it. Like, looked everywhere for it. Me and Marissa both were like, “Man, what’s the song called?” She didn’t really pay attention to it, and I was typing in lyrics I thought I heard on Google and I couldn’t find it.

So I come down to Daytona, get in my rental car, and it’s on — after three months of trying to figure out what this song was. So I instantly called her and put her on speakerphone and played it all the way up, I’m like, “Listen to what’s on!” She’s like, “What the heck is this? I don’t even know.”

So the song is called “Burn the House Down” and it’s like got this really good little trumpet beat to it. I don’t know, I thought it was really good. So I’ve been playing it a lot lately.

Who is it by?

Some three letters, AJ something, I don’t know. AGR or something. It’s on a pop station all the time.

(Editor’s note: The band, actually named AJR, was announced as the concert act for the NASCAR All-Star race after this interview was conducted.)

 

12. The last interview was with William Byron. I think he was gearing it towards the Cup schedule, but he wants to know as far as a weekend schedule goes, what would be the ideal weekend schedule in your mind? How many days, how many practices, things like that?

I feel like the least amount of practice, the better. It’s tough because if I’m in the car that weekend and we’re way off, I want as much practice as I can get. But at the same time, like if you go dirt racing, you literally get two or three laps, and then you go racing. So like a lot of times you go to places you’ve never even been before and it’s, “Alright, here’s your two laps and you’re gonna go qualify.” And it’s hard to figure a place out. I don’t think we need to go that extreme, but I do feel like we can cut back on a little more practice.

I wouldn’t mind seeing almost a random draw race. Like go for a random draw, and then we line them up Friday night and the winner gets a (playoff) point. You don’t have to race if you don’t want to; say some guys are like, “Man, we know we’re not gonna win, so we’re not gonna race,” so you might only get 20 cars out there. But then we go race for an extra (playoff) point and it’s random draw. So one week you might start on the pole, the next week you might start 20th.

So this is like a short heat race or something?

Kind of. It’s like 30 laps — that way you got enough time to get up there. But you have to run on your tires that you practiced on.

And this would set qualifying? Or set the starting lineup?

No, we would still qualify for the race on Sunday.

This is just a total bonus race?

Yeah, it’s a bonus race. And it’s free admission. Free admission, Friday night, 30 laps.

Racing for a playoff point, optional.

Yup. You don’t have to race if you don’t want to if you don’t want to tear your car up. And you have to run on the first set of tires you run on practice. So you might have 20 laps on them, you might have five laps on them.

Where did you get this idea from?

I don’t know, it just came to my head, but I feel like it would work. Free admission would be a hit.

Everybody’s already here anyway.

Exactly. So let’s race Friday night. Get Steve O’Donnell on the phone.

I don’t know who the next interview is going to be with. Do you have a question I can ask another driver?

I feel like the Cup Series is the best race car drivers in the world, right? So we go to short tracks, we go to intermediates, we go to road courses, superspeedways. Why don’t we run a dirt track? So would they be against running on dirt in the Cup Series or not? Because I feel like we should be challenged in every single discipline and that’s the best race car drivers in the world. So why not?

So would they be for or against a Cup Series race on dirt?

Yeah. Two of them.

Two?

Everything else gets two, so why not? And what two tracks?

OK. So if you are for the race, what two tracks would you want to see?

And if you don’t want to go dirt, what two tracks should we run in Cup that we don’t go to right now? It could be anywhere.


Previous 12 Questions interviews with Chase Briscoe:

Oct. 4, 2017

 

12 Questions with William Byron (2019)

The 12 Questions series of interviews continues this week with William Byron of Hendrick Motorsports. These interviews are recorded as a podcast but also transcribed for those who prefer to read.

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

I’m an iPhone person. I don’t think I’ve ever had an Android. I feel like it’s such an off-brand version of an iPhone; I just don’t think that’s very good. I think they’re slower. I guess there’s some benefits. But I’ve always had an iPhone.

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?

I feel like autographs are so generic. Either a picture or just (commenting on) a neat little tidbit about what you’re doing — something that shows they know about what’s going on. I feel like when I was a kid and I came to races, the only way I was really going to connect to a driver was if I knew some fact about them or knew what was going on with their weekend. So I think that’s important to a driver.

So you’d say something like, “Hey, I noticed you were whatever in practice yesterday,” when you see a driver?

Yeah, if you know more about the sport or what’s going on, I think that’s going to connect with somebody, personally, instead of just, “Hey!” Sometimes you hear things like, “Oh, that’s Alex — oh, no, that’s William.” And that’s like, “OK, you’re just looking for an autograph.” But the kids that you see and meet that are in tune with the sport, those are the ones I connect with.

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?

It does. I think on the track, there’s like a survival instinct that comes into play — so even if there is something that kind of frustrates you or pisses you off, it doesn’t really stick with you. Because I’m trying to survive and get to the next thing. I don’t think it’s going to be beneficial for me to get hung up on that — unless it really did hurt me or really screw me over in that situation.

On the road, especially me, I’m just taking advantage of bad drivers — and it does get frustrating when there’s somebody in your way.

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

Not a whole lot. I’d say when I ran Legend cars, the closest thing I had to that was just going out with your HANS clips not clipped in. You start to get into the routine of having those clipped in and you see a lot of drivers do this (shakes head) to make sure. But yeah, it’s sketchy. I mean, there was one time I did that and came back in and I was a little bit caught off guard that I went out there without those. 

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?

Not really. I want to know they’re doing everything it takes to make it go as fast as possible, and I trust what they put on the cars. So I think trust is a big thing with your crew chief or your team, knowing that the car they’re giving you is something fast and competitive. I wouldn’t really care unless it comes to like, “Hey, you know, we gotta crash something to…” (Laughs) Who knows? But no, I don’t really care.

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

As sick as I’ve gotten over the offseason with food poisoning a couple times, I would say sushi. I would not eat sushi. Even though I love it, but you just never know.

So you’re kind of staying away after some bad experiences?

Yeah, staying away from that for sure.

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

I don’t think so, because they can’t keep the cars on the ground with (no) gravity. Maybe you could, but I don’t know if being loose or tight would be the same for them. Honestly, I think it would be cool. I feel that they’d race, if you’re a Star Wars fan, you know they race those little things that are about a couple hundred feet off the ground, so those would be fun to race.

Like those pod things?

Yeah, I love those.

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

Nothing useful. Nothing. I hate that time, honestly. I don’t feel like it really suits my style of talking to somebody right before I go try to beat them. But I try to make off-subject comments like, “How was your offseason? How is your family?” Something like that. It’s a really useless time.

So it’s totally awkward small talk?

Oh yeah. It’s a maintenance conversation that you’re trying to have with somebody that is really not your best friend. Maybe it’s different for other people.

9. What makes you happy right now?

Good question. Honestly, just racing. I mean, that’s a very broad thing, but I guess just competing and being happy with that. I’m not super linked to friendships or things like that yet, but just racing and being in my own space, being able to accomplish things that I’m really just trying to strive for by myself.

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, because that’s out of style. It’s gonna kill my vibe too much with people my age.

People your age are not going to think that’s the William Byron brand.

That’s not gonna be cool. I probably wouldn’t do that.

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.

I’ll pick 24.

This question was “Who will win the Cup title five years from now?” So this would be for 2024. Who wins?

Uh, me. Yeah. (Laughs)

That makes sense. You’ll still be around, you’ll still be young.

I hope I’m still around. If I don’t have a job, that would be really sad. I don’t know what I would be doing. Hopefully racing.

12. The last interview was with Aric Almirola. He wants to know with all the pressure that’s around you to be the next guy at Hendrick and all this hype that comes with you, what do you do in your daily life or your time away from the track to get away from all that and have fun?

That’s a great question. You know, I snowboard during the offseason. My friends at school are completely normal kids. I really don’t get asked a lot about racing outside of racing when I’m with my other friends, so I feel like that’s a great way to disconnect.

And honestly I feel like I’m living something that I never expected to do, so that’s fun for me. I know that ultimately, I’m not attached to this by my family or anything, and that’s a really cool disconnection I have from racing. So my family’s not going to judge me on whether I succeed or fail on the racetrack. They care, but they don’t care for the sake of my life goals. So I think I’m kind of living that lack of pressure from a family perspective.

Do you have a question I can ask another driver?

If you could change the schedule one way, how much time you would spend around the racetrack? Like what do you think is the ideal schedule each week? Two days?

So the weekend schedule?

Yes. It is a one-day show? Show up, have one practice? How do you think we should do that?


Previous 12 Questions interviews with William Byron:

— Aug. 31, 2016

— May 17, 2017

Aug. 21, 2018

 

12 Questions with Aric Almirola (2019)

The 12 Questions series of interviews continues this week with Aric Almirola of Stewart-Haas Racing. These interviews are recorded as a podcast but also transcribed for those who prefer to read.

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

iPhone. Simply because from the very beginning, I had an iPod and I liked it, so then I got the iPhone because I already had an iTunes account so I could have the music on my iPhone. And then once you have an iPhone, you’re kind of stuck.

Like once you go down that path, I’ve switched everything. I’ve got Apple iPad for the plane, I’ve got a Mac at home. It just makes everything a lot easier.

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?

It’s tricky because there are different times throughout the year and different days of the weekend that the drivers are a little bit less stressed and a little bit less in a hurry to get to wherever they’re going. If you find them in that moment, the driver will most likely chat you up, will sign an autograph for you, will take the time to take a picture for you.

But then if you catch a driver walking out to his car for qualifying or you catch him walking out to the car for pre-race or anything like that, that guy is intensely focused in that moment. Like you’d never ever get access to Tom Brady walking out the tunnel to go onto the field to warm up, or walking out on the field to get ready to play a game. You would never get access to a basketball player walking out. And that’s the access that we get here in NASCAR.

And I love it. I do. I love our fans and I love interacting with them, and you catch us at the right time and the right place, we’ll spend a lot of time with you. But if you catch us in that moment to where we’re ultra-focused and ready to go 200 miles an hour inches apart from other drivers, we’re going be a little more zoned out. And when we’re zoned out, we obviously don’t pay a lot of attention to our surroundings.

That’s not just (toward) the fans, it’s that way with everybody. You kind of just get this tunnel vision of thinking about what you are getting ready to do and being prepared for qualifying or the race or whatever it is. So that’s a tough question to just answer directly.

Obviously if we’re sitting at an autograph appearance for an hour or two, come on (over). You can get an autograph, you can get a picture, we’ll chat with you, we’re there for whatever time we’re slotted to be there. And usually I stick around even longer to make sure we take care of everybody. So it depends on the timing.

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?

Yes. Absolutely. The only difference is on the racetrack, you can actually run up there and run into the back of them — and on the road, that’s frowned upon.

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

One time a couple years ago, my steering wheel rubbed my seatbelts and turned the camlock on my seatbelts and it actually made my seatbelts come undone. I know a few other drivers who that has happened to as well. So yeah, that is pretty scary when that happens.

Was that during a race?

Yes. So you kind of check up and slow down and wait for the caution to come, or on the straightaways you’re trying to drive with your legs and people probably think you’re drunk out there on the racetrack — but you’re trying to focus on what you have going on to get your seatbelts in.

It hasn’t happened in a long time. The seatbelts and the locking mechanisms and all that have gotten a lot better. But years ago, and when the camlock system first came out, that was certainly more of an issue.

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?

I would not. No. I would not want to know. I want to describe what the race car is doing and tell the crew chief and the engineers what is happening from my vantage point as a driver, and then I want them to go to work and fix that. I’ve never really been in the details of what springs are on the car, what shocks are on the car, how much wedge do we have in the car, all of those things.

I know what all those things do, and I can voice my opinion, but the sport has evolved so much. The setups are so much different than anything that I’ve learned and knew growing up. So much more goes into it from the engineering and the computer side of it that the old school mentality is not really relevant.

So I’ve always been that way to where I show up, drive, tell them what’s going on with the car, and they handle the car and it’s their job to figure out how to make the car go as fast as it can. That’s not my role.

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

So I think it’d probably be a bad idea to consume a lot of dairy right before a race. I think that’s a really bad idea just because dairy sits so heavy and then you get hot in the car — like really hot — and I just think that’s a terrible combination.

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

You said these questions were out there. You were not kidding.

I don’t know. I don’t believe there is life in outer space. Maybe there is, but I would have to be proven wrong on that one. So the answer to the other part of the question is…

They can’t race if there’s no life.

That’s right.

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

It depends on what two drivers are talking or what group of drivers is talking. Usually for myself, I go up there and I’m kind of zoned in and ready to go race and everybody up there is a frenemy. I’m really just kind of focused on getting ready to race.

If you see somebody or whatever, you’re like, “Hey man, how’s it going? How’s your car?” And I think that’s most of the conversation, at least what I see and I think.

Most of the people exchange pleasantries. You’re getting ready to go race against this guy for the next four hours and you want to crush them. So you’re not a jerk, but you’re not overly friendly, either. You’re just ready to go racing, ready to go compete.

And then there’s the guys like (Clint) Bowyer, some of the other guys, they’re up there just having a jolly good ol’ time, laughing it up, just really laid back and relaxed, and they’re just getting ready to get the party started.

9. What makes you happy right now?

There’s a lot, actually. I find a lot of happiness right now with my family. I’m really fortunate I’ve got a great family — my wife (Janice), 6-year-old son (Alex), 5-year-old daughter (Abby), they’re so much fun to be around right now and watch them grow and get bigger and watching them start to branch out into doing their own things.

For the first several years of their life, everything kind of revolved around me still. The things that revolved around them were making sure they were fed and their diapers were changed. But as they grow up and get older, my son’s now playing basketball and playing baseball and riding BMX bikes and my daughter’s doing gymnastics and she’s doing theater and things like that. So that kind of stuff, it’s just fun as a dad to see that stuff, so that’s been making me happy.

And then just being around my team and being at the racetrack and racing and competing. I’ve been finding a lot of happiness in this past year and going into the new season just because of how competitive we are, and showing up to the racetrack is fun. Every weekend that we show up at the track is like, “Hey this is a new weekend, new opportunity, we can go win.” And that makes it fun. This last year just really rejuvenated me as a race car driver and it made going to work fun again, and I’ve found a lot of happiness in it.

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?

Yeah, sold.

Wow, that was easy.

At the end of the day, that’s a small price to pay to get to do what you love to do and have somebody else pay for it, right? When you think about that, I have one of the coolest jobs in the world. I get to do what I’ve dreamed about doing since I was 8 years old, and I get paid really well to do it, and I do it at the very highest level. So yeah, if the sponsor wants me to wear a clown nose and an 80’s wig in an interview, then yeah, whatever. Let’s do it.

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.

Can we just go with like 10 since that’s my car number?

I anticipated that. Joey Logano tipped me off that people would be using their car number, so I pulled that up had you asked that.

What if I said like 76?

I wouldn’t have that ready, but I could pull it up.

But 10 you have ready.

So this is the 10th question from the first 12 questions in 2010. If a rookie asks you one driver they should learn from and one driver they should avoid learning from, who would those two people be?

I think if you have the opportunity to learn from Kevin Harvick, I’ve had my eyes opened up this past year to be in meetings with him and be around him and see his dedication and see the work ethic he puts in. And it’s kind of quiet. He doesn’t blast it out to everyone on social and all that stuff, but he puts a lot of work it, and he’s really detail-oriented.

So I think him or Jimmie Johnson. Jimmie Johnson, from the aspect of not only has he been so successful, but he’s so gracious about it at the same time. He’s a seven-time champion and yet he’s one of the most humble people you’ll meet, and so I would tell any rookie driver to look at that. Just because you’ve had success and just because you win races, you might climb the ladder of our sport, it doesn’t mean that you should have an ego, and it doesn’t mean that you should treat people like crap. (Johnson is) a guy, out of all people, who could have an ego — won tons of races, won seven championships. And he’s confident in himself, but he’s very humble and a gracious guy, so that’s pretty cool.

And then one who you would not learn from. I’m not going to single any one guy out, but the list is pretty long of guys that have come into our sport, don’t do the right things with the sponsors and their partners, don’t do the right things on the racetrack, they tear up a lot of equipment, and they put a lot of pressure on themselves and they end up driving over their head — and then what happens is they come and go out of the sport.

And so for a rookie driver, I think it’s really important to look at that and see, “Hey, there are the mistakes this guy made and you don’t want to do that.” If you want to be here for a length of time, you want to make sure you take care of your partners and your sponsors and are a good representation for them, and you don’t show up thinking that you’re going to win every race and try way too hard and end up putting yourself in bad positions and tearing up a bunch of equipment.

12. The last interview was with Kyle Larson. He said he ran into you at Volusia and you introduced him to your grandfather (Sam Rodriguez) who raced sprint cars and of course that caught Kyle’s attention. So he wants to ask you, do you have any memories of watching your grandfather race at all, and if so, what sticks out?

So I have a lot of memories of watching my grandfather race. I watched my grandfather race all the way until I was 8 years old when he retired and then bought me a go-kart and then I started racing.

The memories that stick out the most to me was, I would say 50% of the time we went to the racetrack, he won. So my favorite part about going to the racetrack was when the race was over, he would stop on the front straightaway and take a picture with the crowd. They would actually let the crowd come onto the racetrack, so I would stand with him for a picture of just us and the crew, and then they would let fans come out and take a picture with the feature winner.

Then the fans would go back in the stands and he would put me in the seat of his sprint car and he would ride on the left side nerf bar and he would let me drive the sprint car — with the engine not running; we were getting pushed on a four-wheeler. But he would let me drive the sprint car, standing up in the seat, back to the tech barn after the race was over for tech. So those were really cool days and that’s what made me so passionate about racing.

Do you have the question I can ask the next driver? It’s William Byron.

Yes, so his bus is actually parked right next to me, and so the few times that they have pumped him out this week, it stinks really bad. So I guess my question would be, has anybody told him that his poop stinks?

That’s something only you would know living here in this motorhome lot.

No, you want a real question? And I think a great question for William would be, coming into this sport at such a young age and with such high expectations and stuff, what does he enjoy doing to sort of get away from all of the hysteria of NASCAR and the pressure of being counted on at Hendrick Motorsports?


Previous 12 Questions interviews with Aric Almirola:

— Oct. 3, 2012

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