12 Questions with Austin Dillon (2018)

(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

The 12 Questions series of interviews continues this week with Daytona 500 winner Austin Dillon of Richard Childress Racing. This interview was recorded as a podcast but is also transcribed for those who prefer to read.

1. How often do you have dreams about racing?

I’ve had a couple of dreams about racing, and one in particular was about the Daytona 500. I had this dream where I looked in the rearview mirror and no one was behind me and I was coming to the checkered flag. I haven’t had those memories (about dreams) very often, but I did have that one, which is crazy. I thought about it leading up this offseason, and that was a dream and it all happened. It’s weirded me out for a while, but it’s a cool one.

I haven’t really had any more. I’ve had one or two others that I’ve brought up at just random tracks that I’ve been on. When you get to focusing on them so much and you’re on the simulator, you can see the track in your mind and your mind just never sleeps.

2. If you get into someone during a race — intentional or not — does it matter if you apologize?

I think reaching out to the person is fine if it wasn’t intentional. If you didn’t do it on purpose and it was just a mistake, you overdrove and you hit them, it’s like, “Hey man, I screwed up there. I was over my head.” And that’s a good time to let someone know.

If you did it on purpose, I think they know themselves pretty much already. And then there’s a conversation about why you did it — if it was to get back at them for something earlier or it’s just, “Hey man, I had to go. That was kind of the deal and I’m sorry for it, but you understand.”

3. What is the biggest compliment someone could give you?

I think the biggest compliment you could get is (about) the person you are. Like you know, you’re a good person. Where your morals are: “Man you get it, you understand it.” That’s a good compliment to me. I’m more proud of the person you are than the driver you are away from the track. I’m a competitor, I’m very competitive, but hopefully still the person is what shows more than the driver and what I do out on Sundays, because that really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

4. NASCAR comes to you and says they’re bringing a celebrity to the track and they want you to host them. Who is a celebrity you’d be excited to host?

Who would be the guy I’d like to hang out with the most out of all these people? The cool thing is, I’m a huge Panthers fan, so all my Panthers buddies there, they’re awesome and real. Whoever I did ask to bring to the track, I would want them to be someone that I can just have like a friend. I want to be shell-shocked to be around them, but have them talk and hang out like it was another one of my boys, my buddies. So I’d want the relationship to be instant, whoever it was.

I don’t know why this popped into my head, but Will Smith seems like a cool person. I think that’d be pretty cool. That would be somebody I’m interested in having at the track. Seems like he’s nice, too. I watch some of his Instagram stories with his family, and he’s just him. That’s cool.

5. In an effort to show this is a health-conscious sport, NASCAR decides to offer the No. 1 pit stall selection for an upcoming race to the first driver willing to go vegan for one month. Would you do it?

Oh yeah. No problem. I do a lot of things to my diet to keep discipline, just as a person. I’ve just gotten back on it, actually I was there for awhile, just slacking. But my diet is pretty important, and it’s mostly because I’ve talked to (Christian) McCaffrey, and he got me started back on eating right and just taking care of my body. I don’t eat bread, cheese, chicken — and if I do pasta, it’s gluten-free, wheat-free. I just started that, and I’ve leaned down a little bit.

Do you feel better?

Yeah. I feel better, and some of it’s just about seeing it and not eating it, right? Like just teaching yourself you don’t have to have that to function, you know what I mean? And that’s cool because I used to eat a lot of Chick-Fil-A just because it’s convenient. Chicken’s great, but that’s something that I just kind of cut out, just to be disciplined.

6. It’s time for the Random Race Challenge. I’ve picked a random race from your career and you have to tell me where you finished.

This is gonna be tough.

I’m going back to 2016 for this one, and it’s the Michigan spring Cup race. Do you have any memory of this?

I think so. I’m hoping it is the package that we tried with the high spoiler and I was racing Matt Kenseth back and forth. I think I finished fourth in that one? Or sixth?

I have eighth here.

Eighth, OK. Is it the high spoiler package? There was one in there I was running really well, but we started in the back and we stayed out on fuel and took the lead, but eighth might be correct. Well it is correct, obviously, but I’m just wondering if it’s the high spoiler package.

It might have been the fall race. Are you good at remembering races in general?

Not really. Not really the finishing orders — I’m not good at knowing where I finish somewhere. I know the vicinity, and I can tell you the details of each race. Like if you bring it up, I can tell you what was going on during the race and what happened, but I don’t focus on the finish number usually. Unless it’s a win.

7. Who is the best rapper alive?

My era is Lil Wayne. I remember riding with one of my friends to go snowboarding every Thursday up in Boone and we would listen to Da Drought, we’d listen to that mix (tape) all the way down every day. We memorized all the lines, and it was pretty witty. I always loved that.

He just came out with The Carter V this weekend (this interview was conducted last month). Have you gotten to listen to it?

I haven’t listened to it, but I’ll be on it. Maybe tonight I’ll get on it after this race.

Because he says he’s the best rapper alive…

He is. (Sings) “Best rapper alive.”

8. Who has the most punchable face in NASCAR?

I mean, it’s gotta be Kyle (Busch). I don’t know who he got punched by in Vegas, but I just picture his face when he had the blood running down and everything. That’s why (the answer), I guess.

9. NASCAR enlists three famous Americans to be involved with your team for one race as part of a publicity push: Taylor Swift, LeBron James and Tom Hanks. Pick one to be your crew chief, one to be your spotter, and one to be your motorhome driver.

Wow, that is tough. I’ll let Taylor spot because I think a woman spotter would actually be a good thing. I’ve always kind of thought that. There’s not any I don’t think on the spotting (stand), and I think they would take a lot of the bias out and just spot and give you what they see. Because women are kind of like that. I feel like women take out bias sometimes, which is nice. And so a woman spotter I think would be a good thing. I think Taylor would do good up there.

I would get Tom Hanks to crew chief because I feel like he would make light of tough situations, but he would stay in the game.

LeBron would be the bus driver because when I was chilling, we could go shoot hoops.

10. What is the key to finding the best pre-race bathroom?

That is a tough one. It happens last second. Not gonna lie, I’m gonna give you this story because this will be entertaining for your followers.

So a couple races in a row, I was struggling to remember to go pee early enough. Like I would go to the bathroom, but I’d drink enough water during the time walking to intros and going through intros, and then I would go straight to my car.

It’s very routine. When you get done with intros, you need to go use the bathroom, then go take the pictures by the car. Well I was going to the car a couple times in a row (before the bathroom), and the pictures would start and the national anthem would start and it would kind of happen all at once.

Well, I would have to pee after the national anthem. So I was like running to find a bathroom after that. You really have to get ready (to race) at that time, it’s bang bang at that point. So I always look for a port-a-john, I try to hit it before I get to my car to get my pictures taken.

Well this time (at Bristol), I got to the car and everything happened quick. National anthem’s over and I had to pee and I was not gonna get in the car and pee during the race — because it’s hard to pee yourself when you’re strapped in. So I just actually peed myself right by the left rear tire.

I had two of my guys stand there. I was like, “I’m just gonna pee myself right now.” And I peed standing like right there with my suit on, and the suit, you could see it change color. Then I just got in the car.

Couldn’t you just pee on the tire?

Well, Bristol is 400 stories up, so I figured there’s just that one person up there zoomed in taking a picture of you getting in your car and might get a real good picture of me peeing on the left rear tire. I thought about peeing in between the wall there, but it’s just so high up there at Bristol, so I’m just like, “Screw it. Just let it rip now and it’ll all be good. It’s a long race. Sweat will kind of dissipate (the pee).” But yeah, that happened this year.

So you had to race 500 laps in your pee from the start.

Yeah, from the start. Yeah, you know it’s gonna be a long one when that happens.

11. NASCAR decides they would like the highlight reel value brought by the Carl Edwards backflips and want their own version. How much money would they have to pay you to backflip off your car following your next win?

I just don’t think I could complete the backflip, so I am going to take a risk of hurting myself. I could try it for $2 million, and it’s probably going to land in a back-flop, so I’m probably going to need surgery. Hopefully that covers it.

So $2 million plus medical.

Yeah, plus medical. There you go.

12. Each week, I ask a driver to give me a question for the next interview. Last week was with Chris Buescher. His question for you is: If you win at Charlotte again like you did in the 600, now that there’s artificial turf in the infield, will that alter your belly-slide celebration?

I’m definitely going to use the turf, that looks interesting. I wonder if it’s just gonna stick, though. Could be dangerous. Will definitely try it. All the football players are playing on turf, they get little burns. Hopefully I don’t get any turf burn or anything like that, but I’ll figure that out when it comes down to it.

It’ll still be worth it.

Yeah, for sure.

The next interview I’m doing is with Landon Cassill. Do you have a question I can ask Landon?

If someone would sponsor you to grow out your hair until it reached your knees, would you wear it that long and keep it that way for the rest of your racing career? Would you wear it to your knees until you were done racing?

So the question is the only way he’s going to get a sponsor is if he’s willing to do that, and would he do it?

Yeah. That, or even rock dreadlocks to the track, dread out his hair and just roll with it.


Previous 12 Questions interviews with Austin Dillon:

July 25, 2012

Nov. 6, 2013

May 20, 2014

Sept. 30, 2015

May 25, 2016

Nov. 8, 2017

 

12 Questions with Chris Buescher (2018)

The 12 Questions series of interviews continues with JTG Daugherty Racing’s Chris Buescher, a Texas native who heads to his home track this week. These interviews are recorded as a podcast, but are also transcribed for those who prefer to read.

1. How often do you have dreams about racing?

I would say probably once a week. It’s pretty often, I would say. If it’s not racing, usually it veers off to snakes or something.

You have a fear of snakes?

I love snakes, but my wife’s terrified of them and I think somehow that transfers into my dreams, which is not fair.

That’s not cool.

No, it’s really not.

2. If you get into someone during a race — intentional or not — does it matter if you apologize?

If it’s intentional, I don’t think you have any plans to apologize. I think that’s probably understood.

You’re gonna rub a little bit and you’re gonna race, and it’s kind of understood. I get run into, I don’t expect anybody to come say anything to me. If I get plowed or I get dumped for something what I consider dumb, I would expect something to be said.

Not that it makes it any better, but sometimes it is just the fact that someone did say something, at least they took the time to either own up or say, “Hey, I did that on purpose,” or whatever it was. But to have some kind of acknowledgment of it is nice sometimes.

3. What is the biggest compliment someone could give you?

I’d say it probably wouldn’t go anywhere around racing. I’ve had people that seem to appreciate how normal I am away from this deal. I’ve made a lot of friends that just wouldn’t have expected it early on, and I just got to know a lot of people that said that it was actually a lot easier to talk to and become friends with (me) than they thought. And I always thought that’s pretty neat, kind of always my goal. I mean, I like to be as normal as possible, so I think that’s a compliment for me.

4. NASCAR comes to you and says they’re bringing a celebrity to the track and they want you to host them. Who is a celebrity you’d be excited to host?

I am very disconnected from that whole side of our world. I don’t have cable at the house. I don’t have anything but internet. So I don’t know a whole lot going on.

For me, it usually comes down to other action sports. Like Travis Pastrana, I got to race with him at Roush, and he was awesome to be around and that was really cool. There’s a couple of artists that I’d like to talk to or be able to show around our garage area, like Randy Houser. I get a little mixed up in my music choices — it varies from country to hard rock. So a little bit all over the board there.

5. In an effort to show this is a health-conscious sport, NASCAR decides to offer the No. 1 pit stall selection for an upcoming race to the first driver willing to go vegan for one month. Would you do it?

I’ll be in pit stall 39, man. Hate to tell you, but you’re gonna find me at the back of that list.

You’d be the last one to do it?

That just wouldn’t work for me. We have way too many sponsors that could not handle me being vegan. But beyond that, I’m a meat and potatoes and Bush’s Beans kind of guy. I couldn’t ever do it, no. As great as that first pit stall is, I’d just have to apologize to the team and figure something else out.

6. It’s time for the Random Race Challenge. I’ve picked a random race from your career and you have to tell me where you finished. This is the 2015 Darlington Xfinity race from the year you won the Xfinity championship.

Was that fifth?

Yeah, it was fifth actually! Wow, you knew that right away.

I remember a lot about that weekend. We were racing Chase (Elliott) for the championship that weekend with Ernie Cope as (Elliott’s) crew chief, and he’s our competition director now. I like to give him a lot of crap, so this actually came up a few weeks ago, just talking about the Darlington race.

Practice was not that good for us. We were somewhere in the mid-teens, qualified OK, got started, I hit the fence Lap 1 — and the car got better. And we were actually able to drive up and run good all day.

It ended up when we left there, it kind of felt like it was a good turning point for us because we had hit a rough patch and it wasn’t looking up, and actually the 9 had their issues that weekend as well and ended up being a huge points day for us.

Yeah, I remember that one pretty well. It was the first time we ran the AdvoCare yellow and green checkerboard car, and I’m a pretty big green fan. I have the entire door off that car, actually.

So was this just a unique race, or are you always that good at remembering races?

No, that was a unique race. I love Darlington. You picked the race I remember a lot about. That one just had a lot more story behind it. There was a lot more going on that weekend than just a normal race. You could ask me where we ran at Kentucky in 2015, I couldn’t tell you what the car looked like, where we ran, anything. But Darlington, I remember that weekend really well because it was a big weekend for us for that entire season, really.

7. Who is the best rapper alive?

I do not know much rap. I don’t honestly know what classifies rap from hip hop or any of that.

There’s some crossover there.

But I like older stuff, like Nelly. That’s really about all I know. Shaggy’s probably not rap, is he?

He does some rap, but I guess I wouldn’t really count him as a rapper.

I don’t venture far into that side of things.

You stop with the hard rock.

Yeah, pretty much. I listen to a little bit of Eminem and the older stuff again, but I don’t know a whole lot about that world.

8. Who has the most punchable face in NASCAR?

(Laughs) Oh man. Who ran into me last week? Where were we? Nobody really ran into me last week. Man, if you’d asked me the week after Bristol, I could have come up with something pretty quick. I had several people I could have gotten around to. But that seems like a loaded question.

It kind of is.

Sorry, I don’t have have an answer.

Next time I see somebody run into you, I’ll come running.

There. I would give you an honest answer then.

9. NASCAR enlists three famous Americans to be involved with your team for one race as part of a publicity push: Taylor Swift, LeBron James and Tom Hanks. Pick one to be your crew chief, one to be your spotter, and one to be your motorhome driver.

We’re gonna go with LeBron for crew chief. It seems like he’s assertive and likes to talk, so I think that will work out, make some decisions.

I’ll put Taylor as the spotter. Might make Radioactive, it might be a dramatic radio experience that weekend.

And we’ll put Tom Hanks driving the bus. I feel like that would be good. That’s the one you get to hang out with the most during the weekend, so yeah. I think I could handle that.

And then Taylor yelling at you or saying, “No don’t go there!” would be on Radioactive.

Exactly! I feel like I’d get yelled at a lot. I would be yelled at a lot the week after, right? She’d have all kinds of stories about it then.

Yeah, she’d write a song about her experience.

Exactly. To be the theme song for Radioactive the next week.

10. What is the key to finding the best pre-race bathroom?

I wing it.

You don’t strategize?

Do people do that? People honestly say they do?

Seems like they do. They scout it out.

No, I don’t. You’ll notice that when we come around from the back of the truck for a ride-around, we’ll get to Turn 4 and I’ll wave, but my head’s the other way. It’s nothing against anybody sitting in the Turn 4 area in the stands — like I am waving to you — but I am hunting at that point, just trying to see something on pit road. But it’s usually just trying to find something on pit road. I didn’t know there was a routine for that.

Seems like some of the guys have one. You might need to look into that.

You might need to tell me who’s got routines so I can ask and figure this out.

11. NASCAR decides they would like the highlight reel value brought by the Carl Edwards backflips and want their own version. How much money would they have to pay you to backflip off your car following your next win?

Will they pay whatever I ask, is the real question.

You have to name your price or else they won’t have anybody.

I’ll do it, and I’m not afraid to do it, so it sounds like I need to give them a number that makes some money.

Pick a sky high number.

Yeah, I’ll just tell them a million dollars to do it and no problem. I’ll do it. I’m not afraid.

This backflip fund of theirs has been saving up money, they just need somebody.

You know, (Daniel) Hemric will probably do it for free. So they really should, in cost-savings mode — I know they like cost-savings ideas — Daniel Hemric will do a backflip for free.

12. Each week, I ask a driver to give me a question for the next interview. Last week was with Ryan Blaney. He wanted to ask about your famous Pocono win. He wanted to know: When you saw the big fog rolling in, did you know that you were going to win right then? What was going through your head?

First of all, I think his win is probably more famous than mine at Pocono. But I messed up. I didn’t realize we were in the lead, and we were running second, and the 1 pitted right before that fog rolled in.

Then it got really foggy all of a sudden and the spotter came over the radio and said, “Hey, I’m having a hard time seeing you back there, can you see anything?” I said, “Oh yeah, I’m good, no problem!” (Laughs)

They’re like, “No, you idiot!”

So two laps later, I got, “Hey, I really can’t see you, are you sure you can see?” I was like, “Yeah, it’s gotten pretty bad.” So I almost messed up my first Cup win.

But once it set in, everyone had radar, everybody knew it was coming. I figured when they evacuated the grandstands, we had to be minutes away. And then the next 30 minutes went by. They evacuated pit road. People put their pit boxes away. Figured, “Ah, we’re probably minutes away.” And we waited another 20 minutes until the lightning actually started hitting around the racetrack, and then said, “Alright, we’re gonna go to shelter, but we don’t know yet.” And then on our way to shelter, as the rain starts coming down, they said, “Oh by the way, we called it” — 80 minutes after we started our red flag. And it blew my mind that we waited that long.

So it was pretty awesome. It was a makeshift victory lane. Didn’t get to do a burnout, didn’t get to go to the famous Pocono victory lane. Did it under the crossover in the garage over that you drive under making laps around the garage, and went to the media center. The bottom fell out while I was at the media center, and I had to walk back to the hauler.

Everybody else was loaded up and gone because they knew it was called — everybody knew except the eight of us that were standing on pit road. And so my hauler was the only one in the garage area at this time, and the garage was under about eight inches of water across the center, and I had to go waddling through it in my suit and shoes. I had no way to get across this small river. It was a little bit miserable after experience.

Then the best part was we flew to Utah for a driving school that night.

Straight from there?

Straight from there. And we took Jack (Roush’s) plane, which required two fuel stops to get there, which meant it was like an eight- or nine-hour flight from when I left Pocono. Not much time to celebrate. So I think we ended up at Denny’s in Utah that night and (Ricky) Stenhouse bought dinner.

That’s a celebration right there.

That was a celebration to remember.

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

I wanna know if he wins a race at the Roval, how does he think his belly flop slides are gonna go on the new (artificial) turf? Does he think that’s still a possibility or is he gonna have to come up with a new celebration? I know he’s won at Charlotte before.

Yeah, you would think there would be some sort of a turf burn situation.

Like the turf’s got sand in it and stuff. It’d be gritty. It’s a thought. He might have to rethink the celebration.


Previous 12 Questions interviews with Chris Buescher:

July 14, 2015

July 27, 2016

Sept. 13, 2017

 

12 Questions with Ryan Blaney (2018)

(Photo: Getty Images)

The 12 Questions series of interviews continues this week with Ryan Blaney of Team Penske, who won the recent race at the Charlotte Roval. This interview was recorded as a podcast but is also transcribed below for those who prefer to read.

1. How often do you have dreams about racing?

It depends. I dream about races that never happened sometimes that you really don’t understand what’s going on. I’ve dreamt about bad races before, reliving wrecks or something. I guess you could call those nightmares. So yeah, those really are the only two times I’ve dreamt about racing, if it’s just a random occurrence or something that’s never happened before and I can’t really make any sense of it. Or the wrecks, there’s a few bad ones that you sometimes dream about I guess.

2. If you get into someone during a race — intentional or not — does it matter if you apologize?

I definitely think it does, especially if it was unintentional. I think you should apologize for sure if it was your fault, and you hope the other person understands. Now if it was intentional, I don’t think you go apologize. You did it intentionally, you’re not gonna go be sorry for it. If it’s an accident and I screw up and I get loose under somebody and spin them out or we both spin out, I’ll try to find them as soon as I can or call them and say that was obviously my fault. But yeah. Different answers for intentional or unintentional stuff.

3. What is the biggest compliment someone could give you?

Something that’s really cool to me is when parents tell me that their kids look up to me. That’s a super cool compliment because they’re talking about how their kids are huge fans of me and they love racing, they want to be just like you on and off the track. Like man, that’s pretty cool. I don’t know if I’ve met you guys before, but this kid wants to be like me and he doesn’t really even know me, he just knows me from around the racetrack or from racing and the social stuff that’s out there. That’s really cool and makes me feel good because that’s part of the reason why we do it.

You want to be as good of a role model as you can. I remember I was a kid who loved racing and was running around the garage and wanted to be like this driver or that driver just because I liked what they did. So to kind of have the roles now, me being in that spot, that makes me feel really good when parents tell me that or their kids come up to me and are wearing my shirt and they’re super happy to see me, because that just shows they’re big fans and they look up to me. It’s like a big brother moment, I guess. I think that’s the best compliment I can be paid.

4. NASCAR comes to you and says they’re bringing a celebrity to the track and they want you to host them. Who is a celebrity you’d be excited to host?

I’ll do a male and female version. I’m a big, big Ryan Reynolds fan, I think he’s an awesome actor. I’d love to have him. Did you say who’s the person or what would we do?

Just who would you like to take around?

Ryan Reynolds, that’s the guy. And the girl…ooh that’s tough. A lot of celebrity crushes. I’m a big Daisy Ridley fan. Do you know who she is?

Yeah. Well, you met her. She didn’t know who you were at the Lakers game.

She had no idea. But yeah, maybe that can be a second meeting. She probably doesn’t remember the Lakers thing, but I always will. But yeah, those will be my two.

Just next time be like, “Hey, by the way, I’m a NASCAR driver. Just come on out.”

Invite her out, yeah.

5. In an effort to show this is a health-conscious sport, NASCAR decides to offer the pole for an upcoming race to the first driver willing to go vegan for one month. Would you do it?

It’s only one race for the first pit stall? One month of vegan? That’s a hard one, that’s a good one. My sister is vegan, and I don’t know how she does it.

Which one?

The little one, Erin. And she’s in college and being in college and being a vegan, that’s tough. And I’ve seen what she has to eat, and it’s not pleasant. But I don’t know. I feel like I could only do the vegan thing for two weeks. I like meat too much and I eat way too much of that stuff. So I don’t know if I could do the vegan thing. I would try, but I just don’t think I would succeed.

6. It’s time for the Random Race Challenge. I’ve picked a random race from your career and you have to tell me where you finished. This is the Kentucky Truck race from 2014. Do you remember this race at all?

Yes I do. I ran third. Kyle (Busch) won the race and Bubba got second.

Holy crap! Wow! That’s impressive.

It took me a second to think about but yeah, I remember that race. We had a shot to win, and the last restart didn’t really work out. Yup, I remember that. That was the old Kentucky.

Are you good at remembering races in general, or does that one just happen to stick out?

I’m pretty good at remembering races when people bring up what race it was, what year. I can usually remember that. But if I’m standing here, I’m not gonna be like, “Yeah, that race in 2015, so and so.” But if you bring up a race, I can usually think back and remember it. I don’t just think about races all the time. But when it gets brought up in discussion, I can easily usually think back on it.

7. Who is the best rapper alive?

I don’t really listen to rap music. I don’t know. I think Eminem is a good rapper. I feel like there’s only a few rappers I listen to, but Eminem, Notorious B.I.G., I listened to Tupac as a kid. Kendrick Lamar is really good. I saw a J. Cole concert a couple years back when he came out with that album, he was really really good. Post Malone’s good, I saw him in concert in Charlotte like a month ago, and I got to hang out with him for a little bit. Super nice guy.

Would you get the Post Malone eye tattoos under your eyes?

You know, that might be an offseason thing for me. And then laser them off.

8. Who has the most punchable face in NASCAR?

That’s an interesting one because I’ve seen you, heard you ask that question before. It’s not even really who would you punch, it’s who has the most punchable face. That’s almost like calling someone ugly, I don’t know. (Laughs) There’s certain people that sometimes I look at them after the race and I’m like, “God, I want to kick your ass.” And it’s really nothing against them, it’s just how they raced me, if they fenced me in or something.

But most punchable face, there’s one I would say but I don’t know how to say it. Have a lot of people have said Kyle Busch?

Yeah, he and Brad kind of get most of the answers.

OK. I guess those guys have punchable faces. I don’t know what a punchable face is, but I could say those two would be a tie. I’m just going to go with what everyone else says.

9. NASCAR enlists three famous Americans to be involved with your team for one race as part of a publicity push: Taylor Swift, LeBron James and Tom Hanks.

I would like to hear Tom Hanks’ voice on the radio all the time, so I would do the spotter thing for him. LeBron should be the crew chief because of his work ethic. And Taylor can be the bus driver, because who wouldn’t want to be in a bus with Taylor Swift? (Laughs)

10. What is the key to finding the best pre-race bathroom?

I think there’s multiple people involved in this. There’s myself, so when we’re walking out to intros and you’re kind of figuring out where the car is staged, look around for some port-a-johns. Ian (Moye), my PR guy, he’s good for looking for some bathrooms. And then my interior guy is also really good. So it’s a group effort. If neither of us see one while walking out, I’ll ask Kyle (Belmont), my interior guy, and he’ll usually have a good spot for me to go.

Is that because he doesn’t want to have to clean up if you can’t find the bathroom?

Well, I’ll never do that to him. I’ll rupture inside before I do that to him. But no, he’s always just on the lookout because, you know, those guys are on the grid for a while, so they have to scout out all the bathrooms. Yeah, so it’s a group effort, teamwork. Teamwork in everything nowadays.

11. NASCAR decides they would like the highlight reel value brought by the former Carl Edwards backflips and want their own version. How much money would they have to offer for you to backflip off your car following your next win?

Not much. I just have to practice it. If I’m going out there green, I don’t know if I can do it. That’s hard. It’s hard enough to do a backflip on a trampoline. I can do plenty of stuff on trampolines, but off a car, that’s tough. If I could get like five shots at it off a car door into like a foam pit first, then I’d do it for nothing.

Just for the good of the sport.

Yup, for the good of the sport. That’s what we’re in this for.

12. Each week, I ask a driver to give me a question for the next interview. Last week was with Michael McDowell and David Ragan. Their question for you is: Why don’t you ever go sprint car racing?

The reason why I didn’t grow up sprint car racing, number one, was I grew up in North Carolina, and by the time I was old enough to drive, my dad was already racing NASCAR and there’s just really no dirt tracks around. It’s asphalt, Late Model stuff. And Legend cars and quarter midgets, but that was kind of the main deal in North Carolina and where we were.

But why I don’t do it now is I’m really not allowed. It’s not encouraged for me to go do it. I’ll tell you a story. It was 2012, I’d just signed with Penske, and we were at the Texas (Xfinity) race and I was doing that one in the 22 car. My dad, until 2011, 12, 13, was building his own sprint cars and was testing them and racing them. So I’d help him build them a little bit, and I go run some laps in them to go test it. And I was testing it in the week before Texas.

We got done with practice at Texas and Tim Cindric, president of Penske, comes in and we’re talking about the car. I’m just starting at Penske and he walks out and he turns around like, “Oh, by the way, no more driving sprint cars.” It was like, “Oh man. OK.” How did he know that I was testing sprint cars? That’s baffling to me.

And so I was telling my dad this story just a few weeks ago, and he was like, “Yeah, because you scared the shit out of me driving that sprint car and I thought you were gonna wreck and I told him to tell you that you can’t drive sprint cars anymore.” Like man, you threw me under the bus! I can’t believe him. Yeah. I just found that out. So much for trust in dad.

But yeah, that’s really why I don’t do it. I’d love to do it, it’s what my dad does full time right now, it’s what my family grew up on pretty much and I love going to the races and learning about those cars and absolutely love that side of racing, but it’s just not something I can go do really right now. Maybe when I’m done with this deal, I’d like to go do it just because it was a family thing, but not right now.

So Tim Cindric had to do your dad’s dirty work, basically.

Yeah. I know! Dad just should have come to me and told me, but no, he didn’t want to be that guy. He wanted to use a middleman. He was using Tim Cindric as a middleman. That’s pretty rough.

I don’t know who the next interview is going to be with. You can either give me a general question or I’ll try to double back with you when I know the next driver.

Yeah, just get back with me whenever you know. I’m gonna ask a hard-hitting question.


Previous 12 Questions interviews with Ryan Blaney:

Nov. 5, 2014

Oct. 7, 2015

Feb. 25, 2016

July 5, 2017

 

12 Questions with David Ragan and Michael McDowell (2018)

The 12 Questions series of interviews continues this week with a double edition: Front Row Motorsports teammates David Ragan and Michael McDowell are both included in this one. Given the format, it’s highly recommended to listen as a podcast — but it’s also transcribed below for those who prefer to read.

1. How often do you have dreams about racing?

DR: I have dreams every night in general, but I don’t really remember them. Sometimes about racing, sometimes about other things. But when I do dream about racing, it’s never really about the competition and trying to race and win, it’s always about trying to get to the racetrack or the cars being on the track on the pace laps and I can’t find my helmet or I’m stuck in the (hauler) lounge and I can’t get out or something weird like that. Or I’m late or I can’t get my window net up. It’s always things I’m worried about that.

MM: It’s very funny he said that. I have dreams about seeing the cars start the race, too, and you’re not in it. And you see your car and you’re like, “Oh my gosh, what happened?” That’s crazy. But I would say maybe once or twice a month. Like David said, it’s hard to remember. I do remember last night’s dream. It was turkey hunting, not racing.

DR: You should write them down and see if you see a correlation to certain things that are going on in your life.

2. If you get into someone during a race — intentional or not — does it matter if you apologize? I didn’t mean for this to be awkward right after you guys got into each other. (Note: This was recorded the week after the two crashed at Las Vegas.)

DR: It’s perfect timing. (Laughs)

MM: I don’t know if you picked up the audio, but my crew chief, Derrick Finley, was walking through David’s hauler and he just snickered as you asked that question. (Laughs)

DR: I’ll go first, being as I wrecked Michael last week and myself. I do think it’s important. Whether you wreck someone intentionally or whether it’s an accident, I think you should bring it up. If you wreck someone intentionally, you need to let them know you don’t like what they did and why you wrecked them. If you do it unintentionally, I think it’s important say, “Look, man, I’m sorry. I hated I did that.” Just to clear the air. Communication is important. We race with each other 38 times a year and the last thing we need are grudges on the racetrack that bring both teams down. Certainly that’s important with teammates, but even other people in the garage. I try to make it a point to reach out to someone if I wreck them.

MM: Yeah, I think it’s super important. Having been on both sides of it, the intentional part is hard, right? Because if you truly did it intentionally, there were things that built up to it. It doesn’t just happen. But a lot of times, those are the ones that are left undone. Like Ross Chastain and (Kevin) Harvick (in the Darlington Xfinity race). I mean, Ross hooked him. There’s no question and nobody can say anything otherwise. Harvick knows he hooked him. So then not having that conversation, that will be an issue down the road in their careers for both of them. So just being able to bring it up (is important). I had it happen with (Marcos) Ambrose— I intentionally crashed Ambrose at Martinsville. And he waited for me after the race. He came up to me — I’ll never forget it, because it was like the most awkward conversation ever — and he was like, “Well what happened?” I said, “Well, you chopped me two or three times and then I crashed you.” And his face, his jaw dropped. Because he’s like, “You’re saying you did that on purpose?” I said, “Well, I don’t want to lie to you. You chopped me off two or three times, so I crashed you.” And I think he said something like, “I should kill you” — it was something very angry and violent, which I get, because I get ramped up. But I remember the next week he’s like, “Most people would have lied to me. Most people would have said, ‘Hey man, I got in too deep, I locked up my tires and I ran into you.’ I didn’t know how to respond when you actually said you did it on purpose.” But just talking through it, what he said made a lot of sense. He said, “I figured you weren’t going to run the whole race.” Because at the time, I was start-and-parking, but Martinsville was always one of the places we ran because we could be competitive. So he said, “I chopped you because I figured in 10 laps you were going to come in, and if anybody could cut me a break, you could.” Well then all the sudden it made sense to me and I was like, “Maybe I overreacted a little bit because that’s fairly logical.” So what I’m saying is even though sometimes it intentionally happens, walking through it is an important step.

3. What is the biggest compliment someone could give you?

DR: Just saying I’m a good dad and a good husband is the most. The racing thing is my career right now, but it’s not going be my career one day. It would be flattering if somebody told me I was a great race car driver or really fast, but that doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. So I think the biggest compliment someone could give me is I’m a good son or a good husband or a good dad.

MM: I don’t really care. To me, compliments…it is what it is. Racing in particular, you’re only as good as your last race. So when you get done with your career, nobody is really going to care. So for me, it’s the areas that matter. It’s my faith and family. Those are the areas I want to do well in. But honestly, whether someone thinks you’re doing well in those areas or not really doesn’t matter.

4. NASCAR comes to you and says they’re bringing a celebrity to the track and they want you to host them. Who is a celebrity you’d be excited to host?

MM: I actually got to do it. One of the authors and pastors and guys who have been really influential for me who I hadn’t met was Francis Chan. He was a guest of ours at California, which was really cool. I love racing and there’s lots of people I would like to host, like ex-Formula One drivers and things like that. But you can only talk about so much for so long. It’s cool to get somebody outside our circle who is doing other things aside from going around in circles.

DR: I’m at the racetrack to race. I would love to meet some different people outside the racetrack if we were going to sit around the campfire and tell a couple stories. But a lot of time, I feel like celebrities are kind of fake in whatever field they’re in, and I don’t care to hang out with anybody like that. I would say so no, I don’t have any interest in entertaining anyone at the racetrack, as long as I’m working. I don’t really care. I’m not big on celebrities.

I happened to know that.

DR: That’s why I don’t like being a “celebrity.” I don’t even like that. I want real people. I want the poorest person in the grandstands who had to borrow money to go buy their ticket. That’s who I want to hang out with.

MM: Yeah. And I think the reason some of us are like that is we know what it’s like to be in that role of celebrity. When you go to a dinner and you’re the person and all that, you feel this pressure to entertain. You feel like you’ve got to turn it on, like you’ve got to tell good stories and have good jokes. When David and I hang around, you can just be normal and have normal conversations. It’s hard when you got to a setting where people think you’re the celebrity. So you don’t get the authentic person — even myself — because you’re like, “OK, they invited me as the guest — as the race car driver — so you’ve got to tell race car stories and you’ve got to be funny and charismatic and all of these things,” and it’s like…eh. It’s not worth the pressure.

DR: Yeah.

5. In an effort to show this is a health-conscious sport, NASCAR decides to offer the pole for an upcoming race to the first driver willing to go vegan for one month. Would you do it?

MM: I haven’t really studied the vegan diet. But I’m on the Keto diet. And I don’t know if there could be a greater separation between vegan and Keto. I only eat fat and meat. So no. You can give me the No. 1 stall, but I’m sticking with Keto.

DR: I would go vegan for a month. I do eat a little steak and chicken and fish. It would be kind of a pain in the butt to do that, but if I had a chef that would help, I’d be OK with it. I wouldn’t want to do all the work — that would be a lot of effort. But as far as eating, I love vegetables and fruits. I could do it, and I would. I want it for Martinsville.

Real quick, for Michael: Does the Keto diet really give you more energy, as is billed?

MM: This would be a whole other 12 Questions, but it’s the best thing I’ve done in my life for my health. I’ve lost 35 pounds since doing it, and I’m stronger and better in the race car than I’ve ever been. I’m sure there’s lots of science behind both ends of it, but for me, I did it because I didn’t feel great after Sonoma. I was constantly fighting headaches and feeling depleted. I tried something different and it’s been amazing for me. It’s really been something that has changed my overall performance in the race car.

6. It’s time for the Random Race Challenge. I’ve picked a random race from both of your careers and you have to tell me where you finished. In the spirit of this interview, I went back and found a race where you guys finished back to back. This was the Kansas race last fall. Any idea where you finished?

DR: I know exactly where I finished.

MM: I don’t exactly where I finished, but I know real close.

DR: It was 16th and 17th. I was 17th, you were 16th.

MM: I was going to say 18th for me.

It was actually 17th and 18th.

DR: Who was 18th?

David was 17th, Michael was 18th.

MM: Oh, there we go!

DR: I remembered I was 17th, but I thought you finished in front of me!

MM: That’s funny! You know, I don’t forget top-20s the last few years because you only have a handful of them. So you remember them for sure.

7. I know I’ll get a great answer here because you guys seem like huge rap fans. Who is the best rapper alive?

MM: Well, I am a lyrical gangster. Not a lot of people know that. Eminem is by far the best rapper to walk this planet.

DR: I know rappers, but I don’t know who the best one is. I guess whoever has still got a job and has got the new CD that is out. I have no idea.

MM: I think Eminem is unchallenged, though.

8. Who has the most punchable face in NASCAR?

MM: Joey Logano. He’s just goofy. He’s just silly.

It’s just his face? You don’t actually want to punch him?

MM: No, I love Joey Logano. He’s one of the nicest, realest guys in the garage. But he definitely has a punchable face.

DR: I think whoever is winning a lot. Back in the mid-2000s it was Jimmie Johnson, just being so perfect and winning all the time. Now it’s probably Kyle Busch. He just wins everything.

MM: Fans ask me all the time to punch him in the face. Fans are weird, they’re like, “Hey man, just do me a favor. Just crash Kyle Busch this weekend.” I’m like, “OK, yeah. That’s exactly it. I’ll do that. Thank you for the advice.”

DR: Kyle is a friend of mine. I think he’s one of the best drivers this sport has ever seen. I like Kyle. So I’m not trying to punch anybody. Well, I don’t want to punch anybody first. But yeah…Kyle. (Laughs)

9. NASCAR enlists three famous Americans to be involved with your team for one race as part of a publicity push: Taylor Swift, LeBron James and Tom Hanks.  Pick one to be your crew chief, one to be your spotter and one to be your motorhome driver.

MM: Tom Hanks would be the coach driver because I think he would actually be a cool guy to hang out with. He seems like an interesting guy. LeBron James would be a good spotter. He’s got a lot of energy. And Taylor Swift could be the crew chief.

DR: Well, we’re going to outrun Michael that race. (Laughs) I’d probably put LeBron on the pit box because he’s probably a good leader and a good coach. Taylor has been living in the motorhome on tours for the last 15 years, so I’d probably let her drive the motorhome. And then Tom, I’d let him spot.

10. What is the key to finding the best pre-race bathroom?

DR: Good experience.

MM: You’ve got to have it scoped out before it actually starts. If you’re waiting until you get off the truck and you go, “Where’s the bathroom?” — you’re done.

DR: I usually look when we’re walking out to qualifying. Less crowded, a little more time. I’m pretty religious about going to the bathroom right before qualifying or the race. So you’ve got to know.

11. NASCAR decides they would like the highlight reel value brought by the former Carl Edwards backflips and want their own version. How much money would they have to offer for you to backflip off your car following your next win?

MM: Just whatever it would take to get proper training. I’ve always wanted to be able to break dance and do some flips. I don’t really have the physique for it, but if they’d train me, I’d do it.

DR: Yeah, if we could be trained, that would be awesome. I think a signature deal like that is really cool. If you get to win often during the year, it would be neat. I’d like to be able to do it if they provided a trampoline out by my car.

MM: Or a mat. Just a mat. My biggest fear would be if your toes hook the roof. Then it’s going to look real bad and feel real bad, too. That’s a lot of momentum.

DR: I’ll just do a cartwheel.

MM: I think David could probably do (a backflip).

DR: On a trampoline. I wouldn’t want to do it in front of everyone for the first time and fail, though. That wouldn’t be fun.

12. Each week, I ask a driver to give me a question for the next interview. Last week was Timmy Hill, and he wanted to know: If you play fantasy sports, what is the name of your fantasy football team?

DR: I do play one league of fantasy football. With all the shenanigans in the NFL, I tried to back out of it this year, but I’m with a group of my friends so I stayed on board. I’m a pretty boring guy, so my team name is “Team Ragan.”

MM: Mine is worse than that. I don’t play at all. I did when I was at (Leavine Family Racing). One of the guys got fired and I took over his fantasy football team. I’ve never watched it. But that was actually really fascinating for me, because once I downloaded the app, I started to watch. Because I was like, “Ooh, I’ve got a guy running tonight.” So it made me realize how important that is for our sport. Because even if you’re not a David Ragan or a Michael McDowell fan, if you have us in your fantasy lineup for the day, you still want us to run top 15 and if you see us passing cars, it’s exciting. So it’s a cool element.

Do you have a question I can ask the next interview? It’s with Ryan Blaney.

DR: You want to ask a question the fans would enjoy. His dad and uncle are big sprint car guys. What’s the reason (he doesn’t) go back and run some sprint cars and dirt cars or something like that?


Previous 12 Questions interviews with David Ragan and Michael McDowell:

Ragan

April 28, 2010

March 3, 2011

Aug. 1, 2012

June 5, 2013

Oct. 20, 2015

June 9, 2016

July 26, 2017

McDowell

Feb. 24, 2010

April 7, 2011

Oct. 15, 2013

June 3, 2015

Oct. 26, 2016

June 24, 2017

 

12 Questions with Timmy Hill (2018)

The 12 Questions series of interviews continues with Timmy Hill, who drives for MBM Motorsports in the Cup and Xfinity Series. This interview was recorded as a podcast but is also transcribed for those who prefer to read.

1. How often do you have dreams about racing?

I’d say it happens pretty often, especially if I have a big race coming up. Like for me, it’s kind of funny: When we go to Daytona or Talladega, I always have dreams of what could happen. It’s neat to try to deeply think about what could happen. Whenever I have a race coming up where I think I could do well, it’s funny how your mind creates stuff happening.

2. If you get into someone during a race — intentional or not — does it matter if you apologize?

In my opinion, it does. Simply because we go right back into it the next week and you get very little time to digest what happened. So in my eyes, if you take someone out — I guess if it was on purpose, you wouldn’t apologize — but (you should) especially if it was on accident. That guy doesn’t know, and he’s thinking about how he got wrecked and how he was basically done wrong. So if he goes into the next week, it could come back on you. At least for my peace of mind, I like to hear it.

3. What is the biggest compliment someone could give you?

My wife and I were reading the book, The (5) Love Languages. And I think my love language has always been words of affirmation. So I like to hear “Good job,” not matter what that is — whether that’s on the racetrack or back home. For me, if I just hear “Good job” on anything, it feels nice. Because so often, people point out what you did wrong. So every now and again if somebody says good job, it makes you feel good.

I’m not familiar with the book. Can you give a brief synopsis?

We’re about halfway through, but I think there are five love languages. We had a friend, Cindy Shepherd, give us a book — we just got married in January and she said it was a good wedding present to have. So basically, everybody has a different love language. For me, it was words of affirmation. For somebody else, it may be a gift. Everybody takes something differently.

In what you respond to, essentially?

Yes. So it was a good book to read. I think for anyone in a real relationship or who wants to do better for their significant other, I think it’s a good book to read.

4. NASCAR comes to you and says they’re bringing a celebrity to the track and they want you to host them. Who is a celebrity you’d be excited to host?

I love comedians. I could think of a list of them. But I was looking at one, just because it’s football season: Pat McAfee. He used to be a punter for the Indianapolis Colts. And I’m a Redskins fan, so it wasn’t like I was a big fan of the Colts or anything. But he does videos every week about different punters or football plays. If I could host Pat, if he could come to the racetrack, I’d love to host somebody like that.

I saw he recently left Barstool, but he’s still doing stuff, right?

He quoted himself as a free agent, so he’s looking for a new gig. But his content is really funny.

5. In an effort to show this is a health-conscious sport, NASCAR decides to offer the pole for an upcoming race to the first driver willing to go vegan for one month. Would you do it?

Absolutely not. (Laughs) It’s funny, my wife is a vegetarian. I tell her all the time, I’m the complete opposite. I very rarely eat any kind of vegetables. I’ll eat a couple fruits. But I’m as non-vegan or non-vegetarian as they come.

Has she ever tried going vegan?

No. She loves her eggs, she loves her milk. So she doesn’t want to go that far. She just hates her red meats and meats in general. She’s tried to get me to branch out a little more, and I’ve tried, but it’s just not for me. I know when we were planning out wedding, she said, “I know there are not many vegetarians (coming), so make the meal for yourself.” I had this incredible spread of beef and pork and all kinds of stuff for our wedding. So I don’t think I could do it.

6. It’s time for the Random Race Challenge. I’ve picked a random race from your career and you have to tell me where you finished. This is the 2012 Darlington Xfinity race. Do you remember this at all?

I believe I do. I think we finished 15th on the lead lap.

You finished 16th! That’s pretty damn close for a race six years ago.

So that race, I remember very vividly. It was a really good race for us. We didn’t put a scratch on the car, which is very tough to do at Darlington. I remember having to fight my crew chief on the radio about taking a late wave-around that paid off for us. It put us back on the lead lap and had an incredible finish. That was a big moment for us.

You started 31st and came all the way up through the field.

Yes. I think we qualified on scuffed tires and I don’t think we even had one set of sticker tires for that race. It’s hard to think about that, being Darlington, but that was a really good race for us.

7. Who is the best rapper alive?

See, I don’t listen to rap. The very little I do know about rap is some rappers are named after candy and some are named after change and dollars. My wife knows more about rap than I do.

8. Who has the most punchable face in NASCAR?

Gosh, that could be taken a lot of different ways. We’ll go with Brett Griffin (spotter and co-host of the “Door Bumper Clear” podcast). Reason being, he just seems very arrogant and he just seems like he’d have one of those faces you’d like to punch.

Has he talked bad about you on the Door Bumper Clear podcast?

I think he does often. I have a hard time listening to podcasts — I just don’t have the time for it — but from what I understand, he does.

So you hear people say, “Oh, I heard @SpotterBrett say something about you this week?”

It seems like he’s infatuated with me. (Laughs) Don’t know why.

9. NASCAR enlists three famous Americans to be involved with your team for one race as part of a publicity push: Taylor Swift, LeBron James and Tom Hanks.  Pick one to be your crew chief, one to be your spotter and one to be your motorhome driver.

Well, for spotter we’ll have to go with Taylor Swift. She’d be nice to hear on the radio.

And she could put @SpotterBrett in his place.

Yeah. Give him a little slap. (Laughs) But she’d be soothing on the radio.

Motorcoach driver, I’ll go LeBron James. That way if we have any tussles on the road, he can fight them. He’s a big guy. I think he’d find the role pretty nice.

That leaves Tom Hanks with the crew chief.

10. What is the key to finding the best pre-race bathroom?

I’ve gotten to the point now where I’ve looked for them very closely and very hard before going to driver intros. You get off that stage and your window is short because you’ve got obligations with your sponsors and you’ve got to take pictures and then the national anthem comes up right away. Most of the time, they have port-o-johns on pit road, but some tracks don’t have them. Then it becomes a challenge because then you’ve got to go a long distance to try to find one.

11. NASCAR decides they would like the highlight reel value brought by the former Carl Edwards backflips and want their own version. How much money would they have to offer for you to backflip off your car following your next win?

I think it’d have to be a lot of money. I’ve tried doing backflips off a boat or into a foam pit. For some reason, I’m always half a rotation short of being able to do a backflip.

You’re a tall guy, too. Tough to get all the way around.

Yeah, some people say that’s an advantage because I’ve got more height. For me, I just don’t have what it takes. I don’t mind trying it if you paid a lot of money to do it. I just don’t think I’ll land it. (Laughs)

12. Each week, I ask a driver to give me a question for the next interview. Last week was Justin Haley, and he wanted to know: How long did it take you to grow that impressive Darlington throwback mustache?

That took me three or four weeks. Didn’t take me very long. I’ll grow a five o’clock shadow literally in a day. Some people say, “Man, it’s really cool you can do that.” I hate it because I’m always shaving. For that occasion, it was really cool to have.

I did it last year, and I put a poll up (this year) — almost knowing the answer — asking my fans if they wanted me to do a mustache or a fu manchu. Of course, they all said fu manchu. I even thought about keeping the fu manchu, but I shaved it Wednesday, went out to the grocery store with it. As soon as I walked into restaurants or the grocery store, people were looking over at their shoulders, staring at me. I wish I could keep it, but I’m just self-conscious and I can’t do it.

How come no full beard?

I personally have always liked a clean look. My wife begs me to have it. It’s just too much. It’s just hard to maintain. I just like the baby face.

Do you have a question I can ask the next driver?

I like to give you questions that are not related to racing. Since football season is here, if your next driver has a fantasy football team, what is their fantasy sports team name? Some people get very creative with it. It’d be cool to see what they come up with.

12 Questions with Justin Haley (2018)

(Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

The 12 Questions series of interviews continues this week with Truck Series driver Justin Haley of GMS Racing. Haley won the Truck playoffs opener in Canada last month and is locked into the second round of the playoffs. This interview was recorded as a podcast but is also transcribed below for those who prefer to read.

1. How often do you have dreams about racing?

I actually had a dream about racing last night, which is pretty rare, I’d say. I don’t dream about racing too much. I’m a pretty heavy sleeper. But last night I dreamt we won Vegas, so by the time this comes out, I’m sure that’s going to be true or false. (Note: He finished third.) It was a two-in-a-row deal after (winning in Canada), so that was kind of cool.

2. If you get into someone during a race — intentional or not — does it matter if you apologize?

I think there’s a certain level of respect. Normally if it’s not too big of a deal, I just let my spotter know and my spotter relays it. Especially if we’re early in the race, you don’t want someone hot at you. But if you go out there and get into someone, there’s going to have to be some kind of communication the next week.

3. What is the biggest compliment someone could give you?

I’d say it’s that I’m a hard worker and dedicated to what I do. I’ve put my all into it since I was a little kid. If I just keep working hard and putting everything into it even if it doesn’t work out, it’d probably be the biggest compliment.

4. NASCAR comes to you and says they’re bringing a celebrity to the track and they want you to host them. Who is a celebrity you’d be excited to host?

Man, I don’t even know. Kaz Grala? He’s a celebrity, right? (Laughs) 

There’s some vloggers — I’m pretty big into vlogging. Like Casey Neistat or Roman Atwood. They’re pretty cool. I know Roman did a race awhile ago with Ty (Dillon).

I’m not really into the whole scene of music and TV. I don’t watch TV too much, unless there’s a hurricane coming.

I always tell everyone if I wasn’t racing and didn’t have to be on social media, I wouldn’t have any platforms. I like doing my own thing and bouncing off my family and friends.

Do you have to limit yourself on social media then?

I think you have to, to a certain point. I’ve been putting up some Instagram Stories and live videos with Kaz. He’s my best friend. He has a fan base and I have a fan base, so we like to connect them. I do spend quite a bit of time on Instagram — I usually do a post a day to try to engage fans and get my viewership up or whatnot. My tweets are kind of hit or miss. I don’t have a personal Facebook or Instagram, just for racing.

5. In an effort to show this is a health-conscious sport, NASCAR decides to offer the pole for an upcoming race to the first driver willing to go vegan for one month. Would you do it?

Oh, for sure. I’ve gone vegan just to go vegan.

Are you a healthy eater?

Yeah. I think my PR girl and my manager and everyone in my family, they get pretty hot-headed (about his eating habits). I am a very healthy eater. I haven’t had a slice of pizza in a few years. Haven’t had a soda in a few years. Any snacks. Every meal for the past two and a half years has been pre-calculated.

It gets hard while racing, but you just have to make smart decisions. I am probably one of the healthiest eaters in the whole garage area — I’d say I probably beat Jimmie Johnson, because I never treat myself. It’s just kind of a lifestyle. I used to eat nachos every day and whatnot. I just found a groove and I like healthy eating. I feel better and I feel like it really affects my performance.

Can you give me a quick tip? I really struggle to eat healthy on the road.

I don’t even know if it’s healthy foods, but it’s making sure you put the right foods in your body. If I go out to eat at a dinner — like last night, I did with my team — I eat steak and mashed potatoes. That’s not bad. It’s got good carbs; I’m racing tomorrow, so that’s going to be good. It’s got protein in it.

I’m not going to eat a cheeseburger. I haven’t had french fries in years. It’s hard to do. Growing up, my parents always wanted me to eat healthy, but I never could until I got something in the back of my head that just wanted myself to do it. It’s more of a want in your head. It’s just a will.

6. It’s time for the Random Race Challenge. I’ve picked a random race from your career and you have to tell me where you finished. This is the 2015 Watkins Glen K&N East race. Do you remember this race at all?

I do. I remember it clear as day. Dalton Sargeant was in it and William Byron. I ran third, I’m pretty sure — maybe fourth. Scott Heckert won — he was my teammate — and Dalton Sergeant passed me on the last lap for second.

Wow, that’s impressive. You did indeed finish third. You started fourth and led 12 laps.

I did lead? That’s kind of impressive, I didn’t remember that. But I was pretty salty. Even Sargeant, when he was my teammate this year, we’d always go back to that race.

I mean, there’s probably not too many races I couldn’t remember. Do people usually struggle?

It’s kind of 50-50. Some drivers can’t really remember and others can remember clear as day like you did.

I remember he shoved in my right-rear fender going into Turn 1 on the last lap. Then I hit him on the exit of the corner, and he had his tail cone flying after we got out of the carousel — his whole rear bumper flew off and hit my windshield.

7. Who is the best rapper alive?

Here we go back to the questions about musicians and whatnot. (Smiles) I don’t even know who rappers are these days. I’ve got no idea, to be completely honest with you.

8. Who has the most punchable face in NASCAR? Two people have said you for an answer this year. Noah Gragson said you and was serious about it, and then Kaz Grala said you, but he was kidding.

I’m not really sure who has the most punchable face in NASCAR. Kaz said me to be playful, and he actually called me up right after and was like, “Man, I said you!”

I don’t believe in violence. I like racing and beating people on the track, but I don’t ever find myself just going straight up and punching someone. It’s not really my style. I’d rather go talk to someone and have a conversation and become buds or something.

Is there still any bad blood with Gragson?

I’m good. Obviously Noah is a very aggressive racer and he likes to win as much as the next guy. I’m cool with Noah. I’m about cool with anyone in the pits. We race each other 20 weekends a year and you have to see them that much, and you just can’t have any bad blood with anyone. Life’s too short to do that. I’m good with everyone. I might be a little hot-headed after a race because we put so much into it, but at the end of the day, life is too short to hold grudges.

9. NASCAR enlists three famous Americans to be involved with your team for one race as part of a publicity push: Taylor Swift, LeBron James and Tom Hanks.

Well I think Taylor is definitely my motorhome driver. That’s a no-brainer. (Laughs) And I think we all know the reason why.

I think Tom Hanks would definitely be my crew chief. And then LeBron would be on top of his game (as a spotter). He’s taller than everyone, so we’d never have trouble looking over anyone to see. I don’t think I’d be a good spotter, because I’m so short that I couldn’t see.

Those are my three picks. I feel like I nailed that one. (Smiles)

10. What is the key to finding the best pre-race bathroom?

You hydrate yourself so much that you always have to pee, until you get far enough into the race that you sweat it all out and don’t have to pee anymore. Usually I use a nicer restroom — if that’s the media center or whatnot — before I go to driver introductions. Then on the ridearounds in the trucks, you have to go again, so you just have to hit a port-o-potty because it’s the closest thing. Then you’re missing the national anthem and you have to run out. I think it’s whatever is easily accessible.

11. NASCAR decides they would like the highlight reel value brought by the former Carl Edwards backflips and want their own version. How much money would they have to offer for you to backflip off your truck following your next win?

I can do a front flip all day long, but I didn’t know how to do a backflip. We were on the boat one day — it was me, Kaz and some friends. I’m like, “I’m going to do a backflip.” Kaz was like, “Whatever.” So I did a backflip and ever since, I’ve totally sucked. I cannot do a backflip. I’ve tried it from five feet up and I still can’t complete the full rotation. So if you ask Kaz, it’s unbelievable.

No. It’d be enough money to have neck surgery. I’d really have to up my insurance rate. I know (Daniel) Hemric can do it and hasn’t gotten to do one (after a race) in a long time. I’m good friends with Hemric, so I’d like to see him do it.

12. Each week, I ask a driver to give me a question for the next interview. Last week was Clint Bowyer, and it was kind of a weird question.

Does he even know who I am?

It seemed like it, because he said, “I don’t have anything in common with those young guys. I don’t play Fortnite or anything like that.”

I don’t play Fortnite either.

Anyway, his question was like, “How does it feel to get beat by a guy like me who is so crazy?” But you don’t race with him.

I like Clint. He’s pretty down to earth. He’s a cool guy. Look at his playoff emoji. It’s a trucker. How much more down to earth can you be?

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

(Looks up Timmy Hill’s Twitter profile and sees a picture of mustache he grew for Darlington throwback week) As a 19-year-old driver who can’t grow facial hair, ask him how long it took him to grow that. Honestly, I’m kind of jealous.

12 Questions with Clint Bowyer (2018)

Clint Bowyer puts his winner sticker on the car after winning at Michigan this year. (Getty Images)

The 12 Questions series of interviews continues this week with Clint Bowyer of Stewart-Haas Racing. This interview is recommended as a podcast, but is also transcribed for those who would rather read.

1. How often do you have dreams about racing?

I don’t really dream, Jeff. Helluva question.

Really? You just sail right through the night?

I can’t even remember my dreams. Don’t you ever wake up, and you’re like, “What the hell happened?”

Yeah, but sometimes I’m interviewing you in my dream. It freaks me out.

I don’t have that, Jeff. I don’t ever dream I’m interviewing with you.

2. If you get into someone during a race — intentional or not — does it matter if you apologize?

Yes, but it means zero. You’re still going to get retaliated, and sometimes, with peers and things like that, it just depends who it is. If it’s somebody you’ve kind of had a run-in with before or you don’t get along or you don’t speak off the racetrack or something else, they don’t really know you, they don’t know that that was (unintentional).

I mean, a guy like Jamie McMurray. He’s gotten into me before and it was a situation, like that wasn’t on purpose. Pissed you off, it was a bad deal, but it didn’t mean anything to me and I knew he’d be calling and as soon as he did, I was like, “I get it. It’s all good. Shit happens.” Same goes on the flip side of that.

It just depends. If it’s a kid that’s been racing you hard and doing something stupid for four or five weeks and making it hard and over-pushing the envelope and it finally catches up to you, that’s the one that gets to you and makes you mad.

3. What is the biggest compliment someone could give you?

I think the biggest compliment now in life is, “Your kid’s a good kid” and “he was polite.” (Bowyer’s son Cash) went over to somebody’s house the other day and they’re like, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe how polite he was.” You’re like, “Yes!” He didn’t get that from me, by the way.

But nonetheless, your pride comes from different things now. Once you have a family and kids and everything else, you know, yes — when somebody says you did a good job in the race car or something else, that’s meaningful. But when they say that about something that is your pride and joy gives you a compliment, it’s a good feeling.

4. NASCAR comes to you and says they’re bringing a celebrity to the track and they want you to host them. Who is a celebrity you’d be excited to host?

I think all of them. It doesn’t matter. If it’s a celebrity, it’s meaningful that they’re there, that they want to be there, that they’re choosing to be at our sport. So it’s always fun for me that we get to meet celebrities because I don’t view myself as worthy of being able to hang out with celebrities. I’ve always been starstruck and big-eyed. When you see somebody that you see on TV or grew up seeing on TV, I’m no different from anybody else. Like, “Holy shit, that’s whoever!” It still rocks you back on your heels and it’s a big deal.

If I had to pick somebody who the next celebrity would be or would blow me away, I don’t know. It would have to be somebody funny, because I like having fun in our sport, I like having fun in general. But when you are around people like that, you can kind of embrace the relationship a little bit more and show them the funny side of our sport. Get them in a car and put them in a situation and they’ll freak out or something like that. I like that aspect of celebrities and things like that.

That’s kind of a shitty answer to your question, but I’m serious, it doesn’t really matter who it is. If it’s a celebrity and they’re interested in our sport, they’re there, I want to be involved and I want to show them our sport.

5. In an effort to show this is a health-conscious sport, NASCAR decides to offer the pole for an upcoming race to the first driver willing to go vegan for one month. Would you do it?

For a pit stall? Hell no! For a win or something? I don’t even pick stalls anyway — we just complain about them.

6. It’s time for the Random Race Challenge. I’ve picked a random race from your career and you have to tell me where you finished.

I’ll tell you right now: Fail.

This is the 2014 July New Hampshire Cup race.

No clue, buddy. Not one clue.

You finished sixth. You started eighth. You led 36 laps this race. Brad Keselowski won. So you don’t remember this race?

No. I don’t even know what car I was driving.

7. Who is the best rapper alive?

(Laughs) What? There’s no such thing. There’s literally no such thing.

I will say this, I was at the beach with my spotter Brett Griffin and his two daughters and they sang this Cardi B song in the back of the van and I had to stop the van, I was crying laughing so hard. And I don’t know if I was crying laughing so hard because of the fact it was awesome they were doing it or the fact that I knew that Brett was going to be in trouble with his wife because they are definitely getting thrown out of school because of the words in that song that they knew already at such a young age. He is definitely going to get an ass-chewing. And that’s really why I was laughing, because I knew at some point it was going to come full circle to him getting in trouble, because I know damn well they knew that song because of him, not because of his wife.

8. Who has the most punchable face in NASCAR?

God, that’s easy. Everybody knows that’s Kyle (Busch). (Laughs)

That’s terrible though. You set me up for failure there! That’s bullshit.

You acted like you knew the answer right away! 

I’m going to give you 12 questions one of these days.

He’s not even the most common answer this year.

Really…?

Yeah. Brad is.

It’s kind of the same face.

9. NASCAR enlists three famous Americans to be involved with your team for one race as part of a publicity push: Taylor Swift, LeBron James and Tom Hanks.

How did you pick those three?

I’m running out of questions, here…

Your dreaming is real. This is your dream? Holy shit. Your dreams are out of control. You pick Taylor Swift, Tom Hanks, and who?

LeBron. Choose one to be your spotter, one to be your motorhome driver, and one to be —

The jack man.

No, your crew chief. You could do jack man if you want, mix it up.

I think LeBron would be big enough. You wouldn’t want Tom Hanks to be the jack guy, you know what I’m saying. Taylor Swift wouldn’t be a very good jack guy.

No.

Well, we clearly couldn’t have Taylor Swift being the motorhome driver as a married man, because that wouldn’t last very long. One or the other wouldn’t last: You’d break down or your wife would break up.

That’s a good point.

(Laughs) So I appreciate you setting me up for failure once again on that.

But what are we gonna do with LeBron? Well Tom Hanks will be the spotter, you can understand him and he will be good. And then the crew chief, I guess LeBron’s in.

Well, you’re going to have to put Taylor there since you can’t have her as your motorhome driver. She’s going to be calling the shots.

Yeah. I don’t think LeBron could fit in the motorhome seat though, his head would be rubbing.

He might know how to grill or something cool.

Yeah, he makes enough money. All three of them make enough money that they aren’t going to drive your bus. That’s just the facts. But your dreams, I’m following along in your dreams here. They’re really screwed up, by the way.

10. What is the key to finding the best pre-race bathroom?

Ho ho! This is the key to success in motorsports. Everybody always asks, “What do you do pregame? What do you do before the race?” If you don’t do one thing before the race, you’re gonna wish you did that one thing the entire race. It’s three and a half hours out there, Jack. If you’ve got a Number Two issue on your hands for three and a half hours, you’ve got a hell of an issue on your hands. It’s a shitty situation. (Pretends to be upset with the question.) One more opportunity to set me up for failure!

11. NASCAR decides they would like the highlight reel value brought by the former Carl Edwards backflips and want their own version. How much money would they have to offer for you to backflip off your car following your next win?

I win the championship, I will do whatever you want. If you want me to do a backflip, get the pads out because I’m gonna need them. No way in hell am I gonna land on my feet.

This year?

Homestead. Done. You just bring it up and I will attempt a backflip. I probably need the roof to get the full rotation around and make sure I don’t land on my head because the door stop’s probably not enough, but I’ll go for it.

12. Each week, I ask a driver to give me a question for the next interview. Last week was Rico Abreu. He wants to know: Why don’t more Cup drivers pull like a Larson or a Kahne or a Stewart and dive back into some of these lower series, whether it’s sprint car racing or Late Models or things like that?

Rico, if he can’t be a big enough star on his own and he needs Larson to come back and bring the crowd for him, there’s enough being said. (Grins)

Here’s the thing: I do contribute to that level. I don’t race in it anymore, but I own two Dirt Late Model teams. I feel like through that connection, I am connected and I enjoy that. I enjoy short track racing and I think that’s very, very important, it’s always been a good platform for me. Partners, we’ve always built good partners at that level and even brought them to the Cup Series.

I love short track racing. I mean, if I never made it to Cup and I always raced at Lakeside Speedway in the Midwest and raced at Iowa in the (IMCA) Super Nationals that just happened, I was plenty content. Had a good time, was successful, had a lot of fun and made a lot of memories with a lot of good people. That’s plenty good enough for me.

Do you have a question I can ask the next interview?

Can you tell me who it is?

The schedule’s up in the air right now, so it’s either going to be Justin Haley from the Truck Series or Ryan Blaney.

Which I literally have nothing in common with. Like I don’t even think we speak the same language. I don’t know Fortnite like these kids do.

I don’t know. My question for the next driver is: Are they OK with me beating them? How bad does it bother them when somebody as crazy as I am is able to beat them on any given Sunday? Does it make them feel like a lesser person? Does it embarrass them? Does it keep them up at night dreaming like Jeff Gluck?


Previous 12 Questions interviews with Clint Bowyer:

Nov. 3, 2010

Nov. 16, 2011

June 27, 2012

Aug. 28, 2013

Aug. 27, 2014

June 22, 2016

April 5, 2017