The 12 Questions series of interviews continues this week with Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing. These interviews are recommended as a podcast, but also transcribed for those who prefer to read.
1. How often do you have dreams about racing?
Four times a week.
That’s a very exact answer.
I just feel like most nights in my dreams, I’m thinking about racing of some sort — whether it be why my car is doing this or that or why we didn’t do this or that or why we did good. Four nights a week I feel is like a really solid number.
2. If you get into someone during a race — intentional or not — does it matter if you apologize?
Yes. I’m on the record for saying this many times. Even if you’re not sorry, you’ve got to fake it. If you don’t fake it, you get Matt Kenseth’d into the Turn 1 wall at Martinsville.
3. What is the biggest compliment someone could give you?
If they tell you you’re underrated. I think that’s 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?
Drake. Lil Weezy (Lil Wayne). Any rapper. I like them.
5. In an effort to show this is a health conscious sport, NASCAR decides to offer the No. 1 pit stall for an upcoming race to the first driver willing to go vegan for one month. Would you do it?
I only get the pit stall for one week?
Yeah, just for one race. You look conflicted.
Couldn’t 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.
I’m not going to be good at this.
You’re not good at remembering races?
Do you happen to remember the 2012 New Hampshire spring race, the July race that year?
July. OK. We were fastest in first practice, fastest in second practice. Hold on — I may be thinking of the fall race. (Thinks for a moment) I’m just going to go ahead with this.
I think I was fastest in all practices, we qualified with race pressure air in the tires — we qualified 28th I believe — and got to the lead about lap 100 and won the race.
That was the race after?
I wouldn’t pick a win because that would be too easy.
Hold on then. Yes, I remember the race I think. I think I finished second to Kasey Kahne. That was when we had the debacle on the radio with me and Darian Grubb and he says, “You need two or four tires?” I said, “I don’t know, I just need tires.” And he took it as I needed four tires. We restarted 15th and only got back to second.
I don’t remember the radio part, but that’s correct. You finished second to Kasey Kahne. You led 150 laps.
OK. I had the right year.
So you remembered both races that year. But you said you don’t remember races!
I know. But specific ones where you’re really fast, it’s easy. Ask me about the one I ran eighth at Kansas in blank year, I would never know.
7. Who is the best rapper alive?
Alive? Lil Wayne is the best rapper alive. I would just say Jay-Z — you can talk about, great history, fabulous rapper. He’s amazing.
But I just feel like as far as natural talent, Lil Wayne is the best alive.
Nobody’s said Kendrick Lamar all year. Why do you think that is? Am I just overrating him or something?
Probably. Nas said rap was dead many years ago (the 2006 album Hip Hop is Dead) and I just believe that it’s different now than what it used to be. But Lil Weezy can still kick it. It’s a shame he’s in contract disputes with his label or whatever, and got all these probably awesome songs that we’ll never ever get to hear because they’re arguing. (Editor’s note: Lil Wayne’s three-year legal battle with the label was ended last month, potentially clearing the way for a new album).
8. Who has the most punchable face in NASCAR?
Oh geez. I don’t know. If I want to punch somebody, I need to make sure I can beat them up. I don’t wanna get beat up.
Maybe Brad (Keselowski). That’s probably a popular answer. (Laughs) But I like Brad, just for the record.
Chase Elliott said a couple weeks ago you were his answer last year, but he seemed to indicate that is not still the case.
Yeah, we’re good.
9. NASCAR enlists three famous Americans to be involved with your team for one race as part of a publicity push: Taylor Swift, LeBron James and Tom Hanks. Choose one to be your crew chief, one to be your spotter and one to be your motorhome driver.
Taylor’s for sure gonna be the motorhome driver. We’ll say for obvious reasons there.
LeBron, for his vision, is going to be the spotter. Great court vision, and I see it as great track vision.
And I’ll go with Tom Hanks — smart guy — he’s gonna be the crew chief.
10. What is the key to finding the best pre-race bathroom?
Go before you leave the garage or bus.
You’re not one of these people who go last minute?
No. I’ve never understood that. Like I’ve never had to go and then five minutes later had to go again. Now everyone’s different, but I never understood the people who got off the truck after intros and hauled ass to the bathroom. I never understood that. Don’t know why they do that.
That’s true. I guess why not just go in your motorhome before you walk out to intros in the first place? It’s only a 20-minute difference.
Yeah, I guess. Unless you’re Matt Kenseth’s age and then you have to go every 10 minutes.
11. NASCAR decides they miss the highlight reel value brought by Carl Edwards’ backflips and want a replacement. How much money would they have to offer for you to backflip off your car following your next win?
They wouldn’t have to offer me anything as long as it wasn’t against asphalt or concrete. I’d give it a try.
Do you feel like you’d have a shot to land it?
No. But I’d give it a try.
12. Each week, I ask a driver to give me a question for the next interview. Last week was Kasey Kahne. He wants to know how much time you spend a week on the Golf Guys Tour and the Hoop Group, because it seems like you spend a lot.
It is a lot of work running two leagues between basketball and golf. I’ll estimate between the chats, making rules…(it takes) 12 to 14 hours a week.
So a couple hours a day?
Yeah, somewhere in that range. That might be on the low side. It depends. If there’s an event that week, it’s 40 hours. Have you ever tried to line up 16 divas’ schedules? It’s not easy.
I didn’t think about that. You have arrange the tournament, but you have to make sure everybody is available.
What we try to do is we all meet for dinner in January or February and we say, “Alright, these are the dates we’re gonna hit.” We’ll look to see if anyone has any conflicts at that moment. And if not, we all lock it in on our schedules and then we build our real jobs around it.
So each driver or whatever has to go to their manager or PR rep…
…and mark it on their schedule and say, “Look, we’re locked in, can’t do it.”
What if a conflict pops up? Do you have the change the whole tournament date?
No. If there’s only one or two who is going to miss it, we move on and add a sub.
So they get no points?
Yeah. We have eight events and we drop two (worst performances). So there’s two drops.
That’s painful though, because you don’t get to drop a bad day if you’re absent.
That is correct. People think, “Oh, it’s just a throwaway.” But now you put pressure on yourself to perform in the other events.
Better have a good manager.
The next interview is with Kaz Grala. Do you have a question I can ask him?
What’s the most disappointing loss you’ve ever had in your career?
Previous 12 Questions interviews with Denny Hamlin: