The 12 Questions series of interviews continues this week with Kyle Larson of Chip Ganassi Racing. These interviews are recorded in podcast form, but are also transcribed below for those who prefer to read them.
1. How often do you have dreams about racing?
I would say when I was a kid, I had them almost every night. I would dream of races and racing. Now I might have quick flashes of it, but not like deep dreams. They might happen every so often, maybe once a week or so. I guess probably leading up to the weekend or right after the race.
2. If you get into someone during a race — intentional or not — does it matter if you apologize?
Yeah, if I feel like I’ve done something wrong, I feel like I’m good about making sure I at least text them or come up to them right after and apologize. At times too when it’s not my fault, I seem to apologize for something that I may feel like I did to put both of us in that situation or whatever.
But yeah, for sure you need to apologize, because there’s some sensitive people in our sport.
3. What is the biggest compliment someone could give you?
Now our race cars are fast all the time, but when somebody would say like I’m carrying the race car on a certain weekend or something like that, I think that means a lot to me. When you’re doing more than maybe the potential of (a car), I think that’s always a positive.
And I feel like I’m versatile, but when somebody else can see it and thinks that I’m good in any type of race car, that means a lot to me.
4. NASCAR comes to you and says, “Hey, we are bringing a celebrity to the race and we’re wondering if you have time to say hi.” Who is a celebrity you’d be really excited to host?
I don’t know. I’m not that into celebrities that much.
You don’t get starstruck?
I don’t get too starstruck. NASCAR will come to me, or to Davis (Schaeffer, his public relations representative), and be like, “Do you want to meet this celebrity?” Davis will ask me, and I’m like, “No, I don’t really care.” I usually turn all those down unless he gives me the politics speech and then I have to do it. So yeah, I don’t really care to host any celebrity.
Is that because when they ask you about these people, you’ve never heard of them? Or have you heard of them and you just don’t care?
No, I’ve heard of them, I just don’t really care. I don’t know, I feel like they’re not gonna be that excited to meet me, so I don’t really care to meet them. Maybe that’s just jumping to conclusions or judging a book by its cover, but I don’t really get that excited meeting people, so I don’t think they would get that excited meeting me.
5. In an effort to show they are health-conscious, NASCAR offers the No. 1 pit stall selection for an upcoming race to the first driver willing to go vegan for a month. Would you do it?
So I really like salads. What foods are vegan?
You would not be able to have any cheese, nothing from an animal at all. Nothing with butter. You can do soy stuff or the fake meat stuff.
I mean, I feel like I could do it, but I don’t think the No. 1 pit stall is that important to suffer for a month. But I do like salads, I could survive off salads. Like chicken’s not even vegan, huh?
No. And no buttermilk ranch dressing.
Yeah, I like any type of salad. I could probably do it for sure, but I don’t think I need to do it.
6. It’s time for the Random Race Challenge. I have picked a random race from your career and you have to guess where you finished.
Yes, because that’s all that’s on Racing Reference.
There’s like Knoxville Nationals stuff on there.
But you would remember those too easily. I need to make this one harder. So this is the 2015 Pocono spring race for Cup. Do you have any recollection of that whatsoever?
2015 Pocono spring race. Oh…I feel like we struggled at a lot of places in 2015, but I’ve always been OK at Pocono. I want to say eighth.
Are you serious? Did you look at my sheet?
Perfect. I was gonna say eighth or 12th.
You started 15th, you finished eighth. Jamie McMurray was seventh, so you guys were seven and eight, and Martin Truex won that race.
I was all over Jamie at the end, but I couldn’t get by him. I got tight. But yeah, I think most all my finishes at Pocono were like fifth to eighth or so.
Are you good a remembering races in general?
I used to be really good at it, and then I bumped my head a couple times racing sprint cars and my memory’s gotten a little bit worse. NASCAR races are so long, it’s hard to kind of remember everything about it. So sprint car races, I have a shorter memory, they’re shorter races, so I can recollect those ones a little easier.
7. Who is the best rapper alive?
I like all types of music. I like rap music. I don’t have a favorite artist out of any genre. But I would say for me, I like listening to Drake. I don’t know if he’s the best rapper alive, but currently I like him a lot. I can rap every word to Afroman’s “Crazy Rap,” but then again, I don’t think he’s the best rapper alive. So I’ll go with Drake for now.
I thought you might say Lil Wayne because of Young Money and you’re “Yung Money.”
I hate Lil Wayne.
His voice is so annoying. Like I said, I kind of like rap, but if Lil Wayne comes on, I have to change it. I don’t like him at all.
I don’t think he listens to my podcast, so it’s OK.
He might now, though.
8. Who has the most punchable face in NASCAR?
I saw that this popped up on my calendar that I’m doing 12 Questions. So I was telling Ricky Stenhouse, “Ah, there’s a question about who has the most punchable face, so I’m gonna say you.” Because last year at Knoxville Nationals, everybody hangs out all night and parties and all that and we’re all drinking and everything, and I end up getting really intoxicated and he was as well. We were like wrestling around and we’re just standing there and I quick-jabbed him in the face and he jabbed me back in the face. I jabbed him in the face again. He got me back, and then we like play wrestled. He beat me.
Anyway, I didn’t really remember all of this until the next day. I was like, “Man, my jaw hurts.” We’re golfing the next morning. I’m like, “We were punching each other last night, weren’t we?” And so yeah. So Ricky’s got the most punchable face in NASCAR.
You punched him and you didn’t even realize you were doing it.
I just don’t remember it. I was numb at the moment. So yeah, I guess I have the most punchable face as well.
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.
I’ll just go basically off kind of what everybody has been saying, is Taylor Swift motorhome driver. I’ll say Tom Hanks is spotter, and LeBron is crew chief. I don’t really know much about Taylor or Tom Hanks, but LeBron would be a good crew chief because he’s basically the coach for all his basketball teams he’s ever been on. So LeBron will be the crew chief.
Wait, how do you not know much about Taylor Swift? She’s everywhere, you can’t escape it. How have you been able to escape it?
She departed from country music a little bit there, so I stopped listening to Taylor Swift as much. We kind of lost touch with each other. And I was never a big Taylor Swift superfan like a lot of teenagers were growing up. She just didn’t do it for me.
So if Taylor Swift comes to a race and they ask you to meet her, you’d say no?
I wouldn’t meet her. She was actually (sponsored by) Target and I was (sponsored by) Target and I never even got the chance to meet her. If I would have, I’d still wouldn’t have really cared.
10. What is the key to finding the best pre-race bathroom?
Usually Davis has one spotted for as soon as I get off the truck (at driver intros) with Owen. I get off the intro truck, I kind of pass Owen off to him and head off for the bathroom. So most racetracks have port-a-potties close by. There’s a few — and they seem to be our biggest racetracks — that you would think would have tons of room for port-a-potties, but they don’t have any bathrooms. Indy’s probably the worst. At least the care center or Goodyear I think has some bathrooms in it, like Charlotte I usually go there. But usually there’s port-a-potties kind of everywhere else.
11. NASCAR misses the highlight reel value brought by Carl Edwards’ backflips and decides a replacement is needed. How much money would they have to pay you to backflip off your car after your next win?
Well, I think if I got some practice, I could do it, but I would still need to be paid a lot because I’d probably end up hurting myself. But as of right now, I have never ever done a backflip. I don’t think I’ve tried on a trampoline. Usually when I do it off the side of a boat or into the pool, I don’t quite get the full rotation. So right now, there’s no way I could do it.
12. Each week, I ask a question given to me from the last interview. Last week, I interviewed Daniel Hemric. He question was about how there’s a lot of underappreciated or unknown drivers in the lower ranks right now that nobody really talks about, who don’t have a lot of hype. Who’s somebody from the lower ranks of racing that you think deserves more attention than they’re getting?
There’s a lot in dirt track stuff and they’re still really young, so they might get that recognition in a couple of years. I would say Logan Seavey. We raced go-karts together, and he was probably 4 or 5 years old. I think he’s maybe 19 now. But he’s done a really good job. He’s probably the best go-kart racer of the last seven or eight years.
He got some midget rides and some sprint car rides here and there, and he made good work with them. But now he got picked up by Keith Kunz Motorsports and Toyota. I think he’s still relatively unknown to everybody here, but he’ll be the next Christopher Bell. So that will be really fun to see.
And then, man, there’s so many, it’s so hard. But I’m trying to think of somebody who I’ve noticed in NASCAR. I would say Matt DiBenedetto. I mean, to see what he does in that 32 car and even the rides that he was in before the 32 car. I remember 2016, he passed me the first three or four races every week. And I’m like, “You know our budget might not be as big as Hendrick or Penske, but it’s a lot bigger than what he’s got, and he’s outracing me.”
So I would say in NASCAR, Matt DiBenedetto is that guy who doesn’t get enough recognition from the media, but also team owners here. I feel like he deserves an opportunity in some really good equipment because if he can finish top-20 in that thing, he can easily win in a good car. So I think he’s put in enough time where he deserves an opportunity for sure.
And you guys grew up racing together. Is it true he used to regularly beat you a lot?
Yeah. So Matt and I, he’s a year older than I am and he was always like a year ahead of me. We grew up racing at Cycleland and Red Bluff in go-karts. He was the guy. He had a super pretty go-kart, you know, like baby blue, number 44, pinstripes. It was a slick-looking race car. He was always really fast.
When I started, he won like every week. He was the guy that kind of set the bar and we wanted to beat him and all that. I remember when I finally won my first race, I think he finished second to me by a nose or something. That was a big deal for us at the time.
So it was fun to follow Matt’s career, because he left California when he was probably 11 or 12 years old and moved to North Carolina. That was a big deal for us, like, “Oh, it’s gonna be interesting to see how his career progresses,” because we all want to make it to NASCAR when we’re young. He was getting opportunities, ended up signing with Gibbs for a little bit, and he was the guy that kind of gave us a little bit of hope even though he had a totally different background than what I’d ever planned on doing. But at least there was just some hope for an opportunity for me to maybe make it someday. For sure, he was the guy to beat when we were young.
I don’t know who the next interview is going to be with. Do you have a general question I can ask?
I don’t know. This is always tough. Like I prepared for all the other questions somewhat, but then we get to the last part of it and I feel like I do this every year for you and I always have you come back. So can you come back to me once you figure out who’s gonna do it?
OK, I will come back to you once I nail somebody down.
Note: The next interview is with Christopher Bell. Larson’s question for Bell is: “What year will he win his first World of Outlaws championship?”
Previous 12 Questions interviews with Kyle Larson: