The 12 Questions series of interviews continues this week with Matt DiBenedetto of Leavine Family Racing. These interviews are recorded as a podcast but are also transcribed for those who prefer to read.
1. Are you an iPhone person or an Android person, and why?
I’m an iPhone user now. I used to be Android, but I switched because I’m not very technologically savvy and I feel like everything in the iPhone world is easier.
It sounds like you were almost our first Android answer of the year. Android has completely struck out so far to this point.
Oh man, it’s been like four or five years probably, so I switched quite awhile ago. Everyone said stuff just works easier and it does better, especially for dummies like me.
2. If a fan meets you in the garage, they might only have a brief moment with you. So between an autograph, a selfie or quick comment, what is your advice on the best way to maximize that interaction?
I think the selfies — like having your phone ready and obviously turned the right way and ready to roll — that’s more of a memory they have with the driver and the fan.
3. When someone pulls a jerk move on the road when you’re driving down the highway, does that feeling compare at all to when someone pulls a jerk move on the track?
Not quite. I’ve learned to calm myself down on the street because there have been instances where literally it was like “I’m going to wreck this guy. Oh wait, I’m on the street, I don’t want to go to jail.” (Laughs) So I’ve learned driving on the road, when other people do that, to just kind of look at them being silly and blowing it off.
4. Has there ever been a time where you’ve had a sketchy situation with your safety equipment?
Inside the race car safety equipment? Yeah, there’s one that — I don’t know if I should even speak of. But a really long time ago, I was in my teens, and my glove caught — I was actually spinning and my glove caught the buckle and it took all my seatbelts off and undid them. So my steering wheel was a little bit too low, which was my fault, and it just was a freak situation of like spinning and kind of freaking out, reacting really fast and turning my hand all the way down here. When I did, it just caught them and turned — a very odd situation. It wouldn’t happen nowadays; stuff’s advanced a lot more, but yeah.
So this was during a spin?
Oh crap. Were you hurt?
No, not at all. No problems. But definitely was an attention grabber.
5. If your crew chief put a super secret illegal part on your car that made it way faster, would you want to know about it?
Let’s go with no on that one. It’s probably better I just drive. I think it’s usually better if they do their jobs and I do mine. I get in there and just make that thing go as fast as it can and they make they the car go as fast as it can.
Then if something happens where you guys get caught and we the media comes to you and we’re like, “Matt…” you can actually say, “Well I didn’t know.”
Exactly. It’s always better if you can truthfully play dumb. The less you know, the better.
6. What is a food you would not recommend eating right before a race and are you speaking with personal experience with this recommendation?
I would say probably heavy seafood. It was a super hot day at Dover years ago and a truck driver was cooking a bunch of shrimp and clams and mussels and stuff like that. He was like boiling it all and it was like 90-something degrees outside and I was like, “Oh my gosh, NO. This is horrible timing.” It was already miserably hot and it just smelled like fish and seafood around our place. So I would go with that for sure.
7. Is there life in outer space, and if so, do they race?
Uh, yeah. Have you seen how big the universe is? We’re like less of a grain of sand. So I’m going to go with yes, and there’s like maybe some super technologically advanced racing division. But yeah, we’re very small.
8. What do drivers talk about when they’re standing around at driver intros before a race?
Usually the typical question is, “How’s your car?” That’s normally how it starts. But it was different though when (AJ) Allmendinger was here. We talked about some really off-the-wall stuff that was not pertaining to race cars at all and we would mess with each other a lot and he would, you know, inappropriately smack me on the butt or poke me in the butt or whatever. (Laughs) We played around a lot. So yeah, there was no serious conversations between the two of us.
9. What makes you happy right now?
Doing what I love every day. That’s it. And I appreciate it a whole lot more because of the path I’ve had to go about. Truly, I live for this stuff. So just being able to do this, mainly my only passion, and being able to do it for a living and progressing the way I have and having to do it the pretty old-school way, it makes you love and appreciate it so much more.
10. Let’s say a sponsor comes to you and says, “We are going to fully fund the entire rest of your racing career on the condition that you wear a clown nose and an 80’s rocker wig in every interview you do as long as you’re driving.” Would you accept that offer?
Yeah. And I’ve seen this question asked to other drivers and some say no. They are crazy or they apparently have not been through the same path that I have to get here. I would do way worse than that for the situation. So the ones who have said no or, “Oh, that’s too much,” they’re crazy. I’m going to send them through my path to get here and I promise you they’ll change their mind.
11. This is the 10th year of the 12 Questions. There has never been a repeat question until now. Pick a number between 1 and 100, and I’m going to pull up a random question from a past year’s series.
We’re going with 95.
Is there someone on the track who you do not like to try and pass? Like every time you see this person, you’re just like, “Oh no, not this guy?”
That seems like a common answer people may have.
Yeah. Nothing against Ryan — he races everybody the same — but when you catch him, it’s like, “Oh, this is going to be a task right here.”
12. The last interview was with John Hunter Nemechek. He wants to know: If you could get a tattoo, any kind of tattoo, anywhere on your body, what would you get and where would you get it?
I possibly will get my first Cup win somewhere on my arm. I don’t know if it’ll be inner arm or outer arm. I never really want a tattoo other than that. That’s the only way I’d get one. It’d be a good, meaningful tattoo.
So like how Austin Dillon and his team after Daytona 500, they all went and got tattoos right after? So we should see you at a tattoo parlor right after your first win?
Mine might be a little more thought out, probably. (Laughs) It’ll be meaningful and a little more serious. I like what he did, it was very spur of the moment and totally kudos to him. But I think I’m planning mine out.
I don’t know who the next interview is going to be with, but it will be with an IndyCar driver. Do you have a question I can ask somebody in the IndyCar world?
I would say, what do they think is harder and easier about racing an open wheel car versus a stock car, if both? What they think would be harder, and what they think is also easier. So what’s harder about stock car racing that they think, what’s harder about open wheel racing.
Previous 12 Questions interviews with Matt DiBenedetto: