12 Questions with Matt DiBenedetto (2019)

(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

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?

Yes.

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?”

Ryan Newman.

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:

May 15, 2018

12 Questions with John Hunter Nemechek (2019)

(Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

The 12 Questions series of interviews continues this week with John Hunter Nemechek of GMS 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 person. I’ve been Apple pretty much my entire life, other than middle school when we had to use Microsoft computers. I feel like the Apple generation of being able to share notes and have everything backed up from an iPad to a Mac to an iPhone is definitely way easier than having to transfer files on a Microsoft computer. Once you learn the software, it’s a little bit easier to use and more user friendly — even though Microsoft is what we use here at the racetrack for all of our data and everything else like that.

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?

Normally I can sign and take a selfie at the same time, so I’m pretty good at multi-tasking. I feel like when people say stuff to you, it goes to heart. So whether I’m in a rush and running around, you’re always going to make time for the fans. That’s why we’re here, that’s why we’re able to do what we do.

I definitely think being able to take a selfie and sign an autograph is more than just someone saying something, because it gives them something to look back on from then taking a picture with me — especially kids. When you see a kid in the garage, you want to do everything in your power to make sure that kid gets an autograph or that kid gets a picture.

Growing up in this sport, growing up around Dad (Joe Nemechek), I was in a little different situation where I necessarily wouldn’t take pictures with drivers just because I was always under Dad’s wing. But being an outsider looking in from a kid’s experience, that’s something that they’re going to remember for the rest of their life — no matter if they cheer you on or the next guy on. Whoever it is, when you take that picture and you sign that autograph, that’s something they will remember.

Do you think the way you view fans is shaped in part by what you saw your entire life growing up?

I would say so. Seeing where the sport was, where it’s come to and where it’s going back to, I would say it’s huge from every perspective from growing up in the sport. I was two weeks old the first time that I came to a racetrack, so I pretty much grew up here. And to see the younger generation starting to come back to the racetrack and kids and more interaction from Monster being the title sponsor for the Cup series and Xfinity doing events and stuff like that, it’s pretty spectacular to see the growth in the sport continue as I grow in the sport as well.

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?

No, I don’t think so. I more or less laugh at people on the road from the perspective of them getting mad from being in traffic or whatever it may be. I mean, it’s part of life. There’s cars on the road, there’s people on the road, everyone is driving the fastest they can go on the road doing the speed limit.

Traffic jams do suck, but I think it’s funny when you’re sitting in a traffic jam and everyone’s blowing the horn, flipping each other off and stuff like that. It’s like, where are you going to go? If I move over, you’re going to go one spot forward. It doesn’t really matter. So I sit there and laugh and just take it all in.

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

Yes. When I was young coming up through the ranks, I wouldn’t wear a HANS in a quarter midget. We would just wear a neck brace. And I flipped once in a quarter midget — and I wore a HANS after that the entire time.

There’s also been times where I’ve been out on the racetrack and have reached back and only one HANS tether was hooked up, but that was early on. Now I get in with everything strapped on, make sure it’s all bolted up and ready to go.

5. If your crew chief put a super secret illegal part on your car that made it way faster, would you want to know about it?

I think me being on the technical side, I’d like to know what it is that’s making me go so fast. But from a driver’s standpoint, I’m more or less trying to focus on the driving aspect more than the engineering aspect like I was on the truck side. I think I can continue to grow as a driver if I focus on that, I think it’ll only help me in the long run.

So I’m going to have to say I don’t want to know about it. Let’s just show up to the racetrack, let’s continue to make adjustments and if there’s something secret and fast, the less people that know, the better. Because most of the time when you have an advantage, it ends up beating you to the racetrack because someone can’t keep their mouth shut at the shop or whatever it may be.

So the competitors get wind of it?

Yes, exactly.

And it shows up in the garage?

Exactly. So the less people who know, the better off it is.

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 don’t eat a lot before races. I’ll have like a bland salad and chicken or something along those lines. I haven’t really had any personal experiences before from eating foods or like getting disturbed in a race car or anything.

I have had butterflies so bad when I was young that I’ve thrown up before as I was strapping in before a race. Those were pretty interesting times with nerves.

Thrown up in the car?

Yeah, so that was during my transition from motorcross back to stock cars. So I really hadn’t done it that much. We qualified on the pole at Motor Mile, my first ever pole in a stock car. And I threw up right before the race, which wasn’t good. I didn’t throw up in my helmet, so that was good. I didn’t have to deal with that the whole race.

But I would say you don’t want to eat anything heavy before the race, anything that’s going to upset your stomach because you’re stuck in there. I’ve heard stories of guys who have had accidents in their seats or thrown up and whatnot, and I don’t want to be that guy that sits there in that for three hours, four hours, however long it may be. The smell after the race, could you imagine? That would be so bad.

You couldn’t pay the interior guy enough.

Nope.

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

I’m going to say yes and yes. I’m not really one to say there’s aliens or whatever it may be, but I would definitely say there’s other universes and stuff out there that we don’t necessarily know about, and I definitely think they would race. Why not? Race spaceships, whatever. I mean, in theory it sounds cool, right? I would love to do that. That’d be awesome, that’d be a lot of fun.

As soon as we get the technology to get to other planets, we can start exchanging drivers or pilots or whatever they call them.

I would say we already have the technology in my theory to go to other planets and stuff like that. I think we have sent life to other planets, just no one knows about it. I have that theory. There’s a bunch of different theories from watching documentaries and stuff like that that you can come up to, but I like to have my own.

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

I’m not a huge conversation person before the race; most of the time I’ll have earbuds in listening to music or kind of getting in my zone. When Cup guys are around like Logano or Kyle (Busch), I like to pick their brains. They’re some of the best in the business, right? So pick their brains about what they’re kind of fighting, trends of the race. I have raced against Kyle forever in Late Models and trucks and now the Xfinity Series, so we talk about Super Late Models before the race. If I see CBell before the race, if we talk, we’re kind of just hanging out mentioning race car stuff or talking about fitness or whatever it may be. But really not a huge conversation person before the race.

9. What makes you happy right now?

Being here at the racetrack, being able to do what I love and just being blessed with the opportunity that I have to be one of the 40 guys competing full time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and trying to make a living out of it. It’s a rare opportunity. There’s a bunch of kids who are at home sitting on the couch who say, “Hey, I want to be there someday,” and sometimes reality’s not there. I’ve been blessed for this situation and the pieces of equipment I’ve been given to continue to grow and continue in this sport, and I’m just really thankful for that.

10. Let’s say a sponsor comes to you and says, “We are going to fully fund the entire rest of your racing career on the condition that you wear a clown nose and an 80’s rocker wig in every interview you do forever.” Would you accept that offer?

Yes, I would. NASCAR as a sport has come to more of a sponsorship standpoint sport rather than a driver’s ability or whatever it may be. It’s very rare that you see a guy get hired for talent now. It’s mostly the “Hey, what can I do as far as business to business with the team owner and his companies?” or “What sponsors can I bring to the table?”

So to be able to grow in the sport and continue to progress and have the opportunity and have a sponsor that’s going to back you for a lifetime, that’s something that is unheard of right now in this sport. So to have something that would come and say wear a clown nose and an 80’s rocker wig? Heck yeah I’d wear it! Why not?

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 to go with 23.

This is from the 2011 12 Questions. When you eventually quit racing, what do you want your retirement story to say about you?

When I eventually quit racing, my retirement story, I want to be one of the best in the sport — one of the guys that when he walks up and down pit road, his smile shines and he’s known in the garage area. I feel like with my family’s history in the sport, my last name is definitely a present in and around the garage area just from Dad’s success.

But I want to outdo him. I want to be one of the best in the sport. I want to win Cup races, I want to win championships and I feel like it’s a realistic goal to get there with the hard work and the determination and the commitment I have to the training aspect, the hard work aspect and just continuing to try and make myself grow as a person and become my own person is huge.

I want to have some Tony Stewart stories, Richard Petty stories, just stories that you can go back to after you’re retired and tell. I think Ken Schrader is one of the best for telling stories just from being around the garage, and he was Dad’s teammate at one point and we’ve raced around him at Eldora and stuff like that. He’ll sit down and he’ll just tell stories. It’s pretty remarkable to hear what has happened in the past and what those guys went through. There’s never a dull moment, that’s for sure.

You mentioned working hard. I hear you’re one of the most hard-working, driven guys — that you really go above and beyond. Why do you think it’s so important for you to stand out like that?

Whether I get recognized as a hard worker or not, it’s self satisfaction. I want to know that I’m coming into this sport giving my 100 percent. Whether it’s watching video, taking notes, being on a bike, running, being in the shop with the team guys, being hands on — whatever it may be, I’m going to put 100 percent into it. And if I don’t, then I don’t need to be here.

I was brought up the way that you better do stuff right the first time, and like I said, not everyone gets an opportunity like myself to be able to be in this garage and continue to progress through the ranks like I have, and have great people around you and great supporters and great sponsors that have backed me for many years. So I feel like I owe it to myself to be 100 percent on my game each and every week that I show up to the racetrack.

12. The last interview was with Corey LaJoie. In light of the recent McDowell-Suarez dustup, he was noting that Suarez wasn’t necessarily that guy that people would have picked to be the tough guy in the garage. He wants to know: Who do you think is another sleeper in the garage who is a sneaky good fighter that maybe nobody would anticipate?

Cup garage, Xfinity garage or Truck garage?

I’ll leave it open to wherever you want to go with it.

Well, I’ve seen a few guys throw punches at a couple MMA training events from the Truck Series who have now moved up to the Xfinity Series, and none of them can really fight. So I’m not going to go with any of those guys. (Laughs) I’m not going to name names. But when you punch with your fist upside down, you know that is not going to be very good.

I would say from the Cup garage, probably Matt DiBenedetto. He’s a strong guy, right? Like he does Crossfit and stuff like that. I’ve never seen him throw a punch and he’s always seemed like a nice guy, but every nice guy has a hot side. So if you push certain buttons, I would say that it could come to that.

I would not want to fight Matt DiBenedetto.

No. You would probably get knocked out first punch. I would say Ross Chastain or Jeremy Clements. I know that they got into it at Bristol, but I would say on the Xfinity side, those are two guys that are nice guys in the garage and always have a smile. But like I said, you push a wrong button, they’re coming after you, that’s for sure.

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

So I got my first tattoo yesterday.

Are you serious?

I did. So I’m going to say, if you could get any tattoo in any location on your body, what would it be and where would it be? 

Do you care to share yours or are you going to keep it a secret?

Yeah, I got a cross yesterday. Last night actually. When it heals, it will lighten up a bit. So it’s a wood grain cross. Something that went into a lot of detail and thought. I’ve been a Christ follower all my life and continue to go to church. I think things happen for a reason, right? I mean, He’s watching over us and I’m blessed to be in the spot that I’m in and he’s always Lord on board.

But when I go up and shake someone’s hand, I’m a man of my word and a man of God, so you know that you’re getting the truth out of me and 100 percent out of me. I’m right handed, so that’s why I did it on my right arm.

Right where your wrist is.

Yup, right there.

You can see the detailed little waves in the wood.

Yeah. So the same guy that did Ryan Blaney’s tattoos actually did this last night. London Reese is pretty good, check out his artwork.


This is the first 12 Questions interview with John Hunter Nemechek

12 Questions with Corey LaJoie (2019)

The 12 Questions series of interviews continues this week with Corey LaJoie of Go Fas Racing. This interview was recorded as a podcast but is also transcribed for those who prefer to read.

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

I’m a normal human being, so I’m an iPhone person.

That makes you a normal human being?

Yeah. Are you an iPhone person?

I am an iPhone person. Actually, you continue the streak. Not one driver so far has said Android.

Yeah, I wouldn’t know how to operate it. I wouldn’t even know how to turn one on.

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 selfie is the best way to go. Like have the camera ready, and, “Hey, can I take a selfie?” “Yeah sure!” Snap. There it is.

A lot of people don’t even know what my name is anyway, so if you can call my name out and it’s not “Paul Menard” — because I get that about five times a weekend. If you can call Corey LaJoie and “Hey, can I have a selfie?” that’s automatic brownie points in my book.

So people see a firesuit and they’re like, “You must be somebody!”

“Paul Menard!” I say, “Yeah, I wish.”

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?

No. I get way more mad when somebody pulls a jerk move on the road than on the track because on the track you expect it, right? You’re racing. But on the road when somebody does something stupid, it can put other people’s lives in danger, right? So that gets me way more fired up.

But I’m a little more tame in my older age now. I’m not one to honk, I’m just one to get really close or put you in the median or really use my car as a weapon sometimes. But I’ve toned that down a little bit.

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

Not that I can recall. My dad would get pretty mad at me if I did (Randy LaJoie’s Joie of Seating builds race car seats). There’s been times where I’ve raced a Super Late Model or something without a HANS device, and you just figure either “Ah, I forgot it,” or “I’m not going that fast.” So there might have been a couple of times when I raced without a HANS device.

But for the most part, my dad would get pretty pissed off if I didn’t have all my stuff in order and I got hurt, because it would look bad for the business obviously. So in that regard, I try to stay pretty safe.

So his interest goes beyond just the seats, obviously.

Yeah, if I get hurt — even if my toe gets hurt in the race car — it’s a bad representation of the business. So I’ve got to make sure all my stuff is dialed in so if something does happen, I don’t get too terribly hurt.

5. If your crew chief put a super secret illegal part on your car that made it way faster, would you want to know about it?

I’d be interested to know what it was so I can apply it to another car, whether it’s a Super Late Model or something.

So you want to take his idea later after you race it and be like, “Oh, OK.”

Yeah. That’s what a lot of the big guys do with the risk versus reward. The reward is so much greater, because if you can run an illegal part — like spoilers for four months at a time and not get caught until the end of the year and you’ve already made the Chase and you’ve already made the final two rounds of the playoffs, then that was worth it. So I would run an illegal part because there’s everybody else in the gray area. They can tell you that they’re boxed off all they want to, but everybody’s pushing the gray area. Some guys push it a little more, some guys don’t.

Is that a misconception among fans? Because I think fans only think people are cheating when somebody gets caught. But everybody’s doing it all the time, pretty much.

The further back in the garage you get, the less bending of the rules happens because the fines versus the budgets are way, way smaller, right? On a team with a $3 million budget, a $100,000 fine is quite a bit. To a $30 million budget, a $100,000 fine is nothing. So that’s got to be taken into account.

And also, if we roll through pre-qualifying inspection and we fail the first time, we’re really worried about the next time we go through being right because we can’t afford to lose another guy. (Editor’s note: Crew members get ejected for the weekend if a car fails inspection twice). Like we’re not maxed out on our roster numbers anyways — we’re probably two shy — so when we roll through and we fail, we’re like, “Oh boy, we can’t afford to give John away for the rest of the weekend for just qualifying tech.” So we’ve got to make sure we’ve got all our stuff right when we go through.

And those (bigger teams) just have another mechanic to pull from or they’ll put the crew chief in the driver’s bus for the race. Like those guys aren’t going anywhere, right? And they have the resources where they can bend the rules and have it not be that big of a penalty.

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 venture to say a Taco Bell run would probably not be well-advised before a race. I haven’t had that.

So don’t make a run for the border right before a race.

No, I don’t recommend that at all. I usually get Taco Bell after a race. But there’s certain things where you don’t want to be burping up something and have it just be smelling really bad. It’s not fun when your stomach is rumbling for 400 miles.

And you can smell inside the helmet?

Oh yeah. There’s not a whole lot of escape for that, so…

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

I don’t think so. That could get in a real deep conversation, but for the most part, I’m going to say no. I’ll leave it at that. I have other theories, but not enough time today.

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

A lot of them talk about their kids and what they do away from the track. There’s not really a whole lot of racing talk because you’re going to get a whole lot of racing fix for the next four hours, so you don’t really want to. Sometimes there’s a little bit of talk, right? Just “How’s your car driving?” and “This happened the other day.”

But there’s going to be a little more talk this Sunday (at Phoenix, in the wake of the Daniel Suarez-Michael McDowell fight), maybe pinning different drivers against each other, maybe head-to-head fights. So see who will win what. I think there’s going to be some more conversations about that.

So after the McDowell-Suarez thing, people will be like, “Hey, do you think this guy can take this guy?”

Yeah, I think so. 

9. What makes you happy right now?

My wife and just the state of my career right now, everything is going really good and I’m happy here at Go Fas Racing, bringing some fast cars to the racetrack. And just reading the Bible quite a bit, just been digging into that, it’s been really good. So I’ve got a lot of good things rolling in my life. I’m pretty content and happy where I’m at right now.

10. Let’s say a sponsor comes to you and says, “We are going to fully fund the entire rest of your racing career on the condition that you wear a clown nose and an 80’s rocker wig in every interview you do forever.” Would you accept that offer?

It depends how much I would be getting paid out of the deal because funding my career making $80,000 a year for the next 20 years is different than funding my career and me making $15 million. So if they’re funding my career and I’m making $15 million, I’ll wear a nose, hair, bell bottom pants all they want. So I haven’t had that opportunity come to my attention yet, but it would depend on what I would be making on the backhand, because every man has a price.

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.

Let’s do 71. That was my Bandolero number back in the day.

Do you keep a mental list of people who you owe for payback?

No. You know the guys that you owe one to, but you also want to make sure that it’s right time and it’s beneficial to you. So I would like to say no because I’m not a revengeful type of person, but there are certain times where you cut guys a little bit more of a break than others sometimes just from the way they’ve raced in the past. So whether or not it’s putting somebody in the wall, that probably isn’t how I think. It’s just a matter of how hard I’m going to race somebody at what time in the race versus how they race me or did something to me weeks prior.

12. The last interview was with Paul Menard. As you mentioned earlier, he asked how often you get mistaken for him.

Four to five times a weekend.

That sounds very often.

Yeah. I wish I was Paul Menard. But I’m not, and eventually people might start mistaking Paul Menard for Corey LaJoie.

He said he was walking in the garage and somebody said, “Hey, Corey LaJoie!”

Wow! First for everything. Yeah, I’ve gotten Paul Menard for the last three to four years before everybody kind of knows I’m even here. So that’s a small improvement.

Maybe putting your face on a car has helped raised awareness.

Yes, it definitely has, no doubt. Old Spice got their money’s worth out of that. But yeah, that’s actually funny that Paul Menard got Corey LaJoie because I’ve been getting Paul Menard for several times every weekend for the last two years.

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

I would ask somebody if they ever raced hung over, but nobody would be truthful in answering that. Unless it’d be like Clint Bowyer, then it’d be like, “Hell yeah!”

I like the fighting thing. But I think that one comes up a lot — what driver would you fight? Everybody says Ryan Newman, right? Because he’s like cornbread fed and he’s got no neck, so he can probably take a punch.

Do you think Suarez could take down Newman?

No.

So even Newman could take down Suarez? Newman’s that indestructible?

Newman is an oak tree. You could like run into that guy, you’d bounce off.

So I think a legitimate question would be, we all didn’t consider Suarez a fighter, right? Or strong. Who is another sleeper in the garage that you probably wouldn’t want to get into a fight with? Like Chris Buescher, somebody like that.

So not the main guys you think of, not like the Newman type, but who’s a guy that’s sneaky strong, that’s going to be able to…

Kinda squirrely, like punch you in the face before it even happens. I wouldn’t even have bet Suarez. I would put Suarez on the map, but I wouldn’t have seen him yanking down Michael McDowell like a little boy. So I’m trying to visualize the garage. Maybe Kevin Harvick.

He has a wrestler background.

Because he has a wrestler background and he’s training with Cowboy (Cerrone), I’m sure he’s picked up some tips here and there to put you in an arm bar before you even knew what happened. So I probably wouldn’t mess with Harvick. I’m sure Cowboy’s taught him some things. Like say, “Hey man, show me an arm bar!” And then that’s that. I wouldn’t mess with Harvick.


Previous 12 Questions interviews with Corey LaJoie:

Feb. 20, 2018

12 Questions with Paul Menard (2019)

The 12 Questions series of interviews continues this week with Paul Menard of Wood Brothers Racing. This interview was recorded as a podcast but is also transcribed for those who prefer to read.

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

I’m an iPhone guy. Not really sure why. I had an Android probably 10 years ago. I could never figure the damn thing out. I’m a big music guy, so I went to the iPhone because I could put all my music on there and just not have to carry an iPod or anything. I think it’s a lot easier to work, too.

2. If a fan meets you in the garage, they might only have a brief moment with you. So between an autograph, a selfie or quick comment, what is your advice on the best way to maximize that interaction?

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

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

3. When someone pulls a jerk move on the road when you’re driving down the highway, does that feeling compare at all to when someone pulls a jerk move on the track?

A jerk move? (Laughs)

I was trying to be polite there.

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

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

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

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

5. If your crew chief put a super secret illegal part on your car that made it way faster, would you want to know about it?

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

Just be like, “Whatever you gotta do?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9. What makes you happy right now?

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

How old are they?

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

10. Let’s say a sponsor comes to you and says, “We are going to fully fund the entire rest of your racing career on the condition that you wear a clown nose and an 80’s rocker wig in every interview you do forever.” Would you accept that offer?

At my age, life’s too damn short.

11. This is the 10th year of the 12 Questions. There has never been a repeat question until now. Pick a number between 1 and 100, and I’m going to pull up a random question from a past year’s series.

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

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

So if I do 105 you won’t know?

I wouldn’t know.

Let’s go 50.

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

Let’s see if my answer matches.

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

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

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

There you go.

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

That I’m racing against currently?

Yes.

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

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

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

It must be the beard, right?

It must be.


Previous 12 Questions interviews with Paul Menard:

March 30, 2011

April 11, 2012

June 25, 2014

Sept. 14, 2015

12 Questions with Hailie Deegan (2019)

(Photo by Loren Orr/Getty Images for NASCAR)

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

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

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

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

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

You have your read receipts on?

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

You expect that from other people?

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

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

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

2. If a fan meets you in the garage, they might only have a brief moment with you. So between an autograph, a selfie or quick comment, what is your advice on the best way to maximize that interaction?

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

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

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

3. When someone pulls a jerk move on the road when you’re driving down the highway, does that feeling compare at all to when someone pulls a jerk move on the track?

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

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

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

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

You were like, “Dude!”

Yeah. I was mad. (Laughs)

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

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

There’s like a brief moment of panic?

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

5. If your crew chief put a super secret illegal part on your car that made it way faster, would you want to know about it?

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

Just in life in general?

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

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

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

Like on the morning of a race?

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

You have an iron stomach?

Yeah, but like Waffle House, for some reason…

It’s like your kryptonite?

Yeah. But it tastes really good.

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

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

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

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

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

Yeah, probably something like that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

9. What makes you happy right now?

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

But not Waffle House.

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

10. Let’s say a sponsor comes to you and says, “We are going to fully fund the entire rest of your racing career on the condition that you wear a clown nose and an 80’s rocker wig in every interview you do forever.” Would you accept that offer?

I’m down. I’ll do it. Do I get a PSA?

Like a what?

Personal (service) agreement.

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

Like money besides racing.

Yeah, you can have that.

Yeah, I’d do it.

Yeah, they’ll do everything in this scenario.

I’ll promote it. I don’t care.

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

11. This is the 10th year of the 12 Questions. There has never been a repeat question until now. Pick a number between 1 and 100, and I’m going to pull up a random question from a past year’s series.

We’ll do 19. I’ll do my race number.

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

I eat.

You’re really committed to the food thing.

Dude, I LOVE food.

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

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

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

What food are you not touching? What cuisine?

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

But they can make them mild though!

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

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

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

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

Nuh huh, not feeling it.

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

I think yes.

I’m not too surprised there.

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

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

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

You might have an advantage.

I might, yeah.

Do you have a question I can ask another driver?

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

So they have to pick a driver?

It has to be a driver.

To be their BFF forever?

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

12 Questions with Chase Briscoe (2019)

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

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

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

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

And you can get the weather now.

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

It was probably a sales thing.

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

2. If a fan meets you in the garage, they might only have a brief moment with you. So between an autograph, a selfie or quick comment, what is your advice on the best way to maximize that interaction?

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

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

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

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

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

3. When someone pulls a jerk move on the road when you’re driving down the highway, does that feeling compare at all to when someone pulls a jerk move on the track?

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

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

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

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

He didn’t pull in?

He won the race.

What?

Yeah.

Oh my gosh, that is crazy.

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

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

That’s brave.

5. If your crew chief put a super secret illegal part on your car that made it way faster, would you want to know about it?

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

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

But nobody cheats in NASCAR. (Grins)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Never watched a movie.

Never watched any of the Star Wars movies?

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

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

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

You try to convert them.

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

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

Hopefully none of them will read this.

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

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

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

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

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

9. What makes you happy right now?

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

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

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

Yeah, you can’t.

10. Let’s say a sponsor comes to you and says, “We are going to fully fund the entire rest of your racing career on the condition that you wear a clown nose and an 80’s rocker wig in every interview you do forever.” Would you accept that offer?

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

Did you purchase one at the Chili Bowl?

I didn’t, but I’m gonna get one.

I don’t know, I heard they sold out.

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

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

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

11. This is the 10th year of the 12 Questions. There has never been a repeat question until now. Pick a number between 1 and 100, and I’m going to pull up a random question from a past year’s series.

55.

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

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

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

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

Who is it by?

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

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

 

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

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

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

So this is like a short heat race or something?

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

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

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

This is just a total bonus race?

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

Racing for a playoff point, optional.

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

Where did you get this idea from?

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

Everybody’s already here anyway.

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

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

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

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

Yeah. Two of them.

Two?

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

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

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


Previous 12 Questions interviews with Chase Briscoe:

Oct. 4, 2017

 

12 Questions with William Byron (2019)

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

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

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

2. If a fan meets you in the garage, they might only have a brief moment with you. So between an autograph, a selfie or quick comment, what is your advice on the best way to maximize that interaction?

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

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

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

3. When someone pulls a jerk move on the road when you’re driving down the highway, does that feeling compare at all to when someone pulls a jerk move on the track?

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

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

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

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

5. If your crew chief put a super secret illegal part on your car that made it way faster, would you want to know about it?

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

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

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

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

Yeah, staying away from that for sure.

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

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

Like those pod things?

Yeah, I love those.

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

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

So it’s totally awkward small talk?

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

9. What makes you happy right now?

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

10. Let’s say a sponsor comes to you and says, “We are going to fully fund the entire rest of your racing career on the condition that you wear a clown nose and an 80’s rocker wig in every interview you do forever.” Would you accept that offer?

No, because that’s out of style. It’s gonna kill my vibe too much with people my age.

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

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

11. This is the 10th year of the 12 Questions. There has never been a repeat question until now. Pick a number between 1 and 100, and I’m going to pull up a random question from a past year’s series.

I’ll pick 24.

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

Uh, me. Yeah. (Laughs)

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have a question I can ask another driver?

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

So the weekend schedule?

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


Previous 12 Questions interviews with William Byron:

— Aug. 31, 2016

— May 17, 2017

Aug. 21, 2018