12 Questions with Kyle Larson (2019)

The 12 Questions series of driver interviews continues this week with Kyle Larson of Chip Ganassi 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 user. All Apple. It’s just simple. Life’s simple with Apple.

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?

Usually when a dirt fan walks up and starts talking about a race, that’s a good way to get a good reaction out of me. Or just have your camera ready, and then usually I think that would put all of us in a better mood and more willing to chitchat for a minute. But I enjoy interacting with people.

So it pisses you off when somebody comes up and they’re like, “Oh, let me get a selfie,” and then they’re trying to unlock their phone…

They don’t even have it out of their pocket yet. Yeah.

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?

Yeah, I guess a little bit. If somebody cuts you off or something like that, then at least in the race car, you can run into them and show your displeasure. Where I guess on the street, if somebody cuts me off, I just tailgate them for a couple miles.

A couple miles? Wow!

Yeah, or at least until they turn. So I would say it’s similar, just you can’t run into somebody on the street.

I don’t do any hand gestures though because when we’re on the racetrack, you can do a hand gesture because you know you have backup when you get to pit road (for a fight). If you do a hand gesture and somebody gets you to pull over on the side of the road, they’d probably beat you up and you don’t have any backup.

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

I’ve had times like where I’m rolling around yellow and maybe I didn’t get (the HANS device) clipped in all the way and it becomes unclipped under yellow, but I usually have enough time to get it hooked back up. Gosh, yeah, I don’t think I’ve had anything too sketchy. I feel like I have really safe equipment. My Arai helmet’s been safe and so yeah, knock on wood, I haven’t had anything crazy happen.

You wear like a strap version of the HANS, right…?

It’s a Safety Solutions (Hybrid Pro). Simpson owns it now, but it’s called a Hybrid Pro.

Why do you do that? More comfortable?

I was like their test dummy kind of back when I was 10 or 11 racing go-karts, back when they were first getting started, at least with the youth stuff. So I’ve always used their stuff; back then it was called like the R3. So I kind of developed their youth stuff and I’ve just always used it as I’ve gotten older.

I think it’s a safer device than the HANS, I think because it clips to you and it still is working somewhat if your belts were to slide off — which I’ve never had my belts slide off. But when I wear a HANS, I don’t feel like it’s that tight on me and it’s not doing as much for me. And it’s a lot easier on your collarbones too, especially for dirt racing. A lot of people break their collarbones with HANS (devices).

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?

(Editor’s note: I accidentally skipped over this question. New season goof-up. Sorry.)

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

Maybe like a couple cheeseburgers and a root beer float. I wouldn’t recommend eating any of that.

I hope that’s not a personal experience.

Maybe a little bit of a personal experience. I really don’t want to talk about it. (Laughs)

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

Oh. I believe there’s life in outer space. I don’t know if they race, though. Maybe. Wow. Yeah, there’s gotta be life in outer space. I feel like I’ve seen some UFOs before, so I think there’s life. Do they race? I don’t know. I would hope they do. That way I could maybe go race in outer space.

When you cross over to the various series, you can be one of the first intergalactic racers.


It’d be like, “Dude, Kyle Larson is good on any planet.”

He’s out of this planet. Yeah, you’re right.

Where have you seen UFOs? When you’re on the ground? Or when you’re flying, like, “That’s something weird out the window.”

Dude, so I remember, I was driving through Sacramento, so this is right by ARCO Arena where the Kings used to play, and I’m cruising up (CA Route) 99 and out the right side there’s a bunch of little colorful objects, like zipping around back and forth as random as could be, like all different directions for a least a minute while I was driving. And I was just staring at them, I was like, “What the hell is this?” It wasn’t like a drone, because there were multiples and they were flying fast. Pretty low to the ground. Probably 50 feet off the ground. But just little lights. Maybe I was crazy for a second. But no, I swear I saw something funny.

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

I dread driver intros. Davis (Schaefer, his PR rep) could admit that I’m the last one up to the intro stage, just because it’s awkward. It’s like going to lunch in junior high and you’re like, “There’s the cool table and there’s the nerd table and there’s my dirt friends. I’ll go stand with my dirt friends.” So we usually just talk about dirt racing, so I’ll stand around (Ricky) Stenhouse and (Ryan) Newman and (Clint) Bowyer, and Denny Hamlin’s getting into liking dirt racing, so he’s usually around. We’ll talk about stuff because we’ve all watched (streaming service) DIRTVision from the night before, so we’ll talk about that.

But yeah, I hate intros. I don’t go up there early. There’s drivers that get up there (early) — I feel like Martin Truex is always the first one up there and he qualifies good (which means he show go up later). I’m like, “Man, what are you doing up there so early?” Because he’s quiet, he doesn’t talk to anybody. But yeah, so I don’t like going up there early.

9. What makes you happy right now?

That I’m getting to knock these 12 Questions out of the way before I have to wake up early in the morning or something, or when I’m tired and grumpy and getting ready for practice like at Pocono or something like that. (Editor’s note: Larson was bored during Daytona 500 media day so suggested we do this interview now instead of during the season.)

That makes me happy as well.

Yeah, so we both get to get that out of the way. But I don’t know. Doing the 12 Questions and just getting ready to get this season started. It was a short offseason, but I get to go racing full-time again.

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. (Laughs) There’s probably other sponsors out there that would sponsor us and not do that.

Take your chances?

Yeah, and I’d just go sprint car racing in that (case). So no, I won’t wear a clown nose. I would maybe wear the long hair, but not the clown nose.

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.

OK, 62. When is this from?

This is from 2015.

So I’ve had this question before.

That’s true, actually. I should look up your answer and see how it compares.

OK. But don’t tell me how I answered it.

Do you ever get mistaken for another driver or celebrity?

So that was back when I had Target, so I was red. I didn’t get Stenhouse all that much. So now I get Stenhouse a lot.


Yeah. It even happened today downstairs.


Yeah. So I get Stenhouse and Chase Elliott the most.

At least Chase Elliott has dark hair.

Yeah. And Chase Elliott and I actually look a lot alike in our baby pictures and such. But yeah, I get Ricky a bunch. Ricky probably the most. And Ricky gets me a lot, too.

What? I don’t see that at all. I don’t understand how that’s possible.

Yeah, I don’t know.

Do you want to guess who you said back in 2015?

Probably Ryan Truex.

That’s correct. Actually, you said, “I used to get mistaken for Ryan Truex but now it’s kind of the other way. It’s nicer that way for me.”

Yeah. (Laughs) I don’t get mistaken for him, he gets mistaken for me.

12. The last interview was with Joey Logano. He wanted to know: What is your plan to help our sport and our community in the next year? What are you goals to make what we do better outside of the race car?

That’s deep. Well, Joey does a really good job at all that. He’s probably like the best these days when it comes to community stuff. I don’t have a Kyle Larson Foundation or a charity really that I have focused on or spent a lot of time or effort on helping. So I guess that’s something I can do in the next year or so, maybe set up a foundation, figure out what I want to give back to and help out, whether it’s sick children or just people in need, really.

There’s a lot I can do. I guess try to take the next step into all that as a professional athlete, because I think a lot of professional athletes, that’s what they do, is give back to the community. So that’s something I need to grow up and do, but I still don’t really know how exactly I’m going to do that.

Do you have the question I can ask the next driver? It’s Aric Almirola.

He recently introduced me to his grandfather who raced sprint cars, so maybe ask him what race stands out to him of watching his grandpa the most racing sprint cars.

Do you regret doing these 12 Questions? That’s the last question.

That’s been more than 12 questions now.

Previous 12 Questions interviews with Kyle Larson:

— May 6, 2014

— March 18, 2015

— April 6, 2016

— April 26, 2017

March 20, 2018


Chili Bowl Night 2: Kyle Larson dominates, but matchup with rival Bell looms

Let’s start out by acknowledging here that Kyle Larson is one of the great American racing talents ever to strap into a car.

Hyperbole? Nah. At age 26, Larson is already a winning NASCAR driver, one of the top sprint car drivers and the second-best midget racer in the world. That’s a combination few can claim.

Of course, he’d prefer to be the best in a midget — and he was probably on that path until Christopher Bell showed up and started beating him regularly. Now Larson has found himself in the unusual position of trying to raise his game instead of simply relying on his natural abilities.

Bell has pushed Larson to be better in a midget, and Larson is ready to push back.

“I’ve worked really hard to become a smarter racer and make better decisions — in a way, think like he might think — so instead of being a step behind, maybe be at his level,” Larson said. “You have to always work on your game and try to get better, because he’s getting better and better every race.”

Larson certainly didn’t look like he had much competition Tuesday, when he waxed the field on his prelim night for the Chili Bowl Nationals. It was Larson’s fifth career prelim win.

But Bell — his Keith Kunz Motorsports teammate — hasn’t run his prelims yet. They did race together in the Race of Champions on Tuesday, but it wasn’t a true head-to-head test — Bell started 15th by random draw and Larson started fourth. Even so, Bell only finished one spot behind Larson.

The true showdown, widely anticipated for a year now, is shaping up to take place once again in Saturday night’s 55-lap A-Main. That’s assuming Bell doesn’t have trouble making the big race — though that would be a shock, considering he’s the back-to-back Chili Bowl champion.

Larson had no problem with declaring Bell as the driver to beat again.

“I’ve got zero (Golden) Drillers in my trophy case,” Larson said. “You just look at his track record — not just in this building, but any racetrack in a midget — and his win percentage is crazy over the last four or five years. I would definitely say he’s the favorite anywhere he goes in a midget right now.”

That said, Larson actually got the better of the two when they raced midgets recently in New Zealand. It was Bell who finished second to Larson on a couple nights rather than the other way around.

Larson suggested it was because they were in different equipment, but added: “Maybe I’m just making excuses for him.”

“It’d been a long time since I beat Christopher in anything — at least on dirt — so that was good,” he said.

The question is: Can Larson do it again?


Larson’s firesuit at the Chili Bowl is still sporting a DC Solar patch, though the company won’t be on his NASCAR ride this season after an FBI raid on its headquarters. When it became clear the funding was gone, Chip Ganassi Racing had to shut down its Xfinity team — which was going to be fully sponsored by DC Solar — and is scrambling to find a new sponsor for Larson’s Cup car (DC Solar was the primary sponsor for 12 races last season).

Larson said going to race in New Zealand when the news came out was a helpful distraction to the sponsor troubles.

“It’s nice to go to New Zealand because I don’t talk to anybody in the States, really,” he said. “I kind of get away from everything that’s going on here. I don’t even really know what all has gone on or how the future is going to look.

“Unfortunate that it happened. (DC Solar owners) Jeff and Paulette Carpoff have been nothing but great to myself, so I hate that it all happened. I know my team is probably working really hard to fill those races — because it’s a lot of races they were on the car — but I don’t get into NASCAR mode until Sunday (after the Chili Bowl). So I’m still not really thinking or worrying about it yet.”

Kyle Larson is interviewed by Ralph Sheheen after winning Night 2 of the Chili Bowl Nationals. (Photo: Jeff Gluck)

Other Chili Bowl coverage this week:

Night 1: When anyone can enter Chili Bowl — even you! — it can be sketchy for top drivers

12 Questions with Jamie McMurray (2018)

Jamie McMurray during Playoffs Media Day last season. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images for NASCAR)

The series of 12 Questions driver interviews continues this week with Jamie McMurray of Chip Ganassi Racing. These interviews are recorded as podcasts but also transcribed for those who prefer to read.

1. How often do you have dreams about racing?

Just every once in a while. Not that often. I did have one just recently, but I don’t remember the last time I had a dream about racing.

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

Does it matter…to me? Is it better asked if someone gets into you intentionally?

I’d say if it matters to them. Like is it going to make a difference if you apologize, essentially?

I think it does make a difference. If you’ve been racing awhile, you know how everyone races you. If it’s intentional, I probably wouldn’t send a text because I feel like that person would know why. But most of the time it’s not intentional, and I always send a text or call.

Like I got into Daniel Suarez at Pocono on a restart. It was actually like a chain reaction — he hit the car in front of him and I hit Daniel. I knew he was going to be at the (tire) test at Darlington, so I just waited until I got to Darlington and went over and talked to him. I kind of knew he wasn’t going to be mad, but you also never know. So yeah, I always reach out to somebody if I get into them.

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

I’m a good dad.

4. NASCAR comes to you and says they’re bringing a celebrity to the track and they want you to host them.

Kate Upton.

That’s who you’d want to host?

That’s who I’d like to host, yes. And my wife says she’s OK with that. Well, not really. I said that jokingly, but I would be OK with that.

I think that she’s down the road here in Detroit. Oh wait, (Justin Verlander) got traded to the Astros.

Yeah, and then they won the World Series.

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


Have you gone vegan before? I know you’re healthy.

I’ve eaten a lot of plants. I would assume once you do something like that, it wouldn’t take a long time to kind of get acclimated to it. Like anytime someone changes their diet, it takes a little time to adapt to it. But what am I getting?

Number one pit stall.

Oh. I don’t know if that’s really going far enough.

You want more of a reward?

I do. I think I want more of a reward for that, yes.

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

I’m never going to guess this.

You’re not good at remembering races?

I don’t know. I guess if you picked the race I won.

No, I have to make it somewhat harder. OK, this is the 2015 Sonoma race.

I greatly appreciate you making it somewhat recent. 2015 Sonoma, let’s see…I have to say where I finished? Ninth.

It was 11th.

Ugh, I was close. I was gonna say 11th.

You started 18th. Kyle Busch won. This was after you’d gotten back to back poles the previous two years. You finished behind Sam Hornish and ahead of Tony Stewart. Does this ring a bell at all?

No. Not at all. (Laughs)

7. Who is the best rapper alive?

(Cringes, rubs his face.) I don’t know. I don’t know who the best rapper alive is.

I wish that the face rub translated to the interview.

I was trying to just rattle a random name off, but I felt like I would seem less cool if I said a name than it would if I just said I don’t know.

8. Who has the most punchable face in NASCAR?

Punchable? (Gives a blank stare) What are the criteria for a punchable face?

It could be somebody who you want to punch, but it could also be someone who has that face where you’re not mad at them, but their face looks punchable.

I feel like we live at a time where we’re supposed to be nice, and be kind to each other, so I’m going to say no one.

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.

(Stares) Was it late when you (wrote these)? What’s the…?

Look, here’s the thing, Jamie. This is the eighth year doing the 12 Questions (actually the ninth year), and I’m running out of questions. I have to make some really weird questions.

So I have Taylor Swift, LeBron James, and Tom Hanks. What are the positions I have to fill?

Crew chief, spotter and motorhome driver.

OK, I’m going to put LeBron as my spotter because he’s big and he can be intimidating to the other spotters, and I think that’s important.

(Josh Wise, sitting nearby, tells McMurray he should have made Taylor Swift the spotter).

I was going to let her drive the bus so I can spend more quality time. My little girl loves Taylor Swift, so I feel like if she drove our bus, that would be pretty big. It wouldn’t really matter how the race went, as long as Taylor was in the bus.

She’d hang out with her the whole weekend.

With Hazel, that would be an amazing weekend, yeah. So Tom Hanks by default ends up being the crew chief.

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

Typically they’re in the same place each year, and Jeff (Dowling), my PR guy, normally kind of spots that. Or there must be a look on every driver’s face when they get out of the pickup truck of confusion or worry because typically if you have that, people will say the bathroom is right over there. So I just throw that face on and kind of look at random people and I’m like, “Someone’s gonna tell me where it is.”

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?

Money wouldn’t be my trigger, it would be lack of ability. I’ve never done a backflip. I can barely do a front flip in the swimming pool. My body won’t allow me to do those particular movements.

So the money wouldn’t help?

It wouldn’t really matter on cash. I just honestly wish I could do one, period.

12. Each week, I ask a driver to give me a question for the next interview. Last week was Joey Logano. Let me back up. The previous week he was asked a question by Alexander Rossi, which was: What do you think of Danica? So he heard that and wanted his question for the next person to be: What do you think of Joey Logano?

Um…what do I think of Joey Logano? I think he has an amazing smile. I don’t know. I feel like those are things you talk about when people are deceased, and Joey’s still with us. So I’m gonna save my comments for Joey. I think that’s weird that Joey wants to know what I think of him, or what anyone thinks of him.

The next interview I’m doing is with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Do you have a question I can ask Ricky?

Yeah. Ricky made fun of people for years for being into fitness and trying to stay in shape, and recently I’ve noticed that he is into fitness and all of a sudden it has become important to him. I would like to know what has happened in his life to make him want to be more fit.

I didn’t know that. So he used to poke fun at you and people like that?

Yeah. He and (Clint) Bowyer. And Bowyer also is a little closet workout guy. He doesn’t want anyone to know it; he wants to kind of come across as kind of this like Jack Daniels, Marlboro-smokin’ tough guy, and the reality is he has some running shoes and he runs and doesn’t really want people to know.

I was listening to Brett Griffin’s podcast, and he said Bowyer has a trainer and he trains every day now.

Yeah, I think he trains with his wife. Well they have someone that comes to their house. I think it’s one of those Burn Boot Camp things.

So everybody’s getting into it.

I mean, if he is, for sure. Yeah.

Previous 12 Questions interviews with Jamie McMurray

May 5, 2010

Nov. 2, 2011

Oct. 24, 2012

April 17, 2013

Aug. 27, 2015

July 6, 2016

May 24, 2017


12 Questions with Kyle Larson (2018)

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.

NASCAR career?

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?

No. Eighth.


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:

May 6, 2014

March 18, 2015

April 6, 2016

April 26,2017


Brennan Poole on his future: ‘I don’t have anything set’

Brennan Poole’s 2018 plans were the subject of conflicting reports this week. First, Motorsport.com reported Poole was out at Chip Ganassi Racing and could be heading to Richard Childress Racing’s No. 27 car in the Cup Series. But then Chip Ganassi Racing co-owner Felix Sabates told Sirius/XM Radio the Xfinity Series driver would likely be returning to CGR next season.

So what’s the deal?

“I don’t have anything set,” Poole said via phone on Friday. “Like I don’t really have any plans. I don’t really know what’s going to happen. I haven’t really had an in-depth conversation with Ganassi. So I really just am not sure.”

Poole said he’s “definitely open to all opportunities,” but insisted he sincerely doesn’t know where he’ll be racing next season. That murky future includes whether sponsor DC Solar will continue to align with him.

“Honestly — honestly — I really don’t know,” he said. “I’ve had a great relationship with them over the past several years, but there hasn’t been any talks. So I really just don’t know.”

What the 26-year-old does know, he said, is his team has a great chance to win a championship this season — and that’s where his attention lies after three straight top-five finishes helped him breeze through the first round of the playoffs.

“I’ve certainly been flattered with everything that’s happened course of this week, and my name being out there and tossed around,” he said. “But really, I’ve just been focused on a championship this year.”

A driver whose career once seemed completely done, Poole got the opportunity to run part time in the Xfinity Series in 2015 when co-owners Harry Scott and Ganassi offered him a ride a month before the season began. His results were impressive enough to land him a full season in the series last year — when he finished eighth in points — and he then returned this season.

After a rough start, Poole has scored 10 top-10 finishes in the last 13 races and was the highest-finishing playoff driver in two of the Round 1 races.

“We didn’t have the best start to the season, but the past couple months have just been outstanding,” he said. “We’ve been bringing really fast race cars and putting ourselves in position to win. I think it shows a lot about where our team is at and how much I’ve grown as a driver.”

That’s why Poole said he “wouldn’t say I’m nervous or anything” about his 2018 plans. He’s confident that if he can go win the title, the future will take care of itself.

“I’ve got four races left to get this championship done,” he said. “We have what it takes. I’m just excited to see what’s going to happen on the track and what’s next for me.”

12 Questions with Scott Dixon

The series of 12 Questions interviews continues this week with four-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon, who came up short of his quest to win another title Sunday at Sonoma Raceway. Dixon, who drives for Chip Ganassi Racing, is fourth on the all-time IndyCar wins list with 41 victories.

1. How much of your success is based on natural ability and how much has come from working at it?

I think it’s always a compromise, but it’s a team sport, so it’s definitely across all platforms of the good people on the team — engineers, mechanics, strategists — so it’s never just one person. I think that’s the most important thing, is you gotta work together as much as you can. And for myself, yeah, some of it is natural ability, but I think to keep consistency and win championships and so on, it takes a lot of hard work.

2. What’s your pitch for people to become fans of yours?

I think across the board, the Verizon IndyCar series has so many different personalities. There’s so many people from different countries, different backgrounds, so everybody has someone they can kind of relate with, and I think that’s pretty cool. But I don’t know — because I’m a ginger, maybe? 

3. What is the hardest part of your job away from the racetrack?

I think the separation sometimes from family life to racing life can be tough, but it’s also been really nice to have kids, because it helps you mentally kind of disconnect and helps you to not overthink things. So I think actually my outside family life is very important to how my racing career has progressed.

4. Let’s say a fan spots you eating dinner in a nice restaurant. Should they come over for an autograph or no?

Yeah, absolutely. Whatever they need. I’ll get their meal, too. (Smiles)

5. What’s a story in IndyCar that doesn’t get enough coverage?

Probably this Aussie guy, Will Power (who was walking by at the moment). He’s always moaning about being sore or a bad leg.

I don’t know. I think the racing is the best in the world. I think once people tune in, they’re hooked, and it is the diversity between the short tracks and the superspeedways, road courses, street courses — it’s just getting the person engaged, and once they’re engaged, they’re hooked.

6. Who is the last driver you texted?

Probably Tony Kanaan, my teammate.

You frequently text him?

Group messages, yeah, there’s quite a few. Yeah, that was probably him. He was probably the last, or Dario (Franchitti). He’s an ex-driver, but we text a lot.

7. Do you consider race car drivers to be entertainers?

Some of them for sure are very big entertainers. Helio (Castroneves). (James) Hinchcliffe did pretty well on Dancing with the Stars, so sure.

8. What is your middle finger policy on the racetrack?

On the racetrack? Use it at will.

What happens if you get it done to you?

I’ll probably do something back, probably the same thing. Maybe two of them.

9. Some drivers keep a payback list in their minds. Do you also have a list for drivers who have done you a favor on the track?

No, only a list for bad things. (Smiles) You know, I don’t keep any kind of lists. Depending on what it is, you have memories of what stands out, but I think you should be nice to people.

10. Who is the most famous person you’ve had dinner with?

Probably Marco Andretti. (Grins)

11. What’s something about yourself you’d like to improve?

I should probably stop biting my nails.

Is it a long time habit?

My wife hates it.

12. The last interview I did was with Chris Buescher.  His question is: What makes you crazy enough to strap into one of those things?

I don’t know. It’s just natural, man. He needs to try it out, then he’ll understand.

He said he can’t do it.

Yeah he can! Come on.

The next interview I’m doing is with Jimmie Johnson. Do you have a question that I can ask Jimmie?

What kind of underwear does he wear? It is briefs, boxers or tighty whities?

This interview was brought to you by Dover International Speedway. The cutoff race for the first playoff round takes place NEXT WEEKEND(!!!) at Dover. Here’s a link to buy tickets (and make sure to come say hi at the tweetup).

A NASCAR fan guide to the IndyCar championship race

Guess what race is on Sunday right after the Chicagoland race on the same channel (NBCSN)?

Yep, it’s the Verizon IndyCar Series season finale — a race which will decide the championship from among six eligible drivers.

I’m here at Sonoma and am going to be blowing your timelines up about the race, so you might as well watch with me. If you haven’t followed IndyCar much this year or are just a casual fan, here’s a quick guide to the race to get you caught up:

What’s at stake?

Sonoma Raceway is the 17th and final race of the IndyCar season, and six drivers can still win the title. They are the four Team Penske drivers — rising star Josef Newgarden, defending series champ Simon Pagenaud and veterans Will Power and Helio Castroneves — plus four-time series champion Scott Dixon and 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi.

Who has the advantage?

Before answering that, let’s take a look at the current driver point standings.

  1. Josef Newgarden  –Leader–
  2. Scott Dixon -4
  3. Helio Castroneves -23
  4. Simon Pagenaud -35
  5. Will Power -69
  6. Alexander Rossi -85

Those have been updated after Saturday’s qualifying session, because IndyCar awards one bonus point to the pole winner — and Newgarden put down a monster, track-record lap to start from P1.

Still, it’s tough to say who has the edge right now. In Friday’s two practice sessions, Newgarden had the quickest overall time. But in Saturday’s practice, Pagenaud, Dixon and Power all went even faster.

Plus, top five drivers in the point standings were also the top five drivers in final practice (just in a different order). Since they were only separated by 0.44 second, it really could be anyone’s race among the contenders.

So how does the championship race work?

Sonoma is a double points event — one of only two on the schedule, along with the Indy 500. That twist could play a massive role in the outcome of the championship, because the points are soooo close.

At a typical IndyCar race, first place is worth 50 points and second place gets 40. But at Sonoma, it’s 100 for first place and only 80 for second — a 20-point gap between first and second!

That means Newgarden, Dixon and likely Castroneves (depending on bonus points) are all in situations where a Sonoma victory will mean the championship (which has happened the last two years).

And really, Pagenaud isn’t in a bad spot, either (though he could use some help from his competition finishing off the podium). Power and Rossi are much bigger longshots at this point, even if they win.

How did they get to this point?

Newgarden has a series-leading four wins and eight podium finishes this season, but his lead is only four points thanks to a gaffe in the most recent race at Watkins Glen.

After entering the Glen with a 31-point lead over Dixon — thanks to winning three of four races — Newgarden locked up his tires in the pits while avoiding teammate Will Power and slid into the guardrail. That cost him 28 points of his lead, which was whittled to just four.

Dixon has just one win but has made finished on the podium seven times — second in the series. And he’s going up against the entire Penske team, which has been the most consistent this season.

What are they saying?

— Newgarden, who was totally fired up after his track-record lap to get the pole — his first since 2015 — is going into the race with a nothing-to-lose attitude.

“If I drop the ball and totally ball it up this weekend, I’m still going to be pretty happy with this year,” the 26-year-old American said. “That’s not to say I’m going to settle for that or that I’m looking to settle for something like that.

“But the only way I think you can approach this and get the most out of it and try and treat it like any other weekend. The moment you think, ‘Hey, this is championship week — you mess it up, you’re not the champion,’ then I think that can put you in a wrong place mentally.”

— Power, who qualified second, has a fast car but needs some help to pull off his second championship.

“It’s absolutely possible,” he said. “I mean, if Scott and Josef have a bad day, I can be right there. Yeah, see how it all plays out.”

— Pagenaud, who won this race en route to the championship last season, is feeling confident after qualifying third.

“Quite satisfied,” he said after his lap. “Overall it’s awesome for Team Penske, 1-2-3-4 once again here. A testament to the team doing such a good job. Nothing’s lost. Tomorrow is a long race. Lots of tire wear. I’m hoping for a really strong showing.”

— Speculation about Castrovenes’ future has been swirling lately, but it would certainly be nice for him to pull off an improbable title at age 42. He’s in a virtual win-and-clinch situation since there it’s a double points race.

“We wanted this championship as bad as anybody,” he said after qualifying fourth. “We do have a chance. We’re going to obviously try to execute. That’s our goal.”

— Dixon, the best driver of his generation, knows he has his work cut out for him. But it’s not like anyone can dismiss his chances.

“Sixth position, you can definitely make lots happen from there,” he said. “I think in ’15 we started ninth when we won that race. Definitely you’d want to be a little further up. But that’s the way it goes.”