How I Got Here with Steve Matchett

Steve Matchett is now an analyst for FOX Sports’ coverage of Formula E. He’s seen here doing this interview during the recent NYC ePrix in Brooklyn. (Photo courtesy of FOX Sports)

Each week, I ask a member of the racing community to shed some light on their career path. Up next: Steve Matchett, an esteemed racing TV commentator who is also a well-known author and former championship-winning mechanic in F1. Though this interview is strongly recommended as a podcast, it is also transcribed for those who prefer to read.

Being relatively late to the racing world, I’ve only known you as a broadcaster, but you were a mechanic in Formula One. Was racing and working on cars the goal for you? Was that your boyhood dream?

No, it was most certainly not. I grew up in the middle of central England — not very far away from the Donington (Park) racetrack. So we had a racetrack that was very close to us, but my family had no involvement or interest in racing or all. And I never went to a motor race for many years.

What got me involved in the automotive industry was a school friend of mine. We were both trying to decide what we would do when we left school. Back in England in the 1970s — it seems strange now in comparison to the United States — but college and university were foreign words to us. We had no introduction to university at all. It was not long after the end of the second World War — ’70, ’75 — and the comprehensive school education in England at that time was all pushing people toward the trades. You were going to be a plumber or a mason or something to do with electronics. Or you would end up in the automotive industry. It was just a very different time. You could tell the whole push of the government was to get people working again.

So a friend of mine had an interest in cars and mechanics. And he had one of the original Austin Minis, one of the late-50s Minis. One day he said, “If you want to come down to the house, I’m going to be working on the car. Come see what it’s all about.” And that kind of caught my interest. But before then, it was a completely foreign subject to me.

I became an indentured apprentice. I looked around for opportunities to be a mechanic, because I wasn’t really sure what to do. You’re young, you’re 16, you’re not really sure what the world is all about, right? So this was a profession. It was something to do.

We were very fortunate nearby the down I grew up to have a Ferrari dealer. There were about three in the country at the time — one in the north, one in the south and one in the heart of the industrial midlands, which is where I was. It was called Graypaul Motors, which has now become a very prestigious Ferrari dealership.

I used to work at a little Mazda dealership literally just down the road from the Ferrari dealer, and enjoyed the work as an apprentice mechanic very well. To remove ego out of it, I was actually very good at it. The theory side of it and the practical side of it gelled with me very easily. All of the sudden, I thought, “You know, I kind of get this.” In a way, it was like most things in life — I’m really self-taught in most things, even being an indentured apprentice. To get to grips with the theoretical side, I would just take more time than some of the others. I just enjoyed doing it. I enjoyed the study side as much as the practical side.

Anyway, to go back full circle, there was the Ferrari dealer and I applied and applied and applied to them, and eventually I think they just got bored with me and gave me the opportunity. So I started working on Ferrari.

How old were you around this time?

About 26. I’d been around for awhile and I’d worked for a BMW dealer as well, but it was really Ferrari that caught my attention. I just loved the idea of those V-12s, those European exotic cars. As a young kid, it was obviously very appealing — and as a mechanic, even moreso.

It’s like Aladdin’s Cave. You go inside a Ferrari dealer and Ferrari owners have no shortage of cash. You can keep working on their cars and they seem quite happy with the bill at the end of it. Because back in those days in the 80s by that time, the car had increased more in value than the money we’d spent on the servicing end of it. So it was kind of a win-win situation.

I became very interested in doing restoration work on Ferrari and service work on Ferrari, and I cut my teeth on 308s, the carburetor cars and the injected cars and the 328s that came after that. The Testarossas, the flat-12 boxes. To take an engine out of a Testarossa — just to change the cam belts — was a fairly surreal experience, but it was all part of the servicing program.

So that got me involved in automotive engineering. And of course, from there you can see the connection to F1 — Ferrari’s F1 team. I knew I was never going to join Scuderia Ferrari’s F1 team. But that got me interested in Formula One. And then I just started applying to teams until one of them gave me a position — which was Benetton.

So you’re sitting at the dealership and thinking, “I’m pretty good at this and could potentially work on race cars.” It was just a matter of someone giving you a chance at that point?

I’ve always been a big believer in if you’re sensible, practical and have common sense — which a surprising number of people do not, as videos on the internet are a testament to — and you have a desire to do something, I’m a firm believer all of us are capable of doing whatever we want to do in life. I really do believe that.

So I was never afraid of undertaking bigger and bigger challenges at the Ferrari dealer. Whenever the next rebuild came around, I would volunteer to do it. I don’t mean that to sound egotistical, I was just keen to do it.

I had the same thought about Formula One. I had no race experience, but by this time I understood how engineering worked, how cars are put together. And it just seemed to me you’re always looking for the next step in life. And having reached Ferrari in the road car world, it was “Where do you go next?” Then you’re just taking sideways steps or you put the wrenches down and move into the managerial side of it, and that didn’t really appeal to me.

But working on F1 cars did appeal, and it comes with the added attraction of world travel — which is all very glamorous when you’re a young man. So what was wrong with that? Nothing.

I applied to every team that was English-based — which was pretty much all of them.

Just sending resumes out?

Just sending them out. I just laid it out that I’ve not had any racing experience but I’m very keen on working with Ferrari. I’ve had transfer gearbox experience, which was just breaking into the world of F1 back then. And to cut a long story short, Lotus offered me a position — which I turned down because Benetton offered me a position. I just looked at those two companies. Lotus are a huge name, obviously a very worldwide famous name in motorsport. But I just got the impression Lotus were on the wane and starting to go down, and it looked to me like Benetton were just starting to come up. I thought it would be more of an exciting chance to see something grow.

So Nigel Stepney, who was the chief mechanic at Benetton, took me on as a position of working on gearboxes in the sub-assembly department.

So you get hired there and get your foot in the door. At that point, was it a matter of proving yourself to get more responsibility?

To a degree, it was. But like I said, I’m always prepared to try something new. Carbon brakes were just getting started in Formula One. They were really ramping up; all the teams were seeing the performance advantage of having these very lightweight brakes on the car. Carbon brakes were not just about the brake efficiency, they were also light. So when you’re dealing with unsprung weights, there’s a great advantage to that.

The technical problem with the brakes was at that time, they tended to crack. Very small fissures would start to appear down the material. You had to keep your eye on them. They were terrific, but if you didn’t watch them, they would eventually lead to a brake failure.

Nigel, as chief mechanic, was looking after the carbon brakes as well as all his other responsibilities. He was finding it just too much. He wanted to have somebody from the factory take that over from him and look after the carbon brakes on the race team.

Well,  you could look at that in one sense and say, “This is a pretty minor position on the race team. It’s looking after the brakes. How exciting is that?” But for me, I figured this is a way to get onto the race team! It’s the next step. And the guys I was working with were adamant they didn’t want to be working with brakes — they wanted to be gearbox mechanics.

Nigel asked everybody else of seniority over me whether they wanted this position, and everyone turned it down. I put my hand up and said, “I’ll have a go of it, Nigel. Nobody else is going to do it. I’ll help you.” And I think Nigel really liked that. He liked the idea I was prepared to have a go, even if it was looked upon as somewhat of a menial position on the team. He liked I was prepared to try it. So instantly, I went from being factory-based in England to joining him on the race team.

And I went around the world. I looked after the brakes, and I had a few cross words with engineers who were insistent the brakes were OK when they were clearly not OK. Nigel was impressed by the face I wasn’t going to be trampled underfoot by their seniority, and he appreciated the work I did for him in that first year, in 1990. At the end of 1990, they were looking for a race team mechanic on one of the cars, and Nigel offered it to me. So it was just step after step after step. Great, good luck and good fortune. Most of my career has been based on that — accidental good luck. So now I was working on one of the cars.

So it was just four years later that you won the Constructors Championship?

We won that in ’95. And we won our first Drivers Championship with Michael (Schumacher) in ’94. We really should have had the Constructors in ’94 as well, but that’s a whole other podcast for you.

So yes. It was hard work, but I loved it. I loved the teamwork. I loved the idea of being part of something bigger than oneself. Working with the guys, working with the team, traveling with the team under pressure and the all-night work — yes, it’s exhausting, but you realize you’re working toward something bigger. I enjoyed all of that.

But at the same time, I was already looking toward the next step within myself. I’ve always been a big fan of literature. I’ve always been a big reader. And I always wanted to write. But as we just touched on at the start of our interview, with the lack of comprehensive education and not being pushed toward a university, nobody was giving me any encouragement to pick up thy pen and write. It just wasn’t going to happen. But I still enjoyed doing it.

I was writing little diary entries and stories. I was keen to keep writing, keep reading. Working on the race team, it was an epiphany: Nobody is writing about what’s happening within the teams. All the books in motorsport and F1 are about the drivers. Nothing wrong with that — journalists write about what they have access to, and journalists have access to the drivers and the drivers are the heroes of the sport.

But I thought there was an unexplored niche about what was happening behind closed doors. Who was the chief mechanic? Who are the mechanics? What do they do on a daily basis? So in ’94, while we were fighting tooth and nail with Williams for the Drivers Championship, I write my first book — Life in the Fast Lane. I have no idea how I had time to do it now, looking back at it. I was exhausted to begin with. I’d write this book from midnight until 3:30 in the morning and grab a couple hours of sleep. But when you’re a young man, it’s a whole different thing, right?

I managed to get a publisher and got the book published. And then I moved onto the next stage.

Cover art from Steve Matchett’s first book, via the book’s Amazon page.

What year did you leave the race team?

It was ’98.

And at that point, you figured you were going to be a writer and that was going to be your life?

Yes. That’s pretty much exactly how it was. I was enjoying myself on the race team, but I also realized this was a young man’s profession. I realized there were two options: Make Formula One work for you, or Formula One will eventually kill you. It’ll force you out of the industry out of exhaustion and fatigue. I didn’t want to be around forever doing Formula One. And we’d won the Constructors Championship. What do you do after winning the Constructors Championship? Sure, you can go for two or three or try and eventually beat Ferrari’s 16. But that’s an entire lifetime spent in the pit lane.

I very much enjoyed writing. My first book was published, and I was being offered more and more magazine work through Autosport, F1 Racing, On Track in the states. So I made the decision to quit Formula One — retire — and try to make a career as a freelance writer. I really wanted to be an author, but I knew when it came to paying the bills, magazine work pays infinitely better than writing books — unless you happen to be J.K. Rowling.

So I looked around and pondered what I should do. I realized England was too expensive to go from a steady salary to nothing. But France, at the time, was much more economical in terms of housing. So I did the Peter Mayle thing — which was the classic romantic image of going to France — and bought a rundown farm. It hadn’t been lived in for 40 years and had no running water, no electricity, no drainage — it was effectively a barn. And I started restoring the house. I had bought it for next to nothing. Even the locals in the little village didn’t it, because they thought it was too far gone. When I arrived as a stranger in this village, they looked at me like I was from another planet. I would spend all day banging away at this house — trying to repair the roof, trying to repair the walls, trying to install rudimentary plumbing, rudimentary electrics. And at the same time, I was writing magazine articles and working on my next book — The Mechanic’s Tale.

So once you were writing for awhile, how did the opportunity to be on TV come about? Did you ever picture yourself as someone who would be on TV?

No. Absolutely not. It was never in my future to work in television. My future, in my own mind, was to finish the restoration on the house, finish Book 2 — The Mechanic’s Tale — and then hopefully work on Book 3 and Book 4 and Book 5 while staying in France. It was a very remote corner of France, between Cognac and Bordeaux — so it had obvious appeals to be there. Cognac is famous for one thing and Bordeaux is only famous for wine. Beautiful country, but very remote and quiet. But for me, I loved all that. My childhood was spent in a very quiet little English village, so that sort of isolation was always appealing to me. I always had a very romantic idea of France — the wine and the cheese and the sun and the relaxed life — so I was living that.

It was a very sort of hand-to-mouth existence; there wasn’t an awful lot of surplus (with money). I can remember selling a magazine article and being so thrilled, I went out and bought some wood for the fire! It was that sort of existence. But it was fun.

So how did I get into TV? Mr. Frank Wilson, who was at the time working for Speed Vision, he managed to get ahold of my email address from On Track magazine. He was stuck for an announcer in 2000 for the Canadian Grand Prix. David Hobbs and Sam Posey were going to be in Le Mans, and that left Bob Varsha on his own in the booth. So Frank Wilson, who was a producer of the Formula One coverage in the States, was scratching his head and thinking, “What are we going to do about this?” He’d read my first two books and some magazine work I’d done. And he said, “You know, Steve offers a different perspective. We’ve never seen this side of the sport covered like this before.” Typically, motorsport announcers are former drivers. It’d been like that seemingly forever. But there’d never been anyone who said, “Well, the cars are built this way for this reason” and “Look what’s happening now on the pit stop” and “That’s a bad pit stop because this happened.” That kind of got glossed over.

So one dark and stormy night in the middle of nowhere in France, I was tapping away on the laptop and an email pinged onto my screen from Frank — who I didn’t know at all.

Wow! Just out of the blue?

I thought it was a joke. I thought it was some old friend from Benetton winding me up. But Frank said, “Hey, we’re stuck for an announcer. Would you mind flying over? Would you consider helping us out for one race?” And as we’ve touched on several times now, I’m not afraid to try something new. So I said, “Sure. What’s the worst that’s going to happen?” If they didn’t want to offer me any more work, I’d go back to France. So that was it. I went over and helped them out for that one race — and here we are 20 years later, having a chat.

Steve Matchett, right, was part of SPEED’s great F1 broadcast team along with David Hobbs (left) and Bob Varsha. (Courtesy FOX Sports)

That’s remarkable. But you had to Charlotte from France at some point to do this. Was it tough to give up that lifestyle?

That first race I did was from their Stamford (Conn.) studios. But I was still living in France. So every race, I would fly across the Atlantic — commuting. That soon became a long and tiresome commute. Because thinking back a bit now, it wasn’t just the length of the flight — which was six or eight hours. But from door to door, from leaving the hotel in Stamford to opening the door of my old farmhouse in France, was 23.5 hours. Because I was in the middle of nowhere, so it wasn’t just a matter of catching the flight to London or Paris and commuting down. I’d disembark in the north of Paris, catch the Metro through Paris to get to the south of Paris at Montparnasse train station, wait four hours for the next TGV — the next fast train — to take me down toward Bordeaux. (Laughs) If I knew I was going to be working in TV, I would never have moved to this remote part of France. But life doesn’t work that way, you know?

So after a period of years, Speed Vision was acquired by FOX and FOX wanted to relocate everyone down to Charlotte for the NASCAR connection. I spent the next 12 years or so working down in Charlotte. At one point, I said, “Enough. I’m going to buy some property over here.” So I had to sell the property in France.

It was a tough time to do it, but there comes a point where you just know life is leading you somewhere else. You come to a series of crossroads in life, and it’s “Do you turn left or right?” And I’m very happy I do live in the States. I love the life here. I certainly miss the life in France, but I love the life here and Charlotte is a great place to live. It’s getting busier all the time and more and more people are moving in. There was a time when there were no road jams, but Charlotte is getting very busy.

You mentioned you’re someone who has constantly challenged yourself. Is there a next thing at this point, or is life good and you’re enjoying doing this?

Well, life is good. But I’m getting older; I’m 56 now and beginning to slow down. I enjoyed working with FOX and Speed Vision and I very much enjoyed the five years I was covering Formula One with NBC. If the deal with NBC hadn’t have expired and gone to ESPN, I’d probably still be working with NBC covering Formula One now.

But that’s come to its natural end. And as soon as it did come to an end, Frank Wilson was on the phone to me saying let’s go out for a beer. He said, “We’ve got this interesting new thing we’re doing — Formula E. Come have a look at it.” Hence here we are today. And I like this. I like what I see from Formula E. I still enjoy the technical aspects of the cars as much as the racing. As long as the guys are happy for me to indulge my passion of looking around cars and speaking to a camera and telling that story, I’m happy to do it.

But at the same time, I continue to write. I’ve just written Book No. 4, which is a selection of short stories called These Desired Things. It’s the first deliberate move away from motorsport writing. I feel that side of my life is beginning to come to a close; it’s a natural phase. I’m not upset by it. It’s just the way life works.

I’ve also been doing audiobook recordings of the earlier works as well — and I love doing audiobook narration. I like that work very much. I’ve just recorded The Mechanic’s Tale with Tantor Media up in Old Saybrook, Conn. Had a blast of a time doing that with the guys up there and they seemed very happy with the finished product. We had a chat and I said, “Hey, if anything else comes up where you need a guy with an English accent, I’d be more than happy to consider doing more audiobook narration.”

So when you ask me what does the future hold, I think that’s where it’s going. I still like to be around motorsport and I’m more than happy to help Frank Wilson out — Frank has been a huge inspiration and help to me over the years. I adore writing, so I’ll still continue to do that. And the audiobook narration work, if that continues, I’d be a very happy man.

How I Got Here with Mike Joy

This is the latest in a weekly feature called “How I Got Here,” where I ask people in NASCAR about the journeys to their current jobs. Each interview is recorded as a podcast but is also transcribed on Up next: Mike Joy, the longtime NASCAR broadcaster for FOX Sports.

Could you tell me how you got started and how this whole thing came to be?

I was in college and it was right after the dawn of college FM radio. We had a very progressive station, and it was all progressive rock, drug-infused music at night. But the station had a mandate to do live sports of all the university’s teams. So I had done football and basketball play-by-play. The sports I didn’t play in college, I broadcast them and learned my trade from other students who had experience doing it.

And it was fun. I got to doing news for the station and that was no fun. We had a UPI teletype machine at the station — donated, of course — but you were forbidden to rip and read: Rip a piece of copy off the teletype and read what those professionals had written. All stories had to be rewritten.

Why is that?

Because reading off the printed page, you weren’t learning anything. I didn’t want to bother with that — not because I was lazy, it just didn’t challenge me. Maybe I just didn’t enjoy writing all that much.

But I found that I could look at one of those news stories and rewrite it in my head and rebroadcast it as I went. People started telling me that’s a very useful skill, along with broadcasting live sports.

My goal, I wanted to be the next Dan Gurney or the next Mark Donohue. I wanted to race. But I didn’t have any money to find out if I had any talent, and there weren’t the junior racing series and cars like Bandoleros and Legends. There were Quarter Midgets, but they were few and far between. There just wasn’t that opportunity. Even Darrell (Waltrip), Darrell got in his first race car at age 17.

So in college, we were running road rallies and autocrosses — which is pylon racing in a parking lot — but we didn’t have an opportunity to really race. So we would run these autocrosses, and one place we ran was a quarter-mile track in Massachusetts — Riverside Park Speedway. They would run stock cars on Tuesday and Saturday nights, and we would have the track Sunday for our autocrosses.

Well, the track announcer, the PA announcer, was also an author and a Shakespearean actor, John Wallace Spencer. I learned a lot from him, especially about timing. John wrote all his books about things that could not be disproven: UFOs, the Bermuda Triangle, things likes that. And he was having to book tours, so they needed another announcer.

Well I was autocrossing one day and they said, “When you’re not running your car, would you go up to the PA booth and just fill in the people that might wander by?” Because the speedway was attached to an amusement park and they’re seeing what’s going on.

Like on the same night you’re running?

Yeah, on the same day. So in between runs with our car, I’d go do that. Well here comes Ed Carroll, a fiery Irishman who owned the racetrack: “Why are several hundred people sitting in a stadium watching one car go around cones instead of being out in the park spending money?” Well, they were being entertained. We were having fun. And I got offered a job Saturday nights as the assistant announcer for his stock car track.

Now, I was in college full time. Part time, I was busting tires in a Firestone store, which because it was a union shop, I was making $3.05 an hour while my friends were pumping gas or flipping burgers for $1.75, which was minimum wage. So I thought I was doing great. So when they told me they would offer me $25 a night to announce the stock car races? Boom! That was awesome.

But I turned them down. I said, “They’re no way. I’m a fan of Formula One and Trans Am and Can-Am, and all you’ve got is a bunch of jalopies going around the track in circles. They’re just turning left!” And the PR guy said, “Why don’t you come to the track one night, why don’t you come Saturday night and see?” So Saturday night, I’m watching the A consi, and it’s the last chance to get into the main event, and these two cars come off Turn 4 side-by-side, banging wheels, bouncing off the wall, one guy wins by inches and the 6,000 people there go crazy. And I went, “Hell, I’ve gotta be a part of this.”

So I’m the announcer at this quarter-mile racetrack, and for the really big events, they would bring in the New England legend — then, as now — Ken Squier, to work the PA. And that’s where I really learned a lot from Kenley about how to make heroes out of these everyday people.

I was really naive. I thought Saturday night racers, that was their job — that they were professional racers, that’s what they did. I didn’t realize that one ran a repair garage, one drove an oil truck, one was a long-distance trucker during the week and they just carved out time on Saturdays to race. So I had a lot to learn. But that was the start of it, and it was the notice from Ken that helped open a lot of doors.

So you’re observing Ken and working alongside with him. At what point did he come to you and say, “You’re good at this, you need more of an opportunity?”

It didn’t take long. Within two years, I was doing public address five nights a week throughout New England, New York State, Long Island.

Is this after you were done with college, or was there overlap?

There was a lot of overlap and some cold winters and eating a lot of mac and cheese and grilled cheese sandwiches in the winters. But that’s OK, I really thought this could work into something.

In 1975, five years after this started, I went to work in Stafford with Jack Arute at his dad’s track, and we had a ball. We’d have Ken come down for some big shows and I think we honed as many announcers out of Stafford as we did top level drivers to go to Cup. That’s where it really took off.

Jack came down to Daytona at the end of ’76, and I followed him at the end of ’78. We worked for MRN full-time in the office during the week, selling ads, signing up stations, and then broadcasting on the weekends. And it was a tremendous education.

When Jack left, I ended up running MRN for three years. CBS was by now broadcasting, and I left MRN full-time, kept doing the races on the weekends, but left the full-time job because of an opportunity. And then as soon as I left, CBS called. They couldn’t interrupt what I was doing at MRN, but once I was no longer there full-time, they said, “We want you to come work for us in the pits.” And again that was Ken Squier.

In the meantime, I learned so much from Ken and Barney Hall and Ned Jarrett, and that kind of helped me craft what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be in this business.

I would imagine, though, that the transition from radio to TV — it seems to me like it can’t be easy at all. Was it natural for you?

In the pits, it’s very easy because you’re reporting. The difference is, instead of telling people what you’re seeing and having to flesh out the word picture, it’s show and tell. It’s when you move to the booth that TV becomes very different from radio.

Radio, you have to create the entire word picture of the event of the separation between cars, what the cars look like, not just the attitude, but the colors, the paint schemes, the sponsor logo, everything.

In TV, the best TV announcers let the picture do most of the talking and try to tell the viewer what they can’t see — how things are developing, whether intervals are growing or shrinking, and things that they can’t readily see. The more technology we put on the screen, especially with the new scoring pylon, there’s less of that information that we have to give and we can delve much more into the why instead of the what you are seeing.

If somebody wanted to get into it now, should they go straight TV or should they still start in radio and build their way up that way?

I think radio challenges your creativity much more than television from sitting in the booth. Television challenges your restraint much more than radio. On radio, I knew that when I was talking, there were nine other voices that couldn’t wait to get in and all they had to do was flip the switch.

The rule in radio that Ken started is two-fold: You lose your breath, you lose your turn. And if somebody interrupts you, you stop mid-sentence — because they respect what you’re saying, but there’s something of immediacy. If you interrupt, it better be the second coming or something. It better be important enough to interrupt the train of thought of what’s being said.

I always tell people new to TV: “One of my favorite Mark Twain quotes, and I have a lot of them: ‘I never learned anything when I was talking.'” And so instead of talking wall to wall through the event, we need to be respectful and restrained. Let the cars go through the frame and listen to them. Let a battle develop. And even sometimes, let a crash unfold. Let the people see it. And then tell them what and why.

You don’t have to say, “There goes so-and-so up on his side, here’s so-and-so in the wall, here’s so-and-so on the roof.” But we do, because we’re reacting to what we see. So it’s very hard to exhibit that restraint and to let the picture and only the picture tell the story. Now, when you have three Type-A personalities in the booth, all of us having been vaccinated with phonograph needles, it’s very, very hard to have that restraint.

You were announcing on CBS, and then you ended up on FOX once the contracts switched over. But was it that simple? Was there any question you would go there?

Oh, there was. I joined CBS in ’83, and CBS at that time only did three races a year: Daytona, Michigan and Talladega. So I would do the rest of the season for MRN and that persisted for several years. And then I was just doing CBS and picked up TNN when they got into racing and did all the TNN races for five or six years.

But in 1998, I began a three-year run of doing Formula One for FOX with Derek Bell. And while Bob Varsha did the same job on Speed, it then wasn’t really part of FOX, it was kind of different. So that’s where my relationship with FOX started.

Many of the FOX management were former CBS people, because FOX Sports was started when they got the NFL contract from CBS, so they absorbed a lot of those people. So as 2000 rolled around, CBS pretty much assumed that I would move with the NASCAR property to FOX.

It wasn’t that easy. NASCAR had a play-by-play person who was, for lack of a better word, a company man that they really wanted there. There were only two jobs, NBC and FOX. NBC signed Allen Bestwick right away. That left the FOX job, and there were a number of us in there vying for it, and I got it.

But it was kind of touch and go there for a while. And I think what put it over the top was, they had hired Darrell, they were talking to Larry McReynolds, and I made sure through Ed Goren, that David Hill and the FOX execs had a tape of a late-season Saturday race that Larry, Darrell and I had done together at Phoenix. And they looked at that and they go, “That’s it, that’s the chemistry we want. There we go.”

Is it possible today to still follow the career path that you had? For instance, you were a pit reporter on TV. Well now FOX hired Regan Smith because he has expertise and these drivers are so good at talking. Can someone still follow the path that you did to become the next Mike Joy?

I think so. I think the entry level is much easier than it has ever been. Any one of your listeners and readers can buy a piece of equipment, go to their local short track, establish a blog and be credentialed as media and get something up there on the web. Anybody can do that. There are zero barriers to entry, other than the willingness to do it and the cost of the equipment. And then, the more you do, the more you get noticed.

If you’re doing this at a local track and the local track people are smart, they’ll hire you to do it, they’ll hire you to work the public address. There are positions. That’s how I started. Those jobs are still out there, still available.

There are two and a half radio networks covering NASCAR on a regular basis: MRN, PRN and then the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Network, which does their one race. So there are opportunities, and there are people coming through radio that could transition to TV, and again a lot of that depends on the focus of the network.

(FOX Sports president) Eric Shanks, who’s our boss, he really likes the idea of having boots on the ground that have been on the field — and that’s not just in NASCAR, that’s in all sports. He wants ex-players and ex-coaches and crew chiefs, pit crewmen, to do the reporting on the ground partly because they instantly know what they’re looking at and why. But also because they can add their own layer of experience into what they’re describing. I support that.

So no, I wouldn’t get a job as a FOX pit reporter now. And there are talented people that wanted that job that Regan Smith has, but he’s well spoken, he puts his thoughts together in a good, concise way, he’s gonna do a great job for us. I don’t think we’ll ever have all ex-athletes in the pits, but we’ll have a balance of them and I think that’s good. Just like I’m not sure we’ll ever have all ex-drivers in the booth. I see two that might be able to, after a couple of years as booth analysts, transition to a play-by-play role. I won’t tell you who; I’ll go talk to their agents first. You know who they are.

What else is left for you to accomplish in your career? What else do you want to do that’s on your bucket list?

The next one, the next race. I’ve called Major League Baseball for FOX. That was fun. Would love to do some more, but I respect that FOX has people whose expertise is 100 percent baseball, and so it’s not for me to meddle in that.

Sports television has evolved so much. When I started, ABC and NBC used the same three or four play-by-play announcers each for everything they put on the air. Jim McKay did everything, from the Olympics to Indy to Daytona — everything, because he was that familiar voice that was important to the network to project to the viewers. And if he was there, it was a big event.

CBS’s approach was different, they knew auto racing was a very different sport. They did not put it in the hands of Chris Schenkel — they did for a while, they tried that, and Brent Musburger, they tried that. But they knew the sport required the expertise of particular people who were immersed in it, and that’s how I got that opportunity. Same with Chris Economaki, with Dave Despain, with David Hobbs, Ned Jarrett — we were all immersed in racing, and because CBS believed that that was what was needed.

It was a combination of timing, opportunity, recommendation, maybe a little talent, a lot of ambition. But to get to this level would be much more difficult than it was. There’s only two networks doing NASCAR, so there’s only two top play-by-play positions. There’s a lot of undercard, and we now have a separate play-by-play for each national series of NASCAR, and another group doing the touring series now for NBCSN. So there’s opportunities there. Vince Welch’s son (Dillon) did the pits for the ARCA race the other day, which is great, because he really wants to be in this business, had the background, they gave him an opportunity. Wonderful.

So at the entry level, at the mid-level, there are a lot of opportunities. I know there’s a bunch of people hoping I retire real soon, and my intent is to greatly disappoint them. Greatly.

Regan Smith to join FOX Sports NASCAR coverage as pit reporter

There will be an intriguing new face on pit road when FOX Sports begins next season’s NASCAR coverage at Daytona.

FOX is expected to announce later today that Regan Smith, the veteran racer who worked as an analyst for FS1’s Race Hub, will become FOX’s newest pit reporter and join Jamie Little, Matt Yocum and Vince Welch on pit road. Chris Neville had been a pit reporter for FOX but will not return.

Smith made 13 starts in the Camping World Truck Series this season — as well as two starts in the Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 car and one start for Joe Gibbs Racing in the Xfinity Series — which means he brings a current driver’s viewpoint to his analysis. That has worked well on Race Hub and also shined during an Xfinity Series broadcast last season at Iowa.

“My biggest goal in joining pit road is to be able to give viewers something they didn’t know before or to better help them understand something going on with the driver or the car,” Smith said in a statement. “Since I am still competing, I can put into perspective what a driver is feeling at a particular moment.”

The new pit reporter role for Smith will be for both Cup Series and Xfinity broadcasts on FOX.

Smith doesn’t have any current plans to compete next season, but indicated he hasn’t driven his last race. There seems to be a movement in NASCAR TV right now toward more current analysts — FOX has Jeff Gordon and Smith, while NBC just hired Dale Earnhardt Jr. to go along with Jeff Burton, Steve Letarte and Parker Kligerman — who, like Smith, has balanced insightful analysis with maintaining an active driving career.

Steve Craddock, FOX Sports senior vice president of NASCAR Production, said Smith’s stint as an analyst during the Iowa race last year opened executives’ eyes to his potential as a broadcaster.

“A fan and peer favorite, he has proven himself seamless in translating his years of driving experience to the viewers at home,” Craddock said in a statement.

Aside from Smith, the FOX broadcasts will have a familiar look. Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip and Gordon return to the Cup booth, with Larry McReynolds as an additional analyst. Adam Alexander and Michael Waltrip will broadcast the FOX portion of the Xfinity Series — with a rotation of Cup driver guest analysts — and Welch will call the Truck Series races alongside Phil Parsons and Waltrip.

Pit reporters for the Xfinity races will be Little, Yocum and Smith; Hermie Sadler, Kaitlyn Vincie and Alan Cavanna will call pit road in the Trucks.

In addition, FOX is expected to bring back its “Drivers Only” broadcast for an Xfinity race in 2018 after it was well-received at Pocono this season.

Someone at FOX Sports has big balls

Television broadcasting is hard. REALLY hard.

The professionals make it look easy, but it takes true talent to be able to think of something, make that something come out of your mouth without tripping over your words and then actually provide insight — all while some producer is giving instructions in your earpiece.

So when FOX Sports turns over its entire Xfinity Series broadcast at Pocono to a bunch of amateurs, it’s going to be must-see TV.

Now, these aren’t just any amateurs — they’re experts in their field — but FOX’s concept is a fascinating experiment. From the booth to pit road to the Hollywood Hotel, all of the “talent” will be active Cup drivers.

These drivers all have experience in front of the camera, which definitely makes a difference. It’s not like they’re going to be blankly staring into your TV.

But still, they’re going to struggle with all the things required of a professional. Getting to a commercial without leaving too much dead air? Throwing from one reporter to another on pit road? Setting up a replay?

It could be a total mess. Or it could be one of the best and most enjoyable broadcasts in years.

Either way, you sort of have to tune in, right?

It’s fun to picture Kevin Harvick as a play-by-play guy, trying to wrangle Clint Bowyer and Joey Logano as analysts. Then there will be Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ryan Blaney and Erik Jones trying to describe pit stops and interview wrecked drivers. And Danica Patrick and Denny Hamlin will make small talk in the Hollywood Hotel while keeping the show moving.

That’s the plan, anyway. How exactly is this all going to work? I’m as curious as anyone — and I can’t wait to see what happens. My guess is a lot of viewers feel the same way.

So nice move, FOX. We’ll be watching.

First person essay: Kaitlyn Vincie on her pregnancy journey

Editor’s note: Kaitlyn Vincie is a reporter for FOX Sports who regularly appears on Race Hub, RaceDay and as a pit reporter for Camping World Truck Series broadcasts. I’ve known Kaitlyn since she was trying to break into the NASCAR world, and I’m honored she agreed to do an essay for on the story of her pregnancy in advance of Mother’s Day.

By Kaitlyn Vincie

When I first found out I was pregnant with my daughter, Kadence, it reminded me of a scene from the movie Knocked Up. It’s the part where Katherine Heigl had all the pregnancy tests in her hand, wondering if ONE of them would have a different outcome. Like Katherine’s character, all four of my tests said the same thing — and all four were positive.

Yes, there were four.

A quick visit with a doctor gave the final and official verdict after an unsettling 17 hours: Ready or not, my fiance Blake Harris and I were going to be parents. Off to the races, as they say.

I went into last offseason thinking 2017 would be about planning a wedding with Blake, who is the car chief for Furniture Row Racing’s No. 78 team. But while we were ready to get married, we definitely weren’t in the right mindset to have a child. I could barely seem to keep plants alive at my home, much less fathom raising a kid.

However, there was a different plan for us than we anticipated. And I am certain now it’s the greatest turn of life events I could have hoped for.

Blake and I are both career-oriented and like-minded people. As a key member of the No. 78 team, he lives in Denver, Colo.; I have been working the last six years in NASCAR television out of Charlotte, N.C. with a variety of roles for FOX Sports.

We met while working and traveling on the racing circuit at an unusual restaurant near New Hampshire Motor Speedway (just your conventional NASCAR love story). But Blake was easily the partner I had been hoping to find, and through this entire process he has handled our turn of life events with grace and dexterity — while I’ve been the temperamental and often emotional one.

Getting pregnant wasn’t my current dream. Working in sports television, however, was something I had my eye on since I was 18 years old, and I wasn’t anxious to have something sidetrack my current career trajectory.

But once the reality set in we were going to be parents, the biggest thing that worried me about our pregnancy situation was the logistics. “How’s this going to work?” I asked more than once.

Figuring out how to balance a long-distance relationship is hard enough as it is. Now factor in long-distance parenting, a time change and both individuals traveling every weekend for work and — voila! — you have our current dynamic.

Somehow, we are balancing our careers amidst wedding and nursery planning, as well as baby appointments in both Colorado and North Carolina, NASCAR travel and living in separate states across the country. My home is littered with bridal magazines, how-to baby books, doctor bills, airline tickets and NASCAR notes.

In addition, I was tapped to cover four Supercross events, which required learning a new sport in addition to my NASCAR duties. The SX events often put me in different locations than where Blake was for the weekend with the Cup Series, so we had to get even more creative to see one another.

As you can imagine, this year has been nothing short of a whirlwind — and we are only in May. While there’s never really a great time to start a family with the long racing schedule, Kadence is due on Aug. 23 — which happens to be on one of two off-weekends we have all year. If everything goes according to plan, she will arrive in between the Bristol and Darlington events.

It’s funny when you work in NASCAR how everything is referenced in relation to race dates and venues.

Kadence is due Aug. 23. (Photo courtesy of Kaitlyn Vincie)

My current plan is to continue traveling right up until I’m no longer allowed to fly. I never even realized there were restrictions on flying while pregnant — which further proves how little I knew about this whole process. I’ve also learned quickly to always choose an aisle seat now that I am pregnant, because people find it annoying if you have to use the facilities three times during a flight to the West Coast.

Once Kadence arrives I’ll take some time off, but I fully plan to return to work before the season ends; I have a target race in mind. Blake will be by my side when our daughter is born but will have to return to his team obligations in Denver and be back on the road very shortly thereafter.

The life of a road crew member is one of the most demanding positions in the whole garage, and I understand the responsibilities that are on the line. Although it will be hard to operate as a single parent in some ways during that time, I am fortunate to have the support of both my family and his, along with a small, close group of friends.

As far as FOX Sports and my producers behind the scenes, they have all been very supportive — which I am very grateful for. They’ve encouraged me to take all the time I will need in terms of maternity leave, and not rush the process. Many of them have families of their own and understand what my new normal will be.

One of the very first calls I made to share the news was to Krista Voda, my former colleague at SPEED Channel. In a panic, I asked her, “What do I do now?” I remember working with her on our Trackside broadcast when she was pregnant with her daughter, so I knew she had firsthand experience. Needless to say, she talked me off the ledge and continues to be someone I lean on for advice concerning motherhood while working in the sport.

My FOX Sports colleague Jamie Little also has become a sounding board for my various questions about pit-road reporting while pregnant, and was the first to send me a racing-themed onesie.

Jamie and Krista have and continue to be my biggest role models in more ways than one. The job of pit-road reporting is hard — even if you aren’t carrying a small human inside you — and I’m thankful I can learn from several women who have done it before me. But in reality, there aren’t many of us — it’s a small club.

Kaitlyn on the job with FOX Sports, seen here interviewing Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Photo courtesy of Kaitlyn Vincie)

All the logistics aside, I’m determined to make it work. In today’s society, there still seem to be some traditional ideas that women have to choose between career and motherhood. And that is simply not the case. It’s harder — as I’m finding out — but it’s possible.

I don’t want to transition into a lifestyle that doesn’t involve the career I have worked so hard for; that’s not me. I want to be an example for my daughter of a working mother, because I think that’s a very important message to send.

My new family dynamic really is an example of two working parents who have to do everything it takes — even before her arrival — to provide for the family. It’s a constant balance between fostering the careers you have worked your whole lives for and adjusting to what the new normal will be once the latest addition to the family arrives.

When it comes to Blake, racing brought us together. And even though we live in different states, racing still brings us together every weekend. The sport will very much be a part of Kadence’s life as well, as we will likely be bringing her on the road this season and beyond.

Actually, NASCAR is already been part of her life — thanks to a few challenges that I’m thankful Blake has helped me through.

Recently, we had our largest ultrasound scheduled for a Denver appointment on April 26. Well, as Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans might recall, he announced his retirement on April 25 — the day I was supposed to fly out to Colorado on a 3 p.m. flight.

When the retirement news came out that morning, I didn’t even give it a second thought: I changed my flight. As a journalist, I didn’t want to miss what would likely become one of the biggest news days of the entire season. Those are the moments you remember as members of the media — being there, being a part of it and fielding your question to Dale Jr.

So I switched to a later flight, went to the news conference, drove straight to the airport, arrived in Colorado after midnight and was at my doctor’s office with Blake at 8:30 a.m. the next morning. Of course, it was all worth it when we got to see Kadence’s face that day on the ultrasound, along with a plethora of other organs.

Why the name “Kadence?” The musical term “cadence” means rhythm. Our little girl has completely thrown off our life rhythm, so it seemed more than appropriate coming from two parents who are both musically inclined (I sing, he plays multiple instruments). But although this chapter in life has not been without its share of struggles, I am looking forward to what’s next, and I am grateful for the new challenges that have been thrown our way.

Blake and I are expanding from a two-car team to a three-car team. And as any team president would tell you, those expansions usually come with some growing pains along the way.

The announcement of Kadence’s impending arrival. (Photo courtesy of Kaitlyn Vincie)

Social Spotlight with Kenny Wallace

Each week, I’m asking someone from the racing industry about their social media use in a feature called the Social Spotlight. Up next: Kenny Wallace, the longtime driver and FOX Sports analyst. This interview is also available in podcast form.

You were one of the first people in NASCAR to really understand social media, understand how to use your Facebook page, your Twitter page. You’ve always been so into it. Why did you embrace it early on? What did you see in it that made you feel like you need to be part of that?

Well this is incredibly true: It had nothing to do with me. What happened was I had a gentleman who was running, and I thought it was boring, and I said to him, “We need to put video on” He said to me, “It’s too expensive.” So then all of a sudden, he said, “Let’s go to Facebook and you can do videos for free there.” And then I remember saying, “Facebook is for children.” And he was appalled; he says, “No it’s not.”

So fast-forward. My career was kind of not going real good and I was driving the U.S. Border Patrol car for Jay Robinson (in 2009). Well, they said, “You’re gonna have to start and park in Montreal, Canada, because U.S. Border Patrol is not gonna be a sponsor there.” Made sense. But I remember being appalled (about being asked to start and park).

First of all, I want to say this: we all do what we have to do, and I’m no better than anybody, but I do not start and park. Maybe it’s just because of my father and my family being so competitive. And I wasn’t broke, but I was not going to start and park.

So I called NASCAR up and we had this idea to create a fan car. So NASCAR said, “You can get away with it, Kenny Wallace.” I remember them saying that. So then that’s how it started: it was everybody could put their name on our car that we raced in the first Xfinity race in Montreal, Canada.

We raised an enormous amount of money (roughly $100,000) and some 7,000 people’s names were on the car, and I wrote Jay Robinson a check and that is the way that I got it out, on Facebook. And then that’s when I went, “Wow. OK.” Then it became entertainment and that’s how it all started with me.

So you are very entertaining on all social media. I’m sure there’s been times where you put out something and you were like, “Oh my gosh, did I go too far with this?” Because you are not afraid, from what I can tell. How do you know when you go too far on social media?

Well, when I look back, there’s things that I’m embarrassed of. In my early days, I still listened to Howard Stern — and I still listen — and people just had this fascination with going to the bathroom. So I felt, “Well, I’ll try this. I’m not gonna copy Howard but…” So I was taking pictures of myself around porta-potties, in porta-potties, and I’m like, “This is ridiculous.” They had the most retweets, they had the most (reply) tweets. Am I embarrassed by that nowadays? I’m like, “Oh my gosh,” you know.

But we all have this fascination with bathrooms. You know, I don’t know if I’d do that over again. Of course, I did something a little about pooping today, which was a little lighthearted. But you know, I really do get something ready to go, I read it and read it and go, “Nope.”

Oh my God, I’ve deleted so many things. I can promise you right now, the hardest thing for me to do is not involve myself in this political viewpoint we have right now because I’m a Republican, and I have so much to say, but I just know you can’t win. And then it becomes no fun and that is when I think I’ve gone too far nowadays.

And I don’t like to hurt. For some reason, I like to crack a joke. I did say something the other day that I did delete. Somebody said that (Eric) Thames with Milwaukee in Major League Baseball has 11 home runs, and what do other players think of that? And I sarcastically tweeted, “Ask (Ryan) Braun” — Braun got caught with PEDs, steroids. And a fan said, “Come on Kenny, can’t a guy just have a good start this season?” And I thought, “Yeah, that was mean of me.”

But I did put that laughing face behind it. But I went back and deleted the tweet. You know, it just came to my mind right away, so it is natural for me to be conversational, tweet because I’m bored at an airport. I don’t like going too far.

You talked about some of the blowback that you might get sometimes — you know, political tweets, whatever. How do you handle people who say something mean, because you’re a very positive person from everything I’ve been able to tell all over the years. Do you just block them, or do you ignore people? How do you handle it if somebody’s coming at you?

That’s a great question, because I’ve had to teach myself and I’m like anybody else: I get my feelings hurt. I’ve been roughed up, I’ve felt like it’s been 300,000 people against me. But I’m tough, so I never say, “Why me?” and I’m really into therapy. I mean, I don’t take therapy, but I tease some really good friends of mine that are very mature and are good to me.

So what I did is when people would rough me up, I would turn it around and I would kind of play a game with them. I would say, “Wow, what happened in your childhood to make you so negative? I really feel sorry for you.” And I would never argue with them. And so I would always use the childhood thing. That always seemed to work — go back to why they’re so mean.

Then all of a sudden, I felt, “Well, this is silly. Don’t even respond.” So I literally started this one deal I had. I said, OK, you can say, “Hey Kenny Wallace, you were no good as a race car driver.” And I would say, “Well, you know, at least I tried.” Or I would say, “I didn’t accomplish what I wanted, but I made a lot of money doing it.” That would be a little bit of a sarcastic innuendo.

So all of a sudden, I said OK, you can debate with me. You can rough me up. But as soon as you cuss me out, if you go really hardcore, I block people. And I’ll tell you, I’ve probably blocked 100 people, I would say that. And it really silenced the noise.

Well it’s interesting because you want to be interactive with people, you want to be fan-friendly, you want to be approachable, all that stuff, but once somebody is like ruining your day with their tweets, they forget that everybody on the other side of it is still human. You still have feelings. You can’t just say, “Whatever, that doesn’t mean anything to me.” If somebody says something, it can get to you. So you can actually make it more fun for yourself by eliminating seeing these tweets in some way.

Here’s what I learned about. Years ago, a dear friend of mine, Felix Sabates, and myself got in a knock-down drag-out over something I said about Chip Ganassi Racing. I simply said they weren’t a top 10 team. I said Kyle Larson’s goal should be to run in the top 20. Well, Felix got really mad at me, and he attacked me and we talked to each other, we were about in tears hugging each other.

So here’s what I say about tweeting: I can start at first in the points in any series. I can start with Kyle Larson and I could go to the 40th place driver, and I could say negative, mean stuff about them — and it’d be true. But that’s not right. So my point is: you can take a four-time champion, Jeff Gordon, and I’ve got enough on him where I can really hurt his feelings. Just because he won 90-something races, everybody’s still got… you know they can be hurt, and they all got secrets, and I know them.

So I said to myself, “Isn’t that something? If I wanted to, I could hurt anybody. Anybody that’s really good!” I could hurt Jimmie Johnson. Just because you’re good at any type of sport doesn’t mean you’re perfect. And once you realize that, and you see Jimmie Johnson get roughed up, it’s like, Jeff Gluck, you, or I, we could get roughed up. Hell, they rough up a seven-time champion more than they do us, so that’s when you really start to bring in the scope. If they can rough up anybody, then that’s when everybody’s free game. And then, it’s just not right.

Part of your social media success in my view is it’s an extension of your personality. When I see you with people, you’re very warm, you’re very approachable. Somebody will come up to you and say, “Hey Kenny, I’m a big fan!” And you’ll put your arm around him, you’ll make it seem like you’ve been friends for a long time. I feel like I want to be more like that in someways; I need to be warmer with people. I guess my question is, how do you open yourself up to people you’ve maybe never met, or you don’t even know what their motives are necessarily, but you are willing to embrace them. How do you do that?

Well, when I look back on my childhood — now what I’m telling you now, I had to learn about myself. So my mother Judy says, “Kenny, you’re an old soul.” And I was like, “What is that, Mom?” And she says, “Well, you’ve been here before.” And I am laughing a little about it. But if you believe in reincarnation, and God knows that we have dreams when we go to bed, it’s kind of voodoo, like, “Gosh, I think I’ve done this before.”

So, with that being said, I was in school and I was always squeaking my chair. I was seeking attention from the teachers. I was always in trouble and they sent me to a therapist. And the therapist said, “He has a sibling rivalry with his brothers. Kenny is reaching out for attention — he’s competing with Rusty Wallace and Mike Wallace.” Well that’s untrue, because I know myself.

What I can tell you I learned about myself is for some reason, if there’s tension or people are arguing, I don’t like it. Now, I am a leader and a boss, but I don’t believe in roughing people up. I believe in organization and big nice meetings, but I don’t believe you have to be a total prick.

So I was born a lover, and I mean that, because I’ve read some things by Steven Tyler, the lead singer for Aerosmith. I’ve seen Steven Tyler give the biggest obese lady the biggest hug and just embrace her, when most people would go, “Oh my God, you’re too big. You’re nasty.” And my mother said, “Boy, Kenny, you are always good to little old ladies.” And it just taught me that, you know, you can’t just hug good-looking ladies. Everybody needs love. So Jeff, I kind of compiled all that and I’m like, “Everybody needs the love.”

You know, my brother Rusty, he’s won 50-something races and he flat-looked at me one day and he was mad at me. He said, “OK, Kenny, you win the ‘Everybody likes me’ award.” And I looked him, and it had crushed me. My brother Rusty was jealous of me that everybody liked me. So, you know, but I’m jealous of Rusty — I’d love to have one Cup win. But here I’ve never won a Cup race, and he wants what I have.

And Jeff Gordon said to me, “God, I wish I could laugh like you, Kenny.” And he was serious. And I take these great drivers, and then I had to learn that, “Oh my God, all they’re good at is driving a car around in circles really fast.”

You know, I really started learning what was wrong with us. So somebody can hit a baseball really far, and what, now you can solve world peace? So I just know that everybody needs to love everybody and nobody is really better than anybody. And if you’re really good at something, I really respect you and I admire you for it. But it doesn’t mean you’re a good person.

Well that’s important and I think that can come through on social media and make a difference because there’s so much negativity out there. If you can sort of cut through that and spread a positive message, make people feel good, show that there’s a different way, put aside the angry people and try to have fun with it, I think that seems to be the key to enjoying social media. I feel like you, maybe more than anybody I see out there, have sort of captured that. Is that fair to say?

Yeah, and I take my chances. This has nothing to do with you, and I want to make sure that you don’t get in trouble for what I’m gonna say, but you know, Jenna Fryer’s a very strong-willed lady, and I recognize that and I’ve known that for years. But she got roughed up (in written form) by one of the world’s greatest race car drivers, Mario Andretti, and it almost appalled me. You know, Mario went at her (about a controversial column regarding Fernando Alonso), and then everybody started going at her.

But you know, we put ourselves out there. And I already knew what she was going through, and I said that it’s amazing that sometimes the media will eat their own. And what I mean by that is that we are in a new environment where it’s insane, you know? Either people are too sensitive or they’re too harsh.

Listen, I’ve got a lot of bad things to say, but there’s no way I would have said them because they’re too hurtful. And it goes back to what I said: If you want, I can go right down the line. It’s like the movie where the man goes around the table and literally makes fun of everybody. It’s like, “Oh my God.” So, social (media) is brutal and it’s great and it’s bad.

What advice would you give to younger drivers who are trying to navigate this world? Right now, the sport’s in need of people to show personality like you’ve shown throughout your career. How would you tell them to do that?

I would tell them that I understand they want their privacy and I understand that they’re quiet. Being quiet is not a cool new thing. Me and Ryan Blaney had a conversation about this. Ryan Blaney said that he wanted to send a message that he’s very serious when we know he’s not. He’s funny, and he has a lot of good wit; he’s funny.

And I said, “Why are you walking around the garage area all serious?” He goes, “Well, I want to send a message that I’m serious.” But then you look at Clint Bowyer, who runs second, wins races, and just is as crazy as me, and he can get away with it because he runs good.

I would tell all race car drivers coming up now today: Be yourself. You know, if you’re waiting for an airplane or you’re somewhere eating lunch and you’ve just gotten moments that you’re just bored, get on social (media). I mean, I’m on social (media) all the time because I truly am bored that much. I’m waiting for an airplane, I’m drinking coffee.

So as hyper as I am and as many places as I go — when you travel as much as we do and you do, it could appear we’re busy, but we’re not. We’re not that busy, we’re just traveling. Get on your phone and create entertainment. It makes me laugh.

Well, thank you for joining us.

No, thank you. And I admire you; I really do. You know, I just want to make sure before we’re done that, you know, you took a chance, you quit your job, you got out on your own, and that’s the American dream, and that’s very hard to do. It’s very scary for me to watch you do it, but you’re my hero, and I wish more of us could do that. That’s kind of what America was built on. So good job and keep digging.

Thank you very much, and the feeling is very mutual. Like I said, I wish I could be more like you a lot of times.

You’re good. (Laughs)

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