Aaron Bearden: JR Motorsports inches closer to title shot

By Aaron Bearden

The JR Motorsports playoff trio of William Byron, Justin Allgaier and Elliott Sadler didn’t contend for the win at Kansas Speedway.

In fact, they didn’t even lead a lap.

But the group survived to tally top-10s, and based on their position in the standings, that’s all that matters.

“I think for us, survival is key to all of these playoff races,” Allgaier said of JRM. “It doesn’t matter if it’s the first playoff race or the last one.”

Byron, Allgaier and Sadler haven’t been the class of the Xfinity Series this year. That honor goes to the three Cup Series teams — Joe Gibbs Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing and Team Penske — who field teams in the lower series.

JRM’s five combined victories fall short of the 21 wins those other three organizations have combined to capture. However, while JRM hasn’t been the best organization overall this season, they’ve been the best of the tour’s class of series regulars.

Despite the strength of JGR, CGR and Penske, those teams have combined to field just two championship contenders (Brennan Poole and Matt Tifft) this season. Both drivers have enjoyed strong seasons and remain in the playoffs, but neither has managed to match JRM’s top trio.

Allgaier and Byron have combined to take five of the seven victories earned by playoff participants to date. The veteran Sadler has gone winless, but claimed the regular season championship. Michael Annett didn’t have the speed of his teammates, but also crept into the postseason on points before an early elimination.

The fruits of JRM’s efforts arrived as soon as the regular season ended and the sport’s newest championship gimmick — playoff points — took effect. And that’s been a different situation than in the Cup Series and Truck Series, where only a few drivers had sizable margin over the rest.


In the Xfinity Series, where Cup drivers and teams typically thrive, the overall lack of playoff points for the field meant JRM entered with a substantial organizational advantage.

Between wins and regular season bonus points, JRM came into the postseason with 72 of the 114 total playoff points. Byron, Allgaier and Sadler each arrived in the first round with 11 or more points on fourth-place Daniel Hemric. And because playoff points carry through each round, the trio held the same advantage going into Saturday’s Round 3 opener at Kansas Speedway.

Secure with their advantage, JRM simply survived in Kansas. JGR’s Erik Jones and Christopher Bell dominated the race up front, and Penske’s Ryan Blaney followed in third.

Behind them? Byron and Allgaier in fourth and fifth. Sadler followed in seventh, meaning JRM had the top three playoff drivers.

A perfect weekend it was not. But it was exactly what JRM needs to place all three of their remaining playoff contenders in the final four at Homestead.

Allgaier, Byron and Sadler hold point advantages of 33, 31, and 22, respectively, over fifth-place Tifft with two races remaining until Homestead. If they can match the Kansas performance two more times, the organization should head into the season finale with 75 percent of the remaining playoff field.

“Today we did our job,” Allgaier said. “We’ve gotta do that for two more races, and we’ll hopefully put ourselves in a great position to go to Homestead.”

Social Spotlight with Justin Allgaier

Each week, I ask a member of the racing community about their social media usage. Up next: Justin Allgaier of JR Motorsports.

You’ve been on social media for a long time now. I feel like you’ve been through the ups and downs of it. How has your personal use evolved over the years to what it is now?

I think that there’s a fine balance of what you put out and what you choose to not put out. I was on social media before I had a child, and I think that having a child changes how you spend your time and how much time you have to devote to certain things. And just the stresses and the pressures and the time allotment of what we do here right now is a lot greater than what it was when I first got onto social media. So I’m probably not on it as much as I would like to be.

I take that back. I’m on a lot, I just don’t necessarily post a lot. I struggle because I love the interaction of it and I love being a part of it. To be honest with you, my wife (Ashley) is great at social media and I learn a lot from her on a daily basis. On the flip side, I’m kind of living in the moment of things instead of documenting them. In some ways that’s good, but in other ways it’s kind of bad. So I’ve struggled with social media on and off because there’s times where I wish I was better at it and then there’s other times when I wish I had never started it and just kept off of it.

But I love the interaction with the fans. My challenge is that 140 characters is just not necessarily enough to communicate with our fans, and that’s tough. At Chicagoland alone, I went through like 800 tweets of people just sending congratulations (after he won). Well I went through 250 text messages, so it’s like, there’s no way you can ever respond to every one of them and not get lost. I had people that were like, “Man, I texted you after Chicagoland,” and I’m like, “You did?” And one of them was one of my pit crew members, and I was like, “I didn’t even see it.” So I think that there’s a fine balance there and I kind of struggle with what that balance should be.

So you touched on this, but being a dad, how much does that take you off social media? Even if you wanted to be on it, how much less time do you have for it?

Now I find myself getting on and scrolling to the top (of the feed), right? Like “What’s going on right now?” If I have a few free minutes, I’m looking at what’s going on in the current moment.

The challenge of that is, I want to go through every tweet until I get to the top, or if it’s Instagram or if it’s Facebook. I’ve got to read all of them and see what’s going on, and I have to go in order and I have to go at my pace. So my wife gets so mad at me because she’s like, “You literally need to get off of Twitter without scrolling to the top, it’s not the end of the world.” I’m like, “No, because if I get off, I don’t know where (I left off). Like when you come back on, it refreshes, and I’m gonna lose all that.” I’ve kind of gotten into the habit of trying to get out of that and scrolling to the top and being done with it.

But on the flip side of it, especially Instagram, if you’re on Instagram, there’s a lot you miss because it doesn’t necessarily come in order, it comes in whatever it thinks you want to see. Like I’m missing a lot of things that would be things that I would want to see and usually seeing the crap that nobody wants to see on my feed.

So I struggle with that part of it. My wife posts a lot of videos and pictures of my daughter. And it’s not like I don’t want to post those pictures and videos, but she’s usually the one taking them, and then I’m gonna end up posting the same photo she posts, and more than likely most of my fans follow my wife anyway. So it’s easier to let her do that part of it.

But there isn’t a good way to do it. I’ll be honest with you, there’s not a good way to balance it. I’m typically reading Twitter at 10:30, 11 o’clock at night in bed or when I get up in the morning or when I’m out by myself and I’ve got five minutes — like if I get somewhere early, I’ll sit in my truck and scroll through. But I think that leaves me not posting as much because I’m typically not on whenever I would want to post something cool.

You touched on a few interesting things there. On Instagram, how arrogant is it on their part where they think that they know what’s best for you to see? I want to see all the posts, like you, in order — and yet you can’t do that! It’s so frustrating with Instagram.

That is the really frustrating part. I always get in that moment (where) I’ll think of somebody’s posts, and I’m like, “I haven’t seen them post in a while.” I’ll go to their page and they have five new posts that I haven’t looked at. So I’ll go through and look at them, but then you get in that moment of, “Do I like all five of them? Or do I not like them?” Because then their feed’s gonna be blown up with, “Justin Allgaier liked all your photos.” But on the flip side, if I don’t like the photos, then they’re like, “Justin Allgaier hasn’t been liking my photos lately.” Especially if they like my photos, then you’re like, “Man.” So to be honest with you, I’ve actually gone on a binge of not liking anything, because I don’t know when it’s from — whether it’s from four days ago or if it was 20 minutes ago. So I agree with you on that, I think for sure it can be done better.

That being said, on Instagram I follow 1,858 people, and on Twitter I follow 1,400 people. So in that regard, sometimes it can get a little bit challenging because you’re go on at times when nobody will post and you’re like, “Man, I gotta go search hashtags or search things” or I’ll go to the trending (section).

Then there’s other times where it seems like everybody wants to post at the exact same time, and you’re like scrolling up, scrolling up, scrolling up and I’ve only made it three minutes. So that’s the other challenge, too: People post in waves, companies come in waves, everybody does things on a different schedule and nine times out of 10 they all do it on the same schedule.

I also wish Facebook was a little bit more user-friendly as far as going back and seeing stuff, because I’ll go on, look at a page, and if I go through and approve a post on my (official) page, then when I go back to my main feed, it’ll be all the posts that I’ve just approved. And some of them might be from 10 days ago. So that doesn’t necessarily work, either.

So I’ve struggled with all of that, but at the end of the day, I guess it really doesn’t matter, as long as you have the people that you want to see and you get their stuff liked or commented on or retweeted or whatever you’re gonna do there. It makes it worth it.

A lot of drivers seem down on Facebook. They kind of ignore it, they have someone else manage it. It sounds like you are still managing your professional page yourself. What is the value there? How do you use that for your professional work?

I still look at everything, and I still try to do some of the official page. All of my personal accounts, I don’t let anyone else touch it. The only person who has access is my wife, and the only reason is if she wants to keep people updated when I’m in the car. She has done that before, but we typically don’t do that.

Now on my official Facebook page, my PR girl Megan (Johnson), she does do some of the posting on there, and the only reason for that is because it went dormant for a while. I got on there one day, I was checking stuff out, and the last post was eight months before that. I was like, “That kind of defeats the purpose of having an official page if there’s not going to be any posts on it.”

And then I went through a spell where it’s tied to my Instagram, and so I was posting on Instagram — you have the option to post on Twitter, post on Facebook — I didn’t know it wasn’t posting to it. There was a glitch between the two, and I went three or four months where I didn’t know the pictures that I was posting weren’t being posted onto it. So now I let her do some of the posts or some of the things that she thinks are important. I’ve given her access to be able to put stuff on it just so there’s at least content on there.

But I still go back through and reread all the comments and try to keep up with what’s going on, what people are saying. At the end of the day, I don’t know if what you post is most necessarily important, it’s more the interaction that I think is probably more important to people. So I think that’s how I’ve kind of gone with it. I’ll post as much as I can post on my own personal stuff but then on the official page, I let her do it.

It goes the same with the website (JustinAllgaier.com). It’s crazy how much websites have changed from years past. Mine now is more of kind of a news hub/ social media hub, so you get the news, the team’s gonna put out at a press release doing whatever, and then the rest of it, it’s all social media on the main page. Right now there’s obviously the tabs that you can go to other places, but keeping people updated on what’s going on on your social side of things is as important or more important than anything else.

I didn’t even think about that, actually.

When was the last time you went to a driver’s website?

That’s what just started going through my mind. The best way to keep it up to date is if you had your social feeds directly plugged into it, because that’s the most updated information you’re giving anyway. It makes a lot of sense, really.

I think so. We do all of our press releases and then right below that is all our social media, whether it’s Twitter or Facebook or Instagram, it’s got all of them tied to it.

YouTube is, for me, the easiest, and I keep wanting to do videos. I keep wanting to do more of YouTube. I’ve said that like 10 times. I bought a bunch of camera stuff and I was gonna do YouTube, and it’s hard. Like I don’t know how people get big YouTube followings.

We posted the video the other day of Harper giving me my helmet, and the story of it, and I had 800 likes between all three social medias that I run — and I had 40 views on the video. And I was like, “Well, the post on social media was to watch the video, and people liked it or commented on it — but I was only on 40 views.” That doesn’t add up in my mind. So I’m struggling with that.

What happens when the interaction turns negative? Like for instance the Indy thing (when he was criticized for mistakes that cost him a shot at the race), you posted a statement responding to everything. Do you go through all those comments on a bad day like that, or do you just have to turn it off after a while?

My wife gets so mad at me because I go through (the feed) good, bad, or indifferent. It doesn’t matter to me if it’s good or if it’s bad, I want to know what people are saying and I want to know what the interaction is.

And the hard part for me is, I get really aggravated when people don’t tag me. Like if you’re gonna subtweet or tweet about somebody, at least tag them so they know what you’re saying. I feel like that’s like going to high school and you’re at one table and you’re talking about someone sitting at another table, right? Be man or woman enough to stand up and say, “Hey, this is how I feel and this what I think.”

My statement from Indy was kind of a loaded statement. Steve Letarte called me after Indy, and we had this conversation about there were a lot of things that happened that day. Obviously, there wasn’t a lot of positives out of it. But there was a lot of the story that never got told, and I told Steve, “You buried me on TV, which led to a lot of what happened on social media. They took your comments and Jeff Burton’s comments and they turned those into headlines.”

And what they said (on TV) wasn’t necessarily as bad as what the headlines ended up reading, but it still caused things to snowball into something. I had people that wanted NASCAR to drug test me and all kinds of crazy stuff, and like it literally went from zero to 100 right now. So I felt like it was important to put out a statement.

At the end of the day it didn’t really matter, it didn’t change anybody’s perception, it didn’t fix what happened on the racetrack. But for me, I at least feel like all sides of the story should be heard at all times, so that’s where social media is at. Whether you like somebody’s opinion or not, you can at least post about it on social media so people know where you’re at and why you stand for what you stand for.

But it was great, because of social media, it caused the conversation between Steve and I. And I don’t know if it changes anything on how he did the TV side of things, but for sure we had a great dialogue out of it and I feel more comfortable with where he’s at as a broadcaster and his position on things and understanding some things, and I also think he understands some other things of where he felt I was at as a driver. So social media caused great dialogue that we would have never gotten had it not been for that.

Something you touched on at the start of that comment is very interesting to me is about tagging people. I personally struggle with that, because let’s say you’re going to say that “Justin Allgaier messed up right there” or something like that. If somebody tags you in it, it’s almost like they’re wanting you to read it. You said you want to read it because you want people to be a man about it when they say it, but at the same time, that could bring a ton of hate your way, like an avalanche of people saying, “That guy sucks!” or something. So what is the balance there? When do you tag somebody, when not?

Because I follow a volume of people, I see a lot of stuff where people aren’t tagged. … But the funny ones to me are the ones where I’ll see someone’s response with a tag of my name in it, but the original post didn’t tag me in it. So it’s like now I’m catching it secondhand. Now you’re reading back through it and you get fired up. Like I would feel better off to know what somebody said.

And at the end of the day, if we make a mistake, if we do something stupid — Indy for example — we already know what happened. We already know that it’s dumb. We already discussed it internally as much as anybody else externally is going to discuss it. That being said, for me personally, from your standpoint or whether it’s any other media member or fan, I think tagging somebody is appropriate. I want to at least know if you’re talking about me. Good, bad or indifferent, I at least want to know.

When it comes to being a dad and sharing your home life, you mentioned you let Ashley handle a lot of stuff because she’s used to being in that role. What is the balance there? Do you feel like fans want to see that part of your life and you feel comfortable sharing that part of your life?

I think I’m more comfortable sharing that part of my life than what fans would want to see of that part of my life. Being around the racetrack and talking to a lot of our fans, I get a lot more responses on the posts that I make about my daughter than I do on the posts that I make about whatever is going on in my life.

I still struggle with that, because I would post pictures of my daughter every day, right? I love my daughter and I’m super happy to watch her grow up and be a part of it. That being said, I feel like sometimes you find there’s enough and there’s too much — and I don’t ever want to hit that plateau. Because once you hit that number, it separates you out from everybody else.

You don’t want to go to work or to dinner or to whatever and one person is constantly, “Hey I got this new photo in my wallet,” or “I got this new photo on my phone,” and constantly showing people photos of their kids. I love that, but at the end of the day, I love it because she’s my daughter. Not everybody else loves it because that’s not their daughter. They could care less. So I don’t know. I struggle with that.

But I feel like the people that follow my wife are either really close friends of hers or they understand that (off-track look) is what they’re getting. I think sometimes as drivers or team members, you’re in a different role. If they watch me race on Saturday from the grandstands and they want to see what’s going on next week, they don’t necessarily know that they’re signing themselves up for a picture of my daughter or a picture of her at dance class or whatever.

I think there is a balance. I don’t know if I know what it is, but I try really hard to not over-incorporate one side or the other. I want people to understand that my social media pages are my own, and so if I post only info and commercial-type content, like race team-style content, people are gonna be like, “He doesn’t do any of his social media.” But then again, if I only post on my daughter, people will be like, “I can’t go there for information of what I want to find out.” So it’s trying to find that balance is really important for me.

12 Questions with William Byron

The 12 Questions series of interviews continues this week with William Byron of JR Motorsports. Byron, a rookie, is currently third in the Xfinity Series point standings. I spoke to him at Talladega.

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

I’d say it’s probably 70 percent natural and 30 percent working at it. I started racing five years ago, so it’s kind of come fast and something that when I started, I just picked it up. I’ve been able to work at running the different racetracks and learning the different cars. So it’s probably 70/30.

2. Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards and now Dale Earnhardt Jr. have all either retired in the last couple years or will retire soon. What’s your pitch for fans of theirs to become fans of yours?

My pitch is probably just the fact that I race for Junior and I think running for JR Motorsports is a good way to support us and kind of branch out into something that he supports as well. Dale and I, we get the chance to go cycling and stuff like that, so we’ve had a chance to bond and hopefully bring over some of those fans in the future. We’ll just have to see what happens. But yeah, I think JR Motorsports is a good way to keep supporting.

That’s a pretty good argument. You’re like, “Hey, Junior fans, look at somebody who actually drives for him!”

Exactly, yeah.

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

The hardest part is probably the travel and stuff, just going to different places every week and being away from kind of a normal life. But that part’s all exciting; you get to go to a lot of different racetracks, meet a lot of different people and it’s a lot different than what my 19-year-old friends are doing in college. I get pictures of them going to football games and stuff. It’s different, but it’s what I love to do, so it’s fun.

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

Yeah, I think so. Absolutely. That would be a pretty cool experience to be noticed in a restaurant. You know, I had that (recognition) just outside the racetrack at the same weekend of the race, but if it was just a normal weekend, it’d be neat to have a fan come up and want an autograph. So yeah, for sure.

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

Probably just how much the teams work on the cars. It sounds repetitive, but there’s so much work that goes into this sport, and I think that’s sometimes lost in the fray of what we do. There’s so much practice and effort that goes into each weekend, so it’s just very competitive. That’s a credit to what the teams are doing, what the drivers are doing and all the engineering that’s going on to make that happen. 

6. Who is the last driver you texted?

Probably Dale. We were going riding last week Wednesday, and the peer pressure set in of going to ride with him. I didn’t really want to at first, but yeah. Dale and all of our group chat have just been talking about fitness stuff, that’s been the hot topic lately. So (I’ve) just been doing that during the week.

What’s your cycling experience? Did you just get into it recently with all these other people at the same time?

Yeah, I actually just got a bike. I wasn’t so sure about all the spandex and everything, but it’s fun and it’s actually pretty fast. As race car drivers, you know we love that. Going downhill is fun when we’re all in a pack drafting.

The thing that’s ironic and weird about cycling is when you lose the draft, you’re done. It’s like being at Talladega. So you gotta make sure you get tucked into the draft, stuff like that. But yeah, I’ve been doing it for the last month or so.

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

I’ve never used the middle finger. Five years ago, racing Legend cars, my second race, I was racing hard and I had no idea what I was doing. I got into somebody, whatever happened — and I got the bird. I got the middle finger.

I was kind of like, “Man, this is kind of a harsh way to start.” So I guess that’s just something that I’ve never chose to use after that; it kind of rubbed me the wrong way and it was kind of a tough thing to learn right out of the box that somebody would do that. So I just kind of never use it. 

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

Yeah, I think definitely so. When I watched as a kid, what was entertaining for me watching NASCAR was maybe not the same as I think now as a driver. When the cars are hard to drive and things aren’t going well, that’s frustrating as a driver but it’s entertaining as a fan. You gotta balance that.

I think you gotta really express your feelings about the race and not just hold back and always do what you think is best for you and your team. Sometimes you’ve got to make it exciting a little bit and that’s what makes it fun to watch.

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?

Yeah, I think you kind of build (it) up. When you’re in the race car, you remember the number on the car, you remember the way the car looks, the way the person drives. You don’t always remember their name, ironically — you just kind of remember, “Hey, this person raced me this way last week,” or “This person keeps running me over every week,” or whatever, stuff like that. You just kind of take a mental note of that and either apply it or keep it and just make sure you have that in the back of your pocket if you need to use it.

But I think if somebody races you really clean, you tend to develop a friendship or develop a respect in the garage and talk to them before the race and stuff like that. So people like Daniel Hemric or Elliott Sadler are people I race against that race me really clean. I just keep racing them clean and ask them for advice, too.

That’s interesting. So in some cases, it could be like, “That red No. 90 car got in my way again! Oh my gosh!” And you don’t even necessarily know who it is exactly?

I mean, I know who it is, but the car and the number kind of take a personality of its own — and I think of that differently than when I see the guy in the garage. I think we all change when we’re in the helmet. We definitely do, because it’s never the same as you expect that person to be, so that’s probably the biggest difference.

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

I’d say in racing, just probably Mr. H (Rick Hendrick). That’s probably, for me growing up, the most famous person that I could picture and Mr. H and really just Jimmie or something like that would be the most famous person.

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

Sometimes I don’t always say what’s on my mind, so I think sometimes I kind of hold it inside. I think that’s sometimes a good quality to have, but sometimes to get things done, you have to say what’s on your mind. So that would be the one thing I would change if I could.

12. The last interview I did was with Daniel Hemric. He wanted me to ask a driver who started out with some financial backing how you overcame the stigma of being a money guy to being someone known for his talent.

I think that I had the sponsors like Liberty (University) with me early on, so that was my way of kind of connecting myself with somebody, kind of showing that I had a sponsor. But that sponsor wasn’t really interested with what I was doing on the racetrack, so it was more off the racetrack, and I think that did affect me because people were like, “What is Liberty doing on his car every week? His dad must know them,” or something like that. That always bothered me a little bit because it was a real sponsor and they were helping me.

I overcame it just with my on-track performance. Just kind of knowing how I started, how much I wanted to race as a kid — just like every kid wanted to — and the fact that I did get that chance was kind of rare. So I just took that opportunity and ran with it to try and win races and show that I can do things that other people couldn’t. That’s how I got to this point, and now I’ve kind of overcome that and I’m able to just be with JRM and Hendrick with everybody that can support me now.

I don’t know who the next interview is going to be with, but do you have a general question so I can ask the next driver?

What sport do they watch outside of racing and what things do our sport need to take and apply from other sports?

This 12 Questions interview is sponsored by Dover International Speedway. If you’re planning to attend the Dover race in June, please consider using my ticket link. Thanks!

12 Questions with Elliott Sadler

The 12 Questions series of interviews continues this week with Xfinity Series points leader Elliott Sadler of JR Motorsports. I spoke to Sadler at Bristol Motor Speedway. This interview is available both as a podcast and written interview, which is transcribed below.

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

I think it’s gotta be 70 percent from natural ability and 30 percent from working at it. From what I’ve learned in my career, I wish I worked as hard when I was 20 as I do now. I’m way in better shape than I was 20 years ago. I’m more mentally prepared each and every week for races now than I was 20 years ago. I just wish I knew then what I know now (about) working at it and staying right.

But I think natural ability and hand-eye coordination, just starting at an early age and getting adapted to it and adjusting to it as you go, I think helped me get to where I’m at today.

2. Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards have all retired in the last couple years. What’s your pitch for fans of theirs to become fans of yours?

Hey man, I’m kind of one of those old-school drivers, too. Don’t jump ship and go to these young guys yet. (Laughs) Stay with someone who raced against some of these guys.

It’s neat to see young guys coming in and I know our sport’s healthy, but fans, support the people who have been around for a while. Keep us going; stay on our bandwagon for as long as you can.

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

The hardest part of my job honestly is leaving my wife and kids every week, especially my kids. They don’t really understand why I’m gone for a couple days at a time. My son really wants to come with me every week, but we’ve got to do school and we have some other things going on. So by far, leaving is the toughest part.

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

Oh, 100 percent. You know, I’ve always had this rule: If you’re nice to me, I’m nice to you. So come on over if you want. A lot of fans have been really good about waiting until they watch you finish eating because, look, man, I’m a pretty messy eater. You might not want me to shake your hand or sign anything if I’m eating some chicken wings or something like that. But I’ve always been, “Hey, if you’re nice and courteous to me, I’m the same with you.”

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

Wow, a story in NASCAR that doesn’t get enough coverage. That’s really good. I don’t know of any right now because it’s not getting enough coverage, Jeff. (Laughs)

Everyone’s talking about the new stage racing and the bonus points for the regular season, but I don’t hear a lot of media people or TV talking about the actual bonus points that’s accumulated (for the playoffs). They’re showing all the bonus points that people are accumulating during the races, but they’re not making one for the actual championship Chase that you get to keep through the Chase the whole time.

That’s what they should be showing. That’s way more important. The one point that you’re getting towards the championship in the playoffs is more important than the 10 points you’re getting for leading the stage.

Yeah, it’s like, “This guy just got five points for the race during the regular season,” but you already know that he’s going to be in the playoffs. That bonus point, that’s what is really going to matter.

It is 100 percent way more important that I think the media or TV and all of that kind of miss the boat on. That’s way more important than the lists that they’re showing out now TV.

6. Who is the last driver you texted?

I texted Dale Jarrett yesterday, does he count?

He’s a driver.

He’s won a few races. He and I were texting each other yesterday, laughing about some trips that we had to Bristol in the past when we were teammates. It’s good to have those memories.

I think the last one other than him that I raced with was Clint Bowyer.

That’s probably a good guy to text with. I’m sure he always keeps it fun.

Always, no matter what you text him. But you have to text him in really short sentences. He’s not going to pay attention, you know, (past) two lines on his phone. If it goes more than two lines, you’ve lost him. It’s got to be very short and concise.

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

No. I don’t look at it that way at all. I think fans are entertained one way or another by what we do, but I don’t look at us as entertainers. I look at us as athletes trying to do our job and win races and run up front, and hopefully you’re entertained by that.

But I don’t think it’s my job to go out there and create a storyline on or off the racetrack to try to entertain what’s going on. My job is to try to put my car in victory lane.

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

I give it often and I get it sometimes. (Laughs) Mostly to the young guys that don’t really understand the procedures of the sport. You know, that’s the biggest thing why we miss Dale Earnhardt and Rusty Wallace and Dale Jarrett and Mark Martin, some of those guys that will pretty much grab you and tell you what you did wrong. You can’t really do that anymore, so middle fingers are definitely used.

A lot of people use them. Just be careful what color gloves you wear, because they can pick it up pretty easy from outside.

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?

One hundred percent. I’ve always kept a mental note of, “I know this guy is gonna help me — like when we’re restrictor plate racing. This guy does this, this guy does that. This guy’s positive to work with. I’m not gonna work with this guy because he’s gonna bail on you as soon as something happens.”

So yes, you definitely have a list of drivers that you would rather work with or you can give and take more. Some guys won’t give and take at all with you. Some guys will, and you know that.

Bubba Wallace let me go by him last week, so this week when he gets to me, if he catches me from half a straightaway behind, I’ll let him go. So you give and take and understand who does that for you. Tony Stewart said from Day 1, “You race people the way you want to be raced.” So that creates a negative list and a positive list.

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

The most famous person I’ve had dinner with — Vince Vaughn.

Vince Vaughn, that’s pretty cool. How was that dinner?

That was pretty awesome and this was right when Wedding Crashers came out.

That was like peak Vince Vaughn.

It was peak Vince Vaughn. It was in Las Vegas through friends of friends and we ended up at the same table and hung out that night for a few beverages and I learned that he talks just as fast in real life as he did on the big screen. But that was a pretty entertaining dinner that I was part of.

So you were with a dude who was in Swingers in Vegas, hanging out with him? That’s hard to beat right there.

Yes, it’s pretty cool. That might be the highlight of my life in Vegas. (Laughs)

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

My English, man. I’ve got a Southern drawl. A lot of times when I talk, my crew chief can’t understand me because he’s from Michigan. If I can work on that — is there some kind of tapes that I can listen to to help me speak? I know you’re shaking your head no right now, like you can’t understand me, Gluck.

I don’t Rosetta Stone has come out with something yet.

See? I know she helps you with foreign languages, but how about like a Southern twang? 

Or Virginia. Why isn’t there that?

Exactly! We need our own Hooked on Phonics book in Southern Virginia.

12. The last interview was with Kyle Larson. His question was: You’ve seen all sorts of different drivers come through the ranks over the years. How has the racing style changed, especially with the influx of younger drivers coming in today?

The biggest difference I’ve seen is (that) younger drivers used to come in with not as good equipment. They used to come in on lower level — I don’t want to say lower level, but different-tiered teams. So they gave a lot more and went through the learning process.

Now I think younger drivers are in top-notch equipment right off the bat, and they can be more aggressive and they can afford to tear up a race car because they know they’re going to get another brand new one next week.

Before, when I came along, it was a lot different — you had to learn how to take care of your stuff, and if that meant that you had to slow down a little bit to make sure you took care of your stuff, you had to do that. So the biggest thing I’ve seen there is young drivers that are really good and they are also in really good equipment.

I don’t know who the next interview is going to be with, so do you have a question I can ask another driver in general?

Yes. Does he or she think it would be great for the sport if they start pulling a pill and inverting the field right before the race starts? Let’s say you qualify and right before the race starts, and when we’re doing the national anthem — make a big deal out of it — the pole winner has to pull a pill out of a hat and it could be eight, 10, 12, four, whatever (amount of cars) NASCAR thinks is cool, and that’s how many cars are inverted, and you don’t know until right before the race starts.

You wouldn’t want to sandbag too much, but you’d want to maybe sandbag a little bit in qualifying.

Well it depends on what the rules are. Maybe it’s a pill in there with a zero on it. Make it unpredictable, but I think you could really build something around it, like see pre-race what (the polesitter) draws and then see teams scrambling because your car’s gonna run different depending on what you draw.

And you really have no time for strategy because it’ll happen right there.

Do it right before the race, ’cause that’s when the most eyes are on the race, it’s the pre-race, right? Everybody’s getting ready, national anthem, we want to see the start of the race, see what happens. Throw that kink into it.

I like that too because now it forces you to watch the pre-race.

That’s right, ’cause now you don’t know where your favorite driver’s gonna start, because you don’t know if they’ll be part of the invert or not.

I hope that happens.

Well, plug it along. It’s your idea. Go ahead and run with it. You could just cancel the tape, nobody knows it came from me and it could be your idea.

OK! I’m going to edit this part out, thanks!


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