12 Questions with Justin Haley (2018)

(Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

The 12 Questions series of interviews continues this week with Truck Series driver Justin Haley of GMS Racing. Haley won the Truck playoffs opener in Canada last month and is locked into the second round of the playoffs. This interview was recorded as a podcast but is also transcribed below for those who prefer to read.

1. How often do you have dreams about racing?

I actually had a dream about racing last night, which is pretty rare, I’d say. I don’t dream about racing too much. I’m a pretty heavy sleeper. But last night I dreamt we won Vegas, so by the time this comes out, I’m sure that’s going to be true or false. (Note: He finished third.) It was a two-in-a-row deal after (winning in Canada), so that was kind of cool.

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

I think there’s a certain level of respect. Normally if it’s not too big of a deal, I just let my spotter know and my spotter relays it. Especially if we’re early in the race, you don’t want someone hot at you. But if you go out there and get into someone, there’s going to have to be some kind of communication the next week.

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

I’d say it’s that I’m a hard worker and dedicated to what I do. I’ve put my all into it since I was a little kid. If I just keep working hard and putting everything into it even if it doesn’t work out, it’d probably be the biggest compliment.

4. NASCAR comes to you and says they’re bringing a celebrity to the track and they want you to host them. Who is a celebrity you’d be excited to host?

Man, I don’t even know. Kaz Grala? He’s a celebrity, right? (Laughs) 

There’s some vloggers — I’m pretty big into vlogging. Like Casey Neistat or Roman Atwood. They’re pretty cool. I know Roman did a race awhile ago with Ty (Dillon).

I’m not really into the whole scene of music and TV. I don’t watch TV too much, unless there’s a hurricane coming.

I always tell everyone if I wasn’t racing and didn’t have to be on social media, I wouldn’t have any platforms. I like doing my own thing and bouncing off my family and friends.

Do you have to limit yourself on social media then?

I think you have to, to a certain point. I’ve been putting up some Instagram Stories and live videos with Kaz. He’s my best friend. He has a fan base and I have a fan base, so we like to connect them. I do spend quite a bit of time on Instagram — I usually do a post a day to try to engage fans and get my viewership up or whatnot. My tweets are kind of hit or miss. I don’t have a personal Facebook or Instagram, just for racing.

5. In an effort to show this is a health-conscious sport, NASCAR decides to offer the pole for an upcoming race to the first driver willing to go vegan for one month. Would you do it?

Oh, for sure. I’ve gone vegan just to go vegan.

Are you a healthy eater?

Yeah. I think my PR girl and my manager and everyone in my family, they get pretty hot-headed (about his eating habits). I am a very healthy eater. I haven’t had a slice of pizza in a few years. Haven’t had a soda in a few years. Any snacks. Every meal for the past two and a half years has been pre-calculated.

It gets hard while racing, but you just have to make smart decisions. I am probably one of the healthiest eaters in the whole garage area — I’d say I probably beat Jimmie Johnson, because I never treat myself. It’s just kind of a lifestyle. I used to eat nachos every day and whatnot. I just found a groove and I like healthy eating. I feel better and I feel like it really affects my performance.

Can you give me a quick tip? I really struggle to eat healthy on the road.

I don’t even know if it’s healthy foods, but it’s making sure you put the right foods in your body. If I go out to eat at a dinner — like last night, I did with my team — I eat steak and mashed potatoes. That’s not bad. It’s got good carbs; I’m racing tomorrow, so that’s going to be good. It’s got protein in it.

I’m not going to eat a cheeseburger. I haven’t had french fries in years. It’s hard to do. Growing up, my parents always wanted me to eat healthy, but I never could until I got something in the back of my head that just wanted myself to do it. It’s more of a want in your head. It’s just a will.

6. It’s time for the Random Race Challenge. I’ve picked a random race from your career and you have to tell me where you finished. This is the 2015 Watkins Glen K&N East race. Do you remember this race at all?

I do. I remember it clear as day. Dalton Sargeant was in it and William Byron. I ran third, I’m pretty sure — maybe fourth. Scott Heckert won — he was my teammate — and Dalton Sergeant passed me on the last lap for second.

Wow, that’s impressive. You did indeed finish third. You started fourth and led 12 laps.

I did lead? That’s kind of impressive, I didn’t remember that. But I was pretty salty. Even Sargeant, when he was my teammate this year, we’d always go back to that race.

I mean, there’s probably not too many races I couldn’t remember. Do people usually struggle?

It’s kind of 50-50. Some drivers can’t really remember and others can remember clear as day like you did.

I remember he shoved in my right-rear fender going into Turn 1 on the last lap. Then I hit him on the exit of the corner, and he had his tail cone flying after we got out of the carousel — his whole rear bumper flew off and hit my windshield.

7. Who is the best rapper alive?

Here we go back to the questions about musicians and whatnot. (Smiles) I don’t even know who rappers are these days. I’ve got no idea, to be completely honest with you.

8. Who has the most punchable face in NASCAR? Two people have said you for an answer this year. Noah Gragson said you and was serious about it, and then Kaz Grala said you, but he was kidding.

I’m not really sure who has the most punchable face in NASCAR. Kaz said me to be playful, and he actually called me up right after and was like, “Man, I said you!”

I don’t believe in violence. I like racing and beating people on the track, but I don’t ever find myself just going straight up and punching someone. It’s not really my style. I’d rather go talk to someone and have a conversation and become buds or something.

Is there still any bad blood with Gragson?

I’m good. Obviously Noah is a very aggressive racer and he likes to win as much as the next guy. I’m cool with Noah. I’m about cool with anyone in the pits. We race each other 20 weekends a year and you have to see them that much, and you just can’t have any bad blood with anyone. Life’s too short to do that. I’m good with everyone. I might be a little hot-headed after a race because we put so much into it, but at the end of the day, life is too short to hold grudges.

9. NASCAR enlists three famous Americans to be involved with your team for one race as part of a publicity push: Taylor Swift, LeBron James and Tom Hanks.

Well I think Taylor is definitely my motorhome driver. That’s a no-brainer. (Laughs) And I think we all know the reason why.

I think Tom Hanks would definitely be my crew chief. And then LeBron would be on top of his game (as a spotter). He’s taller than everyone, so we’d never have trouble looking over anyone to see. I don’t think I’d be a good spotter, because I’m so short that I couldn’t see.

Those are my three picks. I feel like I nailed that one. (Smiles)

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

You hydrate yourself so much that you always have to pee, until you get far enough into the race that you sweat it all out and don’t have to pee anymore. Usually I use a nicer restroom — if that’s the media center or whatnot — before I go to driver introductions. Then on the ridearounds in the trucks, you have to go again, so you just have to hit a port-o-potty because it’s the closest thing. Then you’re missing the national anthem and you have to run out. I think it’s whatever is easily accessible.

11. NASCAR decides they would like the highlight reel value brought by the former Carl Edwards backflips and want their own version. How much money would they have to offer for you to backflip off your truck following your next win?

I can do a front flip all day long, but I didn’t know how to do a backflip. We were on the boat one day — it was me, Kaz and some friends. I’m like, “I’m going to do a backflip.” Kaz was like, “Whatever.” So I did a backflip and ever since, I’ve totally sucked. I cannot do a backflip. I’ve tried it from five feet up and I still can’t complete the full rotation. So if you ask Kaz, it’s unbelievable.

No. It’d be enough money to have neck surgery. I’d really have to up my insurance rate. I know (Daniel) Hemric can do it and hasn’t gotten to do one (after a race) in a long time. I’m good friends with Hemric, so I’d like to see him do it.

12. Each week, I ask a driver to give me a question for the next interview. Last week was Clint Bowyer, and it was kind of a weird question.

Does he even know who I am?

It seemed like it, because he said, “I don’t have anything in common with those young guys. I don’t play Fortnite or anything like that.”

I don’t play Fortnite either.

Anyway, his question was like, “How does it feel to get beat by a guy like me who is so crazy?” But you don’t race with him.

I like Clint. He’s pretty down to earth. He’s a cool guy. Look at his playoff emoji. It’s a trucker. How much more down to earth can you be?

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

(Looks up Timmy Hill’s Twitter profile and sees a picture of mustache he grew for Darlington throwback week) As a 19-year-old driver who can’t grow facial hair, ask him how long it took him to grow that. Honestly, I’m kind of jealous.

How I Got Here with Jordan Anderson

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 JeffGluck.com. Up next: Truck Series driver Jordan Anderson.

We’re in your trailer that made it all the way across the country to Las Vegas. People followed that on social media as you drove it out here yourself.

This is it. You hear the quote, “If homes could talk, the stories they would tell” — and if this trailer could tell stories on all it’s been through, it’s crazy.

I bought this trailer back in 2009 when I was racing dirt Late Models, so this trailer’s seen two years of dirt Late Models, it’s seen two years of asphalt Super Late Models, some K&N races, and then a full year of the Truck schedule back in 2015, a full schedule last year in 2017 and we’ve got it back on the road again this year. So it’s pretty cool to be sitting here. I’ve got my guys here, I’ve got Dan (Kolanda, crew chief), Dylan (Corum, car chief), and Cody (Barrett, mechanic) that rode out here with me (from North Carolina to Las Vegas), so I’m very fortunate to have some cool guys that don’t mind riding in the dually for 48 hours like we did coming out here. 

One of the first times I heard of you, I was doing an interview with Carl Edwards at Bristol, and he’s like, “You know who you should go talk to? You should go find this Jordan Anderson guy. He has a really inspirational story. He’s just making it. He’s willing it to happen.” I don’t know a ton about all your background, but it seems nobody’s handed you anything. This is all stuff that you’ve really had to work for and fight for. So how did this whole dream get started?

It’s cool that you mentioned Carl Edwards, because Carl was one of the first guys that I really met and got some advice from. I was probably 13 or 14 years old and racing Legend cars, and I gave him one of my business cards and saw him a year later and re-introduced myself. He’s like, “Yeah, I remember, I got your card sitting on my desk there.” So that was cool, and Carl always gave some great advice.

But it’s been a journey. I’ve been very blessed and fortunate to pursue something that I love. I think I first told my mom and dad at 4 or 5 years old that I wanted to be a race car driver, and being from Columbia, South Carolina, that wasn’t really a big thing. It wasn’t a hotbed for any racing, and nobody in my family had any involvement in racing.

Mom and Dad took me out to a go-kart race when I was probably 7 and we went and sat next to a family. We got talking to this kid, he was four or five years older than me, and his name was Nick Hutchins. He’s actually working at Stewart-Haas now on that 98 Xfinity car. He’s the car chief over there.

But Nick was racing go-karts at the time, had a broken arm and was out of the go-kart, and we got to talking. He basically goes, “I’m getting my cast off next month, would you like to come try out one of my go-karts?” And before Mom and Dad could say no, I said yes, and we were headed out there.

So I got one of his go-karts, and I think I was 7, 8 years old around the time we started racing in the WKA series, and we had no idea what we were doing. We would show up with a truck and like a long trailer and go race go-karts.

I still remember somebody told us that our toe was out. We looked down at our shoes, thinking our toes were out. So we had no idea what we were doing.

But it’s one of those things that we’ve been able to do together as a family. We’ve been through go-karts and Bandolero cars and ran Legend cars for five, six years, won the pro championship out there at the Charlotte Motor Speedway two years in a row. I think it was ’07 and ’08. We never really had the funding to go out and run the best of everything, so we really had to work to build a relationship with the sponsors and people to help us out.

This Fueled by Fans thing that we had (a Truck sponsored by fans) kept our season alive last year. But back in 2007, I lost the sponsorship that I had. We lost one of our bigger sponsors that we planned on coming through and the deal kind of fell through. So I painted my Legend car white. I don’t think I even had a driver’s license at the time, so my dad helped me drive around town on this open trailer, and for $100 people could sign my Legend car with a black Sharpie and become an official sponsor of Jordan Anderson Racing. That’s where the initial idea first came from.

Going through dirt Late Models and Late Models, I always owned my own cars and had to work on it and had a lot of awesome people help make this journey possible.

So being able to be the owner/driver this year is something that I’ve kinda done all along the way. We may have one of the smallest trailers here in the garage, but we have some of the hardest working guys that help make this all possible.

And that’s what this whole journey is about: It’s not any one thing I’ve done, it’s all the people that have helped out — sponsors and people that come by who have 9-to-5 jobs, but they come by our shop at night and help work on the truck.

We had some sponsors that stepped in to help buy a transmission over the offseason, or we had some people just help buy our first truck and put things together. I was showing you our dually out in front of the trailer, we had John Bommarito from the Bommarito Automotive Group, bought us a dually to pull our trailer after ours broke down. And when our old dually broke down in two-month period between when we got that new dually, we got another guy who owned a towing service and let us drive his dually all across the country. So it’s been so cool to see people that we’ve met that have made this journey possible.

No doubt there’s been a lot of generosity involved. But people aren’t going to help just anybody, so there must be something about your story or your personality or what you’re trying to accomplish that has encouraged so much generosity. So what is it about yourself or your driving or your passion that you think has helped you get all these breaks? 

It’s been quite a journey. Nothing was ever easy. There were plenty of late nights and struggles and I’m very fortunate for Mom and Dad, they sacrificed a lot. My dad, he’s been on more late- night road trips than I’m sure he wants to admit to helping me out and going to the racetrack.

We had some wins in Late Models and had a lot of success in Legend cars and dirt Late Models. But one of the things I always go back to is no matter what happens or what kind of adversity we’re faced with or we had to persevere through, we all kept our faith — we kept strong about that — and we never gave up. No matter what was against us, we never gave up.

Much of it was the people who we met who kept us in their prayers and thought about us, that encouraged us, that would support us, that would buy T-shirts and come hang out with us after the race is over.

It was all people, and it’s kind of a throwback. One of the first owner-drivers that I got to meet that was in NASCAR was Marvin Panch. I met him back in probably 2009 and got to know him pretty well. He came to my Late Model shop and I got to hang out with him some and listen to all his old stories of how racing used to be.

You know, I love this sport. I grew up as a huge fan in the ‘90s, and I was a big Jeff Gordon fan growing up. But I always loved to read about the smaller teams and the guys that were making it happen and sort of were in the position we are now. I think it’s so cool, because it kind of gives people (someone) to pull for, the blue collar worker who is working to pay his rent and keep groceries on the table. We’re doing the same thing; we’re doing whatever it takes to grow this team.

And that’s what’s so cool about this year, is having the opportunity to jump up. We had some help buying the Ilmor motor, we got some more trucks this year. So that’s the biggest thing that’s so cool, is we’re not plateauing out. Last year, we ran that one truck the whole season and we’ve got the opportunity now to get some motors, get some more trucks to build it better.

So that was why Daytona was so cool for us (when he finished ninth last month). To come out of the box in our first race as a new team, to almost get a top-five, to spin out across the finish line backward and still get a top-10, that was almost a dream come true for us.

To see all the hard work pay off — it’s not a job for any of us. We love this sport and we love NASCAR, there’s something about it that we love and we’re just so happy to be here.

When people hear me talk about interviews and stuff like that, I’m not talking about the car’s tight or the car’s loose, I’m talking about, “Alright, this is all we’ve had to go through to get here,” and we had to fight through all this stuff, and hopefully people can relate to that a little more as they follow along on what we have going on. 

I know you’re still on the way up and there’s so much more of this story left to be written. But I’m guessing there had to be times during some of the struggles when nothing’s coming easy and you had to ask yourself, “Is this worth it?” or “Why am I doing this?” What about it made you keep going through that?

I think the biggest thing was that failure wasn’t really an option. I knew that this was what I wanted to do. I feel like over the years that God has opened doors to allow me to be in this sport. I can sit here for another two hours and tell you things that have happened that shouldn’t have happened, doors that have opened that shouldn’t have opened. People have helped us out, the timing on things, the way things have happened. A lot of it doesn’t make sense, but you just look back and you’re like, “Alright, that’s an affirmation that you know where you’re supposed to be and God has opened these doors, so here we are. I’m just gonna keep digging and make it happen.” And I look back on that.

I mean, the first time I went to Daytona in 2015 with Mike Harmon, I basically gave everything I could to go down there. We missed the show. We go to Atlanta the next week, we finish 18th. The deal with Mike at that time was, he’s like, “You put this truck together, we go run Daytona, and we’ll see what happens.” We didn’t make Daytona, he said, “We’ll go to Atlanta. Just don’t wreck it.” So we go to Atlanta and then we went Kansas and that turned into me running for him for the whole year using the same truck and trailer here. And it’s just been so cool.

People that have stepped up and people that have come into our life to help us, that’s why Daytona was so big. It was special for me, but it was special for all the people that have helped us get to this point. Hopefully that’s the first of many other things that are coming. Hopefully this team continues to grow.

We have this trailer here; down the road, maybe we can get another trailer where we can haul a second truck, or haul more equipment and do more things. But it’s exciting to do this.

What keeps us going is never giving up. I mean, failure is not an option, but we love to be here, we love to keep things going. And the biggest thing for us is, it’s an adventure for us, and the stories and memories that we make, the way we do this is you can’t put a price tag on them.

We left our shop in Mooresville at 1 a.m. (after turning the truck around from Atlanta). There’s a little shower there. All of us cleaned up, hopped into the truck at 1 a.m. and we came straight out here. We’re stopping at truck stops, we came through snow in Arizona. We had a bunch of crazy things happen out here. We have a good time with it.

So I think you go back, and if you would go ask anybody that raced in NASCAR back in the day what they went through and what this sport was founded on, they did a lot of the same things that we’re doing now. It’s not that it’s a bad thing to us that we’re at a disadvantage, it’s that we love what we do and the opportunity to be here. 

Why is everybody here with you? Why do they want to come out and be with you and be part of this team?

My dad actually just brought up, this was a text that I had. John Bommarito had texted me back at the beginning of the year and I’d forgotten about it. My dad just pulled up the text and showed me because I shared it with him and I want to read it to you.

It says:

Jordan, it’s all good. When you help others achieve their dreams, the feeling is overwhelming with joy. One day, you too will be in the same position to help others. The key is never forget where you came from when it happens. And trust me, I know it will happen for you. Take it one day at a time and continue to be safe and enjoy the journey. I’d give anything to be your age and do it one more time. All our love and trust, now go out there and make it happen in 2018. The Bommaritos.

That’s pretty cool. This is a guy who’s got 40 dealerships and 850 employees, and he and I will text back and forth at 2 o’clock in the morning after a race at times. I think that’s the biggest thing, is people are hopefully drawn to what it is that we stand for.

I know there’s a lot of small teams in the sport, but everything that I do, I try to do with integrity. At the end of the day, it’s all people. We couldn’t be here if it wasn’t for all the people that made it happen. So people are the number one thing, making sure that I take care of my guys, take care of people that take care of us, the vendors that we deal with back home. Make sure everybody stays paid and doing the right thing. This kind of golden rule that we all grow up with the kids, is treat others like you want to be treated. That’s the things that we want to do. We want to build this team and do it the right way, build it on integrity.

You ask why is everybody here. So Dylan (car chief), he’s been with me since 2015. Actually, how Dylan came to help us, it’s a funny story. We were doing the St. Louis/Iowa deal back-to-back, and he thought we were just going out there for St. Louis and then coming back afterwards. We got halfway there and said, “Oh yeah, we’re gonna stay out here until Iowa.” He said, “Well I have another job I have to go back to.” I said, “So I guess you’re officially part of the team now.”

Cody (mechanic), his family helped sponsor us at the first Texas race last year, and he came and hung out with us in the pits. He’s like, “Man, I really like this, I want to be a part of this.” He’s up in school in North Carolina pit training at Xcalibur (Pit School) up there —he’s our jackman.

Dan (crew chief), who’s back here, he helped me back in 2015, he retired at the end of the year. I told him what I was doing this year, and he was like, “Man, that’s exciting. I want to come back and be a part of it.”

So that’s why Daytona was so cool. People don’t expect us in this little trailer with only two or three trucks back in the shop to go to Daytona and run top 10. And we’re really working on our intermediate program to come out here and run better (he finished 17th at Las Vegas last week).

That feeling you get when you out-perform what people expect you to do, it’s kind of a feeling deep down that you feel a sense that all the hard work and staying in the shop until 2 o’clock is all worth it.

Some people believe that anybody can do anything they set their mind to, and other people think that’s just too much of a pipe dream and you shouldn’t tell people that and things like that. Where do you fall on that? Do you believe that anybody can really achieve anything they put their mind to?

I think so, and that’s the biggest thing that I’ve learned on this journey. If you compare to who I was as a person back in 2014, 2013 and who I am now, it’s almost a 180. Just from a sense of having empathy for people and this journey that we’re on and caring about what we’re doing and how we do things.

Who I was back then as a driver, I wanted x, y, z. At certain times in life, people have these expectations and ideas of how things are supposed to be, and a lot of times if you base your self-worth and things off of that. When you finally do accomplish it, if it’s not exactly how you want it to be, you’re like, “Ah, I wanted this (instead)” — and then this cycle begins of you’re never happy about it.

With this, it’s like, “Alright, we love NASCAR. We’re here every week. We get to race. Ever since I was 4 years old, I wanted to be a NASCAR driver, and I’m here racing every weekend. I’m getting to do what I love to do.”

That’s the biggest thing I hope people can see, because when I was a kid growing up racing Legend cars, everybody said unless you get a $4 million or $5 million dollar sponsor, you’re never gonna get to go race.

I remember going and talking to a K&N team one time and they were like, “Oh you can come drive for us, you just gotta write a check for $100,000 a race.” I’m like, my dad has some rental properties in South Carolina and my mom’s a hairdresser. I guess that’s never gonna happen, you know?

So it just was so cool when opportunities presented themselves to go racing, and I learned more about the sport and learned how to do things on our own. We may not have what the big teams have, but we can do it, we can do it right, we can make sure the truck stays together, and we can build on it week after week.

I’ve never had a million-dollar budget or anything like that, but we’re here. We’re here every week. I finished top 20 in the points the last three years. We keep showing up and we keep getting better. If you look at where we were three years ago and where we are now, we’ve gotten better every single year — slowly, but we’re definitely getting better.

That’s the thing for me that’s so humbling, is people are following this journey. I have kids that are racing Legend cars and Late Models and are like, “Hey, I was kind of in the same boat you are. I don’t have this, I don’t have that, but what advice do you have?” So hopefully the journey that we’re on (helps others).

The way the Truck Series is going, I think you’re going to see more Late Model and grassroots people come up and compete at this level, but I think it’s cool to hopefully give some motivation and encouragement to people to do this.

The whole Fueled by Fans thing, that’s what was so special to me when we did that deal. There was a lady who messaged me when we first did it and she said, “Hey, I gotta pay for rent and get groceries, but I’m gonna send you $20 and buy a T-shirt.”

When that crash happened at Atlanta last year, I honestly thought my season was over. That was it. When I told people our season was over, that was really gonna be over.

And the fans stepped up and we were able to raise enough money to build a new truck and get another motor and we did the Fueled by Fans thing for a couple of years and that’s what kept our whole season going.

If it wasn’t for that last year, we wouldn’t be where we are now. That’s what’s so cool, is when you look back on things and how events happen and how doors open, they align to keep moving forward.

Was Parker Kligerman too aggressive? He explains winning strategy

En route to taking the underdog No. 75 truck to a win at Talladega Superspeedway on Saturday, Parker Kligerman ruffled feathers with some aggressive pushing that left drivers complaining on the radio.

Christopher Bell, Ben Rhodes and Grant Enfinger were among the drivers who told their spotters to tell Kligerman to back off at various points during the race.

“Try not to let that 75 get behind me,” Rhodes said at one point.

“Get him off me, man!” Bell said late in the race. “Get him off me!”

So were all the complaints justified, or were those drivers just not used to taking a push?

“There’s some incredibly talented drivers out there, but I think we forgot how to tandem a little bit,” Kligerman said when asked. “We’re not allowed to tandem, but if you watch Joey Logano in the Xfinity car (at plate races) in the last couple years, he does that tap-tap-tap thing.”

That “tap-tap-tap thing” is a borderline bump draft, but legal because the vehicles are not locking bumpers. So as long as the bumpers aren’t together for more than a couple seconds, NASCAR is fine with that.

Kligerman decided if he could make that happen with the current rules package, “then we’ve got to do that.” And the best time to do so would be in the first two stages, when there were built-in cautions to help with experimentation.

His reaction to hearing a few drivers were upset?

“Whatever. I thought we were here to race,” he said. “… I didn’t spin anyone out, so I think it worked. We passed a lot of trucks and got ourselves to the front a couple times. And when it came down to it, all of them were doing the same thing. So I don’t see any harm or foul.”

Chris Carrier, Kligerman’s crew chief, heard the question and asked if he chimed in. His take was decidedly more blunt.

“I’ve been a crew chief for 40-some years,” he said. “The guys I see complaining are the guys who want to be Sunday drivers. They’d better grow up. If you don’t want to cut the grass, you’d better not mind getting grass in your shoes. That’s part of it, like it or not. Grow up.”

Getting The Green: How NASCAR Can Help Race Teams Survive, by Tommy Joe Martins

Tommy Joe Martins, 30, is a driver in the Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series. His family’s race team, Martins Motorsports, currently fields entries in the Truck Series.

By Tommy Joe Martins

When NASCAR announced a 10-year, $8.2 billion television rights package with NBC and FOX in 2013, it became perhaps the greatest TV deal in the history of sports.

At the time the deal was signed, NASCAR Cup events averaged a 5-plus rating — and now that number is down to less than 3. But no matter the ratings, that $8.2 billion, long-term contract is locked in.

NASCAR hit the lottery and Brian France bought the ticket. He and his team deserve plenty of credit for negotiating a superb deal.

But how that average of $820 million per year is split has been a topic of much discussion lately — with Denny Hamlin among the recent voices to question the arrangement.

NASCAR gets 10 percent, so let’s round off and say that’s $80 million per year. The tracks get 65 percent — roughly $530 million — and if that sounds like a lot, then you’re not the only one that thought so.

I’m not going to act like I know the first thing about the expenses of running a racetrack. So for now, let’s just assume they need every dollar of it.

The teams get the remaining 25 percent of the deal, which is roughly $200 million per year — and that’s distributed through the purse money for each race. That money is then split again among the top three national series. And if you’re not sitting down, you’re going to want to before you read this next part.

As of 2014, the Cup Series got 93.75 percent of the team cut. NINETY-THREE PERCENT. The Xfinity Series got a whopping 5.75 percent (although maybe that wasn’t seen as a big deal since almost half of the Xfinity field is made from Cup teams or affiliates).

But the Truck Series? It got an almost unimaginable 0.5 percent. Half of a freaking percent. That worked out to roughly $1,000 per race, per team.

The entry fee alone for the Truck Series is $1,650 per race.

Thankfully, that horrendous split got restructured in 2015. But best I can tell, the Truck Series still only receives around a 2 percent take. Not exactly the jump we were looking for.

My family’s team, Martins Motorsports, received roughly $14,000 per race in prize money last season. A set of Goodyear tires costs roughly $2,300 per set, and we’re allotted five sets on most race weekends ($11,500). If we didn’t buy used tires from other teams, we’d be broke in a month.

Clearly, there needs to be a change. The goal should be to make teams profitable. Just like teams in every other pro sports league, NASCAR teams should operate in the green.

Now, that’s not to say that team ownership should be lucrative. For a team to do that, it’s always going to take sponsorship. I want small teams to be able to eke out a small profit — around 10 percent each year. It costs a LOT of money to start a NASCAR team. With equipment purchases, engine costs, shop expenses and weekly salaries, the initial investment is massive before ever receiving an awards check from the racetrack. There should be a return on that investment.

So how do we make the adjustment? I think the TV ratings are a good place to start. The ratings for this season are public knowledge, but I did the math for you. The averages are: Cup 2.8, Xfinity 0.8, Trucks 0.4. Theoretically, a TV revenue split based on ratings could be: 70 percent Cup, 20 percent Xfinity, 10 percent Trucks.

That wouldn’t change much for big teams. They don’t count on the prize money to balance the budget — it only makes up 15-20 percent of their income. A reduction to 15 percent of their income isn’t a big deal.

Taking the charter-weighted math out of it (I don’t even want to try; I’m struggling enough as is), each of the 40 Cup teams would still get roughly $3.5 million from the 36 points races. Factor in traditional prize money at only $30,000 per race (and I’m sure I’m low on that number), and that makes for a $4.58 million dollar budget.

Assuming they qualified for all 33 races, Xfinity teams would earn roughly $1 million from the TV money alone. That would be a huge increase from the current deal, and that doesn’t account for traditional track-paid prize money. Let’s say that’s around $15,000 per team, and would make a $1.25 million budget for each team.

It would be an even bigger deal for Truck teams. A $625,000 TV share would be close to double the total prize money our team won in 2015. Factor in $10,000 per race in traditional purse monies (which I’ve averaged out over the past two Truck Series seasons), and that would make for an $855,000 budget per team.

Big teams would tell you that’s not even close to enough cash to run a team for a season. For example, the Lilly’s sponsorship for Roush Fenway’s Xfinity team was reported at $10 million per year — $5 million competition, $5 million activation, while Cup sponsorships can range anywhere from $5 million to $35 million.

So when those teams say this wouldn’t make a difference for them, they’re not wrong. The prize money I’m talking about isn’t enough to run their teams for the season.

Rich teams will always be the best teams. They have the best facilities. They have the best people (because they can pay them more). They have more people and resources. So of course their costs are going to be higher.

But those aren’t necessary costs. They’re optional, self-inflicted costs. If you want to be a big team and you have the money, go for it! Money will always help in motorsports. But you shouldn’t have to spend big money to be successful. And sponsors should be a luxury, not a necessity to break even!

Can you imagine if the Minnesota Twins shut down because Target decided not to sponsor the team’s stadium anymore?

Small teams should always be the backbone of the sport, and if they’re financially viable on their own, they can develop talent for big teams to eventually steal away. And I don’t mean that as a negative thing. That’s no different than how the Yankees treat the rest of baseball. But the Yankees also don’t win every year, and nobody brings $5 million to play first base for New York.

Here’s a scenario: A small team takes a chance on an unproven, talented driver. Maybe they’re discovered in a Late Model or a sprint car. He or she does great, attracts a sponsor, makes the team and driver some money — and at the end, the driver gets a great offer from a better team.

Everyone wins.

Here’s another: A big team cuts a veteran loose, so the small team picks them up. The team gets a great leader to help develop their program and an experienced driver to take care of equipment and a name to sell to potential sponsors.

Everyone wins.

But right now, NASCAR owners have their hands tied. With the financial model we’re currently under, those scenarios are becoming rarer because driver talent is a secondary attribute — and that’s never going to work long term. Quality, veteran drivers are losing rides because they don’t have the funding behind them to balance the budget. Meanwhile, unproven drivers are getting top-flight rides because they have the financial backing.

It’s backward. We need to reward the people that invest in this sport with the power to control their team’s future — not have it decided by outside money like a sponsor or a funded driver.

NASCAR isn’t dying. Far from it. As a sport, we’ve never had more money flowing through the garage area in our history. We’ve got a die-hard fan base that we’re making some great strides to reconnect with.

But we’re never going to be where we want to be unless that kid at the local short track knows that if they keep winning, they’re going to get a shot in the big leagues.

The cream should rise to the top. It’s the same dream all of us have had since we first fell in love with this sport — or any sport — and it needs to come true again.

How this could work

Below are some hypothetical budgets of Cup, Xfinity and Truck Series teams, all under the current schedule and all of which would wind up with a profit at the end of the year.

These budgets assume five things:

1. All budgets assume teams own all necessary equipment.

2. No crash damage cost has been added (from my experience, if you tear up
race cars, you’re always going to be over budget).

3. Races are shortened, tire prices adjusted, or some other form of savings in
the tire budget (bias ply tires, just saying) to keep Xfinity and Truck teams from
spending the full $10,000-$12,000 per race on rubber.

4. Spec motors are used in Trucks and Xfinity competition – drastically reducing operating cost after initial purchase.

5. Travel budgets are kept light by the team driving to most events.


12 Questions with Chase Briscoe

The 12 Questions series of interviews continues this week with Chase Briscoe, who is currently fifth in the Camping World Truck Series playoff standings entering next week’s race at Talladega Superspeedway. Briscoe, 22, drives for Brad Keselowski Racing.

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

I think to a certain extent, natural ability can carry you a certain way, but you’re not gonna get good at pit stops or restarts just by natural ability. You have to work at that, and I think that’s where you see guys win a lot of races — they do that extra work and they do their homework. I feel like that’s what kind of separates the champions from the non-champions, is the champions work at it in all areas and know where they can win and lose races.

2. Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, 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?

I feel like me personally, I’m kind of that old-school driver. I don’t have family backing or a big sponsor. Literally straight out of high school, I moved to North Carolina, sleeping on couches and volunteering at race shops and somehow convinced a team to let me drive for them. So I feel like that’s kind of like the old days, how all those guys were. That’s probably my sales pitch, is that I’m kind of a throwback guy that’s kind of one of the few that’s done it that way, at least in the last 10 or 15 years. So that’s why I should be your guy.

What was the limit for sleeping on somebody’s couch? Did you overstay your welcome at times?

I stayed at one in particular for a really long time, and we worked a deal — like $50 for two months. So I could at least afford that. But yeah, after awhile you could tell he was kind of getting upset. I stayed there for a year and a half; I was there for a long time. But he was nice enough to let me stay there. If I wasn’t staying there, I don’t know where I would have been. I would have been on the streets, I guess.

Whose couch was this?

His name is Ross Wece. Me and (Christopher) Bell actually both stayed there for a couple of months. (Wece) works for the World of Outlaws, so I know him from sprint car racing. He always says that if me and Bell ever make it to Cup, that couch might be in the Hall of Fame or something crazy.

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

Just the sacrifice you have to make, not being able to be at family events or family holidays. That part of it is tough for sure. I don’t think people realize how much goes into it outside the racetrack. I personally didn’t realize how busy NASCAR guys were. I thought they raced on weekends and had the whole week off, and that’s definitely not the case — it’s not the case at the Truck level and I know for sure it’s not at the Cup level. It’s just tough to balance everything outside of the racetrack, I think.

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

Yeah. I’d be surprised if anyone even recognized me, though, honestly. (Laughs) But I’m all for that. I always try to go out of my way, even when we’re walking out to the starting lineup or whatever, I at least try to stay there as long as I can. So yeah, absolutely.

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

I think the behind-the-scenes guys, the guys at the shop. I feel like you’re only as good as the race car that you’re in, and there’s a lot of people that put countless hours in it. There’s guys who stay in the shop until 10 or 11 at night who never even get recognized when it comes down to it. The drivers and the crew chiefs obviously get a lot of coverage, but if it wasn’t for that guy doing tear-down or building truck arms or whatever it is, we wouldn’t even get to go to the racetrack.

6. Who is the last driver you texted?

There’s a lot who I’ve texted (at New Hampshire) trying to figure this place out. Actually the last one would have been (Kyle) Larson. I texted him a little bit ago. He was curious about what the VHT stuff was doing, and I’ve been asking him a ton of questions.

Are there a lot of Cup guys that will help you out if you have questions?

Yeah, for the most part. A lot of the times it’s the sprint car guys, so obviously Larson. I’ve reached out to Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon has helped me out in the past. Between Brad and Kyle, those are normally my go-tos. And outside of the Cup guys, I do talk to Bell and Cole Custer quite a bit. So there’s a couple guys at least that I have to lean on and that makes it really nice going to a lot of these racetracks.

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

Yeah, I think so. People come for entertainment, so they’re paying to watch us race. A lot of the entertainment at times is not on the racetrack — so whether that’s guys getting into arguments or fighting or whatever, I think we’re entertainers.

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

I’ve never given one, so I don’t have one, to be honest. I’ve received a couple, but I’m not a guy that’s gonna go out there and cuss somebody out after the race or flip somebody off. If you want to do it, more power to you, but I’m not too worried about it.

Is that because you don’t get mad inside the truck, or do you just keep in internal?

I was just raised different. Like if I ever got into somebody, my dad would make me go over and apologize to him, because I knew I would get my head thumped if I didn’t. So I was kind of racing the old school way. I was just taught you don’t need to be doing that; just focus on the racing.

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 race people how they race me typically. I’ve never tried to wreck anybody on purpose, but if guys give me a little extra room and it’s early in the race or we’re struggling, then I’ll typically give it back to them or whatever. I feel like there’s guys I definitely race harder than others; we’re racing everybody hard, but there’s guys you tend to give a little bit of a break to.

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

Probably Brad. He’s probably the only famous guy I’ve ever really had dinner with for sure.

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

My eating habits. I’m like the pickiest eater in the entire world. Like I just ate pizza rolls. I’ve never had a hot dog, I don’t really eat fruits or vegetables. I could work out as much as I want to, but until I get my eating habits right, there’s not gonna be much benefit.

Is it not enough healthy food or just there’s just certain foods you just don’t like?

I just don’t like a lot of the foods. Like the texture and the taste of it. I don’t know. I’ve always been that way ever since I was little. I’ve only had steak maybe two or three times in my life. I’m just super picky.


I eat chicken, but not very much grilled chicken. Just recently, within the past year and a half or so, I started eating grilled chicken. I can’t eat chicken on the bone. It’s just a very processed diet.

So what’s a typical meal then? You’re just heating something up in the microwave?

A lot of the time, or going to fast food. Yeah, the only healthy healthy thing I eat, which is not the healthiest thing, is grilled chicken and rice. I like a lot of rice and pasta. It’s a very narrow path of stuff I do actually eat.

12. The last interview I did was with Jimmie Johnson, and I asked him to give a question for you.

He’s probably like, “Who is that?”

He seemed to know. But his question that he passed along was: What kind of underwear do you wear? Is it boxers or briefs?

I’m a boxers guy. Yeah, definitely boxers. Always have been. I never thought Jimmie Johnson would ask me that, personally. That’s one thing I’ll have to tell my buddies: Jimmie Johnson was curious about what kind of underwear I wore.

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

My question would have to be: Outside of NASCAR, what would be the biggest race you would like to win? For me, personally, it would be the Chili Bowl.

Brad Keselowski expands on why he decided to shutter Truck team


When Brad Keselowski announced he would shut down his Truck Series team, many assumed it was directly tied to the high cost of running a truck — which Keselowski said causes him to lose $1 million a year.

And while that was certainly a factor — Keselowski acknowledged Friday his new contract with Team Penske resulted in a smaller piece of the pie for Trucks — he said in both a blog post and comments to reporters there was another major part of the decision.

Keselowski would like to be a Cup Series team owner one day, but he believes he cannot do so without a sustainable business. So the driver plans to start a manufacturing business of some kind — the specifics of which he said he was not ready to announce — to help eventually fund a Cup team. And he would use the current space in the Brad Keselowski Racing shop to do that.

“If you look at all the business owners at this level – and really all three of these levels – they have a sustainable, profitable business outside of motorsports,” he said Friday. ” That’s going to remain the key for any owner to have success.”

Keselowski said he could continue to fund his team through racing, but that would only last until he stops driving. Then his business would have to shut down because “I don’t have a profit center.”

“Having that profit center is what helps you get through the ebbs and flows that every race team has, so I need to have one of those profit centers,” he said. “That doesn’t mean that I’ll be a Cup owner one day, but that means when the time is right, if we achieve the goals that I have, I’ll have the opportunity to make that decision myself and not have it made for me.”

Anyway, it’s interesting to consider that while economics may have been the primary factor to push Keselowski out of the Truck Series, an eye on the future also played a role.


News Analysis: Brad Keselowski Racing to shut down after 2017

What happened: Brad Keselowski Racing, which fields two full-time Trucks in the Camping World Truck Series, announced it will shut down following the conclusion of this season. In a statement, Keselowski said: “The Truck Series is truly special to me given my family’s ties to the history of the sport, and this decision comes with much contemplation. But, for a number of reasons, and as I plan for the long-term future, I’ve decided not to field a team in 2018.”

What it means: In 2014, Keselowski said he was losing $1 million per year on his Truck team and told NBC Sports in June that figure has been consistent in recent years. “It’s a money loser,” he said. “Big time.” With small purses in the Truck Series and with most teams finding it difficult to find sponsorship that will cover the cost of racing (Keselowski told NBC it was $4.5 million per Truck, per season), it seems nearly impossible to consistently make money as a team owner in that series. Although it’s nice for a Cup driver like Keselowski to give back to the sport by providing an opportunity for young drivers (the team helped Ryan Blaney’s career get started, for example), that can’t be expected to continue when too much money comes out of a driver’s own pocket.

News value (scale of 1-10): Eight. Even though the Truck Series has well-known financial issues and top teams like Red Horse Racing have shut down recently, it’s still jarring and shocking to see Keselowski’s team announce it will stop running.

Three questions: What is the long-term future of a series where only 13 drivers have run all 14 races so far this season? Although NASCAR is working to reduce costs, how can teams continue in this economic environment if it’s such a money drain? Keselowski said he one day wants to be a Cup Series team owner and is “seeking to develop an advanced engineering and manufacturing company that would be housed out of our 78,000 square foot facility in Statesville” — so what does that entail?