12 Questions with Ty Dillon (2018)

The 12 Questions series of interviews continues with Ty Dillon, who is in his second season driving for Germain Racing in the NASCAR Cup Series. This interview is recorded as a podcast, but is also transcribed for those who prefer to read.

1. How often do you have dreams about racing?

I don’t now as much as when I was younger. I used to have the worst dream and it stressed me out so bad. The race would be firing off, cars would be rolling off and I was trying to still find my gloves or my helmet. Like, I’d be in the hauler scrambling. And then the race was going and I was missing the race and I just had that recurring dream all the time. That was the worst dream ever, I’d wake up sweating and stressed out.

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

If you make a true mistake and you’re honest with the person, I think it’s worth going and saying something. I think if you’re racing hard, it should be understood.

I tried that a couple years ago with Regan (Smith at Watkins Glen). I told him when he came up to me, “I made a mistake, man. You deserve to be mad.” But he continued to get more and more mad and then it led to what it was (a skirmish on pit road). But I will always be honest if I make a mistake. I always tell the person and we’ll go from there.

So in the Watkins Glen situation, you were like, “Dude, it’s my fault” and he’s still getting mad?

I told him, “Hey, you are 100 percent right to be mad at me,” and he continued to get mad. Then I was like, “OK, now we’re into another realm of getting mad.” So that’s when I flare up. 

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

The biggest compliment someone could give me right now would be just a compliment that I’m being a good husband and a father. That means more than anything to me in life. And then probably third on the list would be that people see that I’m working hard and just appreciate the work that I’ve put in to trying to be a good race car driver and all around good for the sport.

4. NASCAR comes to you and says, “Hey, we are bringing a celebrity to the race and we’re wondering if you have time to say hi.” Who is a celebrity you’d be really excited to host?

Migos was really cool. They’d be high on the list. Like sports star-wise, probably Cam Newton. I love the Braves, so any of the Braves players.

But like entertainment, I really like (rapper) Logic right now. I’ve been bumping him quite a bit, so if he were to come to the track, I’d like to show him around and show him our world.

That would be very cool. That would be very big for NASCAR.

For sure. Another one would be (entrepreneur and social media star) Gary Vaynerchuk, I’d like to take him around.

And he’s doing stuff with NASCAR, right?

Yeah, Vayner Media is doing a lot. I actually had worked with him when I went to Austin for South by Southwest with a vlog and spent a lot of time with him. I’m kind of developing myself outside of racing and inside of racing. I think what they’ve got going on is pretty special.

5. In an effort to show they are health-conscious, NASCAR offers the No. 1 pit stall selection for an upcoming race to the first driver willing to go vegan for a month. Would you do it?

For sure.

You would?

Oh yeah, I could do it. My wife (Haley) is a real good cook, and I’d just be like, “Alright Haley, let’s make this stuff taste good.” We’ll go for it. So I could do it.

I think you’re the first driver all year to say yes. I finally found somebody.

I don’t think the other drivers have qualified as bad as I have all year. (Laughs) So I really understand what the bad pit selection feels like. I’d do it for the whole year. It’d probably make me look better, too.

6. It’s time for the Random Race Challenge. I have picked a random race from your career and you have to guess where you finished. This is the 2015 Spring Xfinity race at Kentucky.

That’s a tough one. I had to be decent…I’ll say eighth.

The answer was P15. So you started second and you must have gotten the lead on the start because you led the first 15 laps. And then I don’t know what happened after that.

I’ve led so many laps at Kentucky. I think we got a speeding penalty or something that might have gotten us a lap down. There’s been a lot of Kentucky races where we started in the top five, led a bunch of laps. The last one might have been the fall race of ’15 or fall race of ’16, where we led the whole race and got beat on the green-white-checkered by Blaney. So I was confused between that one and that one.

Are you good at remembering races?

Somewhat. I can remember the good ones.

7. Who is the best rapper alive?

I think I gave myself away earlier with Logic. I like everything he’s got going on. Migos has some cool content. I just like the way they mix it up. But I’m gonna go with Logic.

8. Who has the most punchable face in NASCAR?

(Laughs) Do people answer this?

Some people do. I’ve gotten a couple answers.

I will just say, out of pure facts, it’s Kyle Busch because I think he’s had the most punches thrown at his face in our sport.

That is a factual answer.

Him and Brad (Keselowski), they both have had the most punches thrown at their faces.

So you’re going for a data answer here.

Data answer. That way I can back it up.

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

I’ll take LeBron as the crew chief just because he’s a good team leader. He’s not as good at (Michael Jordan) though, but he’s the best leader in sports right now. Tom Hanks, I love his voice, so he can be my spotter. And then my wife and Taylor would probably get along well, so she can drive the motorhome.

Do you spend a lot of time with your motorhome driver?

Yeah, we could sit around, we could grill out and she could play the guitar and sing, which would be nice.

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

That’s a major key. Just the closest port-a-john, really. We’re doing something on the vlog about that, like the best way to find your favorite driver is stand near the port-a-john nearest to their car before the race. That’s the easiest way to do it.

I feel like all tracks should have more port-a-johns. Some tracks really throw us a curve, like Martinsville, I had to run all the way to the backstretch to use the bathroom between the national anthem and “Gentlemen, start your engines,” which there isn’t a whole lot of time there to also get in the car and get all your stuff on.

11. NASCAR misses the highlight reel value brought by Carl Edwards’ backflips and decides a replacement is needed. How much money would they have to pay you to backflip off your car after your next win?

Whatever my medical bill will be to fix my neck when I break it. I’m just not a big acrobatic person.

Daniel Hemric can do backflips. He’ll probably do it when he wins one day. I’ll do something cool, but I can’t do a backflip.

But all they’d have to pay is your medical? You wouldn’t want extra fees on top of that?

I’d be generous because I won the race. Just pay my medical bill.

12. Each week, I ask a question given to me from the last interview. Last week, I interviewed Martin Truex Jr. He wants to know: Did it surprise you just how much harder Cup is than Xfinity? 

Yes. When I was a rookie in Trucks and Xfinity, I was racing for championships and winning races right out of the gate my first year. Going to Cup, yeah, our team wasn’t at that level yet, but we had a really good step in the right direction. But to even be better at the Cup Series, it’s not another step — it’s like five steps to be much better.

I would like to mirror my career a lot off of what Martin’s done. To grow Furniture Row from what it was to what it is now, that’s definitely what we want to do at Germain. Yeah, it’s definitely a lot tougher than I expected. I was able to make a lot of starts to get a little bit of a feel for (Cup) to help, and we had our best year statistically that Germain Racing’s had, but it’s definitely a major step that I think a lot of people don’t realize.

The next interview I’m doing is with an IndyCar driver. Do you have a question I can ask a driver in the IndyCar Series?

Why does it seem that NASCAR drivers can come to Indy and IndyCar racing and run well like AJ Allmendinger and Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart in their cars, but when they come to ours, the learning curve seems a lot steeper?

That’s a really good question. I’d like to know that answer myself.

See, I might be the most punchable face in IndyCar after that, so we’ll see.

Previous 12 Questions interviews with Ty Dillon:

Aug. 3, 2016

Oct. 18, 2017


12 Questions with Ty Dillon

The 12 Questions series of interviews continues with Germain Racing’s Ty Dillon, who finished 11th last weekend at Talladega Superspeedway. Dillon’s average finish this season is 20.6, which is up from the No. 13 car’s average finish of 25.6 last year.

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

That’s a good question. I think 85 percent of your success is from natural ability, which stems from your alertness and keeping yourself out of trouble. Just the natural ability to be running at the end of a race is a big thing to being successful in this sport.

But if you don’t have that next 15 percent, working hard and studying in the sport, doing all the things that you need to do, you can’t compete at the highest level and be successful. It seems like it’s a smaller percentage, but it’s a very important percentage.

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?

Just get to know me. I’m a pretty interesting guy on and off the racetrack. I’m pretty outgoing, I think. once you get to know me. And I’m pretty aggressive, and I have certain styles that are my own and unique, and as a rookie, you can learn my style and who I am and kind of grow with me as I grow in the sport.

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

The hardest part of my job away from the racetrack is just keeping myself relaxed throughout the season, or just keeping my mind in check. With so many appearances and being at the racetrack from Thursday to Sunday, and then you’re at the shop with meetings and on the phone, I think it’s important to make sure that you detox your mind a little and get your sanity checked back throughout the week. That way, you’re fresh every weekend to give it all you’ve got.

I thought you were going to say it was not being able to check your fantasy football team on Sundays.

That’s pretty troubling, too. That’s one of the first things I check when I get out of the race car. (Laughs)

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

Yeah, definitely. Maybe just wait until I’m not eating, or wait until a good moment. But I always like to meet fans at anytime and I always want to be approachable because I’ve got a lot of people that I’m a big fan of, and I would like them to treat me the same way.

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

I think our rookies. Personally, we haven’t gotten as much coverage for how all of us have ran in our different situations. Daniel Suarez has only been racing in NASCAR for a couple of years and Erik Jones has been running up front and competing for wins at a lot of races. And then for my team, we’ve been running the best our team has ran in a long time and led more laps than all the (Richard Childress Racing) cars combined in our rookie season.

So there’s a lot of good stories that kind of get washed under the table with Junior retiring — which is obviously a huge story — and so much going on in our sport. But I think if our sport’s gonna grow and we need these fans to be attached to new drivers, why not the rookie class? And I think there should be more attention drawn to that.

That’s a good point. Honestly, just sitting here thinking about it as you’re saying that, I’m like, “Oh yeah, I forgot you’re a rookie.”

For sure. But I probably seem like the least “rookiest” — I don’t know if that’s even a word — because I’ve been around the sport for a while and kind of paid my dues at every level. I’m still 25 and I’m still a rookie in the sport.

6. Who is the last driver you texted?

Other than my brother (Austin), probably Bubba Wallace or (Ryan) Blaney or Denny Hamlin. We’re all in a basketball league together so we’re constantly talking to each other about stuff outside of racing, mainly sports stuff.

So you’re part of the Hoop Group? Is that right?

Yeah, I’m in the Hoop Group. I led the league in rebounds last year, so I’m not really the offensive star, but I’m a hustle defensive guy.

You’re not one of the biggest guys — but you’re still getting the rebounds?

Oh yeah, I can jump out of the building. I think Blaney and I have the best hops in the league. I’m a little taller, so I can get the rebounds.

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

I do. I think we’re definitely entertainers when people tune in on the weekends and are watching us on TV. If you’re being watched on TV, you’re an entertainer. That’s just part of what makes our sport what it is, and what launched our sport into the next level was a fight on the backstretch, and that was entertainment, you know? And some of the things that we’re able to do in the race cars are what really spikes interest in our sport, and that’s all entertainment to me.

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

I use it a ton. (Laughs) I probably use it too much. It’s an easy go-to to let somebody know how you feel. Honestly, I think there should be a middle finger cam on the cars, because I’m pretty sure every single driver throws at least four to five birds a race, and it would be pretty interesting.

I’d like to see a tally of that. Like, “Oh look, he just threw his fifth middle finger!”

Just put a camera on each straightaway, because no one wants to do it in the middle of the corner. Some people do it in the middle of the corner and that’s pretty impressive. But you can probably catch them, because there’s enough guys with white gloves and stuff to just keep a tally someday. That would be a good deal for one the TV shows.

A couple drivers this year have answered this question and said it’s an instant wreck if somebody does that to them. Are you worried about that at all?

I haven’t been instantly wrecked yet and I’ve done it a lot, so I’d like to know who that is.

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 it goes both ways. I think it’s kind of “Race the way you want to be raced” — the old cliche. When somebody every single week wants to bear down your doors and make it impossible for you to pass in situations in the race where it’s really not necessary, you remember that and you return the favor. And when you’re faster than somebody and you run them down and they get out of your way, you remember it because you race so many laps so many times a year that things like that come back around. So there’s definitely a rolling tally on who’s racing you hard and who races you good.

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

That’s a good one. I’ve had some dinner with some really famous people. Probably most recently we went to dinner in Charlotte with Steven Soderbergh, the (director). So that was really cool, really interesting. He produced the Oceans movies and then Logan Lucky that just came out. I was talking to him and hearing some of his stories and talking about his profession was really cool.

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

I carry a lot of stress on my shoulders and I really want to be the best at everything I do, and sometimes in racing that makes me a little more stressed out than I really should be. And I allow it to impact me a little deeper than I should. Hopefully, as I grow out of being a rookie and get more seasoned in the sport, you grow more comfortable in what you’re doing and in your ability. I guess to be able to leave the moment in the past every weekend so you can reset and be ready for next weekend.

But it’s really hard in this sport, because it’s so “What have you done for me now?” to not let one bad weekend carry into the next, and I kind of struggled with that this year because it’s been up and down, this being my first season. I think that’s kind of the rookie wall that everybody goes through. So hopefully that’s one area that I can grow in. And I know I will. My wife (Haley) does a good job on keeping me on equal ground and keeping me grounded and keeping my head in the right spot. And with a little girl on the way too, I think that’s gonna help.

12. The last interview I did was with Trevor Bayne, and he said he struggles at times when he doesn’t make the playoffs with keeping his head up and going through the grind of the rest of the season. He was wondering if you have any tips for what you’ve been doing to finish out the season strong even though you didn’t make the playoffs.

It’s kind of hard being a rookie going through it for the first time, but I think my plan, since the Chase has started, is to start building momentum for next year and start racing for next year. That’s kind of how this sport goes: you start preparing for 2018 in August, November, October, that time, and if you start rolling good momentum at the end of this year, it really jump-starts you into next year. So that’s kind of been my game plan.

Next week I’m going to the F1 race in Austin, so I’m going to potentially do a 12 Questions with one of the Haas F1 Team drivers. Is there any question you have that I could ask to them?

Who do they think are more athletic: F1 drivers or NASCAR drivers?

The Top Five: Breaking down the Daytona race

Five thoughts after Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway…

1. Stenhouse, repeated

As the field lined up for the overtime restart on Saturday night, only one driver in the top nine already had a win this season. So surely, there was going to be a new winner and throw yet another wrinkle into this year’s unpredictable playoff picture.

Nooooope! That one previous winner in the top nine — Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — used a run on the bottom to blow past David Ragan as the No. 38 car left the door open, then sailed through what was a relatively calm final lap (at least compared to the rest of the race).

Stenhouse has apparently gotten pretty good at this plate racing thing, which is weird to say. As recently as the first stage of the Talladega race, Stenhouse looked like a weapon. Then he ended up winning that race.

And Talladega wasn’t a fluke, because he led four different times at Daytona before securing his second career victory and second straight plate win.

Yes, Saturday was definitely a race of survival where the best cars were taken out. But you can’t use that as an argument to take anything away from Stenhouse, because when it was Big Boy Time, he put himself in position to win and executed in the end. Again.

“He’s learned a lot,” runner-up Clint Bowyer said. “He’s become a good plate racer. I remember when he came in, he was a little bit chaotic, but he’s not now. He’s got it figured out, and he’s won two of them.”

2. What might have been

Stenhouse was a nice story because he hasn’t won very much, but his presence in victory lane oddly felt like a letdown because of all the potential new winners late in the race.

Ragan or Michael McDowell would have been major stories for NASCAR, with underdog teams launching themselves into the playoffs at a to-be-determined star driver’s expense.

Or a Bowyer win would have triggered a major victory party that would have rolled on until the sun came up — and it would have been good for NASCAR fans to see him win again.

Or maybe the dawn of the new Young Guns could take another step with an unexpected victor. Rookies Ty Dillon and Daniel Suarez had shots to win and ultimately got shuffled back, as did Bubba Wallace (how huge would that have been for NASCAR to have an exciting young talent win in the No. 43 car on July 4th weekend?).

Anyway, you get the point. But one reason it didn’t happen is because the inexperienced drivers made moves that either didn’t work or were incorrect.

Take Dillon, for example. Dillon sought out Bowyer for a conversation after the race on pit road because he was unsure if he did the right thing by pulling out of line to try and go for the win (no one went with him and he got shuffled back to 16th).

Could he have done anything different? Ultimately, Bowyer told him there was no right answer.

“I’m kicking myself, because the finish doesn’t show what we’re capable of,” Dillon said. “But I think I’d be more disappointed just sitting there riding and not making something happen. I’m a go-getter. My personality might have gotten us a bad finish, but it also got us up toward the front.”

Suarez got stuck in the bottom lane on the last two restarts and called it “bad luck.” But there was also an element of inexperience that played a role.

“I’m still learning, so I don’t really know how aggressive you need to be to win these races,” he told me. “So maybe I have to push a little bit harder.”

Ragan, of course, has plenty of plate experience and just didn’t realize Stenhouse had that big of a run coming on the bottom (he was more concerned with trying to protect the top). He was disappointed, of course, but it won’t be the worst thing he’s experienced.

“Hey, I lost a Daytona 500 down here,” he said. “Losing a Coke Zero 400 — that ain’t nothin’.”

3. Wreckfest!

The wild race included 14 cautions, which is a record for the summer race and the second-most of any Daytona race ever — including all of the Daytona 500s except for 2011 (16 cautions). That’s saying a lot, considering there were 100 fewer miles for something to happen.

Of course, two of those cautions were for stages. But that’s still 12 cautions, and for all the chaos over the years, there have only been double-digit cautions at Daytona 10 times in 141 races here.

What happened? Well, Brad Keselowski tweeted a theory. He said it had something to do with a softer tire brought by Goodyear.

It certainly had an unusual feel, even for a plate race. Aggression really seemed to pay off in a big way (look at McDowell, who drew drivers’ ire with his moves but ended up with a career-best fourth-place finish).

“You’ve got to block hard, you’ve got to cut people off, you’ve got to push hard, you’ve got to stick your nose in there where it doesn’t belong — all the things that you know are capable of disaster,” Bowyer said. “But if you don’t, the next guy is going to, and nine times out of 10, it works. That’s just the nature of the beast.”

4. Dammit, Dale

Beat-up cars can end up winning plate races depending on the circumstances, so when Dale Earnhardt Jr. rallied from two laps down and got himself back into the top 10, I was starting to wonder if we were witnessing an Earnhardt Miracle.

But that thought didn’t last long, since Kevin Harvick had a flat tire and spun in front of Earnhardt. That’s a shame, since Earnhardt fans were really craving a win and felt Daytona might have been their driver’s last, best chance to do so before the playoffs.

So now what? Well, there are nine races left for Earnhardt to win and make the playoffs (it’s not happening on points). In theory, he’s got a shot at places like Pocono and Michigan, where he’s run well and won before. But time is starting to run out, and it’s a very real possibility fans won’t get to see Earnhardt get that feel-good victory like Tony Stewart or Jeff Gordon had in their final seasons.

That shows two things: First, it’s a reminder of how hard it is to win any race in NASCAR (which should give us more of an appreciation for those who win often). Second, that should permanently put to rest any dumb conspiracy theories of NASCAR being rigged — because you know execs would love nothing more to have Earnhardt as part of the playoffs.

5. What’s the point?

Earnhardt isn’t the only one with playoff worries. Joey Logano’s encumbered win looms bigger and bigger every week.

There have been 10 different winners with non-penalized wins, which leaves six playoff spots open. Those currently belong to Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Jamie McMurray, Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer and Matt Kenseth. Logano, who finished 35th after crashing, is currently out by three points.

Logano will probably rally points-wise, but if one more new driver wins who is below him in the standings — say AJ Allmendinger at Watkins Glen, for example — Logano might actually miss the playoffs. That seems inconceivable given how good that team is, but it’s possible.

Of course, Logano could put all this to rest sometime in the next few weeks with a win, but it’s certainly an interesting development to watch — particularly because he’s 12th in the standings, and you don’t typically see drivers that high up miss the playoffs.