The 12 Questions series of interviews continues this week with William Byron of Hendrick Motorsports. These interviews are recorded as a podcast but also transcribed for those who prefer to read.
1. Are you an iPhone person or an Android person, and why?
I’m an iPhone person. I don’t think I’ve ever had an Android. I feel like it’s such an off-brand version of an iPhone; I just don’t think that’s very good. I think they’re slower. I guess there’s some benefits. But I’ve always had an iPhone.
2. If a fan meets you in the garage, they might only have a brief moment with you. So between an autograph, a selfie or quick comment, what is your advice on the best way to maximize that interaction?
I feel like autographs are so generic. Either a picture or just (commenting on) a neat little tidbit about what you’re doing — something that shows they know about what’s going on. I feel like when I was a kid and I came to races, the only way I was really going to connect to a driver was if I knew some fact about them or knew what was going on with their weekend. So I think that’s important to a driver.
So you’d say something like, “Hey, I noticed you were whatever in practice yesterday,” when you see a driver?
Yeah, if you know more about the sport or what’s going on, I think that’s going to connect with somebody, personally, instead of just, “Hey!” Sometimes you hear things like, “Oh, that’s Alex — oh, no, that’s William.” And that’s like, “OK, you’re just looking for an autograph.” But the kids that you see and meet that are in tune with the sport, those are the ones I connect with.
3. When someone pulls a jerk move on the road when you’re driving down the highway, does that feeling compare at all to when someone pulls a jerk move on the track?
It does. I think on the track, there’s like a survival instinct that comes into play — so even if there is something that kind of frustrates you or pisses you off, it doesn’t really stick with you. Because I’m trying to survive and get to the next thing. I don’t think it’s going to be beneficial for me to get hung up on that — unless it really did hurt me or really screw me over in that situation.
On the road, especially me, I’m just taking advantage of bad drivers — and it does get frustrating when there’s somebody in your way.
4. Has there ever been a time where you’ve had a sketchy situation with your safety equipment?
Not a whole lot. I’d say when I ran Legend cars, the closest thing I had to that was just going out with your HANS clips not clipped in. You start to get into the routine of having those clipped in and you see a lot of drivers do this (shakes head) to make sure. But yeah, it’s sketchy. I mean, there was one time I did that and came back in and I was a little bit caught off guard that I went out there without those.
5. If your crew chief put a super secret illegal part on your car that made it way faster, would you want to know about it?
Not really. I want to know they’re doing everything it takes to make it go as fast as possible, and I trust what they put on the cars. So I think trust is a big thing with your crew chief or your team, knowing that the car they’re giving you is something fast and competitive. I wouldn’t really care unless it comes to like, “Hey, you know, we gotta crash something to…” (Laughs) Who knows? But no, I don’t really care.
6. What is a food you would not recommend eating right before a race and are you speaking with personal experience with this recommendation?
As sick as I’ve gotten over the offseason with food poisoning a couple times, I would say sushi. I would not eat sushi. Even though I love it, but you just never know.
So you’re kind of staying away after some bad experiences?
Yeah, staying away from that for sure.
7. Is there life in outer space, and if so, do they race?
I don’t think so, because they can’t keep the cars on the ground with (no) gravity. Maybe you could, but I don’t know if being loose or tight would be the same for them. Honestly, I think it would be cool. I feel that they’d race, if you’re a Star Wars fan, you know they race those little things that are about a couple hundred feet off the ground, so those would be fun to race.
Like those pod things?
Yeah, I love those.
8. What do drivers talk about when they’re standing around at driver intros before a race?
Nothing useful. Nothing. I hate that time, honestly. I don’t feel like it really suits my style of talking to somebody right before I go try to beat them. But I try to make off-subject comments like, “How was your offseason? How is your family?” Something like that. It’s a really useless time.
So it’s totally awkward small talk?
Oh yeah. It’s a maintenance conversation that you’re trying to have with somebody that is really not your best friend. Maybe it’s different for other people.
9. What makes you happy right now?
Good question. Honestly, just racing. I mean, that’s a very broad thing, but I guess just competing and being happy with that. I’m not super linked to friendships or things like that yet, but just racing and being in my own space, being able to accomplish things that I’m really just trying to strive for by myself.
10. Let’s say a sponsor comes to you and says, “We are going to fully fund the entire rest of your racing career on the condition that you wear a clown nose and an 80’s rocker wig in every interview you do forever.” Would you accept that offer?
No, because that’s out of style. It’s gonna kill my vibe too much with people my age.
People your age are not going to think that’s the William Byron brand.
That’s not gonna be cool. I probably wouldn’t do that.
11. This is the 10th year of the 12 Questions. There has never been a repeat question until now. Pick a number between 1 and 100, and I’m going to pull up a random question from a past year’s series.
I’ll pick 24.
This question was “Who will win the Cup title five years from now?” So this would be for 2024. Who wins?
Uh, me. Yeah. (Laughs)
That makes sense. You’ll still be around, you’ll still be young.
I hope I’m still around. If I don’t have a job, that would be really sad. I don’t know what I would be doing. Hopefully racing.
12. The last interview was with Aric Almirola. He wants to know with all the pressure that’s around you to be the next guy at Hendrick and all this hype that comes with you, what do you do in your daily life or your time away from the track to get away from all that and have fun?
That’s a great question. You know, I snowboard during the offseason. My friends at school are completely normal kids. I really don’t get asked a lot about racing outside of racing when I’m with my other friends, so I feel like that’s a great way to disconnect.
And honestly I feel like I’m living something that I never expected to do, so that’s fun for me. I know that ultimately, I’m not attached to this by my family or anything, and that’s a really cool disconnection I have from racing. So my family’s not going to judge me on whether I succeed or fail on the racetrack. They care, but they don’t care for the sake of my life goals. So I think I’m kind of living that lack of pressure from a family perspective.
Do you have a question I can ask another driver?
If you could change the schedule one way, how much time you would spend around the racetrack? Like what do you think is the ideal schedule each week? Two days?
So the weekend schedule?
Yes. It is a one-day show? Show up, have one practice? How do you think we should do that?
Previous 12 Questions interviews with William Byron: