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The 12 Questions series of driver interviews continues this week with William Byron of Hendrick Motorsports, who is currently leading the Rookie of the Year standings.
1. How often do you have dreams about racing?
Gosh, I hope most of the time not during the week because I try to get my mind away from it a little bit. But I’d say when I’m at the racetrack, I have nightmares about forgetting something or being late or sleeping in.
2. If you get into someone during a race — intentional or not — does it matter if you apologize?
Yeah, I think so — especially in my position as a rookie. When you’re an older guy, maybe you’re more set in your ways. But when you’re a rookie, you don’t want to have enemies out there. I think it’s important just to clear the air.
I can’t say I’ve had anybody call me and apologize, so I usually just remember that stuff. But I try to reach out.
3. What is the biggest compliment someone could give you?
I’d say “you’re talented,” but moreso that “you work hard and prepare.” That you don’t show up and act like you don’t know what you’re doing. The preparation you have, just giving your maximum effort. Preparation is all that put together.
I played other sports, and it was always important for me to be the kid who hustled the most.
So that’s always been part of your makeup, even before racing?
It’s always been what I tried to do. I played football — which is ironic, because I wasn’t a big guy — but I hustled a lot and was actually able to start. I think the hustle part of it is something that carried over into racing.
What position did you play?
Linebacker, actually. I like to hit people.
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?
I would say any of the Panthers players. Luke Kuechly. Greg Olsen would be really cool — he’s come to some races. I feel like those guys are close to home for me.
As a side note — which is not good as a Panthers fan — but Tom Brady is really cool. He likes cars, which I’ve noticed, so maybe we could get him out to a race sometime soon.
5. In an effort to show this is a health conscious sport, NASCAR decides to offer the No. 1 pit stall for an upcoming race to the first driver willing to go vegan for one month. Would you do it?
No. Absolutely not. I eat the worst probably of anyone in here. Just because I’m so young, it doesn’t really affect me that much. I haven’t reached the point where it even stays on me. I burn everything off instantly, so I probably eat ice cream four times a week. I have no shame in that. I wouldn’t change my diet. A lot of my happiness is how much ice cream I get.
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 2016 Bristol Truck race. Do you happen to remember that one at all?
Yeah. I think I took the lead with 30 to go and I broke a shock, and I think I finished fourth.
Yes, you finished fourth. Ben Kennedy won. I think you led one lap.
I led and made a mistake and got passed. Not fun.
Are you good at remembering races?
Yeah. I don’t have many. As a race car driver, I forget anything else people tell me. But the things in the race car, I always remember. Especially when you’re in the car, you remember everything.
7. Who is the best rapper alive?
He’s kind of annoying, but Drake. He consistently puts out the best music. There’s nobody else who really has the same foundation he does.
And he talks trash. Maybe we could get him at a race and have him in the pits or something — like you know how he does at the Toronto (Raptors) games? He’s right on the floor.
8. Who has the most punchable face in NASCAR?
Oh man. I try not to make too many enemies. Who do other people say? Brad (Keselowski)?
Some people have said Brad, yeah.
Yeah, I’d say Brad. Sometimes Alex (Bowman), because Alex gives me so much crap for being so young. I’ll get him back one day. He’s like my big brother.
Does he know it’s building up inside of you?
Oh, I’m sure he does. He’s told me a couple times, “One day, you’re just going to unload.” We’ll see.
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 think it’s an easy choice. Hanks for spotting because of his voice and he’s got that deep tone, which is something you need in a spotter. You don’t want some high-pitched dude up there, because it eventually sounds like white noise. I’ve had a few of those.
And then LeBron for crew chief because he’s physical, he’s built — he’d kind of intimidate all the guys on the team. He’d make the right calls and could probably jack the car up if he wanted to.
And Taylor Swift for motorhome. You’re going to see her all the time and she’s easy on the eyes, so that would be good.
10. What is the key to finding the best pre-race bathroom?
Usually, you get your bus driver to scout it out and say, “Here’s one.” On the Cup days, you try to just go before the drivers meeting or something. But if you have to, usually there’s somewhere on the end of pit road. That’s normally the spot. But I’m surprised they never have any toward the front of the field, so one you get there, you’re screwed.
11. NASCAR decides they miss the highlight reel value brought by Carl Edwards’ backflips and want a replacement. How much money would they have to offer for you to backflip off your car following your next win?
Man. Probably not much. I’d be pretty excited. I don’t know if I’d land it. I’d say (Daniel) Hemric knows how to do backflips. I ran second to him a few times in Legend cars. We were back and forth and he was doing a lot of backflips then.
12. Each week, I ask a driver to give me a question for the next interview. Last week’s was with Ross Chastain. His question for you was: If you were struggling in practice, would you let someone else get in your car to shake it down —and if so, who would you pick?
Yeah, I think it would be good at times. I had that when I ran for Kyle (Busch in the Truck Series). At a test at Bristol, something was wrong with our motor and we were like a half-second off. Christopher (Bell) and I were both there, and I got in Christopher’s truck and was able to run close to the lap times he was — so they knew it was a motor issue with mine. And we fixed the motor and it was fine.
So things like that where you’re just slow and you don’t know why, you can get Kyle Busch or someone to get in your car and at least say, “Hey, something is wrong with the motor” or “The car is doing this.”
Has anyone come to you and asked to hop in theirs?
In different series, like Legend cars or Late Models. Which is good. I think it shows some respect.
But only you know what you’re feeling in the car, so you don’t need to tell somebody else what it’s doing. A lot of people don’t trust their driver as much as they should, and it’s important to trust what they’re saying.
The next interview I’m doing is with Garrett Smithley. Do you have a question I can ask him?
He did iRacing a little bit. Does he still do iRacing and how does it help him or hurt him?
Previous 12 Questions interviews with William Byron: