1. How do you feel about reclining their seats on airplanes?
I don’t mind it. I guess because I’m short, it doesn’t really bother me. I don’t usually put my seat back, just because it puts me in an awkward place. But I don’t mind people doing it in front of me. I usually set the table and put my head on it.
If I’m in a deep sleep and someone is moving very fast in front of me and hitting my head – it doesn’t bother me, it just wakes me up.
So can you sleep on the tray table?
I am flexible. I carry a neck pillow in my bag so I’ll put it on my forehead so I can breathe.
2. How often are you recognized at the grocery store?
At our local grocery store in Mooresville, NC, like every time I’m in. They are either people who work there or just people who walk to get groceries. Mooresville, everyone in that town is a racer, whether they’re a fan or connected to someone at the race. So it’s easy to recognize which of us are going through there. So every time I go to that grocery store (it gets recognized).
One of the guys that works there—I’ve never talked to him or anything—but during COVID, when you had to wear masks, we sold these hurdles with the #57 sprint car from Kyle Larson Racing. So he always wore a Kyle Larson mask. I thought it was very good.
3. On a scale of 1 to 10, how good are you at responding to text messages in a timely manner?
I don’t know – John? (He looks at PR representative John Edwards, who says, “I’ll say 8 to me.”)
I would have said 8. I think I could be better, but I feel like I’m doing a really good job at it. Like I was reading 12 questions about William (Byron) and after his Atlanta win, he said it took until Wednesday or something to answer. I got it all done right after the race. So I try not to leave people hanging on those things.
But then, yeah, there are times when someone sends me something with a question and I’ll open it up and read it and then I might be busy and say, “Oh, I’ll be back to that in 15 minutes.” Then when they texted me a few days later, I realized I had forgotten . So I feel good at it, but I can definitely be better.
4. What is the best way to get out of a conversation with someone who doesn’t stop talking?
You don’t want to reveal all your secrets away because when you do that to someone, then they will know that you are rude. Usually, if I’m in a hurry and there’s a fan or someone out there who wants to have a full conversation, I’m too short with them. I’ll wrap it up and say, “Okay, I’ll see you later.” And then they immediately get the hint and close the end of the conversation.
You learn a little bit of that from (Clint) Boyer. (laughs) He doesn’t say “see you later,” he just disappears. So maybe that’s what I should do.
What do they call that, an Irish farewell?
It’ll be like in the middle of a conversation with Clint and he’s just gone. It’s like, “I think we’re done.” He’s rude sometimes, but he’s just Clint. I feel like this is the best way out of it, but I at least try to say, “Okay, see you later” and then start walking.
5. If you could only choose one form of social media to use and drop the rest, what would it be?
Maybe Instagram. I’m there a lot and love just scrolling through photos and videos and seeing what other people are doing. The reel stuff is kind of funny. I love watching funny things there. And there’s usually no drama on Instagram, which is why I love it.
You have to dig into the comments to find the drama.
Yes, if I look at someone’s photos, I don’t look at the comments. I might see any friend of mine would like it, but it only shows for two or three people. I never go deep into the comments.
He’s a genius. Do not read the comments.
no. never ever.
6. What advice would you give someone who is having a hard time getting over their mistake?
Just move it quickly. If there is something wrong with the racetrack or something, I race so much that you naturally forget about it and move forward. But just try not to let him eat you inside. This goes on and off the right track, just don’t overthink things and stay positive about what’s going on in your life.
7. This is a wild question that I’m mixing up for everyone. For this question, I went back to the first 12 questions from 2014 to compare your answers and see if they match. At the time, I asked you if someone paid you to design a racetrack on an unlimited budget, what would you do? And you said you were going to build another house. Eight years later, do you still feel this way?
If we were with the older 6th generation car, I might have changed my answer and said I’d build Bristol asphalt or something similar – maybe a touch bigger.
But I feel like these are next-gen cars, they seem to be struggling so far on short tracks and I think Bristol is going to be really bad with it (in September). I think Homestead would be better. So I guess I’ll stick with my answer and create a similar path to Homestead with Progressive and Direct Banking. (tracks with) doglegs – I don’t understand why we have doglegs. Think maybe for stands and for viewing purposes? But I like tracks that have straight paths. So I would probably build a track just under a mile and a half, but its look and feel is similar to the Homestead.
8. If someone blatantly smashes you to win a race, will you boycott the celebration?
I don’t think I will. No no. I don’t like drama and that only adds to the drama. And you end up looking kind of stupid. I feel like you want to get them back to racing condition. If you’re doing something like Denny (he did Hamlin with Alex Bowman last year in Martinsville), you’re going to lose a bit of an edge on your payoff down the road. So I don’t think I will.
It’s funny how you find drama sometimes. I won’t mention all driver accidents, but you don’t like drama and then you always have to talk about it or get asked about it.
(laughs) Yes, I don’t like drama – but you (the media) do. That’s why you have to ask us.
9. What movie do you think you have seen the most in the last year?
For the past two months, my kids — well, my daughter (Audrey) in particular — have been in two movies: “Encanto” and “Turning Red.” This girl, turn into like a red panda or something. So these are the two you’ve seen the most for sure. Both are singles and Audrey retains most of the lyrics for most of the songs. She probably watched Turns Red three times a day and then we moved to Encanto and she watches it three times a day.
What percentage of the words do you know for “We’re not talking about Bruno?”
Not many of them. She does. And I don’t want to start singing it. I mean, I can sing the beginning, but I don’t want to.
I won’t make you do that.
It’s a good movie. I haven’t seen the movie, but it’s clearly playing in the background all the time. And I would say “We’re not talking about Bruno” isn’t my favorite song there. There’s one just before that in the movie I like its rhythm. I can’t even think of her words.
10. When you think about NASCAR five years from now, what are the most optimistic about and what worries you the most?
The next-generation car and cost savings for teams appear promising. And hearing the veteran drivers talk about the upcoming TV broadcast contract, there is a huge opportunity for the teams to make more money and thus for the drivers to make more money as well. So I think that’s encouraging, if it all happens the way I think we like. Racing was really good with the next generation car as well, so that was fun.
Things I worry about? I can’t think of anything outside my head. I feel like NASCAR continues to do a good job with schedules, revamping that and adding some excitement. Probably the only thing I’d be nervous about is that I enjoy the road courses, but I don’t want too much of it.
No more dirt races.
11. The magic genie appears and gives you the chance to go back to the beginning of your racing career and start over. But you will keep all the knowledge and experience you have now. Do you accept the offer to return or stay where you are?
Selfish, yes. I’m going back and doing it just because I feel like I would have won a lot of races in all these things I’ve been in – but especially in the Cup. There were a lot of races in Ganassi that I lost due to lack of experience. So I would like to go back to the Ganassi days when I was going to lose late race reruns and things like that.
But I am clearly quite satisfied with where I am now. And you never know: One different little thing in your past can change the course of your life and career moving forward. So who knows? If I’m going to win another four or five races at Ganassi, I may not be here at Hendrick with the Cup Series.
So when you think about it that way, no, I’m not going back. But if I could be in the same situation I’m in right now, I’d totally go back.
12. Every week, I ask the driver to give me a question for the next guy. Last week it was Austin Cendrick and he probably had one of my favorite questions asked to you right now.
Oh no. “Will you do the Indy 500?”
Will you do the Indy 500? And when?
Well, just enter any quote you gave in the last year and that should answer the question. So yeah, here’s my answer, Jeff Gluck and Austin Cendrick: Yes, I’d like to run the Indy 500 someday. For me, it’s the biggest race in the world and I would definitely like to do that. But I want to do with a great team. And I want to do it where I feel ready and can prepare. Because I don’t want to go and do it to say I did.
Maybe 10 years ago, I would have wanted to do it to say I did. But now I want to do it and I know I have a chance to win. And so, yeah, I want to be with a great team. I want to be able to go for the test. Heck, I’d like to go race before the Indy 500 somewhere—whether it’s a road track or an oval—just to learn about the stops, restart routines, and all of that stuff.
So yeah, I want to do that someday. I’ll be turning 30 this year, so I feel like the window of doing that and I feel like you’re on vacation to do it sometime in the next three, four, five years. So I would like to do that sometime before then. It’s definitely on my racing list.
I was so glad he asked, so I didn’t have to worry about it.
(laughs) Would that be the wild question?
No, I’ve answered it enough times.
It’s getting closer to May, so I’m sure I’ll be ordering more and more.
I don’t know with whom the next interview will be, but I am planning to interview the F1 driver at the Miami Grand Prix. Do you have a question I can ask the F1 driver?
Didn’t Kevin Magnussen run Tony Stewart’s fast car? Test Tony. Try and get it. And if you can’t, come back to me to ask another question.
If I get Magnussen, I just want to get his opinion on what he thinks of it, how the power-to-weight ratio compares to a Formula One car and whether he enjoyed it. If he could imagine himself in a field with 23 other drivers, what would he think? Would you be excited, nervous, scared? Would you feel comfortable and confident in your ability to do so?
Because I heard he did it and I heard it was very good. And I saw in the video, saw some of it (screenshots) on the plane and it all looked good. He was running a lot off the throttle and all that. So I would like to know his opinion on it.
Now that he’s back with Haas and now that Tony is completely retired now that he’s married, maybe he can go racing in the off-season somewhere.
(Photo: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)