Q: If NASCAR allowed you to listen to music while you were racing, would you want to?
A: I don’t think so. But I was just thinking, “What’s stopping me from doing it now?” I’m not so sure they could stop that now. I could see maybe doing it if there’s a lull or something in practice, but when I’m in the car, I’m so focused on the job at hand and needing to communicate with the team that I can’t see music doing me much good.
Q: Where did your first paycheck come from?
A: It was a race. I went to Indiana to race Quarter Midgets and they paid money to win. It was like $30 to win the race, which I did, and it was pretty cool.
Did the money go back into your car or to buy ice cream or what?
I think I was driving someone else’s car. But the way it worked with my parents was anything I won racing sprint cars, they’d split with me. I’d put it into a savings account and eventually built up enough to go buy my own truck. And then they took what they needed to to keep the car going. It taught me a little bit about saving money and a bank account and all those things, but it wasn’t a tremendous amount (of money) where I was doing anything silly or stupid.
Q: Who is an autograph you got as a kid that seemed to be a big deal to you at the time?
A: I remember watching a sprint car race one night in Putnamville, Indiana, and all the Kinsers were there. I remember going and getting all of the Kinsers’ autographs on a poster. That was pretty cool.
But if I thought of one moment, one driver that was a huge highlight for me, it was Rick Mears at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Was he just walking around and you went up to him?
It was like a Carburetion Day or something, so it was a little more relaxed environment than race day. I remember I was on the infield grandstands next to pit road, and he was walking down pit road. Surprisingly enough, there weren’t that many people screaming and yelling for all the drivers’ autographs. There were maybe two or three of us that I remember.
Rick sent somebody over, and I had a T-shirt I’d bought in the (IMS) museum. They took it over to him and he signed it and gave it back to me.
That was pre-Sharpie days, though. And I loved that shirt and loved that autograph, and I wore the shirt a lot. So every time we washed it, my mom had to trace back over the autograph until we got permanent markers. I think we lost that shirt somewhere along the way though.
Q: Where’s a place you’ve never been that you’d like to go visit?
A: Probably Bali. I’ve heard a lot of great things about Bali and I’ve never been, so one day I’d like to go.
Q: Do people ever accuse you of being addicted to your phone?
A: I wouldn’t say addicted, but I’d say there are times where I’ve had (wife) Ingrid or the kids say, “Now is not the time to be on your phone.” Maybe at the dinner table or at home. Nobody has ever accused me of being addicted, and I try to manage it pretty well, but there are times I pick it up that I probably shouldn’t.
Q: If a genie promised you a championship this year in exchange for never being able to do your favorite hobby again, would you accept that offer?
A: Yeah, absolutely — because I don’t have a favorite hobby. (Laughs) There’s not one thing I can think of that stands out that’s like, “Oh my God, if I don’t do this, I’m not going to get through life.” The only hobby I really have is playing poker, and I rarely get to do that as it is, so I think I could live without it. I’ll take the championship.
Q: What’s your preferred method of dealing with an angry driver after a race?
A: It depends on the situation. If I feel like I was...