Nice to join the chat this morning! A lot of stuff going on this weekend with the We have a lot of interesting stuff going on this weekend as the Sprint Cup heads to Michigan and Nationwide goes to Montreal. It's going to be an interesting couple of weeks with the Chase battle. I'm excited for some racing! Thanks for joining me today.
At what point in your basketball career did you figure out you may want to pursue something with NASCAR?
It never really was during my basketball career. I've been involved with racing since HS. I grew up around the race track, worked on race cars ever since I was a young guy. The common question was always, 'you made the transition for ball to racing', I made a living playing basketball but I've always been involved in racing. There was no transition, it's what I've always done. When you see me, I look like a basketball guy but I've been around racing my whole life.
Is it true you wore No. 43 in honor of Richard Petty?
Yes, I wore it because Richard Petty was my idol . My other hero was Wendell Scott who wore No. 34. But I was HUGE Richard Petty fan growing up.
What is the biggest difference between NBA players and NASCAR drivers?
Most NBA players are 6'8 players or taller and most NASCAR drivers are 5'8 are shorter. So that's a big difference! But for basketball, your body is your insturment that you need to play the sport but for racing, you're relying on a mechanical device. I think you need to be a tremendous athlete for both but just in a different ways. Both require tremendous focus to be successful.
Which city has the best Nascar fans?
That's tough! Oh boy... I don't know if there is one city. I think of the fan base as a whole and not just in one city. I think the support no matter where the series goes is tremendous. Even when they're not sold out, there is still a LOT of people showing up. I couldn't name just one city as having the best fans. I look at the 75+ millions fans overall.
Which are the more dedicated fans - UNC basketball or Dale Jr. fans?
These are tough questions! I have to say the Dale Jr. fans. UNC, even in a down year, are going to win a lot of games. Dale Jr. has been through some lean years over the past several seasons and his fans have really stuck by him. It's pretty easy to be a Tar Heel fan!
What driver has surprised you most this season?
I would have to say Dale Jr. He has put together solid efforts every week. It's obviously a great combination with his team but he has shown great ability, focus, talent, etc. and seems dedicated to putting good races together every week. He has really surprised me. I did predict he would win 2-3 races this year but I think he's been a pleasant surprise.
Who would you pick for a four driver team if you could have any four active drivers?
I would pick Tony Stewart, he's the most versatile driver, period. I think you have to take Kyle Busch because of his abilities and maybe a guy like Mark Martin who could mentor and talk to the other guys. And the final spot? I think Jimmie Johnson. That would be a pretty good team right there.
How did you first become a NASCAR fan?
My dad was a huge fan and I remember back in 1978 watching the Daytona 500 with my dad and seeing how excited he was. The people we read about it my hometown paper was race car drivers. They were the local sports legends. That's where I fostered my passion for the sport. There's nothing like being at a race track. It's the ultimate manhood experience! I've been going for 30 years but as soon as I get there and smell the gasoline burning, I get excited!
Which is harder to do - play basketball or race?
I guess it depends at what level you're talking about. I race quite a bit on the local level, I enjoy it and have fun doing it. If you have all of your abilities to play ball, and are coordinated, basketball might be. But at the professional level, it would impossible to do either if you don't have the ability!
What was it like playing for the legendary Dean Smith in Chapel Hill?
Greatest experience in my life. Dean Smith taught me so much about life. I learned so much about myself by playing for him. I was given a lot of ability and worked really hard so it didn't really matter where I played in terms of basketball but I got to learn so much else from him. I still take a lot of lessons I learned then into my everyday life today. I feel really blessed that I got to spend so many years around Dean Smith.
What's your favorite track to go to and why?
You're putting me on the spot here today! I like Bristol and Martinsville because I grew up around short tracks. I think the two shortest tracks we have are probably my favorites.
What up-and-coming drivers do you think we should be keeping an eye on? Who are the future stars of racing?
I think young Austin Dillon in the NNS is going to be a star in the series. Darrell Wallace Jr. is another young man to watch. Ricky Stenhouse is going to be a heck of a racer at the next level. Those are a few guys I've got my eyes on.
Did you catch flack from your teammates for being a NASCAR fan during your playing days?
Heck yeah! I caught a lot of flack, they just didn't understand it. I had a teammate in Larry Nance who was a drag racer (and still is) so we worked on cars together though. But a lot of those guys didn't get the racing thing. I tried to get a lot of those guys to come with me to race track and when they did, they loved it. But yeah, I got a little flack.
which nascar driver would you want to be your personal chauffeur?
What about Danica? She's tiny and I'm so big, I could basically put in her in my pocket! It would entertaining to say the least.
Danica Patrick is currently 11th in the Nationwide standings, is that where you expected her at this point?
Yes, I expected Danica to get better in phases so I think I've been pretty consistent with my take on her. She's getting more comfortable with more seat time and I think this is where we expected her at this point.
While most people are talking about Danica Patrick, do you think the real attention towards a female driver should be going to Johanna Long? She's really done a lot with much, much less in my opinion.
I think they both should garner a lot of attention. They've both been great and made improvements. Johanna has done a great job with being competitive. A lot of people ask that question. They both deserve a lot of attention and credit in the advancements in their careers. Danica is going to continue grow, much like Ricky Stenhouse. They both deserve a lot of credit, not because they're female but because they've done a heck of a job.
Do you still watch basketball?
Sure, I love to watch basketball. I enjoy both college and pro. I watch a lot of college games because TV covers every collegiate game on the planet at all hours of the day...
With this being a election year, what driver do you think could run for president?
I don't think any of them are qualified to run for president! They're race car drivers after all! Come on people!
Which NBA player do you think would make the best Nascar driver and why?
Probably Kobe Bryant because of his ability. I think he would be able to adapt, be able to make high-speed decisions which is critical and he's really popular. None of these guys could drive a race car but I think he would have the best shot.
Why do you think Nascar isn't as popular in other places as it is in the south?
I don't know if that's true. We've been in the Northeast the past couple weeks, there was 80K people there this past weekend. It originated in the Southeast but I think it's branched out. If you go to the Midwest, Texas, the Northeast... I think it's really broadened its reach. Maybe not on the West Coast but everywhere else. In my eyes, I think the sport has really grown in the confines of the U.S.
If you had to make a prediction right now, who do you think will the Cup this season?
I would say Jimmie Johnson if I had to pick right now.
I read somewhere that you never wanted to play in the NBA as a kid, is that true???
It's not that I didn't want to, I just never thought about it! It wasn't my desire as a kid. I was a good all-around athlete but I hung around the race track all day. I was probably a better baseball player than anything else! As I grew into this big body, my high school basketball coach wouldn't even let me play football. I just wanted to play ball so I could go to college for free. I played all the time. It's not that I didn't want to play at the pro level, I just didn't think about it. It was really a release for me than anything else. I just didn't think of it in those terms, it's not like I hated it or anything.
Are you involved with the Cavs in any way at this point?
No, I'm not. I don't have any time to do anything with them! I'm so busy with my race team and working. I went to several college games last year but I haven't been to pro game in about three years. I've made it a goal to go to some Bobcats game this year though! I want front row seats and some popcorn!
I'm a big Kurt Busch fan and love his passion for the sport. We all know his "passion" gets him in trouble a few times a year. Will he have a ride with a major team next season?
That's tough. Kurt is so talented, as long as he keeps working on himself, then yes. He's too talented not to. I think he'll get a shot because of his abilities. He hasn't quite run himself out of the sport just yet. Winning cures a lot of ills in sports.
Do you miss being around basketball on a frequent basis?
Yes, I do. I love the game and it taught me so much, gave me so much. My son plays so I got to be around for him. If I ever get some time, I'm going to coach some kids this winter and aggravate them with my advice! I miss the game. It taught me so much about people.
Should NASCAR be an Olympic sport?
Come on, man! No, it shouldn't be. Closed-wheel racing isn't prevalent around the world so I think it would be hard to get the different countries involved.
What do you think is the future of women in racing?
I think it's wide. There are a lot of young gals out there racing on the local level. We need more though so there is a large depth pool. We need a lot of young women to pick from. I'm encouraged by it. Johanna is doing a great job as is Danica. I hope it continues to grow. It's great for the sport.
what is the best way to get into racing if one wanted to start a career?
To me, it depends what you want to do. You need to start with go-karts as a kid and then work your way up if you want to drive professionally. But if you want to find a career in racing, there are a lot of opportunities. Go to a race shop and get your foot in the door, even if it means sweeping the floor! There are a lot of guys that started that way. It takes a lot of dedication so you need to LOVE it to be a part of it. It's a long road if you don't.
What do you make of Carl Edwards' struggles this season after coming so close last year?
I find it interesting. If you look at last year, he won one race and then didn't even to threaten to win a race the rest of the year. He got a lot of top tens and made the Chase. But he didn't win there either. I don't think he performed last year in a way to win the Championship, he just was outpointing people. This seems like a carry over from that. He has great cars, great people though so I have to wonder what's going on this season. He very well might miss the Chase.
What is your greatest memory of playing in Cleveland?
I had a lot of them! I think for me, maybe every time we played the Celtics in Cleveland. They were really good and, with the Lakers, were winning everything. Every time they came to Cleveland was a hge event. We won a lot of them but they were really classic matchups. It was epic in my mind. We beat Larry Bird at the Garden in his final game before retirement!
Do you play any fantasy sports - specifically NASCAR?
No. I don't play fantasy anything. I live in a real world! It's just not my thing although I know a lot of people do play.
Who was your most influential athlete/role model growing up?
Growing up I was a big Hank Aaron fan, big Richard Petty fan, I really enjoyed watching football with my dad. We watched a lot of Cowboys games so a lot of those guys too. Those were the people I looked up to.
While now in 4th, Dale Jr. seems to be having his best season in a long time, what do attribute to his recent surge and what do you think of his Chase chances?
I think that his chances are really good. They've figured out a lot of stuff in terms of consistency and his confidence is at an all-time high. If he stays that way, his chances are really good. I think he can win a race in the Chase, which is key here. His chances are really, really strong.
Many race weekends on TV we see less and less people at the live race. What can NASCAR do to get more people to come out to the track on Sunday?
I think every sport is seeing less people because of the economy. People have to think about where they are going to spend their hard-earned dollars. I don't that's on NASCAR to do any more, racing is what it is. I think the racing is good and fun to watch, it's just a matter of the economy being sluggish. We still have a lot of people coming to the track. The numbers aren't as good as they once were but people don't have the disposable income either these days.
Thanks for spending some time with me this morning! Some interesting questions today. Come on out to some races! We'll see you at the race track!