I've had a lot of fans ask me about interviews. They typically want to know what I think about their favorite driver. However, I also get a lot of questions about where I interview people and in particular about where was my most unusual interview.
In today's NASCAR, the interview process is very controlled. You typically have to schedule an interview with the driver's PR person or participate in the staged interview locations of the most popular drivers each week. It is not like it used to be in the mid 1990's where you could catch up with a driver in a lot more casual location for impromptu comments.
It wasn't uncommon to catch a driver on a walk back to the RV lot or around the grill behind the hauler. However, when I'm asked about the most unusual location that I have conducted an interview, two come to mind.
In 1992, I was at Atlanta Motorspeedway where Richard Petty was running his last race and Jeff Gordon was running his first Cup Series race. Obviously, both were swamped with National Reporters on race day and local reporters had little hope of landing an interview with either driver.
Fortunately for me, this was also the day that the first NASCAR Cafe' in Orlando was announced to the public. In order to give the new venture some needed exposure, NASCAR had brought in one of the Ford Big Foot Monster Trucks which was being donated to the new restaurant. The plan was to have a couple drivers show up to cook chicken wings on the manifold of the 600+ HP engine while answering media and fan questions.
I had parked my RV close to the Big Foot the day before and was told by the security guard what was going to take place the next day. Having advance notice, I showed up early and took a place at the front of the line. To my good fortune, Petty and Gordon were selected to make the appearance and I was able to interview both of them over the roar of the Monster Truck. The interview quality was not the best but the wings were great.
Like I said earlier, interviews in the old days were in more casual locations. However, I did do an interview once that included a pit stop that was quite unusual.
Todd Bodine is one of the most successful NASCAR Truck Series drivers in history. In the late 1990's, he was an up and coming driver on both the NASCAR Busch Series and Winston Cup Series as they were known in those days.
I had caught up with Todd shortly after the Saturday race in Rockingham, NC. and he had to hurry to the Cup garage for Happy Hour practice. Rockingham was laid out with the Busch Series garage on one side of the track and the Cup garage on the other and to get from one side to the other, drivers had to walk across an access road. So, we were hustling to get Todd to where he needed to be while doing the interview. Todd and I were having a good conversation when suddenly he stopped and said for me to hold my thoughts.
It was then that I realized that we were standing in front of a bank of Port-a-Potty's. I waited while Todd took care of business inside and when he came out, we picked up right where we left off. The interview was a little odd but one of my favorite interviews in my career.
I miss those old days when drivers were more casual and interviews were more relaxed. Today, things are more structured and politically correct. Gone are the inside stories that happened at the restaurant the night before. Gone are the jokes that happened around the hauler. Boy, I sure miss those days.
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