Racing at high speeds for hours on end can be very stressful, so I like to balance that stress anyway I can. One of the best ways of doing that is talking with my spotter or crew chief during a caution or red flag. I like to take a little bit of time to bust off some jokes about the race, those I am racing around, or even quote something from a movie. Racing can be grueling, whether you are in the car or in the pit. But I always try to remind myself how lucky I am to even be in the race. And even when a problem comes up, I see it as an opportunity for me to grow as a driver–and as a person.
Radio “smack” talk allows me to decompress and rest my mind for just a little bit. But it’s also a way for me to try to energize my crew and keep them relaxed and focused. To anyone who has ever listened to me over the radio, I tend to be very positive, though I have said some things that would leave you scratching your head. A favorite example my friends love to tell is at Kentucky Speedway in 2020. I was racing in the truck series and driving the #33 truck. I started 24th with no practice, qualifying, and definitely no seat time at this track. I was able to race up to 14th place in stage one, but at the end of the stage, I had to come into the pit. While on pit road, the jack broke, and I was only able to replace the right-side tires. This is not good because the left tires were taking a beating. Now a lot of drivers probably would have lost their head on the radio, but I knew at that moment—the broken jack was just another challenge for me to overcome. Just as I was trying to compose myself upon hearing the news, the crew chief came on the radio, “Well, you got two d*** tires, kid”, very sarcastically. Without missing a beat, I replied, “All I ever wanted was two tires! Let’s goooooo”. Of course, I was upset because this was the end of what started out as a good day, but I knew I might have to lean on my crew later, so I needed to keep their morale up.
During long cautions, I will say just about anything. And yes, I do rattle off quotes from “Talladega Nights” and “Days of Thunder”. I also like to switch things up now and then. I remember one race when my crew chief and I had a conversation about which Space Jam would be better. Of course, I won that argument easily because you cannot mess with the original Space Jam. Occasionally we will talk about how some drivers have been racing around me and that usually sounds something like, “I wonder if # will take his blindfold off during this pit stop”, “Well, # is here, so I guess it’s a party now”, (“Follow that truck”), “Lead me to the promised land!”. If only those guys could hear me—it might distract them enough for me to move up a few spots!
Sometimes I just start saying whatever comes to my mind, especially while under a red flag. I’ve said things such as, “I wonder if my Mom is listening”, “Do you guys think if Tom Brady was in the stands, could he throw me a hot dog.”, “Does the truck look good at this angle, because I see people taking pictures?”, and one of my favorites, “If I had to use the bathroom, not saying I do, but if I absolutely had to, do you guys think they’ll let me use the bathroom real quick and again not saying I have to just theoretically”.
There are tons more I could think of, but I always remember a fan might be listening, so I tend to keep the radio talk entertaining for my listeners. After a race, I have had fans tell me what they heard over the radio made them laugh and made them enjoy the race even more. One thing people have said that strikes them when they listen to me on the radio is how I can switch from being fully focused and talking race strategy or truck performance–to saying something completely random and seldom heard over another driver’s radio. Being able to be true myself is what I like most about driving. So next time I am behind the wheel make sure to listen to my scanner—because I never know what I might say, and you never know what you might hear.