Amy Henderson · Friday April 19, 2013
We used the time off to do some testing. We did one of our official tests at Texas Motor Speedway. Shane and I know each other pretty well, so when we were trying to decide where to go test, we just looked at each other and went, “Texas.” It’s been a while since I’ve run well there, and that was big.
Then, we had a surprise 70th birthday party for my dad. It was funny, because right before we sprung it on him, he looked at my mom and said, “I’m so glad you didn’t throw me a $%#&$* surprise party.” My mom was awesome. She had three planes. She had our plane and two planes she had rented, and we had people everywhere. She worked hard for that party, and my dad had a great time.
After that, we went to Mexico for Easter; it’s where we always go for Easter. Grandpa Gaughan was there. It’s always great to get to spend time with Grandpa. He’s 93 years old and past the point of remembering much. He’s got great-grandkids and he might not remember it, but we will, and that’s the important thing for us.
Once we got back, it’s all been racing. Alliance Coach gave me my coach deal, so I have a motorcoach again, which I promised I would never own. And I still fulfilled that promise because I do not own the coach I have! Alliance is a group out of Florida who have taken care of me at Daytona for a couple of years, and they made a year-long deal with me, so I’ve got a coach, and my wife and kids have been with me to Martinsville and Rockingham. We’ve got the babies playing out in the grass, and it’s been fun. I’m actually liking the coach experience this time.
Having a family is the biggest difference. It was funny; at Daytona, I had my coach there, and me and Jimmie (Johnson) and Casey Mears and a bunch of us were sitting at the coach lot playground watching our kids. Ten years ago, when I was in Cup, the conversations Jimmie and I were having in those coach lots were very different than when his coach driver drove up and said, “Hey, I’m heading to Babies-R-Us. Anybody need any wipes or diapers?” It was just one of those surreal moments when I just went, “Wow, life has definitely changed.’” That is definitely not the same conversation I used to have inside this lot. Is it cleaner now? It depends on what you define as cleaner! It’s actually a lot dirtier in some respects!
It’s really nice, though, because if I want my babies with me, a hotel is just not the way to go. My wife has to drive back and forth. This way, she and the babies are here. Any race she wants to attend, I’ll take the motorcoach. I’m not going to take it out West, but any time I can have my wife and kids with me makes me happy and makes her happy — and if she’s happy, that definitely means that I’m happier! So it’s going well so far. My bigger boy loves it, my baby boy is doing good. My older son is two, and he does see race cars on TV and say “Daddy, daddy,” so he gets it. I don’t know if he quite gets the one I’m in yet, but he sees it on TV and he goes, “Daddy.” He loves to come around the trucks. Right now, with how many babies there are in the garage, it’s fun. Kevin Harvick has a thing where he’s been letting Keelan drool on his steering wheel, and it’s been good luck. I mean, I’ll try anything; maybe I’ll borrow Keelan and let him drool on my wheel. I’ll take anything I can get! But yeah, it’s been neat. The babies like it, my wife likes it. My wife has a twin sister who travels with us, so it’s been just a big happy family in the motorhome!
This is still the same old Rockingham. I tested here with Rusty Wallace in ’09. We did the USA TV show, “The Moment,” which aired this week. Actually, part of that was filmed here, so I did get to drive something here, with NASCAR’s permission, of course. Rockingham is still the same old place — it’s Rockingham. It’s mean, it’s nasty, you aren’t going to stay on the bottom. Saturday in practice, everybody was sitting on the bottom, trying to drive around on the white line, and I was looking at Shane, laughing my butt off, going, “you aren’t going to be on the bottom in this race; you’re going to be everywhere.” So, it was the Rock. As a race car driver, you see this place — and I’m not the young kids that only knew this place from history books; I got to be here. I got to be in the last race here. I’ve got history here. So, to me, Andy Hillenburg has done such an amazing job. I’m rooting for Andy Hillenburg. I want fans to show up just for him. This is the place where the fans said that NASCAR forgot about them; this is the track that they used as their poster child. They said, “NASCAR left us behind!” If they do not show up, they have no one to blame but themselves.
Eldora – come on! That is probably the ballsiest move NASCAR has ever made, to go and have the guts to say let’s do it. I’m excited about it. One, I’ve got the Dillon boys and Team Dillon Racing, which is a dirt team, so we have dirt guys who are helping set up our NASCAR deal. Austin got to do the test there. We’re going to go do a dirt track test, because we have the ability to. So, for me, it’s like, “oh-ho-ho!” That’s what makes the Truck Series so much fun. You’ve got such a different genre of racing at times now. You’ve got the different drivers coming to the race at Eldora. You’ve got real dirt racers. Everybody has looked at this race and said, “Wow, we’re going there!” I think it’s going to be unbelievable.
If we could race anywhere, I’d want to go to Laguna Seca. They’ve already added Road America to the Nationwide Series schedule. I would love to get to race the truck at Road America. I love Montreal, so I was bummed when they dropped it. Canadian Tire Motorsports Park is a great racetrack, and I’m guessing we’ll see some great racing there. I love my road racing. So I’m glad they put road races back in Trucks. The big joke we’ve made with Wayne Auten is that we had to kick him out of the series to get a road course back because he always swore we would never go to a road course. We got our road racing back. So if you could tell me I could pick anyplace, I would pick Laguna Seca or the brand-new Kern County Speedway in Bakersfield, California. I would love to say the Pacific Northwest, like Monroe, but the problem is that they just don’t have the facilities that we’d need. We need a real pit road, real pit stops, and that’s the problem with a place like Monroe, but I would love to have a track built in the Pacific Northwest.
After Kansas, I’m racing with my father in the NORRA 1000 in Mexico. It’s a rally race. My dad’s running the whole thing; I’m just doing the last day. He’s going for a three-peat. He won his class two years ago and he won the overall last year. I’m going to drive the last day for him from the Paz de Cabo. Then, when we hit Cabo, I’ll give my dad a hug and jump on a boat. It’s his old boat; he sold it. I tell him to stay off my boat now; I made a deal with his partner, so I get to rent the boat. I’m taking a bunch of friends from Colorado and from home. As a matter of fact, Nicole Addison, the first female over-the-wall pit crew member,is going with us on a trip to Soccoro, Mexico and we’re going to do some SCUBA diving for about seven days before the next race at Charlotte.
Crazy Desert Racing Story of the Month
My spotter now is the guy who used to ride with me in off-road. He’s back spotting for me after five years. His nickname is Batman. He was the guy who rode with me in the passenger seat in that same race where I got both frostbite and heat stroke. In that same race, we went off the start and flipped twice within the first two miles. We went 150 yards, caught Roger Mears — Casey’s Dad — and flipped. Billy knew we shouldn’t have caught him yet, but we flipped in the turn.
We got stuck for an hour and a half, digging out. There’s a great picture of me pointing, telling where to dig. I was digging, but of course the picture is of me pointing. Then we got going, went another 100 yards, and flipped again. And that was only like the third time he ever rode with me. Right after that, we got going, and we’re about to go through a riverbed, and the course said to go that way, but we had to pre-run this shortcut to go straight. He reaches over and smacks me to where I’m seeing stars in my helmet. I mean, he hits the &%@* out of me. He said, “Where are you going?!” I said, “I promise this is the right way!”
We got across the deal and he goes, “My arm hurts. We get a flat, you’re fixing it!” Then he turns the radio off and doesn’t speak to me for five miles.
He beat on me again in that same race. We were racing again with Roger Mears. We got in the mountains, it was snowing and raining. We go off the pavement, running up this mountain, so I’m putting along, and Roger comes flying by me. He’s in our class. I click it down a gear, I hit the gas, and Batman reaches over again and smacks me. He’s like, “That %$&@*# races Pike’s Peak and you ain’t gonna keep up with him!” So I upshift and just slow down, go around the course, and about a mile later, there’s Roger, off the hill.
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