Our weekly series of interviews continues: 12 questions with NASCAR drivers who aren't currently in the top 12 of the Sprint Cup Series. This week: Reed Sorenson, who is driving for Red Bull Racing during Brian Vickers' absence.
What's the best race you've ever driven?
RS: In any series? There's a lot of them that are close together, but the ASA race I won at Charlotte in 2004 was pretty cool. First of all, it was one of the bigger tracks I'd ever been on. It stands out because that's the fastest I had ever gone up to that point – and we won. So that was pretty cool, I think. That was after I had already been talking with Chip (Ganassi), so we had Target on the car. We had a fast car but fell back to sixth or something and fought our way back up and won the race. Chip was there and my family was there – it was a family-run race team, so that was pretty rewarding.
Who is the most talented driver in NASCAR?
RS: Ooh, that's tough. I only get one, huh? I'd say Kasey Kahne. I learned a lot about him last year when I was his teammate. I just think overall, he's smart and has got a lot of talent. And he's a good teammate, too.
When is the best time for a fan to approach you for an autograph during a race weekend?
RS: I'd say usually the earlier the better. I was just over in the motorhome lot and was up against the fence signing a lot. Usually the calmest time is way before practice or early in the morning. You know, at certain tracks people hang out around the motorhome lots and stuff, so that's really the best time. (Fan walks up to Sorenson for an autograph at that moment). This is a good time! (laughs)
What's something people may not know or realize about you?
RS: It's obviously hard to tell a lot about people in short interviews on TV. What a lot of people probably don't know about me is I think I have a pretty outgoing personality. But I'm pretty calm, I guess, in my interviews. I don't get too excited in interviews, but I get pretty excited about things whether it's good or bad.
What's the worst track on the NASCAR circuit?
RS: Pocono. For me, it's probably the least fun. And it seems really long. It seems like whether you're having a good or bad day, it's just a really long day. I guess the way the straightaways are – especially the front straightaway – it gives you the whole straightaway to think about how your day is going.
If you were in charge of NASCAR, what's one thing you'd change?
RS: I tell you what, I think people don't realize what a tough job (NASCAR has). I think everything they do, in hindsight you never know whether it's going to be good or bad. Can I be specific? I'd say no gear rule. I think that would be cool. At mile-and-a-halfs, where we turn 9300-9400 RPM now, if your engine allowed it, you could turn 10,000 in qualifying. I know the reason they did it is to bring engine costs down. But as a driver, on the fun side of it, driving it would be neat.
How long do you see your driving career lasting?
RS: As long as possible. If I can be Mark Martin's age and still be able to be at this level, that'd be pretty awesome. He's in a pretty unique situation – he's still able to compete at a high level. But I'd say as long as I can. At least until my late 40s.
What's the first thing you do when you get home from a long race weekend?
RS: Play with my dogs. I have three dogs. That's the best thing for me, is to just hang out at the house with the dogs and just relax. It's pretty calming. And you know, the good thing about having pets is they're usually happy to see you no matter what kind of day you've had, so that's cool. And they don't talk. (laughs)
Who wins the Sprint Cup in 2015?
RS: Wow, that's a good one. (whistles) Damn. This could be anybody! Who would you say? Well, I'll go with Denny Hamlin. It'll be his first one.
Are you superstitious at all?
RS: Not really. I don't have anything that I particularly do or don't do. You know, last year, Air Force was a sponsor. And a lot of times, if I got coins from a general, I'd put it in the car. And if I ever find a heads-up penny during the week, like if I'm at the gas station or something and see one, I'll put it in the car or carry it in my pocket.
If a new driver came to you and asked one driver they should learn from and one they shouldn't, who would you say?
RS: Well, I think there's a lot of guys who you could follow in their footsteps. I think Mark Martin is a great guy. He has a lot of advice. I've talked to him a lot through the past couple years and he has a lot of advice for things you should and shouldn't do, and how you should set your future up in the sport. So he's one of the best. As far as somebody not to learn from, I think that's something personally you'd have to see when you got here. But as long as you seek out people that can help you, that's probably more important than anything.
Would you rather be known as a great driver or a great person?
RS: What year? When I'm 80, or now? (laughs) Man, that is a tough question. I mean...damn. I'd say at the end of the day, you'd want to be obviously both. But being a great person is something that a lot of people don't get to have. So I'd say that would be a cool one. (At that moment, a young disabled boy comes up to Sorenson for an autograph. Sorenson signs for him and greets him warmly. After the boy leaves, Sorenson pauses). See, you see a kid like that and you realize there's more to life than what we're doing.