Our series of weekly NASCAR driver interviews concludes for the 2012 season with a first: Two driver interviews at the same time. BK Racing teammates Landon Cassill and Travis Kvapil agreed to field the 12 Questions together. Here's the result:
SBN: How many of your career races can you remember?
LC: I would say off the top of my head, 10 percent.
TK: Gosh, I'd say 10 percent is probably accurate for me, too. You remember the ones that are either really good or really bad.
SBN: That's it? Ten percent?
LC: Yeah. I mean, I've been racing for 15 years. If I'm being realistic, starting in go-karts until now, I've raced thousands of times. I'd bet you I can only remember 100 of them.
I don't know. How many articles that you've written in your journalistic career can you remember?
SBN: Not too many, but...
LC: It's the same thing.
SBN: I don't think writing articles is quite as intense as racing.
LC: I mean, that's the way I look at it. I've been in a lot of races. I'm sticking with 10 percent, if that.
TK: But sometimes if you look at a video, you'll say, "Oh yeah, I remember that."
LC: Yeah, or like I can tell you which race I learned a lot of my racing techniques. My racing career is full of "a-ha!" moments. If somebody said, "Hey Landon, where'd you learn to make a pass like that?" I could tell you exactly where.
SBN: What was your first win in any form of motorsports?
LC: It was in a go-kart...God, I can't even remember now. I think it was at Hawkeye Downs Speedway. I'd have to ask my dad.
TK: It was a heat race in 1992, when I was 16. They called it American Short Trackers at Rockford Speedway. It was a four-cylinder class Mini-Stock. You could take a Mustang off the street, put a roll cage in it.
SBN: Who is a clean driver you enjoy racing with in the Sprint Cup Series? And you can't say each other.
LC: I wouldn't have said Travis anyway (laughs).
TK: Most of them are, for the most part.
LC: I like racing with Paul Menard. Him and I race good together a lot.
TK: Me and him just had a good race last week.
LC: The thing is, back where we race, there isn't a lot of give-and-take.
TK: Yeah, it's different. I can't say, "Oh, Mark Martin," because we don't get to race with him that much, you know?
LC: Maybe that's a bad thing to say on the record, but we're a team that's building and we run 20th-25th.
TK: It's a different group of drivers.
LC: I'll be honest with you, those guys don't race you very clean at all. I like racing with David Gilliland though.
TK: That's probably who I would say.
LC: They probably all race you harder than if we were running for 10th, because there'd be more give-and-take.
SBN: On the opposite side of that, who is a driver that makes it especially hard on you?
LC: Basically, any time I'm in the top 20, whoever the next driver I'm racing against is the hardest.
TK: You know what? That's exactly right. We don't race the top 15 guys every week, but when we do have those shining days when we're up there...
LC: ...They don't want us there.
TK: They're like, "What are you guys doing here? I know I'm a better team, I'm a better driver than you" – that's how it's perceived – so they just race the hell out of you.
LC: When we have a restart with 40 to go and we're like 15th, you know the guy behind you is thinking...
TK: "Why is he here? He must have taken two tires or something."
LC: "And what do I have to do to get him out of here?" That's the impression we get. So it's tough to earn respect, because you get raced so hard when you're running in the top 15 with a new team. They instantly don't respect you, and then it's hard to earn it because they race you so much harder, you've got to race them that hard in return.
Then it's a snowball effect, and two weeks later you hear, "Yeah, the friggin' 83 is in our way" or "He's crowding me." And it's like, "Dude, if you wouldn't be punting me when I've got a good car or running 15th, I wouldn't race you like that."
Anytime we're racing inside the top 20, you don't get any slack. But that's just the respect we've got to earn.
SBN: What is your personal code of conduct on the track?
LC: I race according to how my race needs to play out. And that even has to do with performance and stats-wise and respect-wise. If I'm running 20th and Jimmie Johnson is racing for a championship and spun out and is restarting behind me, it's in my better interests to let him by.
TK: It's very situational.
LC: Right. And if I'm racing to stay on the lead lap and the leader is a straightaway behind us and I need to race somebody really hard, then I will.
A lot of the disputes people get into are out of misperception and confusion. I've been in plenty of those myself where you know that neither of you went into that lap expecting to get in a wreck with each other.
It's like, "Were you looking at my girlfriend? I saw you looking at my girlfriend!" "I wasn't looking at your girlfriend." "I saw you looking! You looked at her butt!" That's how a lot of crap gets started on the track: "No, man, I wasn't messing with you!" "You hit me, so I'm going to hit you!" It's just stupid.
TK: If you're a lap down and the leader is getting ready to pass you to put you two laps down, that's like a race killer. If you're one lap down, you can still pull something out of it. So you'll race the hell out of the leader. And you feel like an asshole – you're like, "I know this guy is pissed at me" – but I have to, because you don't want to let him go and have a caution come out the next lap.
LC: I don't race the leader that much, even if it's in that situation. I do everything I can to keep the leader from getting me. Because you've got a 1 in 500 chance of the caution coming out while the leader is just in front of you. So if he's under me, I just let him go. But if the leader is straightaway back, I'm going to do everything I can to keep a car between me and the leader.
SBN: Do you keep a mental list of people you owe for payback?
LC: I don't. There's an A-list Cup driver from back in my Nationwide days who just wrecked me at a time in my Nationwide career when it was important for me to run good. I was running good that day, and it did no good for him to punt me – he would have beaten me anyway – but I had a chance to run in the top 10 at a great racetrack and he fenced me on lap 20. Just flat-out dumped me.
In the back of my mind, I know I owe him just one big, hard crash when he's leading a race or racing for a championship. But it doesn't do you any good to do that stuff. For me, to just flat-out wreck him is only going to start something with him. The way I'll pay him back someday is when I could have to raced him a little cleaner but chose not to.
TK: I'd say that's how I am. It's hard to carry that from week to week. If that guy is faster than you, instead of saying, "I might just let him go," you might race him pretty hard and give him a hard time. Make him friggin' work for it. Or if he's inside you, you crowd him a little bit. But you can't just dump him.
LC: There are some drivers out there who have always been in top-tier equipment, they've always had name-brand sponsors, they've always had big money deals – and they don't have any respect for people who are working their tails off to make their teams better and be part of something they've built. And they drive like it. You can tell. So some of those guys, you don't cut them very much slack because they don't cut you slack.
SBN: Who is a former driver you'd like to team up with if you could turn back time?
TK: I'd almost say two guys – (Dick) Trickle and (Alan) Kulwicki. Those are my Wisconsin guys. I grew up still being able to watch Dick Trickle toward the end of his career.
LC: I raced against him! He offered me a cigarette one time. He punted me out of the way at Madison. We had raced side-by-side for 100 laps and then he put the fender to me at the end. After the race, he came and offered me a cigarette.
SBN: A cigarette? How old were you?
LC: Fourteen! (Laughs)
TK: The guys who helped me when I started racing, they raced with Trickle in the heyday. The stories of how incredible a driver he was were one thing, but the stories of him going out at night were great. For a 100-lap race, he'd need an hour of sleep – that was his scale.
LC: Yeah, Trickle's rule was you needed an hour of sleep for every 100 laps long the race is.
TK: And on the other side, I never knew Kulwicki, but his engineering background and how innovative he was, and doing it on his own his way, that's pretty awesome.
LC: Man, you picked some good ones there. I could have picked Trickle.
TK: That's why I wanted to get in there first.
LC: I keep thinking of Tim Richmond. I just wanted to see him drive.
TK: Yeah, the stuff you hear about him – he didn't have a clue about the race car, he just got in it and wheeled the hell out of it. That's pretty awesome.
LC: His swagger is something I admire. Not the womanizing, but I just wish I had the chest hair, you know? (Laughs)
TK: The ruffle?
LC: I just wish I could unzip my suit just a little bit and have that with the aviator sunglasses. I've got a picture of him in a suit – not a driving suit, but a suit – with his arms crossed, sunglasses and a flaming pile of hay behind him. It was taken at like Charlotte Motor Speedway. There's a big, frickin' ball of fire behind him. I love it.
I hope they let me be like that when I get big time.
SBN: When is the last time you got nervous about anything?
LC: I get nervous before qualifying at the Snowball Derby. That's about it.
TK: That's a big show.
LC: Big show, hard to make the race.
TK: I don't get nervous. Anxious, maybe. I don't think I have a good answer for that.
LC: I have a routine I try not to let get mixed up, and that's what prepares me.
SBN: You guys meet a lot of fans, and sometimes they can put you in awkward or uncomfortable positions. Do you have any recent stories along those lines?
LC: Last week I signed a wedding dress. I signed some lady's wedding dress.
LC: At the racetrack. She had her wedding dress, and she was getting it autographed.
TK: Wow. I remember when I was in the Truck Series, a lady had me autograph her shoulder at Phoenix. I was like, "That's kind of cool." Then the next week we showed up at Fontana, and it was tattooed. I was like, "Wow...that's pretty serious! That's a true fan."
LC: That's better than the wedding dress story. I did have a fan in Wisconsin name her baby after me. They sent me a picture.
TK: Does it look like you? (Laughs)
SBN: After you guys retire, would you rather be NASCAR broadcasters or high-ranking officials like Robin Pemberton and John Darby?
TK: I'd much rather be a commentator. Well, I shouldn't say "much" rather. It's just that I'll watch a Truck race or something, and my wife will always be like, "Shut up!" Because I'll say something two seconds before the commentators do, like, "Oh, he's got a flat tire!" I think I'd be pretty good at that.
LC: I think I can do the commentating, but I'd rather be an official. I think I could be a politician! Well, as long as they don't look in my past and dig up anything.
TK: Like that baby in Wisconsin? (Laughs)
LC: Yeah, like the baby in Wisconsin. No, I love the sport and the ideas of making it better. I think I could make a difference. I think it'd be fun. I know it's a hard job, though – and those guys take a lot of heat. It's just like track promoters and owners – you're never right, you're never on everybody's good side, somebody is always mad at you, you always did somebody wrong. But I think I can figure that out.
SBN: What question do you get asked a lot that you're tired of answering?
TK: For me, it's "How do you pronounce your last name?"
LC: It's "Kuh-VAA-pul." (Laughs)
TK: No, it's "kwah-pul."
LC: For me, it's "What do you do when you have to pee in the car?"
TK: YES! That comes up at every appearance, every autograph session.
LC: It's the number one question. And I feel like we've answered it enough that word of mouth should have gotten around to everybody.
TK: It's like, "How do you not know this?"
LC: There must be a lot of people around here. Listen, to all the fans out there who have asked that question and gotten an answer: Tell your friends.
TK: Tweet it!
LC: Tweet it, retweet it, just get it out there. Get the word out that when a NASCAR driver has to go pee, he just does it. He just lets it go! Get the word out there and start a campaign.
SBN: I've been asking each driver to give me a question for the next interview. Last week was Denny Hamlin, and he wanted to know where you'd be working if you weren't a NASCAR driver.
LC: That's the second-dumbest question that people ask. No, I'm just kidding. (Laughs) Sorry, Denny. Just joking!
TK: Mine would be pretty easy. My dad owned a body shop and a service department, and I was a grease monkey for a little while. Changing engines, changing oil, changing brakes. I went to school for it, actually, for two years. So that'd be what I'd do. But I'd try to pursue some sort of NASCAR career working on the car if I wasn't driving.
LC: Kind of similar to Travis, I grew up in the car business. My family has a used car dealership in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. So I'd definitely be involved in that, but I'd love to turn it into something great.
SBN: If these 12 Questions interviews continue next year, do you have a question I should ask a driver in the future?
LC: "Why do you walk by some fans without signing their autographs even though you can hear them yelling your name?"
TK: (Laughs) That's good. I'll go with that.
Editor's note: That's all, folks! Thanks for reading the 12 Questions interviews in 2012. If you want to catch up on every interview from this season, they're all here: 12 Questions archive.