Our series of weekly NASCAR driver interviews continues this week with David Stremme, the driver and part-owner of Inception Motorsports' No. 30 car.
SBN: What percent of the races in your career can you remember?
DS: You remember the really good ones and the really bad ones. And the longer you race, the more you forget. So I'd say 50 percent. I don't remember the other ones until somebody starts talking about it, and then I remember.
SBN: What was the first win you got in any form of racing?
DS: It was funny, because when I started racing, I was 15. I had my (learner's) permit and stuff, but you had to be 16. It was my third night out in like a Street Stock class, and everybody started raising hell after I won, because I wasn't old enough to drive and so on. And what ended up happening is I had to wait until the next year to race, until I got my license. So the first win really kind of sucked, because it was a big controversy deal and it kind of delayed me racing.
SBN: Wow, so you really couldn't enjoy it.
DS: Yeah. Plus it was in my mom's other car, so it was a pink car. So then everybody kind of gives you some crap about that.
The biggest thing I remember about it is when I look back, not a lot of people at that age were racing. You always waited. Now you look and there are kids at 12 years old racing full-bodied cars. It's interesting how times have changed.
SBN: Who is a clean driver you really enjoy racing with?
DS: There's quite a few, but Casey Mears is actually really good. I like racing with him. Mike Bliss is pretty good, too. It just depends. Everybody has their days where you're like, "Oh, that guy is pissed off."
But with Casey, we were teammates (at Chip Ganassi Racing), and even with everything he's been through and I've been through, we still have the same conversations and race each other the same. And I think that's really cool.
SBN: On the opposite side of that, who is someone that always seems to hold you up or make it extra hard to pass?
DS: I'd rather not say. There's a couple of them, and I think it's pretty unanimous in the garage who those guys are. I don't have to speak who it is, because I'm sure somebody else already has. Most of the drivers agree with who the few are that are a real pain in the ass.
SBN: What's your personal code of conduct on the track?
DS: You've got to have some discipline and understanding. We're obviously a smaller team, so we're racing a different group. I compare it to football, baseball, everything else – you have your 'A' teams, your 'B' teams, your 'C' teams. It's not like the Cleveland Browns are going to win the Super Bowl. Nothing against them, but you know. And it's no surprise the Patriots are in the Super Bowl.
Well, it's no surprise (at Martinsville) that it's either going to be a Hendrick car or a Gibbs car or the Stewart-Haas cars. There's a group you know it's like, "Hey, look – they run good there."
When we race, we're looking at the 'C' team groups. So when we're racing, we try to race those guys. But at the same time, you've got to be courteous to the other guys who are on the lead lap or the 'A' team cars racing around. And you've just got to understand where you fit in in the race.
A lot of guys think, "Hey, I'm running 25th and I'm two laps down, and I'm going to race the crap out of the leaders." Well, that ain't gonna last. And that kind of goes back to the people that give you a hard time passing.
It's all about knowing where you're at and how hard to race certain guys in certain situations.
SBN: Do you keep a mental list of drivers you owe for payback on the track?
DS: Oh yeah! I owe Ken Schrader one from my first year of Cup at Martinsville in '06. Me and him still joke around about it. He was running the Wood Brothers' car, and he hooked me down here in Turn 3, and I still remember it.
There's still stuff you remember where you go, 'You know what? I owe him.' And then there's some people who are just idiots and they never get it.
SBN: So are you going to get Schrader back at some point?
DS: I owe him one. But I like him. We're good friends! But I owe him one, still. (Grins)
SBN: Who is a driver from the past you'd like to team up with if you could turn back time?
DS: Obviously, I think Dale Earnhardt would have been one of them. But I think guys like Cale Yarborough, Ricky Rudd would be great, too. Even Rusty Wallace – I got to drive for Rusty, and he's a very, very intelligent guy. A lot of those guys, I never really got the chance to race against them much, and it would have been cool to do that and be a teammate at the same time.
SBN: When is the last time you got nervous about anything?
DS: Ha! Qualifying every week. There's always that chance of going home. There's a lot more at stake for us – I own part of the team, a little bit – and there's such a fine line we walk. We need to make the money to keep racing and do stuff. I've gotten better about being nervous, but it's just what happens when you've got to qualify in.
SBN: Sometimes, fan interactions can get a little bit awkward. Can you recall an awkward fan moment you've had recently?
DS: I get called JJ Yeley a lot. I don't know why! JJ and I don't even look alike. But they'll come up and start talking to you, and they think I'm JJ or somebody else.
One time, I was at an autograph session and somebody pulled their artificial leg off for me to sign. That kind of freaked me out a little bit. But the fans are great. They're very supportive of our sport. More than anything, you've got to correct fans on getting the correct information. A lot of times, all they have to go on is what they see on TV. And they're very loyal to their favorite drivers, of course, so a lot of times they might have false information.
SBN: What happens if somebody thinks you're Yeley? Do you correct them or let them go on?
DS: No, I correct them right away. I say, "No, I'm not him."
SBN: If you had to do one of these jobs after your career, would you rather be a NASCAR broadcaster or a high-ranking NASCAR official?
DS: High-ranking official. I just think differently on some things. Being that I have grassroots short-track racing cars, and I own a little bit of the Cup team and I see the bills there, there are some things I'd like to do. But I know it's not a very easy position, either. The TV would be a lot less stressful, I think, but I'd be up for the challenge. It'd be really cool to be one of the officials and sit in on meetings and listen to people and voice your opinion, too.
SBN: What's a question you get asked a lot that you're tired of answering?
DS: "Hey, you racing all day today?" And it sucks, because it's very mentally testing. We're trying to build an organization, and people don't understand that when we race (the full race) and don't have much sponsorship on the car, we lose $75,000, $80,000 a race. And people don't have the right idea of what it costs to race and what (budget) we're doing it on.
So then they come up to you and say, "Hey, you gonna race all day?" And I'm like, "Not this week..." and it sucks! It kills me! I don't want to start-and-park. But we've raced sometimes, too, and then stuff doesn't go our way or we have bad luck.
We look at a good finish like 20th-to-25th. If we could do that, that'd be phenomenal. That'd be like a win. But people just don't know how much it takes just to get to the track and how much it costs to race. They ask, and I'm like, "Ugh. Here we go again."
SBN: I've been asking each driver to give me a question for the next guy. Last week, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. wanted to know, "What type of activities do you like to do when you get into some of these cities at the start of the weekend?"
DS: There are always restaurants I like to go visit in each town. When I go to Texas, for example, we go to Fogo de Chao – it's a really nice Brazillian steakhouse. Like at Pocono, I don't even know the names of the places, but we call one of them, "Steak on a Rock" (real name: Edelweiss). That's what I do pretty much every race, and if we miss out on the restaurants or the food, I'm a little upset. I'm like, "Man, we didn't make it there this time."
SBN: And can you give me a question for the next guy? It's going to be Paul Menard.
DS: He's a pretty down-to-earth dude. I like Paul. I'd ask him if he thinks he'll ever own a team. Would he own a team? Because of his family's history in racing, you'd wonder if he would.
SBN: Good one. I'll be sure to ask, thanks.
Next week: 12 Questions with Paul Menard.