When NASCAR rolled into Phoenix and ISM Raceway, on its round about way to the championship weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway, I got together with two young race car drivers from the B. J. McLeod Motorsports stable, Vinnie Miller and Matt Mills, to discuss their 2019 race season, the highs and the lows, the good, the bad, and the ugly of it all!
I have never tired this interview format before so it will be a trial and error attempt. What I have done is to take each driver aside individually, asking pertinent questions to each driver to try to get a reading on their 2019 thoughts. Once that was accomplished I brought them in together to a group interview of questions by me, then with one more twist to this idea. I asked each driver, Vinnie and Matt, to come up with three questions to ask the other driver in the interview, on the sup of the moment.
I think that you are going to find that when each driver took the reigns and asked his three questions is when the interview got to hilariously entertaining!
WorkingOnMyRedneck: Now that there are just two races left in the 2019 season, how would you rate your performance?
Vinnie Miller: (There was a long and thoughtful pause.) I am going to go with a B to a B- for this year. I have to learn and perfect my qualifying at the mile and a half race tracks. There are still several things that I have to learn and several things that I have to get better at, after all, it is only my second season in the Xfinity Series.
WorkingOnMyRedneck: Looking back on the 2019 race season, Vinnie, what would you say was you best race?
Vinnie Miller: The second Dover race. We ran 18th or 19th most of the day, but we had a bad pit stop on the last one round. Well actually it was a good pit stop, but we got caught on pit road when a caution flag flew.
WOMR: Vinnie didn’t you tell me that Dover was one of your favorite race tracks? Is it still your favorite track and why?
VM: Yes it is. Because you can drive the testicles off of the car (PG version)! You drive it hard, sail it off into the turn, and get right back to the gas! B.J. (B. J.McCleod and owner of BJ McLeod Motorsports) has always said that I am mental because I sail it off into the turn and get right back after the gas! (There was a whole bunch of laughter and agreement in the hauler with this response!). I like any of the fast tracks, Dover, Texas, any of the tracks that hurt!
WOMR: If Dover was your best race in 2019, what would be your worse race this season?
VM: The September Las Vegas race was my worse race of the year. We were off on speed, the motor really didn’t have much speed, and the car had some kind of vibration. Just over all it was not a very good weekend for us there. Atlanta and the second to Vegas were disappointing races. At Atlanta we had a good car but something broke in the rear end and couldn’t get up to speed.
WOMR: Vinnie, what would you say was you biggest obstacle to over come this year?
VM: (Another long deep thoughtful pause) I don’t really know what is was this year. Thinking about it more seriously though, I think that I have been struggling to get better results each week. What I have found out that this year it was a lot easier to accomplish my goals here a BJMM. Again realistically, I still think that qualifying at the mile and half tracks continues to be my biggest obstacle.
WOMR: How is working with BJ McLeod throughout this year? When you go to him with questions and concerns, does he take time to help you work out those issues? Is he a hands kind of mentor?
VM: Yes he is, absolutely! He says it like it is and is straight forward in his responses. I would rather hear it straight, get over it, and get on with it. Rather than to hear about it every day for a week.
WOMR: So now you are no longer considered a rookie in the series. What have you been doing with your time away from the track this year?
VM: During the warm summer months I have been spending lot of time on my boat. I have been going to the shooting range lately. And now that it is cooling off I have been going golfing a lot.
WOMR: Are you dangerous on the golf course?
VM: If you are within 300 yards and ninety degrees of the fairway I sure am!
WOMR: What would surprise people to know about you?
VM: I know how to fight really well!
WOMR: I want you to pick a number between 1-15, oops I mean 1-13.
VM: I really wished that you had included the number 16. Let’s do number 12.
WOMR: I will ask you question number 12 from my list of generic interview questions. I have asked this question of you before, but I am going to ask it again, because the answer may now be different. Now that you have a couple of years under your belt, if you got hurt, or for wahtever the reason is you could not drive race cars, what would you want to do as a profession?
VM: I think that I would just want to be a hobo! (With that answer the hauler was rockin’) I don’ think that my answer has changed much since the last time. Racing is all that know how to do and I wouldn’t want to really do anything else! If I was bedridden and couldn’t move the only other thing that I know how to do is Gunsmith.
WOMR: Now that you are a wily veteran of the Xfinity Series what is the most fun that you have had this year?
VM: Going to all of the different race tracks and hanging out with BJ (McLeod), as well as doing all the stupid stuff that we do at the race track.
So ends the one on one with Vinnie. Next Matt Mills will come into the hauler for his solo interview.
WorkingOnMyRedneck: Matt, I am going to ask you some of the some questions that I asked Vinnie in his interview, ok. Looking back on 2019, what kind of a grade would you give yourself?
Matt Mills: Actually our average finish is under where we wanted to be. We have reached our 2019 goals and beyond. I have only torn up one or two race cars so that is good. I am very impressed with this season. I have had the most fun that I have ever had. The team has been great and BJ has been an awesome mentor to me and Vinnie. I don’t know, I would say that I would give us a t least a B+. I have achieved my goals and I think that 2020 will be an even better year.
WOMR: Matt are you lookin forward to next year?
MM: Oh yeah I really am looking forward to next year! Like the next weekend after Homestead it will be good to back to Ohio to hang out with my family, but I will be ready to get after it the week after that!
WOMR: I have noticed that every once in a while you and Vinnie swap car numbers. What is the reason behind that idea?
MM: Our mile and half program on the No. 5 car has really good. We have worked really hard to get it there. Where as the No. 78 program is lacking there. We swapped it a Texas to try to help it out there, and we had a really great run at Texas. It was a strategic move that BJ wanted to try. So it was just a strategy move. We just swapped the decals and numbers, the cars were the same.
WOMR: Looking back on this season, what was your best race?
MM: We had a 10th place finish there in Daytona, but there was a lot of strategy there. I don’t really call Daytona a driver track. For Daytona and Talladega you just try to avoid “The Big One” and be there at the end. But at these mile and halves we seem to do well. Vegas, Bristol and Iowa we finished good, too. My favorite race track is Bristol and we ran good there, as well. Start to finish my best race was Bristol. We ran well and stayed out of trouble.
WOMR: Why do you like Bristol so much?
MM: I really don’t know. It was my very first NASCAR race. It wasn’t pretty, I didn’t wreck or anything, nor was I going fast enough to wreck! At the end of my first race there I decided that whenever I do come back to Bristol I am going to be ready for that track! I came back there this year, we showed speed, and finished something like 21st in the spring. When we came back for the Fall race we finished something like 17th. So we did even better! It is just one of those tracks that if we can run at the top and get it figured out we do well. There is a lot of speed up at the top and it suits my driving style. So at Bristol we went to the top early and found speed up there.
WOMR: At Bristol do you ever get lost or confused about which end of the track are you in, turns 1 & 2 or turns 3 & 4?
MM: No. Going into turn 3 the wall comes at you a whole lot quicker and exiting turn 4 is narrower. Whereas going into turn 1 it appears to a lot narrower entering the turn and exiting turn 2 it is a lot wider. Each end drives differently. I don’t find myself getting lost.
WOMR: Which race track do you, as a driver, feel speed the most?
MM: For me it is Charlotte. At Charlotte it really feels like you are moving! At Daytona you have a nice long time to look at the upcoming turn. Even though you are holding it wide open, you have a long way to go to get to that turn. At Daytona and Talladega you are just trying to finesse the wheel down the straights, through the turns, and not scrub any speed off. However, at Charlotte you have to be ready to turn the wheel really quick. That will keep you on the edge of your seat!
WOMR: Matt, when you first got to this level of racing, and you were at one of the race tracks that you were told that you can hold it wide open, did you really have to talk to yourself to keep the loud pedal mashed?
MM: Oh yeah, for sure. Like at Indy this year was the first testament where I had to do that! You know by the second lap at Daytona you have told yourself “I can do this”! Unlike at a track like Indy with that 90 degree lefthand turn, you better hit your marks perfect or it’s not going to happen. It gets a little edgy knowing that you have to hold it wide open if you are going to make any speed!
At Texas turns 3 and 4 you have to hold it wide open, if you are going to make any speed. You right foot is flat on the floorboard and your left foot is over near the brake pedal wanting to push on it. So to counteract that feeling I took my left foot and stabbed it hard on my right foot, which was flat out on the gas pedal!
WOMR: What has been you biggest obstacle to overcome this year?
MM: For me it has been trying to get myself mentally prepared after maybe having a wreck or a bad week. I have to learn to get last weeks issues out of my head and focus on the task at hand. This year I have gotten better at letting go of last week and focusing on this week. I just have to get my mindset right each week.
WOMR: What could you tell our readers about you that would be totally surprising?
MM: Ahh, let me see. I guess that I am a BIG NERD away from the race track! The coolest thing about me is that I race cars for a living. You get me away from the race track I am watching movies and playing video games. I am a big fan of Star Wars and stuff like that. I am little on the NERDY side!
WOMR: Matt, Pick a number from 1-13.
MM: Well, I will have pick my number, number 5.
WOMR: Who is the most famous person that you have had dinner with?
MM: Do drivers count? It would have to be BJ McLeod or Matt Tifft. I haven’t really had dinner with anybody famous, I believe!
Ok, now is where the fun begins with these two young drivers. I posed a couple of question to each driver and their responses were interesting. But When I turned them each loose to interview each other is when the gloves came off!
As Vinnie Miller re-entered the hauler for the group interview he evicted Matt Mills out of “his seat”!! Buckle up buttercup!
WOMR: I know that you guys are good friends. What kind of things do you like to do when you hang out together?
MM: We like to play golf.
WOMR: How is a better golfer, Vinnie?
VM & MM: They both agreed that definitely Vinnie is a better golfer.
VM: I can normally way out drive Matt. But he is much better on chipping and putting than I am.
WOMR: Okay let the fun begin. I am going to give each of you three opportunities to ask each other questions. Vinnie you are up first to ask Matt your questions.
VM #1: I you had to fight one driver that you have wrecked, who would be the last driver that you would want to see coming at you?
MM: I would definitely say that I wouldn’t want to see our team owner (BJ McLeod) coming at me. (For those who may never have seen BJ, he is a V-cut muscled stud!) . Who is the second biggest person? This is a tough question. I wouldn’t want to deal with Chase Briscoe. I feel that he is silent, but he would probably throw down.
MM #1: Vinnie under a red flag what is your usual thoughts?
VM: These people are working too slow. They better hurry the hell and so that I can get the hell home! If it is hot during the race and the red flag last for a while I get very mad and my language gets very colorful!
VM #2: What is the phoniest or stupidest thing that you see me do when you are behind me or following me during the race?
MM: Because I know Vinnie so well, when I am following him and I see him get loose or do something stupid, like if one of the drivers that I know Vinnie doesn’t especially like roughs him up he will gain a second a lap to try to get back to that driver. He will drive like a madman to try to get back to him!
MM #2: I will ask you the same question Vinnie!
VM: There is one driver that I know that you do not like (REDACTED) and you will drive very erratically when yo are around him. You will start twitching right and left. I can just picture you in the cockpit going “I am going to wreck him”!
VM #3: If you could build your own race track how would you do it? How big would it be, etc? You know a track that if we wrecked we would all die!
MM: I think that I would build a track with something like a hot wheels loop in it! Maybe even throw a couple of jumps in there as well. that would be exciting.
MM #3: If you could add one weapon to you race car what would it be? It would have to come out of the grill or something.
VM: A rocket launcher! There are certain people that would be in trouble! I would also like to answer the question that I asked Matt. The track that I would build would a huge Dover with 50 degrees of banking! You couldn’t go under 70 MPH or you would slide down the banking! You would have to hold it wide open doing like 200 MPH! That would be awesome!!
Well there you have it race fans. I have delved into the minds of two young NXS drivers from the stable of BJ McLeod Motorsports. As you can see thee two young men are serious race car drivers. Additionally, they have a wild eclectic imagination, and love to have loads of fun during an interview. Is there a shrink in the house? LOL!
As the 2020 season rolls around you might devote a little time to these two characters and watch their progression in the Xfinity Series. I can guarantee that there will be more posts dedicated to these two guys next season on this website.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!