Sometimes when you stick a microphone in front of a driver’s face, you have no clue what they may say and a couple of times you’ll hear something that surprises you or gives you a bit of a perspective.
Throughout the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, I had the opportunity to speak to a bunch of different competitors. During those interviews, there were some quotes that stood out. So it seems only fitting we take a glance back through the year at what was said.
I think there’s two reasons from the beginning that I wrote the book, and the goal is the same here. I wanted people to have more appreciation and more respect and admiration and honor Dale. I wanted people to understand more about Dale and how special the Intimidator was when he wasn’t at the race track. I wanted to honor Dale and then I wanted to inspire people. No matter what happens, you can overcome it.
You’re not a loser until you quit, and what is amazing to me is I had lost 462 straight NASCAR races, and when I woke up on February 18, 2001, I told my friends and family around me that they aren’t beating me today. There’s no way they’re beating me today, and that’s because that’s where Dale had me. He had me believing that I would win that race, and that’s what I went and did. To have that person believe in you, it can make a whole difference in your world, and when I took the checkered flag that afternoon, I thought it was the best day ever. Then an hour later, I learned that it might be the worst day ever in NASCAR. That range of emotion is pretty tough to handle, and that’s what life put on my plate, and that’s what I had to deal with it.
I hope that anyone that watches the movie and they haven’t won, or are trying to win, or they have tragedy in their life that they’re dealing with, I can help them. They can say, ‘Well, he did it, I can do it’.
To me, in my opinion, racing is not always going to be – you’re not always going to have Kurt Busch-Ricky Craven finishes like we had at Darlington every race. The one thing that I would do was set those expectations that there’s going to be races that are ultra competitive, and that are going to have fans out of their seats, finishing within inches of each other. Then there’s going to be races where there’s going to be a team with a significant advantage and they’re going to win by five or six seconds. It’s just part of the sport, and I don’t think you’re ever going to eliminate that from the sport.
It’s that way in every sport. There’s football games that are blow-outs, there’s basketball games and hockey games – whatever sport you’re into. So I think the number one thing I would do is set a realistic expectation of what our sport is, and what it needs to be. I feel we need to stay true to who we are and what we do, and understand that’s not always going to get the highest ratings on TV or have the perfect finish. But I feel like that authenticity of being who we are will draw more fans, and more fanbase than trying to have every race be just spectacular.
Then really, if you play forward a little bit, then that becomes the new standard so then what do you do next? It’s a never-ending challenge so I think you just need to be authentic to who you are. I think our racing is great. I think we’ve got a great sport, and let the cars and drivers and teams be the draw and focus on being authentic.
Well, I think it’s really incredible for how far I’ve come from that. Even looking back on the 2017 season, there’s a lot of growth in there and it really took me until about halfway through that season to get back to feeling myself again off the track and that started to help me get better on the track again. There’s just a lot of changes and a lot of good things that has gone on since then.
I love the advocacy work that I’ve been able to do. I’ve gone to Capital Hill and talk to congressmen and congresswoman about policy changes, and more funding for brain tumor awareness and research, so that’s been really rewarding. Being given a clean bill of health has been amazing and I’ve been very fortunate to have that, and being able to continue on my career which is something that I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to do again.
Like I said before, doctors told me that I wouldn’t be able to drive a racecar again. So to be able to have the opportunity to go into the Cup Series and race in the Daytona 500, I don’t think I would’ve believed that in 2016 if you told me that was going to happen in 2019. Just very thankful for that and I know now and I’ve taken my health more seriously. I feel that’s helped me a lot not only on the racing side, but just the general health side. I feel that carries over to brain health and everything. It’s been a journey transitioning and trying to put the pieces together ever since then and the recovery process.
I think I’m pretty biased when it comes to this, but I think the way I came up was the way. It’s prepared me in so many different aspects. I’ve been working and learning race cars and then winning. Learning to be a winner. I wouldn’t want to come up any other way. It’s gotten me, what I feel, prepared for where I am now and to be ready for restarts, ready for situations that I’ve been in already.
With that being said, this opportunity means everything to me and I can’t sleep I’m so excited to get to Daytona and get this season going.
Honestly, I think the most surprising thing to me is the amount of people that continue to go with us every year. We’ve got a group of 10 people that have gone every year, but there’s about 30 or 40 that have gone 15, 20 years or more. I think that surprises me, because a lot of us started in our 20’s and 30’s, and here we are in our 50’s and 60’s still riding. That kind of surprises me a little bit.
But you know what – I honestly think what surprises me, and continues to, is along the way, when we stop, the amount of people that come out to just say hello and say we think this is a cool thing that we do. So I think it’s still the fans that kind of surprise me.
There’s a bunch. I know they’re trying to revive Nashville. That’s an awesome track with an awesome community around it that feels NASCAR belongs in Nashville. But you can also throw in tracks like Iowa being a great Cup race, or Kern County out in Bakersfield would be a great Cup race. There’s a lot of shorter tracks where I feel we can go and branch out.
There’s also international markets like going back to Canada, or South America; I feel like we can keep building this. I feel the right people in the building in Daytona are pulling us in the right direction.
Corey Lajoie on what track he wishes was on the schedule
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