Young Kyle Larson is one of the best dirt oval racers in the country (if not the world) and stands as one of the fastest rising stars in NASCAR's top cup series. We asked him what is assuredly the most awkward question he's ever had to face in an interview.
It was all for a live chat with the Japanese-American 21-year-old driver, hosted right outside the half mile clay oval of Eldora Speedway in Ohio. Back in 2011 he became the second person ever to claim the 'triple crown' of sweeping all three races at the confusingly-titled Four Crown Nationals here at this track. He grew up a short drive from my hometown and he is by far my favorite driver. This was going to be the first time I'd meet him, maybe more as a fan than as a reporter, and I was looking forward to talking to him about understanding dirt racing, great tracks in podunk towns, and life in NorCal. Things took a turn for the weird as we opened up the comments for questions.
Most of the commenters asked pretty good stuff. Singing Afroman at parties, wanting to race at the X-Games, dreaming about an old VW Bus or a big V8 Mercedes. People brought up him doing a commercial about wiping his ass, and he shrugged it off, pointing out that it got some quality PR.
Then came the weird one — my boss Matt read out this question from yourmomsfriendwayne.
If you committed a crime and the judge decreed that your punishment was to have your penis slammed in a car door would you prefer it to be hard or flaccid when slammed?
The room went quiet. My boss Matt's smile started to wane. Larson's PR guys facepalmed. This was very much not in the script, so to speak.
I tried to tell Larson he didn't need to answer any questions he didn't like. One PR guy (the cleverest guy in the room) started coming up with ways to dodge the question. Larson goes 'yeah, what the fuck?' And we all kept trying to come up with funny non-answers.
It kept getting weirder and weirder as the question hung heavier over the conversation. More non-answers, more awkward.
And then, just as everyone was winding down, as Matt was getting ready to ask the next question and move on, Larson blurted out, "I don't know, go hard I guess."
Now, as a reporter, you get to know a couple different kinds of racing drivers. There are some who are totally nutty people, always with crazy ideas an great lines. People like Bill Caswell. You walk up to Bill and he'll tell you a great story within two minutes of meeting him. You'll probably be getting a beer with him after five. Four hours late you'll wake up in a ditch not knowing your name.
Not many racing drivers are like that. The vast majority are wooden, without much life experience outside of the race track, trained to not say anything potentially offensive for fear of losing a delicate sponsorship deal.
There's a third kind of driver, though. They're hard nuts to crack. You don't get a good interview from them right away, but hang out with them for long enough and you start to see a more determined character. You start to see a bit of humor, lightness, humanity. For all of their high-speed driving, they're very grounded people.
Larson didn't have to tell the world how he'd like his dick slammed in a door. A more wooden driver wouldn't have. A more nutty driver might've balked at the weirdness, too. Larson just took it in stride. All the crazy shit that he comes across he handles without much drama.
After the interview he went off and got ready for the big race of the night. He stunned the crowds when he chased after the leader with a few laps to go. He rode the wall pretty much the whole way around the track, banging against it so many times he shattered one of his brakes.
I saw him in the pits after the race, standing over his truck. The back was so bent the frame sat at an angle. The front side was so slammed the hood went up the other way. The wheels sat wrong. Larson could't have looked more relaxed.
Photo Credits: Raphael Orlove