In this week’s interview, Speedway Media caught up with NASCAR Xfinity Series newcomer and Jimmy Means Racing driver, Kody Vanderwal. Vanderwal made his debut for the No. 52 team this past March at Phoenix International Raceway.
During the interview, Vanderwal talks about a wide variety of topics such as his first race as a stock car driver. He discussed the most exhilarating race he’s been a part of, what a fan needs to do to get his attention in the garage for an autograph and what planet he would choose to go to if he had a chance.
SM: What was your first race as a racecar driver? Was it everything you expected?
KV: “It was a dirt Enduro race in a mostly stock ’72 Monte Carlo when I was 11,” Vanderwal said. “I didn’t really have a clue what I was doing and spun more times then I could count. It was a learning experience.”
SM: How calm are you during a race? Are you a driver that’s more fired up behind the wheel
or do you take it easy until the halfway point?
KV: “That’s probably one of my biggest strong suits behind the wheel, my calm demeanor,” he said. Obviously, with all that adrenaline, it’s impossible not to get a little excited from time to time, but normally, I’m very calm.”
SM: What the most exhilarating race you’ve ever been a part of? Any come to mind?
KV: “When me and our small family and friends’ K&N West team won our first race at Tucson Speedway,” Vanderwal said. “Dominated the race and then had to hold off one of the best there is, Derek Thorn, on a green-white-checkered. Definitely was pumped after that one.”
SM: Which driver did you want to be like growing up as a racer?
KV: “I was always a Jeff Gordon fan growing up but it was really more my dad and some of the local guys in Colorado that inspired me to start driving,” he said. “The inspiration to make it more than a hobby came later when I realized it was actually possible.”
SM: You are walking around the garage area. A fan is trying to reach you for an autograph, but for whatever reason, you can’t see them and maybe the garage area is packed with fans. How does a fan grab your attention for an autograph or photo?
KV: “Well, there aren’t very many Kody’s in the NASCAR garage,” Vanderwal said. “So, all you gotta do is call my name.”
SM: Has there ever been a random or funny thing that’s happened to you during a race?
KV: “Racing can always be pretty random,” he said. “I lost brakes once because I ran over somebody’s starter. At the track several years ago, the same car rolled over within 10 feet of me in the same corner two races in a row.”
SM: Who is one racing icon that you’ve always wanted to meet?
KV: “Any of them,” Vanderwal said. “I especially love meeting people from the older days and hearing their stories.”
SM: Are you someone that is superstitious before a race starts? If so, what’s a raceday routine that you follow?
KV: “Not at all,” he said. “Just kind of go with the flow. The only thing, I try to do before every race is a prayer.”
SM: What is the first thing you do after you come home from a race? Does it take a while for the adrenaline to wear off?
KV: “I usually always eat something after a race and then usually, it’s late by the time I get home, so I just go to bed.”
SM: If you could visit any planet in the solar system. Which planet would you choose?
KV: “I’m gonna go with Neptune, it looks cool.”
SM: You are required to go without one social media app for a year. What app would you choose to go without?
KV: “Probably Facebook,” Vanderwal said. “I really don’t use it very much.”
SM: Time travel is available and you can go back in time to pick a race to watch in person. What race do you pick if you had the chance to watch it in person?
KV: “2002 Bristol night race.”
Vanderwal has made three NASCAR Xfinity Series starts in 2020 with a best finish of 29th at Phoenix back in March. In addition, the Colorado native has made 35 starts in what was previously the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West over the past three years with two wins at Tucson. Also, in the West Series, he has eight top-fives and 18 top-10 finishes, along with one pole and 140 laps led.
Special thanks to Kimberly Gazaway for making the interview happen and special thanks to Kody Vanderwal for taking his time out of his day.