Session Two: Sound and Speed Behind The Scenes Q & A 1-9-2010
Mike Skinner (NASCAR) and Ranger Doug of Riders In The Sky (Artist)
For the past four years, this two-day fan event featuring some of the top names in country music and NASCAR has attracted an estimated 40,000 fans and has raised more than $800,000 for Victory Junction (a year-round camping experience founded by Kyle and Pattie Petty for children, ages 6-16, with chronic medical conditions or serious illnesses) and the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum.
On Saturday, Jan. 9th fans of racing and country music had the opportunity to get up-close and personal with drivers and country music stars at Nashville's Municipal Auditorium for autographs and question-and-answer sessions. NASCAR stars Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin, Kasey Kahne, Michael Waltrip, Clint Bowyer, Reed Sorenson, David Stremme, Aric Almirola, Justin Allgaier, Kyle Petty, Michael Annett, Carl Edwards, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kyle Busch, James Buescher, Brad Kesolowski, Logan Ruffin, Brian Scott and Morgan Shepherd joined country music stars Chris Young, Jason Michael Carroll, Josh Turner, members of Diamond Rio, Danny Gokey, Danielle Peck, Corey Smith, Ashton Shepherd, Brady Seals, Nathan Lee Jackson, and duo Kate & Kacey.
Behind the scenes, media also has an opportunity to visit with the participants in Q & A (Question and Answer) interview sessions throughout the event.
Moderators: Kerry Tharp with NASCAR and Holly with Kaleidoscope Media & Marketing
Kerry: Mike Skinner has certainly been one of the more successful drivers that we have had in our sport. He is the 1995 NASCAR Camping World series champion, the first year of that series. He finished third in the NASCAR Camping World Truck series this past season. He is the series all time leader with 47 polls.
Holly: For thirty years, Riders In The Sky has been reviving, revitalizing, and remaining true to the integrity of Western music. They have become modern day icons by branding the genre with their own wacky humor and way out western wit while encouraging people to live the cowboy way. Please say howdy to guitarist Range Doug, governor of the great state of rhythm.
Kerry: Mike, as you look forward to this next season, what are your thoughts for how you think your team is going to do and your thoughts about being here today.
Mike: First of all, when you get to my age, you are not suppose to have as much desire as I do to get racing again. I wish Daytona was tomorrow. We are actually going to Daytona this week to do some short track testing. It will be our first time back in a race car, truck in this case, since Homestead. I’m just chomping at the bit, can’t wait to do it. This event just revs me up all the more, coming here and seeing the race fans and a lot of the Country singers and stars and some of my fellow NASCAR drivers. I just can’t wait, I wish it was tomorrow. We started out in the truck series, left it in 1997 and went to the cup series until 2004. We left a big void there and we still hold a couple of records. I don’t regret that move but I think the books might have been written a little bit different if I had stayed there all those years.
Holly: Ranger Doug, please tell us about Riders In The Sky and how you got involved with Sound and Speed.
Ranger Doug: Riders In The Sky started 32 years ago in November. We started with the express desire to keep alive the great Western music of Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and The Sons of the Pioneers. We have played 5,861 appearances now and that works out to about 182.3 a year. We have won a couple of Grammy’s for our work with Disney in Toy Story II and have 30-some albums. It has really been fun. I got involved with Sound and Speed just because Michael at the Country Music Hall of Fame asked if I would like to and I said sure, I’d love to. I love cars and I love to help with a great cause and I love the Country Music Hall of Fame as well.
Q: Mike, as far as preseason testing, who determines when, where and what race tracks you go to and the new Smyrna track, how does that relate to which track you normally race at in this series?
Mike: NASCAR does not allow testing anymore. You are not allowed to go test at any racetrack that you are actually going to race at. New Smyrna is not a NASCAR track and we don’t have an event at New Smyrna Speedway so what the race teams do whether it is the Sprint Cup series, the Nationwide series or the Camping World Truck series, we find race tracks that we don’t go to and we go and test there. Just to get an idea, New Smyrna is about 12 or 13 degrees in banking, it is only a half mile race track. Race tracks that we will get data for and learn things about go from a range of Martinsville Speedway to New Hampshire to Pocono Speedway to Michigan, which is a two mile speedway. There is a broad range of places that we can learn from even testing at a lot lower speed on the half mile track. We just compile data information on suspension parts and different things that we want to do throughout the year. NASCAR sets the rules, they say you can’t test. We don’t have to hide the fact that we are testing, we just can’t test on a NASCAR track
Q: Ranger Doug, I would like to talk to you about this other fine band you have called the “Time Jumpers”. A lot of people in here probably don’t know about the Time Jumpers; please fill them in on it.
Ranger Doug: The Time Jumpers started about 10 years ago. It was a bunch of people that played in the studios all day, played music for other people all day, that started a band of traditional western swing just to play what they wanted to play. We play every Monday night at a place that is called the Station Inn right here in the Gulch. We rarely tour because everyone has such busy schedules but we are just playing the music we love. There are eleven pieces, two girl singers, three fiddles, a steel guitar; just like an old Texas dance band. I get to play rhythm guitar in that band. I don’t have to front the group or think of clever things to say, just sit back there and play my heart out. I love the Time Jumpers. I think we were nominated for two Grammy’s last year. We didn’t win either category but it was nice to be recognized. We’re probably the premier western swing group, certainly in the last 30 or 40 years and maybe ever. We will never have the success that Bob Wills did but it is a wonderful, fun band and I advise anyone that enjoys traditional western music to come see us on a Monday night.
Q: Mike, with your record of polls in the truck series, what’s the secret to being a good qualifier? What do you do that is better than others?
Mike: I think the desire and the willingness to scare the Hell out yourself comes into play. They came out with the restrictor plates as I call them, a spacer plate under the carburetor now that takes about 100 horsepower. We were making so much horsepower that these trucks were running over 200 miles per hour at some of these places. They are not aerodynamically sound for that speed, so NASCAR slowed us down to keep us from flying up and hurting someone in the stands or hurting ourselves. A few years ago, there might have only been three or four of us in the field that was crazy enough, brave enough, stupid enough, I am not really sure which, to try to hold it wide open all the way around the race newer race tracks like Texas, Atlanta and the like. I have been blessed to have the ability to be one of those people that has been able to do that. Now days, everyone holds it wide open qualifying. So there is no real advantage to be a great qualifier in this day and time except when you get to places like Martinsville, Virginia and Bristol. Anywhere you have to lift off the throttle, then it is still really important, but a lot of the racetracks we go to now, everybody runs wide open.
Q: Mike, the news this week is Ken Schrader is going to run for Red Bull in the Bud Shootout. Someone told me you are affiliated with Red Bull also? Can you tell us about that? Also, for the over 50 crowd for NASCAR, drivers like Mark Martin, Schrader and yourself, there seems to be a renaissance going on.
Mike: A few years ago, if you were old enough to shave, you were washed up; you were too old to run NASCAR. Some of us old guys came back in this past year. I won three races, I think Ron won five or six; Mark Martin won a bunch of races. The old guys have come back and we had really great success last year. There is no substitute for youth but there is also no substitute for experience. I look at this gentleman right here (Ranger Doug) and I try to play the guitar, I play maybe five or six chords and I am terrible. I just envy what they do. It is amazing what a fine line it is between the young guy that is coming in, the Joey Louganis of the world, that are coming in, that are going to be the future that makes up our sport. And the Mark Martins that have been here forever, and myself, we have that knowledge of what to do, we don’t have the youth anymore but for some reason we are still getting it done. I have had an affiliation with Red Bull for the last few years. I am basically a substitute driver, if one of their drivers gets hurt; they call on me to drive the car. I have done some driver development. I helped AJ Allmendinger out when they were struggling. I have mentored some, tried help Scott Speed get going, and I am like the “on call” guy. Ken Schrader is running that race because he is guaranteed a spot in that race. I don’t know if we will continue to have the Red Bull relationship this coming year, it wouldn’t surprise me. But, I might get called in for ten races; I might not get called at all. I do endorse the product, I like the product, I drink Red Bull and I think they are an awesome company. They have the best energy drink out there. This past year we went to Goodwood, another festival of speed and it was fantastic to get to drive the Red Bull car.
Q: Mike, NASCAR put the spacers in the Camper World Truck series in 2008. In my opinion, I think it has diminished the racing, the trademark of the NASCAR Camping World racing which is the bumper to bumper racing. Do you think it takes more driving skills to drive a Camper World Truck these days with the spacers than driving a Camper World Truck in say 1996?
Mike: I don’t want to degrade myself or anyone else by the way I answer this but I am like you. I don’t like the spacers; I am not a fan of the spacer. I think that the guy that is brave enough to run it off in the corner and try to get it slowed down and turned around is not really a big advantage anymore. They have taken guys; we call them wheelmen, and tried to turn us into chess players. We are more like tackles on a football field, we want to chomp at the bit and go out there and attack the race track, attack it every lap. This spacer plate doesn’t work too good. Now we have to learn to play chess instead of getting out there and rock ’em sock ’em.
Q: Have you drivers pleaded with NASCAR to take the spacers out of the Nationwide and Camper World Truck cars?
Mike: Yes, we have and I have to say I would hate to be in NASCAR’s position because it is a double edged sword. They take those plates out and we go and put a truck up in the grandstand somewhere and harm our fans, now have a really big black eye in our sport. We go out and a couple of drivers lose their lives, we have a huge black eye. It is a double edged sword. I totally understand NASCAR’s position but I do believe we need to put recovery and acceleration back in these things. I still think the Camper World Truck series is the best show in NASCAR, the time of the race, it is about half the distance, we race every lap from green to checkered and I enjoy it. I would vote for putting the horsepower back in.
Q: Ranger Doug, Riders In the Sky, when are we going to get a new CD? Is it going to be on Rounder Records or another label?
Ranger Doug: (to Mike) The first thing I would like to say is you might be a lousy guitar player but you ought to see me drive.
Mike: He wants to do what I do and I want to do what he does.
Ranger Doug: We have a new CD about to come out. We did three days with the Nashville Symphony about a year ago. We have symphonic charts, western music is built for a symphony. It is like seeing an old western with John Ford in it where you hear the violins or French horns come up. It will be out next month and it will be on the Nashville Symphony label and it is called “Riders In The Sky lassoed live at the Schermerhorn”.
Q: When is the next one going to be?
Ranger Doug: After that? We have about three of them half done. We have a continual request for an inspirational album so I guess that will probably be the next one that comes out. Like what many artists are doing today with the fluctuating music industry, it looks like we will probably just put it out ourselves, sell 1/10th as many and make twice as much money.
Q: Ranger Doug, when you talk about an album and you say you have two or three things half done. Is it because you don’t want to put it out there until you have it perfected? I have seen artists throw a bunch of songs on an album just to sell an album.
Ranger Doug: We don’t want to do that. Part of our problem is we have a really busy road schedule and it is just hard to finish them up. You can lay down the initial tracks and then you go back and lay down the vocals but to fit all the pieces together and make them just perfect, it takes time and we just haven’t had it. We did 215 dates year before last and 280 last year and that just doesn’t give you much time to get in the studio.
Kerry: Thank you all for being here.
Transcribed by Pam Stadel