Charles Krall (ARCA Racing): On the hotline with us for these incredibly difficult questions, none other than the driver of the No. 0 Chevrolet for Wayne Peterson Racing, none other than Con Nicolopoulos. Con, how are you tonight? We greatly appreciate you coming on with us. We are going to take another swing at this. We’ve already done this but the host of the program doesn’t know how to use a computer very well. Question one, and you can improve these answer from the last time if you want, you can embellish, you can do anything you want. Question one, if you could go on vacation anywhere in the world, where would you want to go?
Con Nicolopoulos (driver No. 0 Chevrolet): I think the last time I said I would like to go to Australia and stand on the stage of the orchestra hall. I am going to stick with that one, but I am going to add one. I would also like to see the Great Pyramids.
CK: Oh man, I would love to see the pyramids. I just watched a real interesting show about how long it would take to build those things with the technology they had available back then. When you think of the sheer size, how much those stones weigh, and the fact they didn’t have wheels or anything like that it’s just amazing, isn’t it?
CN: I think it would be hard to build them today. The locking stone doors and all that stuff, it’s amazing.
CK: What’s your favorite thing to do away from the racetrack?
CN: I like to play with my toy cars and spend time with my family. I also love my job. My job affords me the opportunity to travel when I want to, and sometimes when I don’t want to. Wayne is always calling me and asking me where I am at. I tell him "I am in Italy" or "I am in Brazil" and he’ll say "I need to put you in the car!"
CK: That’s a good reason to not be at the racetrack!
CN: It’s not really always glamour, it’s really work. But every now and then I will get to take a weekend and see some sights in the countries that we go to but that doesn’t happen too often.
CK: For those who don’t know, you are an engineer for one of the car companies up in Detroit so you’re obviously a pretty educated guy. What was your favorite class in school?
CN: My favorite class? Thermal dynamics.
CK: That’s way over my head!
CN: I always loved thermal dynamics. Everyone else hated it. Me, I hated calculus. But thermal dynamics I loved.
CK: So you are an expert on the second law of thermal dynamics?
CN: I might have been back then!
CK: That’s the one all the conspiracy theorists talk about.
CK: If you could pick anyone, and it could be a racing person or a non-racing person, living or dead, to hang out with and go to dinner with the night before a race who would you pick and where would you want to go?
CN: I would really like to spend some time with, and the last time I said one person and after I got off the phone I thought of two people. I would pick Benny Parsons and Sterling Marlin.
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CK: Sterling! So you have a former NASCAR champ and ARCA champ and a two-time Daytona 500 winner. I like it.
CN: I love both of those guys.
CK: I always like Sterling because my family owned a race team in the 70s and 80s and they were fortunate enough to win the NASCAR Cup Series championship in 1983 and Sterling was the rookie of the year that year. I always had this affection for Sterling. Good dude. Good choices.
CN: When we were in Nashville a couple of years ago, he was there with one of his own cars. We got to talking a little bit and that was the first time I ever got to see him face to face. He’s very mellow. He’s just as mellow talking to a person in person as he was on TV.
CK: I know what question I would want to ask him.
CN: Uh oh!
CK: What were you thinking when you pulled on that fender?
CN: Was that the funniest thing you have ever seen?
CK: He thought he was going to get away with it! He thought he had it made in the shade! So you have been around racing for a little while and you are a very interesting guy. The more I talk to you the more I want to know about you. So what kind of example do you want to set for those who come into racing after you do?
CN: Be appreciative of what you have. Don’t feel like you are owed anything and be grateful for what you got.
CK: We have talked about this in the past, but your spotter at Daytona – Spencer – that’s exactly what I said to him. He was so excited. He couldn’t believe you finished 14th. I told him "yeah man, you’re here now. This is you." He could not have been more grateful to be there working with you guys.
CN: I met him a couple of years ago at Pocono. He’s a lot younger than I am, but I talk to him every other day. I talk to him about racing, about life. He is just a really good guy. He was so excited to spot at Daytona. He was nervous as all heck, I had to calm him down before the race.
CK: That’s what I like to see at the racetrack, someone who truly does enjoy those opportunities to play on the biggest stage in the sport. I thought it was great.
CN: So did I!
CK: So I remember this answer from before and I was very envious. What was the first car you had when you were a young man?
CN: I got out of college and I bought a 1985 Mustang GT. They were the hottest thing back in the early 80s. I wanted one and that was the first thing I did. My dad thought I was crazy. He said cars are just for transportation.
CK: No they are not! Some of them are. I laugh with people all the time, I had a 1985 Dodge Omni. Four door. It topped out at 82 miles per hour downhill with a tailwind. I crashed it after about six months and that was it. So what do you think the biggest contribution you bring to your team? For those who don’t know, Wayne Peterson Racing is a low-budget team. Wayne has been around a very long time. You guys don’t have the latest greatest equipment. You come to the racetrack and you work very hard, sometimes with multiple cars. And you are doing it for the love of the sport. You want to be there. You want to compete. And days like Daytona, you had a fantastic day and came home 14th. What’s your biggest contribution to that group of volunteers?
CN: Encouragement. Trying to keep them focused. Sometimes we are running behind because we don’t have a full crew or we have a young crew that doesn’t know a lot. I try to pitch in when I can on things. I try to let them do what they do so they can learn. I try to help show them the right way to do things. I say just relax and we can get through it. Yeah, we are low budget and coming off a finish like that it gives some excitement for everybody. Mike Peterson came up right as I got out of the car and gave me a big hug. It’s two fold. Number one, everybody did a great job and two we avoided wrecking a car. When we wreck a car it’s tough. We don’t have a big stable of them. It’s costly and it’s time consuming. Then you are focused on fixing the car instead of getting ready for the next race.
CK: Do you have any pre-race rituals you absolutely have to do before you get in and go race?
CN: I say a prayer. A couple of people hang around me before I get in the car, like my family, but I like to get a little quiet time and say a prayer that we have a safe race and that everyone has a safe race.
CK: I like it. Looking out for everybody. So you normally don’t have any teammates and when you do it’s Tim Richmond but you’re also pretty close to Brad Smith. We’ll get into this in a minute, but first do you want to fill us in on how you know each other and how you started coming to the racetrack with him?
CN: It’s a great story. I didn’t know Brad at all. He worked at Ford and I worked at Chrysler. Then he had a job change and came to Chrysler. We were working on a project where we had to work up the cost. For a period of about three weeks he and I would work with each other for about three hours a day. One day he came in with a polo shirt on that said Brad Smith Motorsports on it. I said that’s interesting, do you race? He said yeah, I race in ARCA. I looked at him. Brad is kind of a common name, and I have always watched ARCA and NASCAR. I said, you’re the Brad Smith I see on TV!
CK: Small world!
CN: We got to talking a little bit, and Talladega was coming up. I said if you need help I will come on down and help get the car ready. We show up and we help with the car. Next thing I know he gives me a headset and a radio and tells me I am going to be the spotter. I don’t know anything about being the spotter. He said don’t worry about it, Sandy Basham is up there, she will walk you through it. We ran the race and I came home, and a couple of weeks later I get this email from him telling me he has a second car and he wanted me to drive it. I said I had never driven anything like this before, so he said there was an open test session at Toledo and we go down there. I thought he was joking. The day of the test session he called me and asked me if I was ready to go. I said you’re kidding right? He said no. So we went down and practiced for a little bit and got used to the car. I’ve been hooked ever since. I blame him for getting me involved.
CK: It’s all Brad’s fault! So that leads me to the next question. It’s two laps to go, say we are at Daytona next year and the field has been, we’re going to say shrunk in size because of a big crash. Somehow you and Brad have made it through and you’re running one-two. You’re coming to the white flag. He’s right in front of you and you’re right on his bumper. How does that last lap play out?
CN: Going for the win?
CK: Going for the win!
CN: And I am behind him?
CK: You’re behind him. You’ve got to find a way to get around him on that last lap. How do you make this happen man?
CN: You know, I would probably do what he would do to me and lay a little bumper on him.
CK: Do it!
CN: Not ram him. Just a little tap to get him loose and try to get around him. I know he would do the same to me. If you’re going for the win you don’t want to wreck the guy. I hate to see people take each other out. A little bump, no harm no foul.
CK: I know there are a lot of people that pull for you independents. They know you are coming and you don’t have a huge stable of cars, you don’t have a lot of people and you don’t have a lot of money but you have a lot of fans. That has to make you feel good, doesn’t it?
CN: Yeah, it does. When we have driver introductions and you go on stage and hear people cheering you go wow. That’s pretty cool.
CK: Usually that track announcer is getting those people pretty riled up right? Boy, I don’t want to hurt myself patting myself on the back too hard with that one right?
CK: So while we are on this, it has to be gratifying knowing you came to Daytona on an open trailer with a pickup truck pulling it and you get that good finish and the next day during the Busch Clash on NASCAR on FOX you get to listen to Mike Joy and Jeff Gordon give you guys props. That has to be awesome.
CN: I was sitting there with my father in law watching the Clash and they started talking. Everybody was wrecking and Mike Joy started talking about us with the open trailer and the skeleton crew and we blow a tire a few laps in and we still end up 14th. When I heard that I couldn’t believe they said that.
CK: And your father in law was sitting right there!
CN: I called Spencer and asked if he was watching and he said yeah man, they are talking about us! That was so cool.
CK: The next guest we are going to talk to is Jesse Love. Do you remember the question you were going to ask the first time we did this? I do.
CN: I do remember. I think I am going to do a mulligan on that. If you weren’t racing, what would you want to be doing?
CK: That is a good one, and I already know Jesse’s answer to this. He has a one track mind, I will just put it that way. I appreciate you doing this. I am going to make sure I save this right so we don’t have to see if the third time is a charm.