In a Bleacher Report exclusive, I sat down with ARCA's Tim George Jr., driver of the No. 2 Eddie Sharpe Racing Ruby Tuesday's Toyota.
This New York-born racer is now living in California and North Carolina and is trying to make a name for himself.
Here are some of George's accomplishments:
Grand-Am Koni Challenge Series 2007:
Part of a championship winning team
Finished 20th in overall driver points (out of 101)
Three top-10 qualifiers
Five top-10 finishes
Grand-Am Rolex GT Series 2008:
2008 Rolex Series MESCO Building for the Future Rookie of the Year
Fourt in Rolex GT Championship
2008 Rolex GT Bob Akin Award
Finished first at New Jersey Motorsports Park
Finished third in the 2008 Rolex 24 at Daytona
Finished on the podium four out of the first five races
This Year George will compete in the ARCA Re/Max Series in his first year in a stock car.
David Phillips: First off, I noticed you are into personal fitness. As a personal trainer, how do you think that will give you an edge on the race track?
Tim George Jr.: I feel that having the endurance training and stamina will be a huge asset for me as I move into stock car racing. It is one less factor to worry about when the green flag drops.
David Phillips: As a side note, how many hours do you spend in the gym?
Tim George Jr.: Typically, I spend one to four hours training every day. I do cardio on machines, cycle, mountain bike, kart, weight train, and play sports.
David Phillips: Being born and raised in New York City, what got you interested in racing?
Tim George Jr.: I became interested in racing through cooking, actually. I have always loved cars, speed, and competition. However, I really also like to cook. I was catering a Ferrari event at Lime Rock Park, and saw a Skip Barber sign. From there, I was bitten by the bug.
David Phillips: In talking about racing, tell me some about your biggest accomplishments to date?
Tim George Jr.: In my early career, I had a lot of wins in the Skip Barber Series and finished second in a regional championship.
In 2008, I finished third in my debut race at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, had seven podiums in all including a win at New Jersey Motorsports Park (I race there in ARCA again this year), and earned the overall Rolex Rookie of the Year, finishing fourth in the GT Championship.
I also ran as high as fourth place in an ARCA car at Talladega last year. With 10 laps to go, P1 blew a tire, and took all of us with him. In 2009, I finished second in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
David Phillips: Also, tell me a little bit about your biggest letdowns and your worst wreck ever?
Tim George Jr.: The Talladega wreck was a huge letdown. That would have been great to finish in the top five for my first superspeedway event. Another big let down and hit was at Watkins Glen when my brakes failed in the 2008 Rolex race.
I have sat on a Skip Barber National pole at the Glen, and was looking forward to a competitive race, and was simultaneously leading the Rolex GT Championship at that point.
David Phillips: Making the move from GTs to Stock Cars has got to be a huge learning curve. Tell me a little bit about that curve, and what you have done to help yourself adjust?
Tim George Jr.: Well, I wouldn't say I'm fully adjusted yet! There is a huge difference. I am used to using all of the on-board data in the GT cars at all tests, including right before the race.
Also, in a GT car I can adjust the roll bars and brake bias, so it requires setting the car up within a window.
In an ARCA car, I think it will require the set up to be a lot closer, and also setting it up for when the tires are in the middle of their life...and the difference between going in circles and being on a road course will have a different affect on tire wear.
Being on a new tire and having less downforce and more horsepower are other factors.
David Phillips: What intrigued you to make the move to Stock Cars?
Tim George Jr.: I really like how the fans can relate to the stock car itself. The cars are a lot more relatable to the fans, whereas there is this huge barrier between the fans and some of the exotic sports cars, such as the Porsche I drove last season.
Also, the driver's personalities are exploited a lot more in stock car racing, whereas in other forms of motorsports, the car is glorified more than the person in the car.
David Phillips: Moving into ARCA, are you hoping that is a stepping stone into NASCAR? If so...what kind of time-able are you looking at to be behind the wheel of a NASCAR stock car?
Tim George Jr.: I think most drivers in ARCA have a dream about moving to NASCAR; I am no different. I want to move up when I am ready. If it is three years, it is three years; if it is 2010, then it is 2010.
However, I do want to get into a road course race, perhaps at Watkins Gen this season in Nationwide.
David Phillips: The team you drive for, ESR Racing, is a three-car team full of rookies... How do you think your team will fare this year?
Tim George Jr.: I think we all have a lot to learn, but can also help each other. It is a good group of guys, and I get along with all of them so far.
They also signed Justin Lofton, who drove with ESR last season. Lofton and I brought in new crew chiefs which will hopefully integrate well with the existing team.
David Phillips: You are actually the 'veteran' (if you will), on the team with two starts, how does it feel to be leading a team full of rookies, including yourself?
Tim George Jr.: Well I actually don't consider myself a veteran. I am glad I have the two ARCA starts under my belt from last year, but the other guys on my team have been racing stock cars for years.
Racing in the Rolex Series will be a great platform as far as media and close competition at high speeds. However, I have the most to learn when it comes to stock car set up and circle track racecraft out of the group.
David Phillips: It's got to be interesting (and challenging) to to step into a car that was once driven by (now Sprint Cup) drivers, Michael McDowell and Scott Speed. Each of those spent one year at ESR before jumping to NASCAR. Are you hoping to follow suit?
Tim George Jr,: McDowell has become a friend of mine since I joined forces with ESR. I really like the guy, and we share a birthday, which is ironic. I don't want to make a mistake and move up through the ranks too quickly.
At the same time, If I am ready at the end of the season, I will move on, and also the opportunity as far as sponsorship will need to be present. McDowell has been helping me out and pointed me in the right direction for a simulator.
Coming from the Rolex Series himself, McDowell knows a lot about what I am going through in this transitional period.
David Phillips: Also, what is it like to be in a car driven by those two guys?
Tim George Jr.: There may be a lot of pressure for me to do well because of the other drivers who have been in the No. 2 Toyota, but I am not going to let that get to me. I plan to go out and have fun, learn as much as possible, and move on when the time is right.
David Phillips: The upcoming season will be your rookie year, how do you feel your chances are to take home the 2009 Suntrust Rookie of the Year Award in '09?
Tim George Jr.: One of my goals is to follow up the 2008 MESCO Building for the Future Rookie of the Year Award in Rolex with the 2009 Suntrust Rookie of the Year Award in ARCA. I think I have a good shot at it.
David Phillips: What things do you feel you need to accomplish this year to receive the ROY honor?
Tim George Jr.: I need to finish races. I think the true quality of a driver is not judged when he or she is running up front and doing well. When things start going wrong like a bad pit stop or a tire blowing out is when the true character of a driver can be seen.
I aim to be calm and collected when things don't go right and to salvage a decent finish, but also want to have a shot to pull into victory lane at each race.
David Phillips: What are your goals for the '09 season?
Tim George Jr.: My goals are: Rookie of the Year in ARCA, to earn some pole awards, to win some races (NJMP would be great), and to win a Super Late Model race, while learning as much as possible about stock cars.
David Phillips: What do you feel you bring to the ARCA Series that it (and the fans) have never seen before?
Tim George Jr.: I feel that I am business savvy, and I look to bring a well thought out process of racing that requires more brain power and less natural talent. I have aligned myself with a good crew chief and a big sponsor for this first race at Daytona (and hope to keep them on the car for the full season), and I would like to have my individual personality stand out from the others in a positive way.
David Phillips: Will we see Tim George Jr. in Victory Lane this season? If so, how many times?
Tim George Jr.: This is one of my goals! I can't tell you, but I am going to the track with the intention to win each time.
David Phillips: What's something about yourself that fans don't know?
Tim George Jr.: I love to cook, and healthy gourmet Italian is my specialty.
David Phillips: Do you have a favorite Sprint Cup driver? If so, who is it?
Tim George Jr.: Yes. I like Jimmie Johnson. I have admired him since I talked to him in the lunch tent at the 2008 Rolex 24 at Daytona. He was as willing to talk to me as if I were Chad Knaus.
I asked him about his public speaking, and where he learned to be so calm and collected. I also strive to drive like him: humble, relaxed, consistently avoiding trouble, and able to be there when it counts.
David Phillips: Care to take a prediction on the Sprint Cup champion and ARCA Series champ?
Tim George Jr:Although I like Jimmie, I would say Mark Martin has a good shot this year. I admire Mark's dedication to the sport. For ARCA, it could be anyone.
David Phillips: Anything else that I didn't mention that you would like to have included in the spotlight?
Tim George Jr.: I am very excited to be able to race in this tough economy with a great new sponsor. It is a difficult time for everyone, and to be able to do what I want to do is a great privilege.
I appreciate Eddie Sharp Racing for taking me on board into their program. It is a proven program, and I look to follow in other ESR drivers' footsteps.
I want to also thank all of my sponsors from last year that helped me through the Rolex Series, and my future sponsors for having faith in me as a person and as a driver.
I'm glad to have the fan base that I already have, and am excited to meet new fans in the stock car racing world.
David Phillips: Thank you very much for the interview and good luck on becoming the Suntrust Rookie of the Year, and hope to see you in Victory Lane and I look forward to seeing you in NASCAR soon. Good luck!