CONCORD, North Carolina — Jeff Green hops up onto a counter in one of RSS Racing’s two team haulers.
The bearded, 55-year-old driver wears a camouflaged baseball cap and a Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band shirt.
Green saw Seger perform in Charlotte years ago.
“He played for three hours and every song you knew,” Green told NBC Sports. “I’m not sure how many more years he’s going to do it, so if you get the chance (to see him) you better do it.”
Green, the 2000 Xfinity Series champion, has competed in NASCAR since 1990 and has made 756 starts and won 16 races across all three national series as of last Saturday’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The 1.5-mile track was the site of his last win and last top five, in October 2002 in the Xfinity Series.
Back in May, Green got a little dose of his glory days at Talladega Superspeedway. Driving the No. 8 Toyota for B.J. McLeod Motorsports, pit strategy allowed Green to lead 18 laps around the 2.66-mile speedway and finish 10th. It was only the third Xfinity race he’s led laps in since 2002.
Twenty-seven years after his first NASCAR start at Richmond, and with 22 DNFs in 27 starts this season, how many more years does Green see himself getting behind the wheel?
“As long as they’ll still have me,” Green said. “I still have a little bit of fun doing it. It’s not exactly what I want to do for sure. … I feel like I’m still the same guy I was 30 years ago. Competitive as ever and I want to lead and win every lap.”
The following Q&A has been edited and condensed.
NBC Sports: What’s your earliest memory related to auto racing?
Green: My dad drag racing. As we were growing up, my brothers and I, we helped him. We had a one-car garage on our house, and he had a drag car pretty much from the time I could remember. Whether it would be polishing the wheel or helping him change something on it. The first thing I drove was a go-kart. I was 8 years old when I started doing it. My two brothers, my dad and my uncle and granddad, all of us started racing go-karts about the same time.
NBC Sports: Do you remember what that sensation was like when you mashed the throttle for the first time?
Green: What I was driving didn’t go very fast. As I got older, we graduated into different classes. It kind of came natural, kind of came easy. The first couple of races I remember I drove, I was just trying not to hit anything. You know what I mean? We were racing in the streets. We ran a series where they pretty much blocked the streets off, and we’d run around blocks.
NBC Sports: When was the first time you went to a NASCAR race?
Green: I would say probably in ’86 with Michael Waltrip down at Daytona. We grew up together and graduated high school together. That was probably the first time I went to a track as far as to watch it.
NBC Sports: What was Michael Waltrip like in high school?
Green: Just to grow up and to be around him and hear the stories that came from Darrell. That was in his heyday, the Gatorade days and things like that. Just to hear those stories was pretty cool, to be kind of have a hand on it. Outside lookin’ in. Michael went to a lot of races, so he’d come home to tell stories. I guess the main thing (was) Darrell came from Owensboro, Kentucky, too. In my mind, if he could make it, we could, too. With Michael’s help, he helped me get really my first opportunity with (Dale) Earnhardt driving his (Xfinity) car (1995-96). Without that, I don’t know if I’d have been able to sit in that car, much less get to the next opportunity.
NBC Sports: What was the biggest lesson you learned from Earnhardt?
Green: Chasin’ the dream, I guess. You know what I mean? Not ever giving up. When you have a bad week, you don’t go into the next week feeling sorry for yourself. Just try to make it better and go on and put it behind you.
NBC Sports: What’s the most fun you’ve had in any race in your career?
Green: Racing my brother (David Green) at Pikes Peak (in 200o). We raced right down to the last lap. I ended up winning, and he ran second. That was probably the most fun I’ve ever had. I knew that he raced me as hard as he could, and I did the same thing. But we also raced each other like gentlemen, too. It was pretty fun.
NBC Sports: I saw on Twitter you recently celebrated your 26th wedding anniversary (with wife Michelle). What’s the secret to 26 years?
Green: Listening. Really, without her I would have gave up a long time ago. I wouldn’t have ever made it. There had been days along the road long before I ever got to my championship years and even the Earnhardt years that I would have gave up. It’s just too hard a road. Having a good woman like that or a good lady that supports you but also envisions what you want and (is) able to push you in that direction. I think 26 years is more listening instead of talking.
NBC Sports: Outside of your championship trophy, which trophy means the most to you?
Green: Darlington, maybe. I won at Darlington (in 2001). You race that racetrack like no other. Darlington and Charlotte. I got two trophies from Charlotte. Charlotte being home back then. That’s pretty special to be able to sleep in your own bed and win the trophy there that week.
NBC Sports: What’s the best thing about Owensboro, Kentucky?
Green: Barbecue. I don’t know if it’s the barbecue capitol of the world, but it is for Kentucky. There’s a lot of great folks there but the barbecue. There’s so many restaurants I think it’s the leader in fast food restaurants, too.
NBC Sports: Where’s the best barbecue there?
Green: Moonlight Bar-B-Q (Inn) and Old Hickory Bar-B-Q. When we go back home, we eat one (meal) there and the next day we eat at the other one.
NBC Sports: What’s on your bucket list that’s not related to racing?
Green: Kill an Elk. Going Elk hunting and being able to put an old monster down.
NBC Sports: If you could have a one-on-one race with any driver past or present, who would it be against and where?
Green: It would be a short track, Richmond or Bristol. Probably “The King” (Richard Petty). I drove for him (2003-05 in Cup), and he was one of the best owners that I’ve ever driven for. Nice guy. I was on the race track with him. But I never really got to race with him before he retired. So that’s probably it.
Darrell Wallace Jr.
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