News & Media

Six Pack of Pop: 'Top Gear' host amazed with NASCAR experience

April 25, 2012, Joe Menzer,

Richard Hammond, one of the hosts on the BBC America television hit show Top Gear that will feature NASCAR this Monday at 8:30 p.m. ET, answers this week's six questions.

1. How was it working with Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Juan Montoya at Texas Motor Speedway for the taping of the upcoming show?

Hammond: It was exciting. As for Jimmie, I became aware after a while that I was in the presence of a bit of an icon. Being a Brit, I didn't know that much about him or the sport, quite frankly. But just being around Jimmie and seeing how people interacted with him, he's certainly admired and respected.


'Top Gear' sent host Richard Hammond to Texas Motor Speedway, fully immersing the Brit in the world of NASCAR for a show to air April 30.

2. Without giving too much of the show away, what kind of fun did you guys have?

Hammond: One thing I learned right away about NASCAR is that all these guys want to do is drive. That's all they want to do. But they also realize that, hey, if I'm going to drive, I'm going to need sponsorship -- and to drive that sponsorship interest and fan interest, we're going to need to put on a show. And boy did they!

I ended up being in one of the pits with one of the crews and doing some stuff when one of the cars came in. ... Eventually I found myself behind the wheel in one of the cars.

3. What was that like?

Hammond: That was just an awesome experience, to drive a car with that much power and weight and no traction control. And you're so focused on one job, just one thing -- and you'd better be in tune with that or it will bite you. I learned that real quick. But it was the thrill of a lifetime.

4. How fast did you go?

Hammond (laughing): You'll have to watch the film -- but it wasn't as fast as the cars race. The thing is a monster. It's like climbing into the belly of a dragon and driving that around. It does only one thing -- and that's go around the track really fast in one direction. You find yourself trying to fight it, trying to keep it from doing what it really wants to do. And also, when you go into a turn and hit the braking, well, I fly a helicopter back in Britain and I would say it feels more like that than driving a car -- because you roll into that turn and you roll back out of it. It's not like any other kind of driving that you'll ever get to do anywhere else.

5. What do you think about 43 of those cars getting on the track at one time and racing?

Hammond: Well, rubbin' is racin', right? I love it because they'll all stop sometimes in a panic and someone will be cross with someone else because they banged up someone else's car. ... At the top of the show we trace NASCAR's roots and I think that's still part of the appeal.

6. You own roughly 15 cars and 15 motorcycles. And even though you've been known to be partial to Porsches and a car you nicknamed Oliver that you brought back with you from one road trip, you also like a good American muscle car, don't you?

Hammond: Yeah, I do. I have a 1968 Ford Mustang 390 GT that's in the shop getting repainted at the moment. I love the car and I've probably had it 10 years.

It's a beautiful car, and there's something about American muscle cars. What you want to do is have fun driving it. It's got the big, loud engine and the bright colors. It's not that it's not fast -- but it's mostly about how the car makes you feel. And if a car makes you feel good, how much more, really, can you ask of it?