This is an ongoing feature of Queers4Gears where we talk to someone from the world of Motor Sports and ask them six questions. This week I spoke with Riki Rachtman. First and foremost – Riki is a huge NASCAR fan. He first came onto the public scene as the host of MTV’s Headbangers Ball from 1990-1995. Over the years he served as a co-host on Loveline with Dr. Drew and hosted several VH1 reality shows. But he has always wanted to work in NASCAR. Since 2003 he has been the host of the syndicated radio show called “Racing Rocks” – combining his love for Rock Music and NASCAR. This season Riki is one of the judges on “Fast Track to Fame” on Speed. Riki is active on Twitter and fun to follow because he holds nothing back – you can follow him @RikiRachtman.
Q: You grew up in California – how did you become such a big NASCAR fan ?
A: I have always loved cars – growing up I just loved anything and everything about cars. In 1994 I went to my first Daytona 500 and that was pretty much it, from then on I was hooked. At that time I was still on MTV – so I was lucky – I was given a tour and introduced to Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt. I got my picture taken with them that day and those are still on my wall. So I was hooked, then I went to Darlington – I went back to Daytona – I started wearing NASCAR stuff on Headbangers Ball. It doesn’t matter how much I work in NASCAR the bottom line is that am a 110% hard-core fan. I love this sport.
Q: “Fast Track to Fame” has brought the American Idol style of reality show to NASCAR, what do you think should be the next reality show genre to come to NASCAR?
A: ME! Doing something at the track. I have a few ideas of shows that I would like to do. This is a sport – despite what some might think – that lures fans for all sorts of reasons; sometimes the racing is secondary. What gets people hooked is that we’ve got heroes and villains – we’ve got the drivers we like – or we don’t like. I don’t think we know the real personalities of the drivers – I don’t think we know enough about the drivers. We always get the same guys in suites and ties asking them the same questions. We need a lifestyle show – that really shows the character of the drivers – and the character of the fans. Even the tracks have their own character and incredible personalities. All of these things need to be explored by someone who is not the typical NASCAR guy. What I have done with my show Racing Rocks is to try and keep the technical stuff to a minimum – and even if someone is not 100% into NASCAR – they will still “get it.” It is the general stories, the drivers talking about whatever they want to. Yeah, we still go into some of the stats but we do it in a Rock-n-Roll way.
Q: The new rules that NASCAR put in place have led to some good racing. If your last name was France, and you could change the rules – what would you do to make the racing better ?
A: The new rules NASCAR has made are 110% in the right direction. But the fans seem to want last lap Talladega action all of the time. It is not going to happen – not every race can be 4-wide on every lap. But these new rules have given the fans more of what they wanted – with the Green-White-Checkers and getting rid of the wing. One thing you can’t deny about NASCAR is that they really care about their fans – I think more than any other sport.
What would I do? I would eliminate Start-and-Park……… no matter what. I feel bad for the people that are going there and trying to make it into the race – they only have the budget for a few races and if they finish they make enough money for another race. But you also have some guys that come and qualify well – but they don’t even have enough tires to run a full race. I look at Keyed Up Motor Sports that wants more than anything to put the #90 into a race but they can’t because they got beat out by someone that you know is gonna park it after five laps. I would eliminate start-and-park and find a way to reward the guys who work hard to run the full race.
Q: Are their any misconceptions that the public has about you – something that they don’t know?
A: That could take forever – because I have read some preposterous lies about me on the internet. I have been blessed to be in a situation where a lot of people know who I am from completely different fields. Because of all the rain in Alabama – I was stuck in a hotel at Talladega. I got asked for my autograph and to take pictures with about thirty 11-year old girls who only knew me from Daisy of Love….. and some of their parents only knew me from Head bangers Ball. When I get to the track and people only know me from NASCAR. To me, there isn’t a better situation to be in. It was flattering when an older couple came up to me and said, “hey you’re that guy on Speed – who do you think is going to win this weekend?” Typically they wouldn’t talk to some guy from Hollywood with greasy hair and tattoos….. But we have that bond of NASCAR. I love nothing better than when people come up to me and want to talk about racing.
I don’t think most people in Hollywood know how big of a NASCAR fan I am. People in NASCAR may not know how rooted in Rock I am. A lot of people don’t know I owned the biggest Rock Club in Hollywood before I made it to MTV. People don’t know that I was in Junior’s pit box when Dale Earnhardt died (Q4G: I did not know that) Yeah – I don’t really like to talk about that – it was such a bummer. I have a huge #3 tattooed on my arm. I have a huge #43 as well. I guess people don’t realize how BIG of a NASCAR fan I really am.
There are similarities in what you do (Queers4Gears) and what I do. In the way that neither of us are typical NASCAR fans. So rather that your typical everyday guy’s take on NASCAR we bring something different. People did not want to give me a chance in NASCAR – and they still don’t – because I am not some suit and tie guy or a crew chief. They say the fans won’t accept me – well the fans love me
Q: Are there any closeted NASCAR fans in Hollywood? Do you try to sell NASCAR in Hollywood?
A: Every single day! I am always selling NASCAR to my friends and getting them to watch the races with us, but there’s not a lot of NASCAR fans in Hollywood. I live one mile from the Sunset strip – and if you’re not into the Lakers then there is not a lot to talk about. LA is not a very good sports town. The Kings won the playoffs and no one talked about them. California Speedway is not a very good track – NASCAR just does not have a lot of fans out here. But I am constantly selling it and trying to change that. I got some of my friends to join the online Driver Fantasy League and now they are hooked.
Q: I have really wanted to ask you this question – because of your history in the world of Heavy Metal and NASCAR. When Rob Halford (lead singer of Judas Priest) came out of the closet – do you think it changed minds in the metal world – and do you think it would be similar in NASCAR – if a driver at Halford’s level were to come out of the closet?
A: Well first of all – for people that were hard core into metal - and you did not KNOW that Rob was gay………then you were just oblivious. I love Judas Priest. I love Rob – he is one of the nicest guys that I have ever ever worked with. I mean everyone that has worked with Rob loves him. But to those in the metal world – it really wasn’t that much of a shock to anybody when Rob came out. All you had to do was look at some of his earlier lyrics or what he wore…. I don’t know if there is a level of gay, but if there were – I would say Rob was pretty hard core.
However, what was a shock – which I was very happy about – was that it did not really hurt him. Because he is soo good. People are gonna say – “It’s Rob Halford – it’s Judas Priest – so who cares?” Even if they had an issue with gay people – they like Judas Priest too much. People still go to his shows – they still wear Judas Priest shirts.
Now with NASCAR I think the problem would be with sponsors. I think the sponsors may have a problem with it. And maybe some fans….. I don’t know. It might be a big issue because there are a lot of old school NASCAR fans. I think it would probably work against them.
But it might not – I don’t know. I mean if you had told me that one of the biggest names in Heavy Metal was going to come out – and it would not be a big deal………. You can’t find a more male, heterosexual, beer drinking crowd than Heavy Metal.
So I really don’t know, I think it would hurt for a driver to come out in NASCAR now – but maybe in 10 years it wouldn’t.