Did you choose to start eating a plant-based diet for health reasons, ethics, or concern about the environment, or all of these considerations?
I started for health reasons for sure but as I have become more aware I can say that both the animal rights concern and the health issues are strong enough arguments alone to go vegan. I think when someone asks me about it I sometimes change my explanation based on what I think he or she will respond to, but all of these considerations are important. I am trying hard to get a leather-free fireproof racing shoe approved by the organizers so there is a lot of concern for animals as well as my racing performance. I think anyone with a sense of justice would have to conclude the status quo needs to be changed when animals are concerned.
Are people in your profession surprised when they find out you don’t eat meat?
Yes, but it is becoming less and less each day. I think “vegan” used to conjure up images of counter-culture types but recently there has been a big change in the number of athletes who are choosing to go plant-based and with that comes more acceptance. Most people don’t understand how physically demanding driving a race car can be but my heart rate can get higher than it does when I run and it stays there for up to a 3 hour stint in the car. The heat is extreme and the mental stress is equally draining. The other racers understand why I am looking for an edge and there are a few others who are or are considering eating plants.
What foods do you take with you when you are traveling?
I take Cliff bars for long plane trips but not much else. We have a great staff on our team that provides meals for the drivers and crew. At the bigger races like last weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona we can have 5 cars entered with 4-5 drivers in each car. We had 125 team members so the hospitality team has to be great and they take good care of my food needs at the track.
Were there any particular books, websites or movies that influenced your decision to follow this diet?
I am always finding inspiration from different places. I made this choice based on lots of informational sources and I appreciate all the people who fight for health and compassion with everything they do. I am a big fan of Forks Over Knives and I first heard about Farm Sanctuary through that movie. Farm Sanctuary happens to be 10 minutes from one of the tracks we race on twice a year so I was able to visit them and see the great work they are doing. Mercy for Animals really does a good job of exposing cruelty and I get a lot of good info from PETA and ADAPTT online. I also have read Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer and recommend that to anyone interested in learning more about what they are eating.
Are there any plant-based cookbooks you use currently?
My wife and I are currently going through Sarah Kramer’s cookbook La Dolce Vegan! Vegan Livin’ Made Easy and so far everything has been excellent. The veggie loaf has been our favorite so far. We cook at home when we can but with lots of great options in our area we eat out a good bit too.
Image Credit: Jeffrey Keeton from Birmingham, USA