After interviewing the people from NASCAR that I have, I thought I could interview Ren, because he seems interesting (he also really wanted me too. And he was sort of like a boss at one time, because CawsnJaws was born at the old Frontstretch message board, where he was a webmaster).

I thought up some good questions, which I had been pondering over for a few weeks.

In the preliminary information he sent me, he indicated that he was a Thai Linguist in the Air Force. He had some interesting things to say.

I also asked questions from the personal side, to racing. I got great answers. Ren did a wonderful job. He made his answers really funny and I enjoyed that very much. I had a lot of fun interviewing him.

If you’re looking for a lot of fun, and want to learn about a great person familiar with racing, then you will want to read about Ren Jonsin.

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My Dad was in the Air Force. What made you pick the Air Force?

I decided to go into the Air Force because it had higher standards. Plus I thought the Navy uniforms were too effeminate, the Army would take convicted murderers almost, and the Marines, well those guys are too hard core for me. I mean, they act like it’s the military or something. Since I already had experience in the Boy Scouts, I knew that I could handle Air Force basic training, so I went with the Air Force. Aim high!

A ‘Thai Linguist’? Is that the person I’d need to help me understand what the two ties I bought at the department store are saying in the bag on the way home?

No, that’s a common misconception, but actually, it’s the freak you see in the corner of the tie department licking the ties when he thinks no one is looking.

Seriously, what motivated you to learn Thai, and who taught you?

I had an aptitude for foreign languages at the time, they just came easy to me. The reason I took Thai is because they said it DEFINATELY would be Airborne. Josh, if you ever go in the service, remember this. The word ‘definitely’ is recruiter-speak for “everything I say from here on out is a lie.” Anyway, I was stationed at Fort Meade, MD the entire time I was in the service, other than my training. Got to fly a really nice big gray desk though. I was trained at the Presidio of Monterey in Monterey, CA. We were taught by Thai nationals, one of whom barely spoke English when we started. I was there for about a year. Tough duty, but someone has to do it.

It says you did this for four years in the Air Force. How busy could a Thai Linguist be?

There were only four of them in the Air Force at the time, so we were fairly busy. Mostly translated newspapers and magazines though.

How has this skill helped you in your current life?

I actually know what I’m eating in a Thai restaurant and before I was married it impressed the heck out of dates. I also was trained in code breaking which helped me solve the cryptograms when we weren’t busy and had a lot of analyst training so that way when I got married, I knew how to not give the wife too much information even in separate stories.

Please count to ten in Thai for me.

Thai is written in Sanskrit and uses inflection as part of the language, for instance, the Thai word ‘Ma’ can mean both Mother or cow depending on how you say it. The point is that unless you hear it, it may not be correct when you say it. Anyway —

1 – Nyng

2 – song

3 – sii

4 – sam

5 – ha

6 – hoge

7 – ched

8 – ped

9 – kaw

10 – sib

If you want to see them and hear them check out this link

So you say you were a drag racer. What did you do the moment after you said to yourself, “I wanna be a drag racer”?

Punched the gas. Back when I was young, we used to race on the street a lot so it wasn’t like I started out racing at a drag strip. You could make a lot more money by racing on the street than at the track so I did a lot of that. The good thing about racing on the track though is that I could run my car in pro street and the truck I towed it to the track on in stock. They run bracket races where you let them know how fast your car will go and the slower car gets a head start. The first car to cross the finish line, without going faster than they said they would and without leaving the starting line too soon wins the race. By doing it this way, you could beat a Corvette with a Cavalier so everyone had a good chance at winning if they had a consistent car and knew how to leave the starting line right.

How did you enjoy it?

Loved it. Like I said, you can run your daily driver, so anyone can get into it and it’s loads of fun. The only thing I liked better was autocross which is like a drag race with corners.

How long did you do it?

On the track, about 10 years. On the street, I still enjoy beating annoying little Civic drivers who think that a huge spoiler makes the car go faster. Only up to 55 though. Well, usually.

What was your car number and color?

I didn’t go to the track every week so I never got an NHRA number; I used a temporary number whenever I went. I ran a few different cars over the years. I started with a ’65 Chevy II (Nova) that started with a 6 cylinder but ended up with a 454 engine. I ran a 70 GTO for fun when I was in the service. That one was just stock with a 400 ci engine. I’ve had a Vega that had a 400ci Chevy engine shoved in it. I’ve also raced an 1980 Ford Fiesta, an ’86 Chrysler Laser and my Mother’s ’85 Cutlass Supreme when I took some friends to the track, but wasn’t planning on racing. Slow as the dickens, but like I said, that doesn’t matter in bracket racing.

You say that you got into stockcar racing by playing video games. That is a neat way to get into NASCAR. In my opinion, the best NASCAR game is ‘NASCAR ‘98’ because you can lap cars. Do you still play?

No, I haven’t played for quite awhile. I can kill a day easy with that game. Recently I’m playing Civilization III. I name the cities after tracks, when I run out of tracks I go to drivers. Like Pettyville, Skinner Town. Labonteoplis and Gordon Fransisco.

Do you ever get mad when you’re playing? Sometimes I throw the controller.

I used to get annoyed when I’d run a race and I’d get wrecked or caught up in a wreck. Didn’t really bother me that much when I caused it though. I used to really get into the setup and testing. That was a lot more fun than actually racing the AI. The last one I played was the Legends version, but I ended up giving that away to (also known as loaning) a friend I used to work with. She was an Earnhardt fan, and I really can’t say no to a woman who likes Dale Earnhardt. (But don’t you bring one home to Mom.)

OK. Lets talk about your college classes. Are they tough?

They are setup to run a half semester instead of a full semester so the full class content is put into half the time. The advantage is that if you take two classes at a time, you get credit for 4 a semester. The drawback is that there’s a lot to study each week.

What do you do with a Tech Management degree?

It gets your foot in the door at places that specialize in networking, database administration, website hosting, programming, that kind of thing. I haven’t even decided what I’m going to do as my specialty yet so I’m not exactly sure what I’ll do with it yet.

All right. Let’s talk about your being the Frontstretch.com Webmaster. How does it feel to be like the President of a website?

Actually, the reason that I am webmaster of the Frontstretch is because I was the only person at the site who had, and knew how to use, FrontPage. I hated FrontPage when I started web mastering the site, but the new version is great, so I don’t mind at all now. Only takes about 20 minutes a day now to update the site.

What do you need to know to be a Webmaster?

You would want to know html code, or at least how to read it. It helps to know PHP, which is the program the message board runs on. If you want to be a real webmaster, you’d want to know how to use databases, have a thorough understanding of E-commerce applications, understand the various server programs like NT and Apache, and it helps to know how to manipulate graphics well.

How do you feel when you break up fights between members of the board?

Sometimes omnipotent, sometimes impotent.

How much time do you spend being a Webmaster?

Most of the time I spend is on RaceFanStuff.com. Since it is an E-commerce site there is a lot of updating and tweaking that needs to be done. Once the Frontstretch has been designed it doesn’t take long at all to update. Actually the writers, especially Dennis, spend more time on the content than I do.

Being a Frontstretch bigwig, do you have any privileges like being able to go anywhere at a track and interview anybody?

I never pursued getting credentials to the races. Usually Butch, Dennis or Nikki Krone will report from the track when we cover a race. Nikki also does most of the interviews you see on the Frontstretch. Butch can get Winston Cup credentials fairly easily because of the radio show and the writing he does for The Shreveport Times.

Let’s go back into your past. When you were a teenager. Did you have a lot of dates?

I went out with a few girls in my teens, wouldn’t call them dates though, usually went out with friends. I think I only went on a few what you would call real dates in high school though.

What was your hairstyle?

Same as it is now, brushed back and not parted. It’s much shorter now though.

Who was your nicest teacher?

That would be Elmer Day. He was the coordinator for the Distributive Education Club. He was a real funny guy, backwoods hillbilly, but he had a great business sense. He quit teaching to sell insurance.

Let’s go back to earlier than that. When you were little what did you like to do with your Dad?

We used to go camping sometimes with the scouts. We didn’t do a whole lot together otherwise. He worked with the newspaper so until i was in High School, he was working early mornings from about two to noon and was usually asleep when I got home. Once I got a car, i really didn’t spend a whole lot of time with him. I actually spent more time with him when I was older, but now he’s moved to San Diego so I rarely see him.

Did you ever wear your Mom’s high heels and think you looked cool?

Yeah, but then all my classmates laughed at me because I chose a purse that clearly didn’t match, so that put an end to that.

If I asked your mother what kind of child you were in less than five words, what would she probably say?

I am an only child so she’d say I was a good boy. I know I was low maintenance at least.

OK Now I want to know some more about RaceFanStuff stores, and your job. What exactly do you do?

My title is Southeastern Regional Manager, but since there isn’t a SE region right now, I’m the webmaster and internet sales manager.

Are the prices at your store high since most of those at memorabilia stores are?

They are competitive. The license fees are high on NASCAR stuff, so yeah, a NASCAR hat costs more than a blank hat. Diecasts are high priced to us. We hardly make anything on diecasts and yet, they are rather expensive. The bad part is that to sell the diecast we have to buy a certain number of all of the diecasts. So yeah, we can make decent money on Dale Jr’s new diecast, but then we also have to get a certain number of Jimmy Spencer and Casey Mears cars that sit on the shelf until they are blown out and we lose money.

What kind of stuff do you carry? Is it good stuff?

It’s great stuff! The best around!

Would you make me a deal on something?

Of course!

CAW tells me you don’t carry NASCAR cards. I think you’d make more money if you did. What do you say?

Check with Butch. He just might be able to.

Where are the stores located at?

Bossier City and Monroe, LA

Why don’t you open one in the Pittsburgh area?

Check with Butch. He just might be able to.

OK. You are the second friend and employee of Butch that I’ve interviewed, that I’ve asked questions about him. When I asked Dennis if Butch is nice to work with, he said ‘yes’. Is he pretty nice?

He’s one of the funniest guys I know, always upbeat and whenever you are around him, you get motivated. One of the most positively charged people I know. Makes Anthony Robbins look gloomy sometimes.

Are you two telling the truth?

Naw, but we gotta make a living. No really, we are. He’s a great guy.

How many times could you screw up before he’d fire you?

I haven’t figured it out yet. I’ve been giving him good reason too lately. He must be busy though.

Let’s switch now to questions about pets. Give me some information on JRTs.

Jack Russell Terriers are descended from the Fox Terrier since the 1800’s. The original terrier that was the seed for the breed was owned by a man Named John Russell. The dog’s name was Trump. They are used for fighting and are quite tenacious. They love to go into holes to chase their quarry. They climb fences and will not back off from a fight. The standard height is 12 – 15” at the shoulder and they need to have normal size legs. The ones with the real short legs are called Biscuits. They aren’t show quality, but are dang cute though. JRT’s are very flexible dogs and you’re more likely to see them in field trials than a show ring. They are very lively dogs and shouldn’t be purchased unless you have a whole lot of patience.

Who’s in charge of cleaning up his messes?

Austin is, however, I usually end up taking care of any messes because I see them first usually.

Does he get along with other dogs?

He likes to jump the fence and play with the Pit Bull around the corner.

Do you like reptiles?

Yes, I like reptiles. My Mother used to have a friend whose husband was a game warden and raised snakes, so I was exposed to them at a young age. I’ve never had a fear of them, but always a respect for the dangerous ones.

Are you afraid of any animals?

Just the rabid ones. I do give all animals the respect that is due to them though.

Do you like dogs or cats better?

I like them both the same for different reasons. Dogs love you no matter what, cats hold you to a higher standard.

I would like to ask a few personal questions. What’s your internal clock set to: Lark, or Night Owl?

Definitely Night Owl

Describe a normal ‘Ren Day’:

Well, I start the day with a vigorous constitutional followed by a shower and then lunch. Then it’s time to get busy checking out all the imprtant news of the day on the internet. When I’m done with that, it’s usually about 4 AM so I’m off to couch, looking forward to another day of the same.

Do you ever have to hide a favorite food from the rest of your family?

No. My family doesn’t really like my favorite foods, however, I do have to hide my son’s favorite foods though so he doesn’t graze.

Do you put salt & pepper on your food?

I’ll use pepper, but usually there is plenty of salt already in the food when it is prepared.

What’s your favorite color?

Chrome Yellow

Do you ever have money problems?

Fortunately, I’ve paid off all my credit cards and both my vehicles so the money problems aren’t near as bad as when I was deep, and I mean deep, in debt. Now everything I buy is cash only. That’s actually by choice now too, so that’s cool.

Did you ever drink too much?

Oh yeah. When I was in the Air Force, I used to over-indulge early and often. I nearly stopped once I got out and only occasionally have an adult beverage now. I do drink gallons of iced tea though.

I have to ask you some NASCAR questions. I hear you met R Petty while in the Air Force. What was he like? As nice as he seems to be now? Did you get an autograph?

The guy was very personable. He had met a friend of mine earlier in the week and called him by name when we saw him at the track. Glad to sign autographs and shake everyone’s hand that would reach one out to him. A true ambassador of the sport.

Have you ever been at a track and actually seen girls flashing themselves to the drivers as they went by?

Only in the Tiny Lund section, not the Petty Tower though.

Is Mike Helton doing a good job?

Yes he is. Given all the responsibilities he has, he does a great job. It doesn’t matter what decisions he makes, he’s going to get some group angry, so he does what he thinks is best and isn’t swayed by the naysayers. That’s one sign of a good leader.

Do you think McDonald’s is going to replace RJR?

I hope not. I’d hate to go buy politically correct McSmokes. Really, I think that any company that comes to bat for stock car racing will be welcome. I’d prefer someone like Coke or Pepsi, but I’m sure that whoever it is will bring some great ideas to the table.

C’mon tell me what you really think of buschwhacking.

I think it’s great. The level of competition with just the BGN guys is not real good right now because of sponsorship problems and by putting the Winston Cup drivers in there on companion weekends, it makes for a much more competitive field since the field fillers aren’t able to get in. There is definitely a problem when the points leader can’t attract a full time sponsor, so the Cup guys that run in the BGN series do bring a lot of name recognition to the series and hopefully expose the series to more potential fans and sponsors.

Was it a good idea for Firestone to leave NASCAR?

They need another tire manufacturer in the sport to create more competition and rivalries. I think that it would be a good thing if Firestone, Michelin, Bridgestone or any other tire manufacturer would get into Cup racing again.

What’s going to be happening in NASCAR in ten years?

If you had asked me that ten years ago, I would have been way wrong. I would have expected Earnhardt to win more championships than he did for one thing but I would have thought the sport would have a big hole in it from the death of Davey Allison and Alan Kulwicki. I wouldn’t have had any idea that Jeff Gordon would have had near the impact on the sport that he had, in fact I probably would have said that he’s going to be another midpack driver added to the mix. I also would have never predicted the trend to cookie cutter tracks.

That said, I think the next ten years will see the sport continue to grow once the economic downturn recovers. In ten years, you’ll probably see Gordon equal and possibly surpass Earnhardt and Petty in championships, with the current young guns filling in the remaining years. The strong multi-team operations will grow and you’ll probably see the weaker operations replaced by companies purchasing teams instead of sponsoring them. I think you’ll see women competing and winning on a regular basis at the cup level and an influx of more minorities into the sport. GM will get Pontiac out of Cup racing, leaving Chevrolet as the lone representative in the sport. The cars will start to see more modern technologies added, but will still be archaic compared to whatever technologies are available at the time.

OK Now I want to ask you questions about your home state of Florida. Can you go exploring in the Tarpon Springs Tar Pits? Seriously, why is it named that?

In 1876, A. W. Ormand and his daughter Mary, from South Carolina, built a cabin near the banks of the “boiling spring” now known as Spring Bayou. The following year, Joshua Boyer sailed into the Anclote River and decided to stay. He soon married Mary Ormand. Most sources credit Mary Ormond Boyer with the naming of Tarpon Springs for the abundance of tarpon in the bayou waters.

You mentioned that Tarpon Springs is known for ‘sponging’. What kind of sporting event is sponging? I thought sponging is cleaning up throw up?

Sponging is actually an industry. It was started here around 1890 and continues to this day. Back in the 40’s a bacterial blight wiped out most of the sponging industry in Florida, but Tarpon Springs wasn’t hit as hard, so the majority of the world’s sponge production went to the Mediterranean. However, in the 80’s pollution and fallout from the Chernobyl meltdown shifted a lot of the production back to the Caribbean area and Florida. The majority of natural sponges that are sold in the world come from this area now.

If I came to Tarpon Springs and wanted to ‘sponge’ where would I go first? Or is sponging just a French word for something else?

You’d go down to the sponge docks and look for a job. Might want to wait about 3 more years though. Meanwhile, learn to dive and get used to staying underwater for long periods of time

Can I do it with a girl?

When you have met the one girl that you want to share your life with and are married, yes.

Maybe I should ask you to do it first for me so I could see if it was safe?

It’s safe if the air delivery equipment is safe. I used to repair the air compressors used on the boats, and believe me, they aren’t all using the right compressors or filters.

Do you let your wife see you looking at the babes on the beach?

She points them out to me a lot of times. She’ll say something like “Just look at that trollop!” and I’ll agree with her after a lengthy evaluation.

Have you ever thought of leaving FL? Where else would you like to live?

Florida is a great place to live, but I’d also like the mountains in Carolina and California. If I need to get away, I always head north to either North Georgia or Blue Ridge. It’s beautiful country there.

All right now I’d like to ask about your family. You are married to Christy, and have one son, Austin. First let me ask some ‘husband questions’. My Dad likes Lincolns, but we can’t afford one. He has to drive an old Chevy Cavalier station wagon we call ‘Old Blue’, so Mom can have the Contour. Does your wife have a better car than your Lincoln? If not, does she wish she does?

My Lincoln is a 1987 Mark VII I bought from an estate sale. It had a little over 40,000 miles on it when I got it in January 2002. There are lots of great deals like that down here and it hardly pays to buy a new car down here. My wife drives a 1997 Chevy Silverado that she uses for her furniture refinishing and faux finish jobs. It’s in great shape and we’re good to go for awhile before we get any new vehicles.

What do you get into fights with Christy about?

Just about anything. Usually trivial things that don’t matter though.

What do the two of you do together that’s fun?

Fight about trivial things that don’t matter.

Do you ever shake a bottle of StaminaRx at her with a rose in your mouth?

No, I use the good stuff so I can support Mark Martin.

And what about Austin. Do you have a family game night or something like that?

Not really. My son is learning ice skating, piano and magic right now so we spend a lot of time with him in those areas

Do you have lots of fun times with him?

Yeah, pretty good times with all his activities and especially Cub Scouts.

Do you ever mess up as a Dad?

All the time!

How does he behave, and what do you do if he doesn’t?

He’s a great kid. When he doesn’t behave, I talk to him about it and explain the consequences of what happens when you don’t take responsibility. I’m not a hitter though, so I tend to talk more.

Do you ever want to scream and run up the wall?

On occasion; usually about the same time as I am reevaluating my position on being a hitter.

Does your son cause any trouble at the Cub Scout meetings? I didn’t like my Cub Scout meetings, and would sometimes make trouble.

We do a lot of fun activities and the boys act up, but we try to keep the discipline level to where they know that there are times to play and times to stay on task.

I’d like to close with a question about your old avatar. What was the deal with that MoJo JoJo avatar? Did Austin pick it?

No, Austin didn’t pick it. Mojo is hilarious and The Power Puff Girls is one of my favorite cartoons right now. That and Space Ghost Coast to Coast, Courage the Cowardly Dog and King of the Hill.