Quick Stats: CBubba the Love Sponge® Clem, radio host
Daily Drivers: 2005 Chevy Suburban (Bubba’s rating: 10 on a scale of 1 to 10); 2010 Chevy Tahoe (rating: 10)
Other cars: see below
Favorite road trip: Reno to Los Angeles
Car he learned to drive in: 1972 Chevrolet van
First car bought: 1974 Ford Maverick
When he isn't speaking with honesty and verve on his daily terrestrial radio show and the Howard 101 channel on Sirius XM radio; shooting a TV pilot in Chicago; or hanging out with his good friend Hulk Hogan; Tampa-based Bubba the Love Sponge® Clem (yes, that is his real name, trademark and all) is going full throttle with his other passion.
Listeners in the Bubba Army know Clem is so serious about auto racing that when he's not in the garage working on his cars, he maintains a grueling race schedule, traveling on a plane he bought just to get to races.
Although he always wanted to race, Clem didn't have the funds until he reached adulthood. But his son, Tyler, who just turned 8, got initiated into the sport at an early age and races in USAC Quarter Midgets, while Clem is in dirt late-model and asphalt truck racing.
It's something father and son enjoy on weekends. "I don't have to do it, but it's a hobby for me and it's also a hobby for my son and it allows us to do a lot of things together," he says. "I'm kind of a guy's guy, and if I wasn't doing that over the weekend, I don't know what the hell I'd be doing. From now till Nov. 20 we're out of town every weekend, racing."
Clem Racing Inc.
Clem approaches racing with the panache of a professional. When Clem Racing Inc. comes to town, with Clem on his "race plane," it is probably to the envy of some enthusiasts who would love to be able to arrive in style the way he does. He's proud to give his son the support he would have loved to have as a kid.
"I got him into racing when he was 3, and part of my support cars that I have with regards to towing and RVs that I own, is all relative to my son," Clem says. "I have a 2008 43-foot freightliner RV that pulls a 30-foot stacker trailer with my crew. Tyler and I and my family fly into the city we're going to race in during the weekend. Last summer I bought a Cessna 414 eight-passenger twin turbo. I have to have a pilot that flies us, whether I'm racing out of town for the weekend or if Tyler is racing."
The closest race is three hours away in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, and the farthest is Kokomo, Indiana and Tony Stewart's Eldora Speedway in Ohio. The entire family is busy every weekend. Clem recently bought his wife Heather a three-horse trailer for their daughter, who participates in barrel racing.
"One weekend my wife and daughter will be somewhere fairly local and doing barrel racing with their rig, and me and Tyler will probably be in the plane chasing our rig down somewhere in America, mostly in Atlanta and North Carolina," Clem says.
After Clem does his radio show on Friday at 2 p.m., he says he is "spent" because the day starts at 6 a.m. But he goes to pick up Tyler at school for a weekend of racing.
"I get to Tyler's school by 2:30, pick him up, go to the airport, land by 3:30, drive to the track, track opens at 4, hot laps, racing starts at 7, race until about midnight," he says in a hurried manner, describing a typical weekend. "Get a hotel room in New Smyrna, get up at 7 or 8 and then a two-and-a-half-hour flight to Atlanta and then practice and hot laps starts at 10 a.m. in Atlanta on Saturday."
After hearing the exhausting schedule and suggesting Clem be careful out there, he replies with a chuckle, "Well, if I die, I'll die with a smile on my face."
As a kid growing up in Indiana and going to the Indy 500, Clem got his deep love of cars and racing from his dad,.
"We went to the 500, God, as early as I can remember and we always went to Carburetion Day," Clem says. "We didn't make it to the race a lot because those tickets were so highly coveted. But we always made it to time trials and Carburetion Day and practice, usually a couple times each May."
Car he learned to drive in
Growing up in Warsaw, Indiana, Clem learned to drive on his dad's 1972 Chevy van pretty easily. While the van had an automatic trans, Clem points out he learned how to drive a manual one at his job. "I'd worked for Warsaw Parks Department and mowed and ran tractors all up until then, so I knew how to drive a stick shift well before I got my license," he says.
Clem grew up around cars. "My dad restored antique cars. He had a 1932 Ford. I also grew up driving some of those things as well and they don't have synchronized transmissions, so they're really, really touchy to drive. I grew up driving a lot of cool stuff," Clem says.
But his dad's love of cars affected his parents' marriage. "My mom and dad divorced because of the love of cars," he says. "My dad was so far into his car collection and things like that, that my dad's car collection took precedent over the family."
Clem's first car, which was given to him "by default," was his mom's 1977 Mercury station wagon. "It was the City of Warsaw's fire chief's hand-me-down car. My dad bought it from the auction. So it had these big spotlights on the side of it and they had to tear the decals off so the doors were all discolored. That was my first car."
First car bought The first car Clem bought cost $615, money he made from his parks job when he was senior in high school. Since his dad taught him how to fix cars, Clem quickly made it his own. "It was a 1974 four-door baby blue Ford Maverick, straight six and I put an Edelbrock intake on it and a Thrush muffler on it and powder coated the valve cover and put Goodyear Eagle ST's on it and thought I had a hot rod," he says proudly.
It was Clem's daily driver in high school. "I was always trying to work on it and always did the oil change every 3,000," he says. "I blew a head gasket and I changed that. It had the big speakers that had long wires on it so that we could put it on top of the car when we were playing basketball."
2005 Chevrolet Suburban
Clem loves this current daily driver. "I put a K & N cold intake and a JET performance chip module in it," Clem says. "And it's fast. I love that truck. When I'm hauling race car parts around, it has a lot more room than my Tahoe. I can put three or four sets of tires back there and I can pull the back seating out too. Plus, I've got straight pipes running from the catalytic converter on back, so it sounds kind of throaty as well."
2010 Chevrolet Tahoe
His other daily driver is the Tahoe. "The new Tahoes are unbelievable," he says. "I'm the spokesperson for Chevy down here, so they give me a new Tahoe or Suburban, every 4,500 miles. So I always have a brand new one of those. But up and beyond that, I own all my Chevys except for my Daewoos."
Clem hooked up his friend Hulk Hogan with a Tahoe. Hogan was best friend at Clem's wedding and is the godfather of his son. "I got Hogan the same deal with the Chevy dealership down here, so he's got 2010 Tahoe too," he says.
Clem loves the new Tahoes. "I like them a little bit better than the Suburbans because they're not quite as long," Clem says. "Ford makes a good truck. I've had F-350s and dualies before, but I think in the SUV arena, the Escalade template or the Tahoe template or the Suburban template is by far the hottest-looking SUVs."
He also had a 2008 Escalade that he leased, but he recently gave it back. "I've always been a big fan of Chevy SUVs. My wife drives a 2007 2500 Chevy diesel pickup truck. I got so many damn cars and race trailers and horse trailers," he laughs.
Clem just bought the used Silverado pickup for his wife to drive to and from the horse farm, for their daughter's racing hobby. In fact, he was talking from his garage, on a break from installing a K & N cold air intake on the pickup truck.
"I do all my own work. I change my own oil," he says. While some people would rather just pay up to $40 for someone else to change it, Clem says for him it's simply the love of working on his cars. "I love getting underneath there and doing it. I'd pay $40 for me to get to do it. I just like the mechanics of it."
1999 Daewoo Lanos
"In 2002 my buddy was running a Ford dealership and I needed a car for my nanny just to drive back and forth to the grocery store, so I picked up this four-door Daewoo Lanos for $3,400 bucks," Clem says, adding he tinted the windows. "It's just so simple and it's just easy to zip around town."
2003 Daewoo Nubira wagon
"Then my buddy took in another Daewoo, an '03 white station wagon for $900. So I bought that," Clem says. "So I keep those at my radio studios. If I need to zip around town and run errands or the boys need to go pick up something, we've got both of those parked at the radio station."
Clem drives the station wagon often around town. "Man, I love that thing," he says. "People would probably think I was retarded to say that, but it's got ice-cold air, AM-FM radio and electric windows, what else do you need? And it starts and runs."
The radio crew and Clem's friends also drive both Daewoos. When he bought it, it had 40,000 miles on it. "I just put a new timing chain on that because I have 82,000 miles. When my friends come to town, I say, 'Man, don't even think about renting a car, just drive one of my Daewoos. And if you wreck it, just hopefully you're OK and just leave it there.'"
First splurge car
When Clem made it as a DJ, he did treat himself back in 2001 with the V-12 powered Mercedes-Benz S600. "Probably the first splurge car I ever bought was when I thought I needed to show off. It had the big 22-inch rims and all that kind of shit on there, with the spinners."
To Buy or Lease
Now Clem buys what makes more sense to him. "I was doing good, making good money and I thought that's how I had to roll," he says of that time. "Obviously I make a lot more money now. The difference between then and now is that I don't have to finance it like I had to back then. I had to always worry about my payments. I very rarely will buy anything new. I like to buy something used. You take a lot less hit and you can pay cash for it."
He leased the Escalade for his wife two years ago and he vows he'll never lease again. Today, Clem's car choices are not about being flashy, but about what's the best buy.
"I always wanted a Lamborghini. I'm never going to do anything like that. I have regard for how much money I make. I don't need all that. I'd rather be less flash and have a little bit more in the bank and pay cash and not do payments. I'm married now with kids and who the hell am I trying to impress!" he laughs.
Favorite road trip
Although Clem doesn't talk to his dad, who lives in Reno, that much these days, the road trip they took in a rented Mustang convertible during Father's Day 1992 remains his favorite. It included Highway 1 and the Hearst Castle. "My dad and I drove from Reno to Lake Tahoe and from Tahoe to L.A. That was probably one of the most beautiful drives I've ever been on. The time with my dad wasn't that cool, but the scene was awful cool," he says with a chuckle.
Bubba the Love Sponge
Clem has many irons in the fire. You can hear him on several terrestrial radio stations in Florida and on Sirius XM. On Fridays, he does another show just for Sirius XM. "We are one of the very few shows that are heard on both regular radio and satellite. We're in seven markets terrestrially and on Sirius XM on Howard 101."
Howard Stern fans also enjoy hearing Clem call in to the Stern show. "He's handsome Howie and I'm hillbilly Bubba down here. But I'll tell you one thing, he's been so wonderful to me and I'm so fortunate for him, to work for him because he really resurrected us and I'm forever grateful to how generous he's been to us," Clem says.
Believe it or not, this radio DJ doesn't listen to the radio much during his own drive time. "I'll catch a little bit of Howard's show on my way home. I don't really listen to radio too much. I just like to be quiet and think. I text myself notes about things I'm thinking of. It's the one time that people aren't f*****' with me," he laughs. "On the way to work I listen to J.T. the Brick, a sports guy based out of Los Angeles."
Clem recently did a stint on TNA Wrestling with his buddy Hulk Hogan and he also just shot a TV pilot in Chicago, with the former executive producer of the "Jerry Springer Show." If that goes well, the syndicated show could air in fall 2011. For more information on Clem's racing endeavors and radio show, please visit clemracinginc.com and btls.com.