Race Weekend Central

Fan’s View: Twitter Changing the Face of NASCAR

Picture this. There’s a giant ball of flame flaring above a melting jet dryer in turn 3. All of NASCAR and then some have their eyes glued to one of the most bizarre moments in sporting history and then the boy in blue pulled out his phone.

Twitter: the connection to the entire planet, my direct line to NASCAR 24/7.

It was 11:45 a.m. Monday (Feb. 26). I was stuck in my office without a television or radio and yet I was aware the Daytona 500 had been postponed to 7 p.m. Monday night. AJ Allmendinger (@AJDinger) ate some chipotle for lunch, Kevin Harvick (@KevinHarvick) was bored and decided to catch a movie, members of the No. 33 team were trying on silly hats and the Orange Cone (@TheOrangeCone) was #replacewordinsongtitlewithdanica.

Maybe that makes it sound like Twitter is all fun and games. Not true! A day doesn’t pass where I don’t see thanks to our serving military, prayers for a fan’s loved one and well thought out strategies for the upcoming racing event scroll down my phone.

Life has changed in our sport.

Have you noticed? Under every broadcaster’s name now appears their Twitter handle. Dick Berggren (@dickberggren) and Frontstretch‘s own Bryan Davis Keith (@BryanDavisKeith) even bent to the necessity of hooking into this social media feeding frenzy.

Every driver, crew chief, media member, jet dryer driver – with perhaps the exception of one Duane Barnes, wife, tire changer and physical part of the track now has something to say about everything that happens on any given day.

I avidly catalogue all the different conversations that fly between those that live in NASCAR’s limelight. There’s the Baby Harvick phenomenom, pet pics galore, public relation appearances, tweet-ups, fan questions and trivia games to tantalize even the hardcore viewer who knows racing existed before Jeff Gordon. It’s not that this is all new. We had all the same information available before, but now it is conveniently packaged in a one-stop shop.

In days gone by I had to tune into every NASCAR talk show, nightly news, flip through the bazillion pages of Jayski, click on links, chase rumors, Yahoo and Google groups … staying up on my favorite pastime had become all consuming. And my obsession was obvious. Spending that amount of time ferreting out who was dating who and their favorite afternoon snack interfered with that other job, much to the chagrin of my boss.

Life is easier now. By “following” a large number of NASCAR insiders I am rarely shocked by an evening announcement hours old. But it’s also a bit like I’ve been welcomed into the inner sanctum. That may be the most seductive part of the Twitter tidal wave. Celebrities are now accessible to fans 24 hours a day.

Maybe they’re not answering the phone right now, but if you watch Mark Martin‘s (@55MarkMartin) timeline, he does spend a good portion of each day communicating not with his fellow drivers, but the unwashed masses. He talks shop, music, food, exercise regiments. It’s truly a personal connection.

This is accessibility above and beyond what NASCAR has always been known for. It’s one thing to shake your hero’s hand and have them sign a hat, it’s quite another to have them tell you they ate Beanie Weenies for supper while acknowledging you for the rest of the world to see. The lowly fan is now being recognized on the world wide stage.

You think that statement is a stretch? Let’s look at a few numbers. Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) had a measly 72,000 people following his tweets before the infamous red-flag period, which is a drop in the bucket to that sparkling Miss Patrick (@DanicaPatrick) who boasts a mere 503,000 names in her follow column.

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When a fan is retweeted by a driver, every person following gets a cc: of that thought. Now, not only are you getting into the mindset of the competitors, but the entire NASCAR Nation.

Wow. It’s more than a bit addicting.

Make no mistake, the coverage of auto racing will never be the same, and we got a fair induction to that Monday night on the superstretch. Enough people were enamored with the thought of following a driver, the driver of the No. 2 amassed an additional 140,000!!! followers in just over two hours. With those kinds of audience numbers built into everything a driver cares to share with Twitterdom, the networks and major media outlets are only smart to include this obsession in their television broadcasts.

Otherwise, they’d be snubbing all the inside information that their core audience is well aware of before the On-Air sign lights up. No longer is the broadcast going to be about breaking news, but adding to NASCAR Nation’s enjoyment of their ever expanding insider info stored on their smart phones, laptops and tablets.

Some might belabor the loss of hard news and solid stats as the lead-in on RaceDay, but don’t miss it too much. What we have now is a more human interaction among those that build, move and race those machines that remain at the heart of this sport. I wouldn’t give up this newfound connection for anything. And somehow I don’t think Mr. Keselowski will, either.

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Feel like you’re missing out? Join me, everyone here at Frontstretch and the rest of Twitterdom. It’s free and only requires a computer/smart phone and internet connection.

Follow me: S.D. Grady (@laregna)
Follow Frontstretch: (@TheFrontstretch)

About the author

The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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