News Analysis: Jimmie Johnson signs contract extension

What happened: Jimmie Johnson is not ready to join the exodus of star drivers and drive off into the sunset just yet. The seven-time champion, whose contract was set to expire at the end of the season, has signed a three-year extension with Hendrick Motorsports that would keep him in the No. 48 car through 2020. In addition, Hendrick announced Lowe’s will return for 38 races next season.

What it means: If Johnson had chosen to walk away after this season, it wouldn’t have been much of a surprise. He turns 42 in September and has won far more money and trophies than he could have ever dreamed. But he’s still competitive and has a desire to race, so the idea of driving until age 45 — the age Matt Kenseth is now — seems fine to him. Heck, he might even race beyond that point. Johnson is obviously in outstanding shape and his performance isn’t dropping off (he’s already won three times this season). So as long as he’s enjoying himself and can maintain the work-life balance between NASCAR and raising his two young daughters, why not keep racing?

News value (scale of 1-10): Let’s go with a 6 here. The news in this case is really that Johnson has no plans to retire anytime soon. We’ve been so used to NASCAR’s big names calling it quits lately — between Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards and Dale Earnhardt Jr. — that one of them opting to stick around for awhile seems to buck the trend.

Questions: In addition to the seven titles, Johnson has 83 wins; how many more can he get in the next three-plus seasons? Will crew chief Chad Knaus (whose contract runs through the end of next season) stick with Johnson for the duration? How will this affect Hendrick’s driver development plan?

Social Spotlight with Brad Keselowski

Each week, I ask a member of the racing community to explain how they use social media. This week: Brad Keselowski of Team Penske. The interview is available both in podcast and written form.

I’m here in Brad Keselowski’s hauler, and he’s currently making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, which looks quite tasty. He’s got some strawberry jam.

I was in a grape family. Do you know how I rebelled? I switched to strawberry. Everybody rebels in their own ways.

You’ve always been a rebel, going strawberry after everybody else is going grape. But Brad, you were credited with sort of being the head of the Twitter movement in NASCAR thanks to your Daytona picture. But I think it’s sort of evolved for you. How has your Twitter usage has changed in the past few years here?

It’s definitely changed and I think your first comment about the Daytona 500 tweet, that was fun. I got some exposure for NASCAR and for Twitter too, which was great. But I just feel like that was one piece. There’s been like six or seven people, maybe more than that, who have moved it forward. You moved it forward, Jeff. I think Nascarcasm moved it forward. Dale Jr. joined and moved it forward. Kevin Harvick to me was the one who was really the first driver to embrace it of stature, so he moved it forward. I think we all had a piece of moving it forward, and I probably get a little more credit than I deserve. That’s probably my first thought.

I really don’t think so, actually. The way you were at that time as well as in addition to the tweet itself kind of opened the floodgates because you were very opinionated. Maybe you’ve gotten a little bit more…

I’m more conservative for sure. Definitely more conservative. I don’t know, it’s probably a part of being married.

But I think what happens, and this has happened for myself as well over the years with writing my opinions, is you get sort of tired of fighting certain battles. After a while you choose to not fight every single battle and let your whole opinion out there, and you just pick the ones that are the most important to you. Is that fair to say?

That’s absolutely fair to say. That’s well-played, Jeff. I couldn’t say it any better. You get to where you pick the battles that are going to be the most impactful and that you can win; you don’t try to fight every battle. I think that’s just part of getting older, not necessarily just social media.

What’s interesting is the people that have really developed social media are aging, and I think it’s changing the platform dramatically.

How is that? You mean the users themselves are changing their habits?

Yeah, I think so. I think probably your core people that really started the social media, and I’m not trying to claim to be one of them, but they’re getting older and I think that changes how the platform works.

And I don’t know how you are — we talked about rebelling with strawberry jelly — but young kids don’t want to be a part of what their parents did because that becomes uncool. So I’m curious where social media goes in that light.

I feel like a lot of people choose the platform they like and end up sticking with it and aren’t really eager to change. Some people will try the newer platforms that come out, but people will mostly just stick with what’s comfortable for them — whether it’s the most popular or not. I know over the years, you had started originally with a Facebook account and then you sort of went away from that?

I got mad at them.

That’s right, you got mad at Facebook.

They deleted my account because somebody turned me in as fake and I had a Facebook account for probably four years before that. I had all this really cool stuff and they just deleted it all. It just pissed me off.

I forgot about that. So now you’re on Twitter, obviously, and you’re on Instagram but it’s a private account. Is that correct?

Yeah, private. That’s per (wife) Paige’s request.

That’s where you can sort of have your own life without being in the public eye, so to speak.

Yeah, well sometimes I want to take a picture, and it ain’t gonna be the best picture or it’s gonna be a picture that’s relevant to me and not to my fans, but it’s relevant to my family. And that’s OK. I feel like I needed at least one social media play that was personal and for my family. So if I want to share 15 pictures of my daughter or a picture of a sunset or I wanna be somewhere and I don’t want people to know I’m there, that’s my platform to do it.

That’s interesting, because you’re using it sort of like Facebook, but you hate Facebook. So you’re using Instagram like Facebook.

I don’t necessarily hate Facebook. Hey, part of getting older is forgiveness. I’ve forgiven Facebook; that’s the easiest way for me to put it. I was frustrated at a younger age. Now I’ve moved on and I really like the Facebook Live feature.

That’s true, I forgot about that. And that’s something I wanted to ask you about in this interview as well, so let’s get into that because starting this year, I believe at Daytona, you started going around to some of the campgrounds at times and going on Facebook Live —

I’m pretty sure I did it somewhere last year. Watkins Glen. Yup, I did it at Watkins Glen last year. There are certain weekends where I don’t bring my daughter and there could be a number of reasons between where we’re at. I don’t travel my daughter past the Mississippi (River) — that’s a good rule of thumb because that’s too much for her and I don’t want her to deal with all that.

And Watkins Glen, I can’t remember why we didn’t bring her because that’s not past the Mississippi, but we didn’t bring her there. So Paige and I were on the bus, we just had our dinner and we got back and it was 9 o’clock and it was a beautiful night. I’ve always really liked the campgrounds at Watkins Glen and she had never seen them so I was like, “Hey, let’s go through the campgrounds.”

But what are we going to do when we go through the campgrounds — somebody’s always gonna spot you, right? (I said) “I don’t know, let’s give something away, I guess.” And somebody had been telling me about Facebook Live and said it’s a lot of fun, so it was like, “Well, I’ve wanted to do this Facebook Live, I’ve got a bunch of beer, a bunch of stuff to give away. Let’s see what happens.” So we did it. We had fun, the people were really cool, they were engaging, and that was just a good time.

So Daytona ended up being the same way: my daughter didn’t come because I just got married the week before and she stayed with Paige’s parents, so it was just us two. It turned into the same scenario and we had a lot of fun. Like, “Maybe we’ve got something here that’s kind of ours,” you know?

I think on social media, everybody looks for something that’s theirs. You know, Jimmie (Johnson) does the hat giveaway and everybody does something that’s theirs, and I really like the Facebook Live campgrounds because it was something that was mine and I could do that to honor our fans.

I’ve watched a lot of these, and some people are very happy and overjoyed that you come. Some people play it way too chill. I don’t understand why they would be so chill about a NASCAR driver coming with gifts to their campgrounds! They should be going crazy and they’re like, “Oh yeah, hey. Cool. It’s nice to see you.”

You know alcohol affects people in different ways, and a lot of these I go to –everybody knows a quiet drunk. Everybody knows a loud drunk. And usually we find people after they’ve been drinking, so that’s my explanation. I don’t know if that’s accurate or not. I’m not a doctor.

Obviously, Facebook Live stays on your Facebook page; it’s not like Instagram Live Stories, which go away right away. So that’s something that people can go back and check it out as well.

I do like that feature about Facebook, how it stays up there and you can do the “in case you missed it,” which I think is very helpful because you’re right, you don’t want it to disappear. And those people, that story lives on with them forever, right? Which is great, that’s one of the things I love about it so much.

I’ve already had fans come up to me and say, “Hey man, you came up to my campground in Daytona. We’re here in Dover and that was really cool and I just wanted to say hi again.” It’s really endearing to me and it’s fun. It really is.

One platform that I don’t think you’re on, as far as I know, is Snapchat. Why are you not high on Snapchat?

Mmm (pausing to chew sandwich).

I’ll let you finish your food. By the way, this looks like a fantastic sandwich that you’ve made here, and you’ve also gone with a selection of milk. So you got the wholesome peanut butter and jelly with the strawberry, the chunky peanut butter and the milk.

Chunky peanut butter is important because I think it has more protein. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I made it up on the spot because it says, “More protein” (on the label).

So why not Snapchat? That’s the question. I’ve never really taken to it. First off, you don’t know who’s watching. I don’t like that. I like to know who watches my stuff, I like to get number reports, I like the data. Second, I don’t like how it disappears. For the same reasons why I like Facebook Live, I like how I can post a story and it lives on forever. For Snapchat, it lives on for what, a day?

Yeah, 24 hours.

I don’t like that. Instagram Stories, Paige does that with my daughter. I like for my daughter that it lives 24 hours, but then even then I’ll look back like, “Ugh, where did that video go of her doing this or that?” She’s like, “Well, I have it on my phone saved.” Of course Snapchat videos don’t save to your phone at least. I don’t know if they do it, how to do it.

You just have to manually do it.

See, I don’t like that part. So I’ve never taken to it. I hear the numbers are incredible for those who are able to get access to it, but I don’t know, it’s just not for me.

Not only that, but I’m a big believer in laser focus: Pick something and stick to it and do it the best you can. And for me, that’s Twitter and Facebook Live.

So let’s go back to Twitter for a minute. You’re famously often on your phone. There’s many pictures of you, whether you’re at a press conference or waiting for a change in the garage, where you’re looking at your phone. Are you typically looking at Twitter in those situations?

No.

No? OK.

I wish I had my phone right now to show you, but I don’t. It’s locked upstairs. But I would show you, I have a number of apps that I use. I have racing apps, which could be timing and scoring. I have engineering apps for the car so I can understand what’s going on with the car. So I have a lot of different apps and tools that I look at. And then I have, of course, social media apps that I go on.

People automatically assume whenever I’m on my phone that I’m on Twitter, and it’s kind of funny to me. Like, “Yeah, yeah, you’re right.” But I try to keep a number of apps. My phone is my connectivity device for not just social media, but also for my profession.

Obviously you’re still looking at it a lot, whether you’re on it every second or not. What do you get from Twitter? What are you taking out of it that you find most valuable and makes you want to stay on it?

Without a doubt, news. I read the news. You were at USA Today. Before social media, I read USA Today everyday. Every single day. And I would always get disappointed when there were days and news where there wasn’t a lot to read. And there’s still days on social media that are that way, but I can always find myself falling into a hole, or I’ll find somebody like, “This guy is talking about topics that I knew nothing about.”

If you watched my Facebook Live last night, we did one here through Wurth’s Facebook Live account, we were talking about the Paris Climate Agreement. That kind of stuff — I can’t find in-depth reporting about that stuff in most newspapers, so I’ll find somebody who’s an expert on the field and they’ll have an entire thread of, “Here’s what’s good, here’s what’s bad” — and of course they have their own biases in there — but I love reading those and I’ve fallen in those Twitter holes a lot.

The other side of that is people wanting to interact with you in your replies. Typically, how many of your replies do you read? Do you try and go through all of them, and what kind of interaction do you have with your fans?

One of the things I would say is any of the times where you want to see a reply, you can’t, which is a real bummer. Like when you won a race, you’re like, “Man, I really want to see what people are saying,” and people are saying nice things to you and you want to read it… I’m not able to do it because it doesn’t load them all. It only loads 30 or 40 of them, which is super frustrating because you missed out on all of that and I always feel bad about it. It’s such a bummer. So I would say first off, I would want to say thank you those people who write the stuff even though I don’t always get to see it.

(Editor’s note: Keselowski is referring to the standard Twitter app, which only loads up selected tweets and replies. Personally, I recommend using Tweetbot to avoid this problem).

And then most times, it’s the exact opposite — the times you can see the replies are when you really don’t want to, like if it’s a slow news week or something bad has happened and you’re like, “Argh, I don’t want to read this.” But for the most part, I try to read every one of them when I can, even when it’s bad.

When it comes to dealing with the bad, there’s three ways you could do it: You can ignore, block or mute. Which one do you typically choose?

I used to block. I stopped blocking. I regret that I blocked. If there was a function that showed who you’ve blocked in your life, I wish I could go back and unblock those people.

I think there actually might be. You may want to look into that.

Huh, I didn’t know that. OK. So someone’s gonna have to teach me that.

So I would say, I’m a big believer now, as just a theory in life, in truth and grace. I wrote a blog about it, I spent a lot of time studying it, that’s my new channel. So when it comes to replying, I believe in truth and grace. And if I have truth, I think that it’s worth writing someone, but only if it has grace. And the two are important because one can’t exist without another. Truth dies on a vine without grace, and grace doesn’t exist without truth. It’s really a simple principle, and I try to carry that over in all aspects of my life, including social media.

Any final thoughts on your general theory about social media or something you want people to know that I didn’t ask about?

First off, I’m honored that anyone thinks I’m interesting enough to follow. And I feel like sometimes, I have some stuff that’s worth saying and other times not so much. I get writer’s block, like anyone else, where I’ll feel like I might go a month and not have anything cool to say and then I might have two weeks of this, this, this and this.

So there’s some ups and downs. It’s just the way it’s gonna be. But I appreciate those who follow. I do all my own social media with respect to Twitter. I do have a little bit of help with Facebook, not the Live part, but the posts and so forth. But I try to be authentic, I try to have fun. I’m not perfect at it, but I’m doing the best I can and I appreciate that people follow.

Portland NASCAR fan tweetup Sunday

Who says Portland is all hipsters? I heard from more than 20 NASCAR fans in the area this week when I asked Twitter followers if anyone lives nearby, so I’m wondering if people want to meet up on Sunday.

Thanks to the late start time, the Michigan race doesn’t start until noon Pacific. We could meet up at a sports bar and watch the race together; then you could help me record the post-race podcast!

First of all, does anyone know a good place where they show NASCAR races here in Portland? Second, if you’re interested, please leave a comment in the section below so I can get an idea of how many people might come. I will try to post updates in this thread.

Looking forward to meeting with some of you on Sunday if you’re free!

Update: Meet at Main Event Sports Grill located at 800 Main Street in Vancouver, Wash. I’ll probably try to get there around 11:30 or so (race goes green at noon).

12 Questions with Michael McDowell

The 12 Questions series of interviews continues this week with Leavine Family Racing’s Michael McDowell. I spoke with McDowell at Dover International Speedway. This interview is available both in podcast and written form.

1. How much of your success is based on natural ability and how much has come from working at it?

That’s hard question. For me I would say 60/40 — 60 (percent) being working at it, 40 (percent) being natural ability. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been competitive and been able to run at a high level, but I feel like the biggest separation in my later years in my career is just working hard at it.

2. Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards and now Dale Earnhardt Jr. have all either retired in the last couple years or will retire soon. What’s your pitch for fans of theirs to become fans of yours?

It’s funny, because I think that your fans are your fans because they like you and because they can relate to you. You hear people say, “Well I was a Tony fan and now I’m trying to figure out who to be a fan of.” Normally they’ll migrate to someone similar personality-wise, driving style-wise, something like that.

So I don’t really have a pitch. I like to think that my fans are my fans because they relate to me and because they want to be fans of Michael McDowell.

3. What is the hardest part of your job away from the racetrack?

This job’s not very hard. We get paid to drive around in circles. But there’s a lot to it. I think the hardest part is just balancing your work life and your family life. That’s probably the hardest thing just because racing requires everything you have. Even when you’re not doing it, you’re still thinking about it.

When you’re home, you’re still thinking about the next week, I’m watching video and I’m looking at data. Even when I’m not doing those things, I’m still thinking about it. The hard part is just being able to switch it off and switch it on. It’s ingrained in you, racing, so you just live and breathe it.

You sort of never get away from it in some ways.

Exactly. It feels like you never get away from it.

4. A fan spots you eating dinner in a nice restaurant. Should they come over for an autograph or no?

Yeah, for sure. I don’t have any issues with that. It doesn’t happen all the time, so for me it probably wouldn’t be that big of a deal. I feel like there’s always a time and place to do it, so timing is very critical. But for fans, they don’t know what that looks like. It’s what we signed up for, so I always just have a little extra grace knowing that they’re just excited and it’s not that big of a deal, whatever it is you’re doing.

5. What’s a story in NASCAR that doesn’t get enough coverage?

There’s lots of stories. From 15th back doesn’t get enough coverage for anybody. We’re a sport of 40 drivers compared to other sports that have hundreds and thousands of athletes, and yet we still only focus on 10 guys. So I think just telling the other stories and telling who those people are and their teams, there’s just more to it than the 10 guys that are all retiring.

6. Who is the last driver you texted?

Hold on. Let me get my phone.

Pulling it up on your nice red-orange phone case. I don’t know if that’s red or orange. Some combo of the two.

Yeah it’s bright, because I leave it everywhere, so this helps me.

The last driver — Cole Whitt. David Ragan. Those were my last two.

You have them in a group chat or something?

No. I asked David Ragan about Pocono, taking the kids to the waterpark. That’s the intense conversations you have with drivers.

7. Do you consider race car drivers to be entertainers?

Some of them are. There’s a lot of personalities in the sport. I don’t consider this to be an entertainment sport from the standpoint of us as characters. On the racetrack, I think it’s an entertainment sport. But there’s a lot of characters in our sport. There’s a lot of people who are quite entertaining that don’t always show it.

8. What is your middle finger policy on the racetrack?

I’m not a big fan of it. Over the years, I’ve kind of changed a little bit. It used to be if somebody gave me the finger, I would do everything I could to get to their bumper and hit them. Most of the time if they gave you the finger it was because you’re holding them up and they’re faster than you so usually you can’t catch them to hit them.

I know that everybody has their own thing about it, but what I’ve learned is that most of the time when I do something of retaliation, I get myself in trouble, too. So it’s usually not worth it.

Did you ever successfully catch somebody and hit them after they gave you the finger?

Yeah lots of people, and that makes them really mad. But that’s the whole idea, you know what I mean?

9. Some drivers keep a payback list in their minds. I remember you kept a payback list on the inside of your uniform at one point. Do you also have a list for drivers who have done you a favor on the track?

The races, they go in these momentums and they go in the ebbs and flows. Yes, you do remember when someone cuts you a break. And cutting somebody a break could be when you’re catching them really quickly and they just don’t hold you up. Or it could be just merging off of pit road and letting you not get pinned down on the bottom, whatever it is. So you do remember that.

As far as retaliation lists, same thing. I used to really enforce it and now it’s not that I’ve gotten soft, but it just doesn’t help anybody. If anything, it just hurts you.

AJ (Allmendinger) and I were at it at the beginning of the year, and we were just hurting ourselves, just costing ourselves spots because we were both in that red mist mindset and we weren’t going anywhere. So I was able to sit down with him after a couple of races like that and say, “Alright man, we gotta figure this out, even if it means we gotta cut each other a little bit of breaks for the next couple weeks just to get over the hump.” Because when you start losing points and you start tearing up bodies, it makes a lot of work for the guys for no reason. So heat of the moment, things happen and that’s part of it, but separating the track and off-track is important too.

10. Who is the most famous person you’ve had dinner with?

I don’t know. Famous is relative to who you think would be famous and who I think would be famous. It’d be different right?

That’s true. It could be to you, so somebody you were fascinated by.

So probably Mario Andretti. When Marco (Andretti) was really young, I did some driver coaching with him at Sebring. Just being around the Andrettis, the family, was pretty cool because I grew up an Andretti fan and a Mario fan in particular. So that was probably pretty cool.

11. What’s something about yourself you’d like to improve?

A lot. On the racetrack?

You can answer it however you want.

I don’t know how you are, but I’m constantly trying to improve, whether that’s parenting my kids or trying to be a good husband or trying to make the most of my opportunity here. So I’m constantly taking inventory of, “Alright, these are the areas that are good,” and you highlight those and, “These are the areas you still gotta work on.” I feel like probably more than anything, it’s just patience and just being slow to speak. Sometimes I get myself in trouble.

12. Typically at this point I ask a question that the last driver has given me, but I screwed up the last interview which was supposed to be with Paul Menard, so there is no question from Paul Menard. So would you like to ask yourself a question here and answer it, or would you just like to skip this part?

No, I want to ask you a question.

Oh, you want to ask me a question?

So with your job description change, how is it being an independent versus working for the big brother?

Well, it’s a lot more fun, first of all. I feel like I can do a lot more of what I want. But what I was worried about was not people like you — because you’ve always been nice to me — but some people that have more difficult PR people might not give me as many interviews and access. But for the most part people have said, “Yes,” all year, so that’s really nice. Does that surprise you?

No, it doesn’t surprise me, because this sport is still relational and you’ve spent years building those relationships. So I don’t think it matters who your work for or who you drive for, who your sponsors are. When you build good relationships, I think people care more about you than who you work for.

That’s nice of you to say. Thank you. So there will be a next interview, hopefully, but I don’t know who it’s going to be with. Do you have a question I could ask the next driver?

What are the reasons for retirement? What are the things that would cause to you say, “You know what, that’s it. I’m good.”

So when they know it’s time, what’s gonna be driving that decision?

Yeah, for sure.

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The Top Five: Breaking down the Pocono race

Five thoughts after Sunday’s race at Pocono Raceway…

1. Blaney breaks through

When young Cup drivers face numerous challenges in a single race, they often fail to win. That’s because a lack of experience or poise typically trips them up at some point; even if they overcome one problem, the next does them in.

But at Pocono, Ryan Blaney had to survive three tough moments to score his first career Cup victory.

First of all, Blaney couldn’t talk to his team on the radio all day because his helmet microphone wasn’t working. The team worked out a series of hand signals as a substitute, and it made communication about changes to the car very difficult.

Jon Wood, through the Wood Brothers Racing Twitter account, tweeted late in the race: “If you could listen in for just like 20 seconds, you’d agree it’s just flat-out amazing that we are even on the lead lap at this point.”

After enduring that stress, Blaney found himself starting fourth on the final restart — and the first driver on four new tires. But although he was faster at that point, Blaney had to deal with extremely aggressive blocking from Kyle Busch, which could have easily ended in a wreck for one or both of the drivers. Blaney stayed patient, raced Busch cleanly and made the pass.

After that, he had Kevin Harvick approaching quickly. Harvick stayed on his back bumper in the final laps, waiting to pounce if Blaney made the slightest mistake.

“The way I passed people all day was waiting for him to slip up off the bottom, and he never slipped off the bottom,” Harvick said. “Ryan did a good job of not slipping a wheel with the amount of laps that he had left.”

Blaney drove flawlessly at the end — and throughout the race. He truly earned the win.

2. Silver lining for Dale Jr.?

Pocono was the low point of the season so far for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his fans. Earnhardt missed a pair of shifts this weekend that resulted in blown engines — and offered no excuses for the mistakes.

Though fans were eager for a reason to blame crew chief Greg Ives or the team (surely the shifter must be set up differently!), Earnhardt acknowledged nothing in the car has changed.

This was simply driver error.

“I wish I could blame it on something else, because this feels awful,” he told FOX Sports 1. “It’s just my fault. … I wish I could say the shifter is different.”

There isn’t much good to say about the day — or the season so far. Earnhardt clearly isn’t confident in his cars right now and isn’t having the fun he had been the past few years.

But there might be one positive. As noted by Justin Bukoski, an Earnhardt fan from Portland, Hendrick Motorsports drivers Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne appeared to have brake failures (as did Jamie McMurray). And Earnhardt had earlier been complaining of brake problems.

So if Earnhardt had not blown an engine, was it only a matter of time before his brakes led to a Johnson-like hit into the wall? If so, that might have been the end of Earnhardt’s career — or worse — given his concussion history.

3. Another scary moment

Maybe it’s just a heightened sense of awareness since the Aric Almirola crash, but it feels like there have been a lot of hard hits lately, doesn’t it? And there were two more on Sunday.

With four laps left in Stage 2, Johnson and McMurray suffered simultaneous brake failures going into Turn 1 — and both crashed hard.

They were each frightening in their own right. Johnson’s hit was violent — and he initially seemed headed straight for the wall, nose-first — while McMurray’s was fiery.

Johnson seemed shaken and said, “We got away with one there.” He knew it could have been a lot worse.

The burning car was the most worrisome part about McMurray’s wreck. Though it was nice to see the automatic extinguisher put out the fire in the front of the car, the back end was still in flames for quite awhile.

It appeared there were approximately 20 seconds between the time McMurray’s car stopped and when the safety crew put the first bit of extinguisher on the flames. Could the response time have been faster? Before you answer, consider what would have happened if McMurray had not been able to get out of the car (what if he had an Almirola-like injury?). That would have been ugly.

Either way, it’s just another reminder of how dangerous this sport is. And I think we’re all good on reminders for awhile.

4. New blood on TV

I was moving cross-country this weekend and missed the drivers-only Xfinity Series broadcast. That really bummed me out, because I wanted to know how it went.

Fortunately, many Twitter followers were able to fill me in. I received 115 replies to a tweet asking whether people enjoyed it or not.

The consensus: An overwhelmingly positive response to the broadcast, with many comments urging FOX Sports to try it again sometime. I’d say 95 percent of the responses were raving about it; people really seemed to enjoy seeing different faces on the broadcast.

Hopefully, that emotion from the fans was noticed by FOX executives. There appear to be many capable drivers who could fill on-air roles at the moment, some who will be retiring within the next few years. A career full of TV interviews and commercials and appearances has helped drivers become very polished on camera.

If that’s the case, why not stock the on-air booths with the most relevant analysts possible? FOX should do everything it can to keep its talent fresh.

5. Another race, another new winner

That’s now 10 different winners in the first 14 races — which is quite impressive considering drivers like Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch have yet to go to victory lane.

But it’s also a whopping eight different teams that have won races, thanks to new faces like Wood Brothers Racing (first win since 2011), Richard Childress Racing (first win since 2013) and Roush Fenway Racing (first win since 2014).

Joe Gibbs Racing has not won yet and certainly will before the regular season ends, so that will be nine.

How does that compare to last year? Well, only seven different teams won a race in all of 2016.

Though it’s still tough to say whether this is a sign of real parity or just unique circumstances producing different winners, it’s always good when no single entity — driver or team — is dominating the season.

Social Spotlight: @MonsterMile’s Lynn Sudik

Each week, I ask a member of the racing community to shed some light on his or her social media usage. Up next: Lynn Sudik, who is the social media coordinator for Dover International Speedway.

What exactly does your job entail? What are you in charge of? Do you have help tweeting and posting on Facebook and Instagram, or is it all you?

It’s a little bit different on race weekend versus the rest of the year. I work for the speedway full time and my primary responsibility is to handle our social media — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Periscope, Snapchat, Reddit — we’re on all of those channels. And then on race weekend I do have a little bit of extra help that comes in to capture content and post photos and other things like that. So this weekend, I actually have three people helping me with all of my social media needs.

For most of the year, your job is far different than two weekends which get super intense and busy and crazy, and I’m sure there’s a lot of pressure. How do you manage the plan going into a race weekend? How far out are you scheduling?

I use a social media management platform called Hootsuite. So I schedule a lot of my posts ahead of time. And what we like to do, since we don’t control the on-track product too much, we like to post about what it is we do control — i.e. stuff that happens in the Fan Zone and our Monster Mile Youth Nation area for kids.

So I will go in and look at our race weekend activities schedule, all of the driver appearances we have happening outside of the track. For example, this weekend we had Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Truex and the Sea Watch International display, we have the International Drone Racing Association here, so I will go in and find out when those events are happening and I will schedule a few posts to go out on various platforms to promote them and get people to go out and make sure that everybody’s aware of what’s happening.

What’s the balance then of running around on race weekend, getting content, photos, seeing what’s going on? You have the scheduled posts, but you also have tons of fan requests coming in that you’re having to manage. What’s the priority?

It’s definitely a challenge to strike that balance. Since I am the most knowledgable about our racetrack because I work here full time, I try to remain stationary in the media center for a good portion of the weekend so I can do those monitoring and scheduling posts to make sure that we’re covering everything and then that’s where my extra help comes in. A friend of mine, his name is Zach, he’s been helping me for a few years now and he’s actually been a race fan — that’s kind of how we got to know each other. He’s a big help in capturing some content on the outside that I can’t get to because I’m in the media center.

When fans tweet complaints to you, what’s your next step? Do you pass them along to other people? Do you just deal with what you can?

Any question that I know the answer to, I will address right there on the spot. If it’s a complaint or it’s a question that I don’t know the answer to, I will send that to the appropriate person on our staff and try and get that answer for that particular fan. I also try to let the fan know that we’re working through an answer for you; we’re not just leaving you hanging.

In general, I’m sure you get tweets like, “Hey, loving @MonsterMile, it’s so great to be here!” as well as people venting about things like, “Traffic @MonsterMile, you stink!” So is it more positive or negative?

We get a combination of all of the above and it also largely depends on the weather. So if we have a nice weather forecast, there are fewer complaints.

This past week for example, on Tuesday and Wednesday, the forecast for the race on Sunday wasn’t looking that great, so we were getting a lot of people asking us, “What’s the contingency plan? Will the race be run on Sunday? Will you move it to Saturday? Will it be run on Monday? What happens if Monday gets rained out?” I’m like, OK, let’s just take it one day at a time, the forecast is gonna change. So it does largely depend on what the weather situation is.

When it comes to a race weekend, is Twitter the one that you’re having to pay the most attention to? What happens to Facebook and Instagram on those weekends?

Twitter can be a handful to keep track of on race weekends. I will leave my computer for maybe a half hour and when I go back, it will take me about two hours to go through all the mentions that we have. It’s not that they’re negative, it’s not that they’re all questions or comments or concerns, but the race teams are tagging us in their practice photos and in photos of the drivers and lap times and all of that stuff.

So it’s sorting through what are tweets that I need to address and what are tweets that people are just posting about because they’re here. And that’s what we love to see, but it’s just a lot of the volume of tweets we get on any given race weekend is huge. Like I said, it takes me a while to sort through them all.

And then Facebook, people tend to spend a little more time complaining on Facebook just because they have more room to work with. So a lot of people will voice their concerns on our Facebook wall, and again, that’s where I can address it in the moment if I can. Otherwise I will pass it along to whoever and get answers or address whatever concerns people have.

How far out do you start planning the tweet up?

I guess it’s probably about a month out. It depends on the situation if we can get a guest there or not. Most of the times if we have to make an ask for a guest, no one is really concerned about our race until at the very least two weeks out.

But I also have a hand in some other things on race weekend. Our Monster Mile Youth Nation, we have a youth autograph session that NASCAR helps us to coordinate. I am the Dover point of contact for that, so when it comes to scheduling the tweet up, I need to make sure that I don’t have those times overlapping. So it also depends on my schedule and when I can make it work on race weekend.

I imagine there has to be a trust factor with your co-workers like Gary Camp (who leads the track’s communications), where you may want to tweet something at times, but obviously you can’t totally speak for the entire track on some issues or some decisions. Do you ever have to go to your co-workers and ask, “Hey am I allowed to say this?” Or have you been here long enough now that there’s a trust level?

When I started, they were a little more involved. I think one of the first days on the job, Gary talked about an intern who had handled their social media at one point before I got there and posted something weather-related, (saying) the weather didn’t look that great. (Camp) made a point that we never want to discourage people from coming to the track. So we always try to keep a positive attitude on our social media accounts.

But yeah, there is a trust factor, and I feel like I’ve figured out what is appropriate to say and what’s necessarily not going to go over well if it’s posted publicly.

What is your background? How did you get into it and what’s the suggested path you may have for people who want to make a similar career move?

I have wanted to work in motorsports since I was around 14 years old. I was born in Indianapolis and kind of grew up around IndyCar racing. I went to college, my degree is in communications. My first job out of college, I was working for a PR agency in New York City not related to motorsports at all. But I still had that dream and I still kept after it.

I actually found this particular opening through an online job board called TeamWork Online. A lot of the tracks, both independent and (International Speedway Corporation) and (Speedway Motorsports Inc.), they’ll post their openings on there as well as a lot of other professional sports leagues.

I also got my Master’s degree in Sports Administration from Ohio University. I just graduated this spring.

But if this is somebody’s dream job to work in motorsports, I would say to never give up. I had to work through a lot and it took me a solid five years of trying, applying for jobs, networking to actually land this particular job. So don’t ever give up on that dream if you want to work in motorsports.

That’s my top advice as well because I feel like a lot of people want to get into racing and then they realize it’s really hard to break in. Just to get that initial foot in the door, and I think a lot of people give up — so half of it is just persevering and sacrificing enough and never letting that dream go. Because eventually, if you’re truly passionate about it, some door will open. Do you know what I’m saying?

Yeah, I would definitely echo those sentiments. It’s about never giving up, it’s about persevering and sometimes it’s just about being in the right place at the right time.

I had made a lot of effort to network and get to know people in the industry, but this particular job I didn’t know anybody at the company before I applied for this opening. And it just kind of happened that I applied at the right time and they called me in for an interview and then I ended up getting the job.

So it’s definitely about who you know, but it can also be about what you know, so make sure that you keep trying and you sharpen your skills to the best of your ability in order to make yourself a viable candidate.

Is there anything else that you want people to know about what you guys do with the Monster Mile accounts or anything like that?

I feel like we talked a lot about people complaining, but I don’t want to the give the idea that the only posts that we receive on race weekend are complaints because they’re not. I just retweeted somebody who posted a picture in the Fan Zone and I was like, “Yeah! Love it! Have a great time, we’re so glad you’re here!”

So it’s a balance of all of those negative and positive comments, but if you’re not already following us, you really should be. We’re @MonsterMile on Twitter and Instagram and Snapchat and then on Facebook our page is Dover International Speedway.