Social Spotlight with Scott McLaughlin

Each week, I ask a member of the racing community to shed some light on their social media usage. This week: Australian Supercars driver Scott McLaughlin, who has been dominating that series this season by leading in points, wins and poles for DJR Team Penske. I spoke with McLaughlin at Watkins Glen, where he was on hand to watch his Penske teammates in the NASCAR race.

I’m curious to see how social media use in Supercars compares to the NASCAR world because in NASCAR, it seems like almost all the drivers are on Twitter and they’re very engaged with each other and with the fans. How is the Twitter community for Supercars?

I’d have to say that the Twitter community is actually not as big in Australia as it is in America. For instance, I feel like it’s very popular in NASCAR, but for us in Supercars, Instagram and Facebook are far bigger, and not so much Twitter.

Is that because you guys have a little bit of a younger audience, as far as you know, than maybe NASCAR does?

I think so. It’s just Twitter isn’t a popular social media tool in Australia. It’s used by a lot of people, but for following, I feel like a lot of people love seeing the photos. They can do that on Twitter, too, but on Instagram…I don’t know, it’s weird. Australians are weird. Let’s say that. (Laughs)

What is your favorite form of social media to use?

I like Instagram. It’s quick, easy, picture, bang on there and it’s a cool little thing. Facebook is good because I like commenting back — it’s quite easier to do that. And Twitter, I like it for the news. I watch it all and follow the NASCAR teams and stuff, so when I wake up in Australia, I can see what’s going on. It’s sort of my news source.

Do you ever go back and forth with other drivers on there? Is there a dialogue at all?

Yeah, I do. I speak to most of my teammates from America on there, DM on Twitter mostly. That’s sort of my text tool in some ways. Instagram probably not so much, but Twitter is probably the main point I use for interacting with my teammates over here.

I noticed a post you just had recently where you took your mom and dad for a spin in your car. So you posted that on Instagram, and it also gets posted on Facebook and Twitter. Do you have somebody that helps you take those posts and put them in different places, or do you have to manually go yourself and put it on all the platforms?

I do it all myself on my Twitter. It’s something I enjoy. When I was growing up, my hero was Greg Murphy, a famous race car driver in Australia, and all I wanted to know was what he was doing. I’ve sort of taken that on board and gone well with it — that’s what I do on my social media, tell people what I’m doing. It’s a cool thing to bring the fans closer to you and it’s something that I enjoy. It’s not a burden to me at all.

What’s the fan interaction like? You said you go back and forth with people on Facebook, you comment back to them. Do you see what people comment on Twitter and Instagram as well?

Yeah, absolutely. You have your good and bad ones, sometimes you have some rude ones, but you shouldn’t be on social media if you can’t (deal with) the hate. I have a lot of fun with it sometimes. I’ve seen Brad (Keselowski) on there a couple times — he is so funny with some of the dudes on Twitter. But it’s all part of the gig. I enjoy the interaction, like I said.

If you get a negative one, do you block them, do you just ignore them? How do you handle it?

It all depends on what they say. If they say something really bad that I don’t want on my social media, things I don’t find appropriate, then I will block them because you don’t need that stuff, but it’s more for my own fans to see that. I have a lot of young people that follow me as well, and it’s just a bit of respect. Like I said, if you can’t (deal with) the hate then you shouldn’t be on it. I’m pretty sure I’m not too bad at it.

Do you have any accounts that you just use for your personal use? Because obviously you have a lot of public stuff, but you might want to have stuff just for your friends and family. Anything like that?

I have Snapchat, and that’s the only thing I’ve got that’s private. I have a private Facebook page too, but people still seem to find you on there anyway. But my Snapchat is something that’s quick, it’s easy and communicates with a lot of people over in America as well.

So any thoughts on making your Snapchat public, or do you just want to keep that as your own space?

I think that’s the only thing I’m gonna keep private. I feel like I do enough that people can see a lot of my life, and then I’ve got Snapchat there just for a little bit of fun.

Over here, I feel like a lot of young people are like, “Ah Facebook, that’s what our parents use,” and you’re starting to get a lot of the Millennials away from it and they don’t really use Twitter either. Do young people in Australia still use Facebook a lot?

Oh yeah. But I am noticing that a lot of the older generation is using Facebook. Even my Nana is on Facebook, and that’s pretty scary. It’s one of those things that’s quite diverse these days, but definitely the older generation is using that sort of stuff a lot.

How much time do you have to put into it? Do you get the pictures from people and have to say, “Here, can you give me a picture from last weekend?” and you go and try to find the right one for Instagram? How does that process work?

That’s what I do. I actually enjoy going through all the photos. I’m on a Dropbox file with my team so I get all the photos from the sessions across the weekend and I just pick out whatever I like and use it. I’m busier during the weekend with all the social media, but then when I’m away like this, I’m here with Penske and Jeremy Troiano, who’s the PR guy for them, and he takes photos for me or whatever, and I take photos myself. But I think if there’s a good photo of me and Brad or of me and Joey, it’s quite cool to get that from him, and then I’ll post it on socials.

So for NASCAR fans who don’t have a good concept, how big of a sport is racing in Australia?

It’s massive. It’s third…one and two is AFL and cricket and then it’s motor racing. Because we race so much and it’s on throughout the whole year, we do get popular at different times of the year, especially around the Bathurst race and stuff like that. But it’s very popular in Australia, and that goes to show how professional teams need to be.

I heard someone say you actually grew up watching all forms of racing including NASCAR. What did you gain from watching NASCAR when you were a kid?

I just gained a lot of respect on how they raced: The boys have at it thing, I loved that. They get a lot more things than we do, but it’s definitely a really cool thing in regards to how hard they race: Loose is fast, stuff on ovals, how they run the high line, the low line, the middle lane, whatever. I really take an interest in how they strategize throughout the races. It’s really cool.

Did you ever have a favorite NASCAR driver to watch when you were growing up?

When (Marcos) Ambrose came over here, I was a big fan of him. But I’ve always been a Jeff Gordon fan for a long time. Dale Earnhardt. Obviously, they’re the most popular guys, but I’ve always had a massive crush on Jeff Gordon’s car, his DuPont car. I’ve always liked that. The (paint) scheme was pretty cool, but I better say I’ve supported Penske all the way too, though. (Laughs)

Where do you think social media is going next? You obviously are on all these platforms, fans can easily see you and follow you. What is the future like, do you think?

I think it’s pretty good. I don’t know where they’re gonna evolve it from now because it’s very close now. I think live video is still where it’s at. It depends on the commercial side, but the live TV and stuff — now obviously I know that’s a very touchy subject with some of the broadcasters, but I think if you can bring a little more of the live stuff, you can join them in the race car live on Facebook or something like that. I reckon that would be sick, that would be something that’s really cool. And then you can get the data, that would be something cool, you know? I think that’s something they should look at, maybe restricting the rules on the commercial side would be good.

This interview was brought to you by Dover International Speedway. The cutoff race for the first playoff round takes place at Dover on Oct. 1. Here’s a link to buy tickets (and make sure to come say hi at the tweetup).

Social Spotlight with Noah Gragson

Each week, I ask a member of the motorsports community to shed some light on their social media usage. This week: 19-year-old driver Noah Gragson, who is currently ninth in the Camping World Truck Series standings for Kyle Busch Motorsports.

One thing that caught my eye recently on social media has been your, “If you give me a certain number of retweets, I’ll do this crazy thing.” And you ate a huge thing of wasabi because of it. What is wrong with you, Noah?

We were at lunch. I was with my helmet painter — a guy named Greg Stumpff, he paints all my helmets at Off Axis Paint. We were eating sushi, and it was me, a couple of my buddies and Matt Crafton was there, too. One of my buddies said, “If you get 1,000 retweets, you have to eat the wasabi. Tweet that right now.” And I was like, “Hell yeah” (because) I’m not gonna get 1,000 retweets, you know?

So he’s like, “That’s too much, you have to get 500 retweets.” And so I tweeted it out, 500 retweets and I tweeted a picture of the wasabi deal. And the deal was if I got 500 retweets by the end of the meal, I had to eat it.

So I was like, “I’m not getting it. It’s 30 minutes, it’s not going to happen.” Anyway, let’s say it’s a 40-minute meal and we’re 35 minutes in and I’m rushing to get the check and everything because I’m like, “Hell yeah, this ain’t happening.” And 300 retweets in, I’m like, “There’s no way.”

And then Crafton tweeted Dale Jr. and NASCAR and few other people, he tweeted the Nascarcasm guy, and he said, “Listen guys, retweet this.” And we have five to 10 minutes left in the meal, and in 30 seconds, Dale Jr. retweeted it. And 30 seconds later, it was already up to 700 retweets. I was like, “Oh my gosh, this guy is a God, Dale Jr.” So that was the highlight.

I think I’ve watched that video three or four times to see your face. What was the reaction after that?

I kind of cheated the system. I haven’t told anyone — don’t tell anyone this — but as I took the wasabi, I kind of rolled it up and got a lot of it in my hands so I could make the ball smaller, like rub some off. And so I put it in my mouth and it all pasted down my throat, like rubbed down it. It was the most disgusting thing.

And I don’t really throw up from that kind of stuff, but I started gagging instantly. I was like, “Oh my gosh, this is so hot” and everything. So I put that in, and it was burning for about an hour. I’d say I had a rock pit in my stomach for two days straight. It was not good. But hey, I got retweeted by Dale Jr., so it was well worth it.

I was more asking about the social media reaction than the physical reaction. I mean, I’m sorry that happened to your body, but…

(Laughs) Oh, so the social media reaction, it blew up. I honestly didn’t think it was as big as it was going to be. I had people tweeting me like, “I’m watching TV in Canada right now and you’re on the TV.” Another guy tweeted me like, “Hey you’re on the ‘Mike & Mike in the Morning’ TV show right now.”

I didn’t even know you made Mike & Mike.

SportsCenter and USA Today Sports tweeted it. So I was like, “Yeah, that’s pretty cool.” My dad follows me on Twitter and everything, he saw all that stuff and I was with him and he was like, “Man, sports must really be struggling right now if you’re making all those headlines.” It was pretty cool. I got a lot of followers off it.

So now are people expecting you to do more crazy things because they followed you because of this and they’re like, “Well geez, what’s the next crazy thing?”

It’s actually kind of funny. So I did that and I got 1,000 retweets on that tweet and a few people followed me. And then we went to Texas and it was my first time at Texas Motor Speedway, and they have this big gas station Buc-ee’s there. Have you been there?

I just went there on a road trip recently. Yeah, that’s crazy.

It’s like a Walmart-sized gas station. It was so awesome. So I took pictures in there and I was standing in the middle of the store; I took it of one side of the store and then the other side. I tweeted those two pictures, I said, “This is a gas station in Texas. They really don’t lie that everything is bigger in Texas.” And that got like 3,000 likes and 1,000 retweets. I’m like, “Man, we’re doing something on social media.”

And then for the Fourth of July, I got these visor sunglasses. They’re like the most total redneck thing you can find. So I had those and (tweeted), “500 retweets and I’ll wear them at Kentucky.” I got 500 retweets, so I had to wear them all weekend.

You wore them in TV interviews, I saw.

Yeah, so that kind of blew up and everything. I gotta be innovative and try to get myself on other people’s Twitter pages. That’s kind of my philosophy: How can I get my Twitter on other people’s Twitter pages that aren’t following me? And so that’s kind of like why I do those retweet deals and all that. And just to be a funny guy.

It seems like it’s a natural fit for your personality because you’re a fun dude. But on the other hand, it is very strategic in some ways because as a young driver, it helps to put your name out there, get people knowing who you are. So I’m sure there’s some pressure on you to keep trying to come up with cool stuff where you can continually do more viral-type things.

Absolutely. I don’t wanna say everyone’s like this in the garage, but people are just so kind of scripted, like even on TV interviews and all that. So I try to be that guy that people want to see. You can rattle off your sponsors, which is good because the sponsors are the reason why we’re out here racing. But I like to be that guy where people want to tune in for your next interview and be like, “What’s he gonna say?” instead of being that guy where they’re like, “Ah, he’s gonna thank his manufacturer and his three sponsors and he’s gonna say the car is good.”

I guess people would say I’m kind of out there, kind of like Kenny Wallace. I wouldn’t say I’m as bad as Kenny Wallace — because Kenny Wallace is a hilarious dude, but he’s a wild man. So I’d say I’m kind of a wild man, too. Just gotta keep the people wanting more.

What are all the forms of social media that you use, and can you rank those from your favorite to your least favorite?

I use four of them, I guess the four main ones. I’ve got Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and Facebook. So Facebook, I’d say that’s the lowest. I have a lot of friends on there that are back in Las Vegas, older people like my grandparents and my parents’ friends who don’t normally have Instagram or Twitter. So I like to go on Facebook sometimes and post on my personal one to my friends. I also have a Facebook page that I post on for fans and everything. I don’t post as much on there (as on Twitter); I just scroll on the timeline and watch what seems to always be funny videos on there that people are sharing.

And then Instagram and Twitter and Snapchat. I’d say those are my top three. I’d say order-wise, I’ve noticed that on Instagram, the more I post, the more followers I get. So that’s why I kind of post quite a bit compared to some people that post maybe once a week or a couple times a month. So for me, I’m pretty daily on there for the most part. I don’t want to over-post, but I don’t want to under-post, either.

And then Twitter, I’d say that’s my top one, where I can connect more with the fans. I feel like stuff spreads more on there, like more people can see it just by retweets and everything. I can connect more with the fans just through messaging and just tweeting back and forth.

And then my Snapchat, I can connect with just my friends directly. You have to be following me to see my Snapchat story, so that kind of sucks because on Twitter, you don’t have to be following me to see my posts.

I get a pretty decent following on my Snapchat stories. I like to do funny stuff, like if I’m driving down the road and I see a car that’s all beat up, every time I see something like that I’ll put ‘Five minute clock, coming to ya,” and then it’s kind of an ongoing joke.

That makes sense about Snapchat because we were just talking about how on Twitter, you have some incentive to do crazy stuff since there’s a chance that other people could pick it up. Where on Snapchat, you can be as creative as you want and it’s gonna be completely missed — no one can really forward it out there, and they have to already be following you. So it’s sort of like Snapchat takes away that incentive. It would be good if they could do something where you could have it promoted in some way.

Yeah, I mean you can tweet your link to your Twitter and everything of your Snapchat handle and everything, but like you’re saying, you have to be following that person. It kind of takes away a little bit from it. Just being able to drive your Instagram followers or your Twitter followers over to Snapchat to follow you is really the main goal of mine.

You have all these accounts in public that you’ve talked about. Do you have any way to just privately communicate with your friends? Like if you want to post a picture or something just for your friends, not for public consumption, is there another way to do that?

I don’t have any other accounts. Back in Las Vegas — well, I think it’s gotta be countrywide or worldwide — but they call them finstagrams. I guess it’s like fake Instagram or whatever. Like let’s say someone has their public one for everyone to see — mom, their grandma, aunt, uncle from Zimbabwe or whatever they want. And then they got their private one where their close friends follow it and they post whatever they want while on that.

So I don’t have that. I’m not the type of guy that would post anything differently on the finstagram account that’s private just for close friends. What you see on my real Instagram is completely me. That’s what my private one would be.

So you don’t need a finsta because people are seeing how you are anyway?

Yeah, absolutely.

You talked about Twitter and how that helps you connect with fans. I feel like a lot of people around your age group, they’re not using Twitter as much anymore. They think it’s lame. Do you feel like you’d still find it valuable if you weren’t doing it for your job?

I feel like with the job, you have to grow your fanbase and you have to grow your following. I’m kind of the guy who likes to be in the spotlight; I’m more outgoing and talkative. I’m not real quiet. So I don’t know.

Like what I do on Twitter right now, just the position I’m in, I don’t think it would really work if I’m a normal 19-year-old kid who’s going to college. I don’t think it would work, because people wouldn’t find that really interesting. They’d be like, “Oh yeah, he’s just my buddy. I’m not a fan of his.”

I definitely wouldn’t have the following that I have now. I really don’t have a huge following (6,800 followers) compared to what those Cup guys do, but I appreciate all the people that do follow me right now. It’s cool to watch how much it’s grown this year and what it can possibly be in the future.

Well, thanks for joining us. I appreciate it.

Thank you. I’ve got question for you. Are there any other Jeff Glucks out there?

Yes. There’s a dude in Canada named Jeff Gluck and he has the @JeffGluck Twitter name, so I have to be @Jeff_Gluck.

I have the best idea. Times have obviously changed and you couldn’t get paid for expressing your thoughts or capturing what you do day-to-day like bloggers do, vloggers and all that stuff. You wouldn’t get paid for that 10 years ago. But times are changing and people are making money in different ways now.

I’ve been thinking about about it, and when a new social media app comes out, I’m going to make a bunch of accounts for it, like take the username “Kim Kardashian” and all those big usernames. And then you can go and sell it to those people and make money off it.

So the first week an app comes out, you’re going to take all these big celebrity names and you’re gonna make bank off it.

Wouldn’t that be smart? Would you pay a little bit of money for regular @JeffGluck?

Yeah, I don’t want the underscore anymore. Dude in Canada, if you’re listening, call me.

I totally understand. Thankfully, I have a unique name. Noah Gragson, like what kind of name is that? It’s cool just having it my name. I would have to have like two underscores after it and like a seven and random numbers and stuff. That would suck.

This interview was brought to you by Dover International Speedway. The cutoff race for the first playoff round takes place at Dover on Oct. 1. Here’s a link to buy tickets (and make sure to come say hi at the tweetup).

Social Spotlight with nascarcasm

Each week, I ask a member of the racing community to shed some light on their social media usage. Up this week: The online humorist known as @nascarcasm. This interview is available as a podcast and is also partially transcribed below:

Obviously, you had nothing handed to you. This is a creation you made. What advice would you give somebody who thinks they’re funny, or even a journalist just starting out on how to build a following on Twitter?

What you gotta do is look for something that’s nowhere else. At the time, I looked around and it didn’t look like too many people were cracking bad dad jokes about NASCAR. So that’s when I figured, “What the hell, let’s give this a start.”

That’s your niche.

(Laughs) Yes, exactly. Crappy dad jokes. It’s what it’s all about.

But that’s what makes it hard, because whether it’s a parody account or an inanimate object account or whatever it is, it seems to me like the first of all of those seems to be the one that takes off. And Twitter is so saturated now and it’s been around so long. (It’s) like, “What’s not out there that I can latch onto and make this account be about? What is there?”

The @NASfacts account, which is one of my personal favorites, that’s one that has somehow found this little niche. And if you’re not following it, you should. It’s hard to describe. I don’t know exactly how to describe it, but it’s from the standpoint of an unintelligent person trying to tweet facts about NASCAR. And again, that account didn’t exist at all. So here it comes, and it picks up a big following. So I would say the most important thing is to find something that hasn’t been done yet and do that.

That’s why accounts like @DarkStockPhotos, a guy who finds stock photography that has these really creepy, what-the-hell-is-this kind of connotations and puts them out there, they get hundreds of thousands of followers just for that because they’re the only person doing it. So it’s picking a weird idea like that and running with it.

In NASCAR, you’ve not only turned your Twitter account into a large following, but you’ve turned it into a job working for NASCAR.com. Obviously, NASCAR.com pushes your stuff out; they’re posting it. You have Facebook where you can do that. But how much of a role does Twitter remain in your job?

Very much. It’s very very important. It’s really still the best way to get yourself out there. We’re all serial link tweeters; that’s what it’s all about. I don’t really look at click numbers all that much, but you need Twitter to get that stuff out there. If you’ve got a big following, it’s a good way to yell at people and be like, “Hey, look at this.” So Twitter is still 100 percent important.

Just moments ago before we started this interview, I saw that you retweeted something funny about Chad Knaus lying on the ground. You made a Titanic joke. And Dale Jr. retweeted, quote tweeted you and said, “Hahahahaha.” What’s it feel like when a notification pops up on your phone that says, “Dale Earnhardt Jr. retweeted you and laughed at your joke?”

Here’s the deal: If Dale Jr. retweets you or quote-tweets you or answers you on Twitter, I’ve always likened it to if you’re a nerd in high school and all of a sudden the quarterback of the football team says, “You can sit at my lunch table.” That’s how it feels, like, “Oh my gosh, I hope I don’t make him mad. I hope he likes me.” It’s that kind of reaction. But it’s kind of akin to that. There’s sort of an, “Oh my gosh, what do I say next?” kind of deal with him because he’s just the overlord. I’m sure he knows that.

I was talking to Conor Daly earlier in the fan zone. And you walked by, and Conor Daly stopped and said, “Hey, the famous guy!” to you. It’s really funny how both in the IndyCar world and the NASCAR world, most of the drivers know you. How many of them do you know or have personally interacted with?

I’d say a few. Not really all that many. I’ve never felt like I should be in the position or was in the position where I could bum-rush a driver and say, “Hey, do you know who I am?” The way it started out, you were kind of a troll, you were kind of cracking jokes in the background. And I feel like to a degree, it should kind of stay in that regard.

Now if I meet a driver, obviously I’ve met Keselowski who’s been tremendous, I’ve actually met Jamie McMurray on more than one occasion and he’s actually a very good guy (despite their faux rivalry). If you’re still confused about that, that whole thing was like Jimmy Kimmel and Matt Damon light.

Your pretend feud?

Yes, exactly. And there’s all usually very nice. I do have a couple of funny interactions. The first time I’ve met people kind of stories. They’re usually like, “Oh that’s you,” handshake and go along their way.

I think I told this on the Nate Ryan podcast, and this might have gotten taken out actually, so if you have to edit it out also…but several years back for IndyCar I went out to the IndyCar finale in Fontana and Will Power won the championship that year. The night after, they had the banquet in the theater downtown and then the afterparty and so on.

And so the afterparty is going on for a while, it’s a fun time and one of my friends out there says, “You gotta come meet Will Power.” And I’m like, “OK, sure, I’ll do that.” So he takes me over past the velvet rope where the VIP area is, and Will’s there, and my friend there says, “Hey Will, I’d like to introduce you to my friend Dave here.” And Will goes (in an accent), “Hello, pleasure to meet you, how you doing?” And then I see my friend kind of lean in and whisper into Will’s ear, and Will turns to me and gives that signature lemur wide-eyed look and goes, “Get fucked, really?!” That’s probably the highlight. I don’t get the, “Hi, nice to meet you,” that often — that’s what I get.

I think on the podcast we did in May, you told a story about Carl Edwards pointing at you and gesturing you and stuff. So for instance, have you had a chance to say hi to Dale Jr.?

I met him in passing once years ago, but it’s kind of hard to do that. Sometimes in the beginning, a lot of people are like, “You gotta come by and say hello.” And if you’re at a track on a day where there’s practice and the track is hot, coming by and saying hello is a very difficult task. By that, if you mean do I loiter outside your motorcoach, do I come by your hauler? It’s just hard to do. So like I said, I got to meet him once in passing once back at Michigan. Nothing since. But he’s a busy guy, it’s alright.

One thing I noticed about your Twitter account is you’re not only interactive with the drivers, replying to them or tweeting at them, but you’re very interactive with the people who are replying to you, the regular readers. You’re extremely interactive with people. Why do you choose to write back and say thanks to all these people who are commenting back at you? 

I mean it’s the absolute least you could do.

It’s not the least because I do less.

(Laughs) Valid point. But for me, this is gonna sound totally lame, but if someone’s willing to click on a link that you barf out there and read through it…I don’t think I deserve a single click, but these people are doing that and if they take the time to say, “Hey that was good,” the least you can do is say thank you.

I know how probably painful it is to be a longtime follower at this point, and if they hadn’t clicked “follow” long ago, then I don’t know if I’d be here talking to you necessarily. So I wish I could take them all out to dinner at some point, but, you know, journalism degree. So like I said, it’s the least you can do. I try to do that as much as possible.

One thing I didn’t realize that happened, but we recently got verified on Twitter. I don’t know how Twitter’s algorithm works or how it figures out what it’s gonna put in your mentions and what doesn’t, but it seems suddenly to take those mentions out of your mentions timeline. A lot of people are responding, but for some reason it’s not showing up. So to me, I didn’t realize that was part of being verified, that that would happen. That’s been kind of detrimental. So I’ve gotta go back and do a lot of searching just to get as many people as possible.

I want to ask you about Facebook as well. Do you use Facebook for any sort of purpose in terms of driving links?

I only use that on a personal basis. It probably doesn’t make sense, knowing that Facebook is the most visited and most-used form, and I don’t have a page at all. So that’s how much sense I make at times.

But I only use it for personal reasons right now. I don’t visit it that often, to be honest, just because what they did with their timeline, where suddenly it’s, “Your friend’s cousin’s godfather’s second cousin liked this page about Rush Limbaugh.” That’s what it turned into. And it kind of turned me off in that regard. Yeah, I’ll visit it from time to time, but a lot of my Facebook friends, a fair amount are NASCAR motorsports followers, a lot aren’t, so I don’t feel like bombarding them with links necessarily. If something funny happens on the track, I’ll put a photo up or so, but I don’t wanna be link bombing all of these friends for years.

How about Instagram? What do you feel like the goal is with that, or are you just having fun with it?

Really, that’s just for fun. I’ve always liked photography. My wife is into it, too. Before this, I worked in graphic design, so there’s always been some visual interest, so to speak. I probably put way more out there than is necessary, but to me it’s just fun because it’s a much kinder place than Twitter is. You usually get, “Cool shot, bro.” That’s the kind of comments you get there. I’ve likened it to be a serene, peaceful area of social media where you can just go and look at all these pretty pictures and so on.

I tend to post more than I should if I’m at a track or if I’m on vacation because on the average work week, I work at home. I don’t see anything interesting or do anything interesting, you know? I don’t wanna post a picture of my energy drink every morning or my breakfast. That’s why when we go on vacation or come to the track, I just basically go completely nuts.

I remember you brought that up when you went to Dubai for your honeymoon: What is the right amount to post on vacation? For me, it’s like if it’s somewhere that I’ve never seen like Dubai or like when you went to China also, there can’t be too many. I wanna see this place, I wanna see it through your eyes and your perspective.

You talked about how Instagram is sort of a nice corner of social media where you’re not getting a lot of hate. Let’s talk about the corner where more hate comes, I guess, or more negativity, which is probably Twitter. By extension, somewhat Reddit is a social media form in some ways. I do notice at times that people on Twitter and Reddit just want to take shots at you for whatever reason, or you tweet out something and they’re like, “This is so lame, this guy.” How do you react to that? And how do you handle it in terms of Twitter? Do you use the block button, do you mute people or do you ignore it?

Ignore. The block button is way too much work, it really is. And it’s really, you gotta think, but to take the time to hit reply and tell someone, “You suck,” it’s like, “Thank you, I really appreciate that.” And to be fair, I put a lot of stuff out there where if I read it back, I would unfollow myself.

I really do bad dad jokes all the time, but I figured at this point, it is what it is. And you know, everything I put out there is not gold, I really know some of it is barely wood, so to speak. So people definitely have the right to do that. But again, it’s more of just an ignoring thing. It eventually goes away.

I can tell you it does affect me at times when I get some of that negativity. Does it throw you off at all? Did it affect you?

It did early on. There were some persistent folk, some really, really persistent folk, but I don’t hear from them anymore, and I’m still here shitposting, so it is what it is.

You’re often cited when people say their favorite NASCAR person to follow on Twitter is. I see that named a lot. So who are some of your favorites to follow on Twitter in general?

Again, @NASfacts is one of the funniest just because it’s one of those role-playing things. It’s so bizarre. When it comes to humor, I think Dale Jr. is really funny. I think Landon Cassill is probably the funniest because he is so immersed in that Millennial Internet culture; he can crack jokes to that audience. Me, I’m pretty old, and I follow him to see what the kids are doing, what’s hip and so on.

But my favorite, another good follow, my favorite comedian, a fellow named Anthony Jeselnik, and I believe that is his Twitter handle. He is a comedian who, I’m not sure if you’re familiar with him at all.

Biting, dark humor, right?

I’m sure all of us, we’ve authored tweets and read it and deleted it like, “That’s too far.” Or we put stuff in our drafts folder where we go, “Maybe I’ll tweet that later, I can’t do that right now.” He doesn’t care, and that’s what amazing about it, is that he doesn’t care.

He discussed in one of his specials, about the whole “too soon” thing that happens in social media. When is “too soon?” And he talked about how on the day of any sort of tragedy, he puts a joke out about it. And it was really fascinating to hear why. He said, “I’m not making fun of victims. Victims got victim shit to do.” He says, “What I’m doing is I’m making fun of all these people whenever a tragedy hits, you feel the need to get on Twitter and say, ‘My thoughts and prayers are with so-and-so.'” He says, “That is like, ‘What a terrible tragedy, but look at me.’ It’s like a wedding photographer that only takes selfies.” And so, obviously I will never be at his level of not giving a shit necessarily, but it’s just like, “Wow, you went there. That took guts and you’re still here.”

What’s next for you as far as social media? Where do you see this all going for yourself? This journey’s been hard to predict. Do you have idea what the future looks like?

That’s the thing: I really don’t. Going back to the fact that I don’t know what to put on my business card, I don’t know what the long-term job outlook is for this, whatever it is. There’s really no prior metrics or statistics or person who did this before that I can go by. I don’t know if it’s a temporary thing, but I’d be foolish not to be here and do everything I can, because it’s a lot of fun.

I’m nowhere close to their level, but seeing like the Barstool Sports guys, who have suddenly turned this niche of sports and humor and mixed them, and they’ve just blown up exponentially. You gotta do it for as long as you can. Like I said, prior to this I was working in production in print media, and it ain’t like that was a growth industry, so I’ll stay here and I’ll have fun.

If it were to end, I’d just be grateful for the chance, because it’s been so weird to just be here and for it to happen.

Social Spotlight with Tommy Joe Martins

Each week, I ask a member of the racing community to shed some light on their social media usage. This week: Tommy Joe Martins, who will drive for B.J. McLeod Motorsports in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Iowa Speedway.

A lot of people don’t get to hear the perspective of the “other side” of sport, and you are really good at letting people know it’s not all glamorous. I saw a recent tweet of yours where somebody was saying, “You have a nicer house than I do from money you made off racing,” and you were like, “Actually I don’t get paid from racing. I get paid from my job out at a driving school in Las Vegas.” So from that perspective, what’s your social media philosophy in the messages you try to send out there?

I got called out for being a little bit of a shit-stirrer last year with a lot of the stuff that I did on social media. I had my blog that I wrote a lot about our adventures through the Truck Series and our perspective on things from a small team that you’re kind of referencing there.

I don’t think a lot of people heard that story before, so it’s kind of interesting getting a lot of feedback from it. And I’ll tell you, it was 95 percent, really positive feedback. And then there was also the side saying, “Quit complaining,” kind of like the comment you were referring to there. It’s like, “Oh you’ve got it made anyway, you’re getting to drive a race car.”

I’m not looking a gift horse in the mouth here at all. I know how lucky I am to get to do this. But I think the business model and the way all this works and how you get a ride and how you have to wheel and deal back here, I don’t think it’s in a spot where it should be.

When I look at the other side of the garage, obviously it’s hard not to sit there and go, “Man, that looks really nice.” I wish, not even me personally, but just the guys on the team had it a little better, thought it was a little easier. So it’s hard for me not to press “send” sometimes when I see kind of the disparity that’s going on.

What kind of feedback, in general, do you get from people? Have you noticed that you’ve been able to build a following talking about this kind of stuff, where people like the underdog?

I just don’t see it as a detriment. NASCAR, the way they portray this is that they just don’t portray it. It’s just not talked about. So it’s not that they’re portraying it in a bad light, just nobody’s really talking about it.

And with the media and everything, here’s the crazy thing: I ran basically almost half the year in Xfinity in 2014 … and I only had one media member ever even come up to me to even learn my name. So when you see that, if you’re not aligned with a big team, if you’re not a driver that’s coming in with a PR staff (then you don’t get media attention). As a kid, I didn’t know any of that kind of stuff.

So I just think that’s a little weird how the media has kind of handled that. You’ve got basically half the garage area that nobody says a word about, and that just seems weird because it just seems like the stories back here are better. I can probably tell you 15 stories about Mike Harmon, how he’s had a blowout tire on the side of the road and had to get a local gas station crew to come out, bail him off the side. That’s interesting! I mean, that’s funny!

Especially when you’ve got practice coverage (on TV). Like what are you talking about? You wanna talk about Ty Dillon’s struggles the last weekend and how he battled back from qualifying 17th? That’s just not as interesting from a story standpoint.

So that’s it. I just like telling the stories that we have to go through. I find it interesting. In a way, it was almost cathartic for me (while blogging last year) because I was creating kind of my own narrative of the whole thing. And I thought if no one else even read it, it was gonna be my narrative and it was gonna be out there. People would be able to find it.

It’s interesting that social media has allowed people to do that, right? You wouldn’t really have had a platform before to send that message out, even if you had started a blog. If you can’t send the links out to get people’s attention with it, there’s no way to flag people down. So social media, in some ways, has given a small team or a small situation an opportunity to get a bigger spotlight in some ways.

I had Sports Illustrated call me for a story last year. They wanted to attribute me in a story about Dale Jr. when he came out and said he was gonna take time off for concussions. Like what chance did I ever have doing that running 25th in the Truck race? Never. But I had the platform and I had credibility.

I come from a journalism background, so for me the writing part was fun and it was interesting. But the way that I framed it, I was telling the story of the race, but it was in a bigger context. Journalists like yourself and a few other people — especially when I was controversial and said something that stood out — people wanted to latch on that a little bit and go, “OK, well this is really interesting.”

So I had a guy from Sports Illustrated call me and literally say, “I would have never called you if you were sending out press releases. What you did was so interesting.” And I had the credibility because I was a full-time Truck Series driver, had our own little small team and I was writing all of this stuff that was pretty eye-opening stuff and I just thought it caught a lot of people’s eyes.

Quite frankly, if I hadn’t done that, you probably wouldn’t be sitting here, Jeff. And that’s what weird to me: We still would have finished 11th (at Iowa), but nobody would’ve probably known my name. It would have just been something you wrote off, and you’d probably talk to another underdog that finished up there. But just kind of the way that I’ve branded myself, even though it’s not a conventional way, at least it was an effective way where at least some of the media now and other team owners in the garage know your name.

And that’s the biggest thing: You just cannot be irrelevant. That’s in any professional sport, but especially this one — in a sport where you need sponsors and you need eyeballs on you to be able to attract them or for owners to give you a shot — they’ve got to at least know who the heck you are. And unfortunately, I think we’re at a point now where you can’t do that just driving. There has to be something else that’s interesting about what you’re doing, and I think that’s what allowed me to get some attention and at least some notoriety.

That’s true, because I saw your blogs a couple of times, I wasn’t following you on Twitter at the time, and then basically I was like, “Wow, he has so many interesting things to say, I guess I’ll follow him on Twitter, too.” So that really opened a lot of doors, as far as people knowing who you were. That said, you don’t seem to do the blog anymore. Why not?

I didn’t do the blog this year, and you’re not the first person to ask me that. There has been so much indecision from us that I couldn’t even put together a coherent story. It would have taken me three weeks to write out one of them because it was, “OK, we’re going Truck racing. OK, now I’m gonna get a ride with MDM at Daytona. Well now we’re doing our own thing at Atlanta. Well now we’re not doing anything. Well now Brandon Brown is running our truck at Martinsville. Now we’re trading the number to another team. Now I’m getting this opportunity with B.J. (to drive the No. 78 Xfinity car).” And I get that all of those are individual stories, but to me it didn’t even make sense.

I do want to write something on the opportunity that B.J. has given me here, because it has been absolutely tremendous. But honestly, it’s kind of hard for me to write about happiness. That’s kind of this weird place that I’m in. It was easy for me to write about the despair. I think it’s tougher to write about just how happy I am with the situation I’m in right now, and I’ve been really thankful, but that almost sounds repetitive because everybody’s thankful. That doesn’t stand out.

We joke about it on the other side of the garage: Well yeah, they’re happy. Everything’s comfortable, everything’s cool. And so when I’m sitting here going, “Man, this is the best situation I’ve ever been in, everything’s happy, everything’s cool,” I think that’s worth probably one “like” where somebody goes, “Nice. Tommy Joe finally got a good shot. Good for him.”

And then after a while, you’re like, “Eh, I kind of miss the old Tommy Joe where he’s writing and ranting and raving,” because you get a following from writing controversial stuff. But I wasn’t always trying to be controversial. If anything, I was trying to be really open and truthful. And some of that might have come across as controversial. When you get a following from that, I think that there’s a need to have to keep doing that. I didn’t want to always be the guy stirring the pot, so I’ve kind of taken a little bit of a step back.

If I ever see anything that really makes me go, “Man, we have got to change this,” then I’ve gotta say something. It might not be longform journalism like I was doing — I mean good grief, I wrote a few posts that were probably eight to nine pages on my laptop. But I’m gonna tweet about, I’ll say something about it.

I don’t know if you’re allowed to say, but when you’re putting that stuff on social media, obviously NASCAR is seeing it as well. Some high-level people are seeing it, and you’re writing about the economics of the sport not being so great. Did you get any blowback at the time when that was going on?

When I wrote “The Problem,” which was kind of the big one last year, I made a very critical error as a writer. I should have published the complete thought at one time. And I’d broken it into two parts. So when I released that as Part One, it didn’t really end in the greatest place. It was pretty damning, and I actually think we can probably look back and find the tweet because you quote-tweeted me on that one and said, “Wow, this is tough,” or something like that and I was like, “Oh boy, this is probably gonna go in a negative direction here.”

I got a lot of positive feedback from that, because I said what a lot of people were feeling, and maybe I’d put some backbone to it. But I didn’t do a very good job of explaining the reasoning for it was because I love NASCAR so much, and I’m so passionate about it and I care about it so much. I think I did that better in the second part, so I should have just released the whole thing.

But it was like so long — like 10 pages long — I was like, “Man, nobody’s gonna read this!” Johnny Sauter’s wife came up to me at Bristol, said she read it and said, “Man, I loved this. This is so great. I made Johnny read it.” You know Johnny, how stubborn that guy is sometimes. And Johnny said, “It was good. It was too long.” Typical Johnny Sauter, short and to the point. But he was right, and that was one part of the blog, not even the whole thing!

So I think I did the right thing breaking it up, but I did the wrong thing. So when I did that little cliffhanger in the middle, obviously that didn’t sit super great with NASCAR. They didn’t love that. And they called me and said, “We just don’t see how this helps the sport.” I honestly think they had a pretty good point — it probably did not help much. But I made them talk about it, and at least maybe got the discussion going if nothing else happened.

But they were right. They said, “We don’t wanna fine you for conduct detrimental to stock car racing.” So they were actually pretty nice about it, but it was also kind of a heated talk, I think all the way to the top of the food chain. And that’s kinda crazy to think, “Man, I wrote a blog on my personal website and there was like this inner-circle meeting between Jim Cassidy and Brian France and all these guys like, ‘What are we gonna do about this?'”

I probably put them in a weird box because if they fined me 15 grand, I’m probably out of business! So then how does that look? So they were in a no-win situation and I stirred it up, so I probably didn’t make myself look a lot better. And they were saying, “How does this help you? This makes you look like you’re talking crap about something that you’re doing.” So after that, there was kind of a tipping point moment where I was like, “OK, I probably need to think about this a little differently.” That was probably the worst one.

But Claire Lang had me on her show saying, “NASCAR said they’re not gonna fine you, here’s some drivers backing you up saying, ‘You were right!'” It was just this big, weird thing that happened for like three weeks, and I could just see everybody in the garage area looking at me different. And it’s so weird because I’m a driver, I’m not trying to be a writer! It’s cool, I enjoy it, but I’m trying to be respected as a driver. It kind of like shifted the narrative for me in this weird way.

For people that don’t know a lot about your background, and I’ll include myself in that, what’s your story? How did you get latched onto racing in the first place?

So I started racing go-karts when I was young — typical story as everybody else — but not as young as everybody else. I started when I was 16.

This is in Mississippi?

This is at the local dirt tracks in Mississippi. This is like Meridian, Pontotaoc, Water Valley — I mean small-town Mississippi dirt track racing. And we ran WKA. We ran a few select events. We were pretty good. I think we finished in the top 15. It was me and my dad. We didn’t know what the heck we were doing at all.

You dad didn’t have a racing background?

None of my family had a racing background. I’ve been the only one who has ever cared anything about this. My dad has played along, because he has a successful business, he’s been able to finance 99 percent of this. And that’s why I’m sitting here; that’s why I get to do this.

I don’t know why so many guys have run from (talk about bringing money), honestly. I’m so thankful that my dad has let me do it. The thing is that we don’t have just as much money. If my dad had multiple millions of dollars, I would be over there at RCR. Without a doubt, I would. But we don’t have that. We only have a few thousand dollars. So that’s why we’re sitting here in this very eclectic trailer (from the late 1990s).

But we ran Late Models, and we did that over there at Nashville Fairgrounds for a long time. Ran ASA in 2009, something called the ASA Challenge Series, where we ran big tracks. Man, we were at Rockingham in a Pro Late Model. Like wide open, the whole way around there. And Nashville Superspeedway in a Pro Late Model. So kind of crazy stuff.

Came close to winning a few races out there, really close, a couple of heartbreaks and stuff. Memphis Motorsports Park was one of them, sat on the pole, broke the track record there. I think that still stands, actually; I think we’re still holding onto that one. That’s kind of a home race for me, being near Mississippi.

Then finally my dad kind of made this decision, which is, “We don’t have a lot of money, so if we’re gonna go do this, we might as well do it at a high level. I’m just gonna buy a couple of trucks, and let’s just go run trucks.” And that was kind of a foundational shift for us, where we were like, “Well Tommy Joe isn’t gonna get picked up by a team,” because we’d had teams come up to us and say, “We want you to bring a couple hundred thousand dollars for the year.”

So we learned that and went, “This isn’t gonna happen unless we just do it.” We got that mentality shift of, “We think it’s worse for Tommy Joe to be running around at local levels. Even if he’s competitive and winning, nothing’s gonna come from it. So if he wants to get to NASCAR, we just gotta go.”

And we did that with our Late Model team in 2009. We ran four races, finished around 20th. Didn’t do that great, but not bad. This was when the Truck Series was pretty good — 36 trucks showed up, and we were around 20th every time we ran. That’s pretty good for a Late Model team, and I had never done it.

Literally my first race in the truck, we took it out of the trailer at Nashville Fairgrounds, we ran it out there at an open Late Model practice — in a Camping World Truck Series truck! I ran two laps, and they said to take it easy because we’ve got to load this thing and run tomorrow. And that was it: I got two laps of practice before my first truck race. They wouldn’t even let me have a license if they knew that.

And so I did that in ’09, ran ARCA, a couple of races at Daytona. We just kind of bounced around. In 2014 we took a real shot at it. We wanted to run in Xfinity full time, and we tried to do it from Nashville, which as small team, that was a horrible, horrible decision. NASCAR was making so many design changes to the Xfinity cars back then, aero package and everything, we felt like we were changing the car, we spent so much money changing the car, running back and getting parts and everything. Our guys were just so worn out, being a small team. It was just an absolute mess. Our equipment wasn’t probably good enough anyway. We kind of set them up to fail. And so we took another shot at it in 2016, we came back.

So I think a lot of people ask me, “What makes you think that you deserve to be out there in NASCAR?” Quite frankly, I think a lot of guys deserve to be out here in NASCAR. They deserve to be, but unless you go and make it happen yourself, it’s just not gonna happen. So I see guys that I have so much respect for like Bubba Pollard, Jeff Choquette, a lot of these guys, and I just wish that one of them would kind of do what we did, which is just go buy one truck and one motor. And it’s gonna cost you a little bit, it’s probably gonna cost you $60,000, $70,000, $80,000 to do it — but then you’ll just have it, and you can go run four or five races a year at the short tracks or something. I’d just like to see that.

NASCAR (needs to) get to a point where that point of entry isn’t as quite as high, the car isnt quite as much, the engine isn’t quite as much, the per-race cost isn’t quite as much. If you did that, I think you’d see guys like that take a shot. But right now the point of entry is so high, it’s just really tough to get those guys in here. So it’s what we did: We just took a shot, figured if we just finish and not tear it up every time, we can come close to breaking even and only lose a little money. So we’ve just kind of done that for a few years.

You are here racing, but you had to come here and leave your day job, which is at a driving school in Las Vegas. You said you’ve been there for a few years?

Yeah, I have been. And that’s just a deal where that’s like the dark secret. I’m sure some of those guys (on the good side of the garage) are getting paid, but who’s paying them? Is the team paying them?

I’m sure in the case of the Cup drivers, it’s the team paying them, and they see them just like any other artist, right? Like if you owned a ballroom and you said, “I’m gonna get Adele to come play tonight,” well the expectation is you’re paying Adele, but you think that you’re gonna sell enough tickets that it’s gonna make you money.

And I’m sure you view Kyle Busch the same way: We’re gonna pay Kyle Busch, but we’re gonna sell sponsorship and make money on this. Same thing in Xfinity: they seem him as a property. And that’s fine. He is, and he is unbelievably talented.

But some of these other guys, I’m just not sure, because I have always had to bring at least some money to be able to run. Like with B.J. McLeod, he’s basically put me on a silver platter here, I’m basically running for him for nothing. So this is without a doubt the best deal I’ve had in my entire life. It just doesn’t come around for a lot of guys.

The best deal you’ve had is you don’t have to pay to drive?

That’s basically it. So I’m not making anything, but we’re not losing that much money, either. We just basically help him out a little bit on the tires, do other little things, but it’s not nearly as much what we’re spending on our own team– and I don’t make any money from it. We’re not really losing a lot of money. So it’s been a great deal, and I think a lot of guys would probably say the same thing.

And so I don’t know how (other drivers) are getting paid. Like if they’re bringing sponsorship to a team, they would probably have to take a cut out of that for them to make money. The way the business model is there is just really strange, and I just don’t think a lot of people know that. Or maybe they don’t wanna know that.

You think that you’re a professional athlete. I mean, I guess I am. I don’t really see myself that way, I’m a race car driver. I don’t feel like I’m a professional athlete. But we are racing in the second-highest series in the country! This is it, you know? We’re equal to IndyCar ratings-wise! This is it. There’s only one more bar here, and for three-quarters of the garage to not be getting paid as drivers, that’s just weird. I’m gonna sound like a crybaby, but I’m saying it, because I wanna get paid. We probably should get paid racing at this level, you know?

The people that are following you at your Tommy Joe Martins account, @TommyJoeMartins on Twitter — will this story have a happy ending? How do you see this going for yourself over the next few years here?

OK, we gotta think of the end goal here. So for me, I’m 30, and I look around and see William Byron. He’s 19, and he’s a badass, and he’s a great kid too, he’s awesome. He’s gonna get a Cup ride at Hendrick. So if I’m thinking I’m gonna get a Cup ride at Hendrick, that is the wrong thought.

So realistically, all I can hope to do is grow enough of a following that I can raise more sponsorship for myself. And not even to go to a better team — that’s not really the goal here — it would just be to have a career. Just have a career.

I’d like to do this for five or 10 years and get to drive, and then shift into the business of the sport because I love that part of it, as tough as it is and as crummy as it is. It’s almost like banging your head against the wall. Like how do you make money with a business that only loses money? How do you do that? I guess part of me enjoys the challenge of it.

But that’s it. That’s my career trajectory here, just hang around, get to race. I’d like to race full time and be in the points. That’s really the main thing, even if it’s on a small team. Even if it’s for B.J., just run full-time and see where we wind up, finish in the top 20 in points a few times.

I learned a long time ago I’m probably not going to be given a chance to win many races. And I just know that, running in the middle of the pack for smaller teams. You’re not gonna get a chance to win.

But you do have a chance to gain a lot of respect in the garage. And so that’s kind of currency for me, is if I can get other team owners, respected people in the garage to go, “Tommy Joe’s a pretty good driver. He’s got a goofy name, he talks a lot on Twitter, but he’s a pretty good driver and I know if I got him in my car, he’s gonna take care of it, he’s gonna get the best he can out of it and he’s gonna bring it back to me in one piece and not do anything stupid and a lot of other drivers respect him,” well that’s about the best situation I’m gonna find myself in. I’m 30 years old. I got a late start on this deal. I’m kind of in the middle of my career. I see it ending in five to 10 years if I’m lucky.

I think that’s a good trajectory. I don’t wanna look back on that and say, “That was bummer.” If I got to race in NASCAR at the higher levels — Trucks and Xfinity for 10 years — man, that’s really cool. So I don’t have any crazy ambitions here.

But I think it’s gonna be a bumpy ride. It always is, running where we’re running. When we’re running for a small team, there’s more bad days than good. So if you follow along, don’t worry, I’ll probably satisfy your taste for blood here. Because there are probably gonna be more bumps in the road.

Social Spotlight with Tiff Daniels

Each week, I ask a member of the racing community to shed some light on their social media usage. Up next: Tiff Daniels, media relations representative for Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 88 team.

You run an account that is giving updates on a driver both before and during the race, and a lot of fans are depending on this account. They’re eager for information. How do you decide what updates to send out and what to leave off?

So with Dale obviously, almost any content, people wanna see, right? The more Dale, the better for our fanbase. However, there are those moments that I certainly wouldn’t want to intrude on with him on the track. So I’m mainly giving them a little bit of an insider perspective, but still (sticking to) things that would be fairly obvious to anyone walking by. It just happens to be that I’m with him at all of these appearances and meet-and-greets that he does.

And then during practice session or the race specifically, I can listen to what he says on the public radio the same way anyone else can and kind of try and give an overview of what may be going on without getting into specific things he says about what the car may be doing.

So if he gives some kind of very specific feedback on, “Feels like we’re loose in, tight in the middle, loose off,” but then goes into more detail specifically about what they might be doing with springs or shocks, I’m not gonna put that out there. But I’ll put the general concept of what he may be dealing with in the car and same goes during the race, just so people following along kind of have an idea of what issues the team might be trying to overcome during practice or the race. And then just general updates on where he’s running and what’s going on — and obviously throw in some pictures into that, too, so they can feel like they’re there.

So essentially it’s stuff that’s publicly available. It sounds like you’re saying if you’re behind the scenes somewhere, it can be construed as a private moment, that’s not something you’re going to throw up on the feed.

Right. So if it’s something that happens inside the hauler and he’s joking around with Greg (Ives) and the team guys, that’s not a picture I’m gonna take and put out there, because they don’t want to have to filter themselves when they’re in a situation that should be considered private. And so you start affecting their communication if you get too involved in showing things behind the scenes that maybe should be kept private, because it’s an interaction between him and someone he’s close to or talking to that he doesn’t want to necessarily push out there.

And with Dale, he pushes out so much himself that if there’s something that he wants to tell you about that he did that’s cool, he’s gonna put it out there anyway. I don’t need to be the one to do that.

If fans of a sports team are tweeting during the game, they’re tagging the team and saying, “This is awesome,” or “This is terrible.” In NASCAR, every car is sort of a sports team and you have a whole nation of fans to answer to. So are you scrolling through the replies during a race and seeing what people are saying, or do you have to shut that off for yourself?

A little bit of both. Sometimes it’s just fun to read the replies, so I’ll scroll through and look. Other times, if there’s a lot going on, I may not have time to look through all the replies anyway. Sometimes I’ll look through them and see if anybody has a question that I can help answer. I don’t usually get involved when somebody says, “Oh, you guys are doing terrible right now,” or, “This is great, we’re so happy.” Those are great; we love to see all the fan reactions, but that wouldn’t necessarily be something that needs a response from me.

But if someone asked during a practice session, “Have you guys switched over to qualifying trim yet?” that would be maybe something I can answer. So every now and then I’ll interact. But for the most part, I kind of feel like now that Dale’s so active, that’s something that he enjoys doing and he’ll pick the questions that he wants to answer and those fans he wants to interact with. And they’d rather that interaction come from him anyway than from me, so I just kind of watch to see what people are saying more for my personal entertainment.

What happens when people get out of hand? Do you just have to ignore it and filter it out and say, “Oh, they’re just venting?” Do you ever use the block button, or is that a big no-no because it might be a fan?

I inherited this Twitter account from the girl who did PR before me, and I know that she had used the block button for a couple people, and it was mainly when people started personally attacking her about something that would have to do with updates — which is kind of crazy anyway, like we’re just the PR reps. What do I have to do with anything?

So I’ve never blocked anyone since I’ve been running it. I will mute people every now and then, especially if I see the same person who’s just using a bunch of cuss words and every post is so ugly that I don’t even want to read it. But I don’t usually block people because I figure my job is to provide the updates — so if people want to see them, they can follow us. If not, they can unfollow.

I often ask people working in the sport how they got to this point in order to give advice to people. I don’t feel like I can do this for you, because you took such an unconventional route. (Daniels is a former Late Model driver who was also an engineer for Chip Ganassi Racing.) It’s not something where you can just be like, “I recommend you start out driving a car, and becoming an engineer, and then going into media relations.” So you’ve touched so many different aspects of the sport.

I will tell you a quick story. So when I first started doing social media in the sport and I’d just switched over to the marketing side, I was working for (marketing agency) GMR on the Lowe’s Racing accounts and I was running the @lowesracing Twitter handle at the track. It was the first time they had sent somebody to the track every week to cover social, so I was around the team a lot more and we were just sending out a lot more updates than what they were used to seeing.

Well, during a race, I sent out some kind of update that was a little too specific, I guess, for Chad (Knaus’s) liking. I think Keith Rodden saw it somehow, and so I got called into Chad’s office the next week — and keep in mind I had not been there in very long. But actually, I get along great with Chad (Tiff’s brother Cliff Daniels is an engineer on the 48 team) and did even then. He was like, “So listen, you maybe understand too much and we’re gonna need you to kind of dilute what you put out there a little bit. These are the kinds of things that we want and we’re OK with, and these are the kinds of things we don’t.” Well, OK, good to know. (Laughs)

That’s pretty funny, because I’m sure there’s a lot of people who come from outside the sport and they have a lot of catching up to do. But here they are telling you, “Hey, dumb it down a little bit. Pretend you don’t know as much as you know.”

Right. And then you get the fans that actually really follow it closely and they want that specific information or they’ll be listening on the radio, because you can tune in from home or anywhere to the radio communications and pick Dale’s channel. They’ll be like, “That’s not exactly what he said — he said this.” I know. I know what he said, that’s just not what I’m allowed to post.

Let’s get into your background a little bit. You obviously started as a driver and you ran some K&N East races. I was looking at some of the tracks you ran, and you even ran Dover, which must be so weird. Everybody else in the media and PR room have only worked in the sport in those roles. But you’re like, “I drove here.” That has to be kind of strange in some ways.

It is a little bit different. I think the only four tracks on the (Cup) circuit I’ve raced are Loudon, Dover, Bristol  and Watkins Glen — which that was crazy.

The first time I came back to those tracks, it was different. Now I would probably have more of the some attitude as any other PR rep, you know: “We’re just here to do our jobs,” and I’m not even thinking about what’s going on out on the track because I’m not plugged into that part of it anymore.

But yeah, it was different at first and then certainly interesting to see after the drivers made a run what comments they would have to say about somewhere. It’s like, “Oh, I know what you’re talking about with that line.”

That’s so funny to me. And it makes me wonder: Do you ever look at the young drivers in the sport (who she raced with) and your competitive juices get flowing? Like do you think, “Maybe I could have beaten you at some point?”

There are definitely times when that can cross your mind. I would say that happens a lot less now than when I first stopped driving and was still coming to the track just working.

But we still like to go out to a go-kart track like GoPro Motorplex and just mix it up. A lot of current drivers will come out there, especially the younger guys. And it would be guys we grew up racing against anyway, and we’ll all have fun and beat and bang with each other. So that’s how I get (the competition urge) out now, and then staying competitive in other ways like triathlon or running. It keeps you kind of from going crazy thinking like, “If this person made it, maybe I could have.”

But I’m so happy where I am now and I feel like this is the right place. So when I look at some of the pressure Dale has on him, for example, when he’s doing stuff, that’s a tough job and not everybody realizes it. So I can certainly appreciate the job those guys do and the work everybody has to put in to get to where they are. Even if people’s parents have money, they still didn’t just end up here without putting in any work. So you’ve gotta kind of appreciate that everybody’s put some effort into it to get here in the first place.

So why was marketing and PR and social media a better fit for you than some of the engineering stuff that you first did when you left driving?

I was actually still driving while I was engineering (at Ganassi) and so maybe that was part of it. I had always been hands-on with my own race cars, and so I felt like from the school part of it, engineering was as close as I could get to that hands-on part and still get an education, and then it would help me with my driving. And it certainly did all those things.

But I was a shop engineer, and when I first started at Ganassi, it was still when NASCAR allowed open testing. So you were gone all the time at the racetrack so it still felt a little more hands-on. And once that went away, it was a big transition to CAD modeling and stimulator work and much more computer-intense, and that really wasn’t the part of it that I enjoyed.

I missed the people, getting out and talking to everybody, and the business side of the sport had always interested me. So just through some of the connections I had met from being in the sport and working in it, it was actually a pretty easy transition over (to marketing and PR), believe it or not.

What’s something that people might not realize when they’re seeing your tweets? What’s something they don’t realize about what goes into your job from afar that you have discovered since you got it?

If it takes us awhile to tweet after something happens (on the track), we have to make sure that what we’re putting out there is exactly right — because I know that’s gonna get picked up by people. So if we think something happened to the car and that’s why we’re coming to pit road, well I need to make 100% sure that after they’ve looked at it, that’s what the answer is before I send something out.

So if it seems like it’s a delay, it’s not because we hate it or we’re distracted and just didn’t feel like giving out updates — we were just making sure what happened.

And if you’re making a trip to the care center, you’re not worried about Twitter. Your primary job is to get to the car and get to the driver, get over to the care center and make sure everything’s good from that standpoint before you even switch back over to Twitter.

I would say I mainly tweet during the weekends, so I think people forget maybe how much work mainly goes into the weekend before we ever get here. Really, once we get to the weekend, that’s the easier part of our job. All of the intense planning happens back at the shop before we ever get here.

That’s so interesting, because there’s an entire job where someone could be a social media manager, but that’s just one element of your job. You’re with Dale everywhere he’s going, and you have to get him from place to place to place for all of these appearances. What percent of your job would you say is social media compared to the whole picture?

I’d say for my job, it’s maybe five percent. It’s not something that I spend any time thinking about. When we’re here on the race weekend, I’ll update, but it’s more of a service that we try to provide to the fans than being important to the actual media relations part of our role, I guess.

And so really, if you think about it, the time that I’ve spent tweeting is so small compared to everything else, and especially the way our accounts are structured, anything that I would really want to push out from a PR standpoint is already being pushed out either by the Team Hendrick account in general or Dale himself or our sponsors. So it’s not like I have to have that platform to be able to get out what we’re doing from a PR sense.

So it really is kind of more of a, “Here’s what’s going on if you’re not here, and here’s an easy way to find what Dale’s doing.” But it’s not so much like the crux of what my job entails.

Social Spotlight with Sherry Pollex

Each week, I ask a member of the racing community to shed some light on their social media usage. Up next, Sherry Pollex, the longtime partner of Martin Truex Jr. (Note: This interview was conducted prior to Sherry’s public revelation of a cancer recurrence.)

Let’s start with your Twitter account. Sometimes you’re willing to put yourself out there, get opinionated. You’re really willing to speak your mind. What’s your basic philosophy with how you use your Twitter account?

My Twitter account is my only account that I have that’s public, so it’s my only chance to really give my opinion and be opinionated with the fans or just people in general about how I feel about things, whether I’m talking about my life, my personal life, cancer, racing, whatever. So I kinda use that as my platform.

I know that not everyone probably agrees with me all the time, but that’s OK, they don’t have to. As long as they’re respectful, I don’t block them. I try not to block people unless they’re mean. If they talk — can I cuss?

Sure.

OK, if they talk shit about Martin, I’m gonna block them because I don’t like when people talk shit about him. So I’m really protective of him. If somebody says something bad about him — because he’s like the nicest guy ever — then I have to block them.

You and I have talked a couple times this year about me saying some things that aren’t totally politically correct, so I’m sure I’m not on everyone’s good side all the time. But it’s my opinion, it’s honest — and if people don’t like it, they don’t have to follow me.

From afar, I look at the motorhome lot that we’re in right now and I’m like, “Everyone is so tight-knit.” But you’re saying stuff that at times might make some people mad within the motorhome lot. So do you ever get blowback from that? Does anybody ever come to you and say, “You shouldn’t have tweeted that?”

So that’s not happened to me ever, but I have heard that happening with some of the other wives. I think at times people tend to say things that are a little sensitive to other people’s husbands, and after the race it can get a little ugly on Twitter. I’ve seen some Twitter wars between the other wives. Luckily, I have never been in the middle of one.

I know there’s been some discussions in the motorhome lot after the races. Hopefully they talk it out and let it go. I think that things are just said in the heat of the moment and maybe they weren’t meant to be mean, or they weren’t meant to be rude to that person. So hopefully they talk it out like adults afterwards.

But I’ve actually never had that happen. I have gotten some Twitter wars with people on there that are mean to me, because I think people can be so quick to be judgmental on Twitter because you’re judging somebody by 140 characters or something that they’re saying.

I tell people all the time, “You don’t know me, so don’t judge me.” Don’t judge my situation. Don’t ask me why I’m not married. You know what I mean? There are so many things that are not appropriate for that time. You don’t know my situation, you don’t know my life, so don’t make those assumptions and I won’t make them about you. I think that’s the only time it’s ever really happened to me, with just people following me.

So you feel in some ways that you’re opening up your life, but then you feel like people are thinking they’re entitled to more. Like, “You gave me this one answer, this one insight, so where is the rest of it?”

Yeah. I do think people do that. So a lot of times I’ll start something, but then I don’t finish it because people do that. They keep writing and they want more, and it’s almost like they want me to say something I’m not supposed to say. And I’m not gonna do that, because it’s not the appropriate place to do it.

But I do get the marriage question a lot. I get a lot of people that ask why we’re not married. Well, it’s been 12 years, we’re still not married, we’re probably never gonna get married — so if we’re OK with it, you should be, too. Not everybody wants to be married, let’s just get that clear. So I think it depends. I try to just run that middle line all the time. I try not to make anyone too angry and just try to stay kinda even and cool.

So you’ve talked about the people that deserve the block if they talk shit about Martin. What else deserves a block? Like how does somebody cross the line? Can somebody argue with you but not get blocked?

Yeah. I’m all for a good argument. Ask Martin: I was born to argue. I love arguing with people. But if you’re gonna argue with me, do it politely. Don’t call me names and don’t say anything obnoxious about Martin, because if you do cross that line, I’m gonna probably block you. But I really haven’t had to block that many people.

I’ve had one weird stalker guy on there that was like really, really crossing the line, like talking about my family and hurting me and people in my family. I actually had to get some people involved. It was really creepy. So there is some people that I’ve had to block where I’m like, “Don’t ever come near me. You scare me. You make me feel like I wanna have a bodyguard.” But for the most part, I think everybody’s pretty friendly.

How do you decide who to follow with your Twitter account? How often are you looking at it? Is it something where you’re getting your news from it?

I definitely use Twitter for news. I get on Martin all the time for being on his Twitter, but always he says, “This is where I get my news from. This is where I get all my information.” I tried going on vacation and (staying off it) like, “Don’t go on it for a couple of days,” but I feel like I’m missing out. I haven’t been checking it, and I’m proud of myself for not checking it, but then I feel like I’m missing out on something.

So I think there’s a really fine balance between being on it for informational purposes and to get news and then being on it too much and getting addicted to it, wanting to check it all the time to see what everybody’s doing. I naturally want to know what’s going on in other people’s lives all the time — and I think that’s human nature — but it can also be unhealthy. So I have to control it sometimes, like, “I’m only gonna check Twitter and Instagram once a day. Then I don’t need to be on it again.” It’s really hard to do.

I’ve struggled with that. I’ve pretty much given up, even on vacation, I just can’t stay off it. I think we’re just so tied into it. It’s really a link to the community too, so you know what everybody else is doing, you know what’s going on, and if you miss that, like, “Oh no you didn’t see that? You didn’t know what was going on with me?”

You feel left out, right? You feel like you’re missing out on something. Martin, I give him a hard time because he’s always on his Twitter on the bus, but he never tweets anything. So he’s always on there and I’m like, “Why are you on there if you never tweet anything and you don’t like it?” And he’s like, “I feel like if I’m not on it, I miss out on everything. I don’t know what’s going on. Everybody’s doing something and I need to know about it.” I’m like, “OK, that makes sense, because I do the same thing.” It’s hard to criticize others when I do it, too.

I just figured Martin never looked at it at all. I didn’t know he was sort of a lurker.

He’s like lurking in the background, checking it all the time. And honestly, I probably shouldn’t tell people this, but after the race, he is always checking his replies to see what people are writing to him. I think he likes to see what’s going on during the race and like what people are talking about. So yeah. He’s a lurker. He’s on there a lot. He just doesn’t tweet a lot.

You have Instagram accounts, Facebook, things like that for personal use and you keep it private. Is that just a way for you to have your own space in the social media world?

Yeah. I mean, I kind of struggled in the beginning. My Instagram was open to the public, and then I was like, “Eh, I really need to have something where I can post pictures for friends and family that don’t live here that I want to keep in touch with where they can just see it, and not everybody can see it.” So that’s why I keep my Instagram private.

I’m not a big Facebook person. I have an account, but I just use it for my business (Lavendar Boutique), so I’m never really on there. So I just do Twitter and Instagram. And I’m really addicted to Instagram — I’m on there all the time. I’m always putting stuff on my story and I like to share with my friends and family, but I need my own space to keep part of my life private. So that’s why I do that.

Where do the Sherry Strong accounts come into play (for her cancer prevention website SherryStrong.org)? Do you post a lot on those yourself? Are you looking at replies to those accounts as well?

Yeah, so the @SherryStrongOC pages — we have a Facebook, an Instagram, and a Twitter, and I post on all of them. My sister, Jill, does too because she runs that account. So we both kind of tag team it. Like if I’m like juicing it or doing something cool in the morning that I want them to see that has to do with my health, then I film it. And then we do a lot of articles.

It’s not even just for cancer patients, it’s just for people in general on how to keep their bodies healthy and how to be well and how to use cancer prevention — not just if you have cancer, how to control it. So I love doing all of that. That’s a really cool outlet for me to share with the fans and how I live my life every day. I really enjoy that. So I kinda do both.

I switch around. I help Martin with his accounts sometimes, too, so I do Martin sometimes, I do mine and I do the Sherry Strong. So I have a lot of different accounts that I switch around back and forth between.

What kind of feedback have you gotten from those Sherry Strong accounts? For instance, you were talking about deodorant at one point — like how a lot of the deodorants are toxic — and my wife Sarah switched over to a healthier deodorant after seeing your post about it. So you must get a good response when you’re educating a lot of people that don’t know about this stuff.

Yeah. So I posted the deodorant thing on my personal Twitter after we put out the Sherry Strong site, and it went crazy. People went nuts over it. So I got a lot of questions about that. I mean, that’s great; I’m glad to hear that Sarah switched her deodorant, ’cause that’s good.

There’s a lot of things I learned when I got cancer about toxins on my body or in our house and around the things that we use everyday, and it was eye-opening for me. I wanted to be able to share that with people, so I try to share the important things on my personal Twitter, too, so that people who don’t follow the Sherry Strong sites can see it.

But I try not to bombard people that follow me on my personal Twitter. I know that they don’t want to hear about deodorant everyday — and I don’t write about deodorant everyday — but it is important that people know about the toxins in their body and their environment, so we do a lot of that.

And I enjoy sharing that information because it’s a lot of work to get all that and figure out what that means and what that means in your household and for you body, so we try to decipher all that for all the fans and do it for them.

What are some of your favorite accounts to follow that makes being on Twitter fun for you?

Oh geez, I have a lot of favorites. So I follow a lot of the drivers, of course. I really enjoy following Dale Jr. because he’s really funny. I’ve known Dale for a long time — Martin and him have been friends for a long time — and I know he’s really witty and funny, but he’s really funny on Twitter. Like you see his true personality come out. He’s probably my favorite person to follow.

Then I follow a couple celebrities. I follow Ashton Kutcher and random people, just celebrities that I like in movies and stuff. And then I follow some health-related stuff that I like. You put me on the spot — I can’t think of any others off the top of my head besides I really like to follow Dale Jr.

Do ever have to mute anybody?

No, how do you mute people? What are you talking about?

So if you mute somebody on Twitter, you still follow them, basically, but you no longer see their tweets so they don’t know that you don’t see their tweets. They’re just out of your timeline so you don’t have to deal with them anymore.

I didn’t know you could do that. So now you gave me this new trick that I’m gonna have to do. There might be a couple people I’m gonna have to do that to. I don’t feel like I follow that many people, but I probably do. I haven’t even looked to see how many people I follow (769). But there might be some people who I need to pull that card with now. I don’t know. You just gave me a new trick up my sleeve.

You may no longer see my tweets after this. So are you into Snapchat at all? Have you ever considered looking at Snapchat?

I’m not on Snapchat. Well, I take that back. I do have Snapchat on my phone, I did create an account, but I just never use it. I use it to take the funny pictures with the filters. So I do all the funny faces then I save the pictures and send it to people, but I don’t use Snapchat.

I took over the NASCAR Snapchat one day, and that was fun. Martin and I had some fun with that. But as far as opening it up to the public and using it, I think I just have so many other things that I wanna do with my time, it gets overwhelming.

I’m already doing Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and all that, so I don’t need to have one more thing with my time. I wanna spend time with my friends and family and be present in the moment, so I kinda have to pick and choose.

How much during a race are you looking at Twitter? Obviously you’re watching what’s going on on TV. Do you listen to the radio for Martin? How much information do you pull from Twitter as the race is actually going on?

I definitely listen to Martin’s radio, and then I’m always on Twitter during the race. So whether I’m writing anything or not, I use it for information. I read what the other wives are saying about their husbands’ cars, I read what the teams are saying about their cars, I read about what’s going on when a caution comes out, I read about what the media says. I read everything on Twitter during the race. I think it’s just a good place to get information and it kinda keeps me engaged and I can hear things that are going on with our team outside of Martin’s radio. So it’s super useful during the race, for sure.

Any final thoughts on where you think social media is going? It’s obviously come a long way in our lifetime — in the last few years really. It’s sort of crazy how it’s just suddenly there and everybody’s using it all the time. Where is it going next?

I don’t know. That’s a good question. Social media has blown up. I remember when Twitter first came out and we got on it and everyone was like, “This isn’t gonna be big. No one’s gonna do it.” And it’s huge. So I can’t even imagine where it’s gonna go now with all the video technology. Now you can do surveys and all that stuff. I can’t even imagine in five to 10 years from now where it’s gonna be.

My hope for the youth of America is that they’re not so engaged on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram that they forget to look up and enjoy their lives and live in the moment. I know we’re all kind of guilty of that, and I’d hate to see that with the younger generations.

I think it’s cool that they have all these different avenues and ways they can connect with other people — I just hope they don’t miss out on their lives, too.

Social Spotlight with Brett Griffin

Each week, I ask a member of the racing community about their social media usage. Up next: Brett Griffin, spotter for Clint Bowyer and Elliott Sadler and co-host of the Door Bumper Clear podcast on Dirty Mo Radio. (NOTE: Contains explicit language.)

You’ve built a large following over the years on Twitter. Why do you think you’ve become such a personality on there? What is the secret to you developing a following?

Our attraction as spotters is the drivers we work, for first of all. Otherwise people aren’t gonna know ultimately who we are.

But I think the things people are attracted to the most about me are I’m very unfiltered and my candidness back to people when I reply or even my initial tweets. I’m a pretty opinionated guy. Anybody who knows me — Elliott and Clint — probably know me the best of anybody in the sport, they know I’m a shit-talker. In my Twitter game, I’m also a shit-talker. I stay in character pretty much on there most of the time, I kind of play the whole spotter game, I don’t really go into a lot of my personal life. I do that more with my Facebook stuff.

But Twitter is a lot of fun. I’ve always looked at it as fans have the opportunity to get insight into high-profile people’s lives. And by no means am I a high-profile person, but I have some insight into these other high-profile worlds that exist. I’ve got a lot of friends in country music and I’ve got a lot of friends who I’ve met through football or college football, and obviously I’ve got a lot of friends in NASCAR. So I always look at it as it’s a right to get on Twitter, but it’s a privilege to get to follow somebody because they can at any moment or time say, “You’re going away.”

I have to earn the right for you to follow me. When you click follow, it’s because something made you interested in what I’m doing. But for you to stay here, obviously, I have to earn that right to keep you, if you will.

So you touched on a few things there: opinions, followers. Let’s start on the opinions. You’re obviously, as you said, unfiltered. Now a lot of people would like to say some of the things that you say, whether it’s about their political views or their opinions on drivers, and for whatever reason they don’t or they’re afraid of the blowback. You certainly have gotten pushback over the years, but you must have a way to navigate it. What is your secret to being able to say what you want and not get in trouble for it?

Again, it’s my personality that’s coming to life on Twitter. I spot the same way that I talk. A lot of people go into character to become a spotter. They go into character when their do their tweets. When you hear me on the radio, that’s me. When you see what I’m tweeting, that’s me. So I’m not gonna hide who I am.

What amazes me about Twitter is people think they can attack people with a lot of followers, and those people are afraid to say anything back to them because they’re afraid they’ll get in trouble. In (a spotter’s) situation, it would be with your boss, which would be the head of marketing or the head of competition or the manufacturer that got upset or the sponsor that got upset. And I never try to cross those lines by any means, but at the same time if you come at me, I’m gonna come back at you. That’s just my personality.

So just because you only have four followers doesn’t mean the fact I have 30,000 followers or whatever that number is, that I can’t say what I think back to you. And that’s the thing: I’d never personally attack anybody. If I call somebody a dumbass, it’s very candidly. It’s not speaking literally, but it’s funny to get some of the personal attacks back, and I laugh.

I enjoy blocking people, but I enjoy more when they block me because that tells me that I really got under their skin.

What is the balance there? Do you typically engage with somebody first before bringing out the block? How do you deal with haters?

Yesterday, there was a tweet that was sent to a media person here, Chris Knight, and it was what I thought was a very inappropriate tweet. Chris Knight actually retweeted that person and he had a comment that he made to that person. I didn’t even look at that person’s profile without blocking. I clicked on him, clicked “block” because if that kind of person who’s gonna personally attack people, when they choose or if they choose to engage with me, they’re gonna do the same with me.

I’m open for anything — I’ll debate anything with you, I’m gonna play with you to an extent — but when you start personally attacking and name-calling and all that, I’m out. Really the only thing that gets you the block button is being completely ignorant.

I saw that same tweet and it was the kind of thing that crosses the line because it was somebody talking about weight. And you can debate, argue political stuff, driver stuff, NASCAR opinions, whatever — but when you cross the line and really get personal with somebody like that, that’s really the dark side of social media.

See, I’m short and I’m chubby and I have a gap between my teeth and I have a bald spot. So I can openly admit all that and laugh at it, so if you do that to me I personally don’t care. But nonetheless, when you personally attack people that I’m friends with on Twitter, I’m gonna block you. If you personally try to insult me, I’m gonna laugh at you and then block you. And then if you block me back, then I really laugh at you. That’s the best part about it.

In my view, I kind of need these followers because if they don’t click, then nobody’s gonna read my stuff. So sometimes I wanted to block people, but I felt like, “I probably can’t because I need those people” and that was hard to ignore. In your view, do you need people to follow you for your position or is it, as you said, a privilege for them to follow you?

In a very indirect manner, you need your Twitter followers to monetize your place in this sport. I actually quit Twitter one time, a long time ago. I was in it for a year or so, built up a lot of followers and quit because I was like, “This is taking up entirely too much of my time, and there’s no real way for me to monetize this.”

Not that I’ve tried to monetize it the second go-around, but I have a podcast that came from this. We’ve had a series that we launched called Spotter Life that we do with some of the Xfinity races around (Sadler sponsor) One Main; they came to me and said, “Hey, we want you to do this.” I’ve been able to do a lot of interviews just like we’re doing here today.

By no means is it making me rich — it’s barely enough money to buy me a six pack of beer every week — but nonetheless there is some value in it for people and for sponsors. Clearly, that’s something that’s came about in the last 18 months.

For me, it’s just always been about fun and engagement. I enjoy the perspective and I’ll say the majority of people that reply to me now agree with what I say, which I think is funny because I know there are a lot of people out there that don’t. But those people that don’t are afraid that I’m gonna retweet and say something smartass to them and hurt their feelings. It was a lot more fun early; now they’re being wimps or something. I need them to come back out of their shells a little bit.

You obviously like to have fun with it. I remember back in the Michael Waltrip Racing days, some people actually tried to go around you to your bosses and get you in trouble. Did anybody ever say anything to you like, “Hey man, you’ve got to back it down?”

(Brad Keselowski spotter) Joey Meier and I both have been in situations where people anonymously emailed our bosses and said, “You need to fire your spotter,” or, “You need to get rid of Brett.” I actually think that’s kinda funny because I get paid to spot. I don’t get paid for what I say or don’t say on Twitter. People get their feelings hurt; that just goes back to how sensitive this whole thing is.

There was this one really funny thing that happened. There was an incident where a police officer lost his life and I stood behind this police officer 100 percent. And this person took my tweet — I don’t know if they were drunk or high or what they were doing when they read this tweet — as I was saying more people need to be against our cops and against our police. For anybody who follows me and knows me, I’m pro-military and pro-police, period. So they sent this long email basically saying, “You need to fire your spotter, he’s anti-cop.”

So when I got the phone call from (former MWR executive) Ty Norris, who was laughing about it, he was like, “I have to address this with you because it got sent to us.” I was like, “Ty, this person’s an idiot. Do you see what I said?” “Yeah, I just have to come to you with this.” I guess (it was) from an HR perspective.

When I got to Stewart-Haas Racing, I don’t know if I can say this or not but I’ll say it anyway, we had to sign a social media policy that basically says I won’t act like an idiot. Well, I don’t think I act like an idiot, I think I act like me. I may get on the line of an idiot, but I think I know where it’s at and I usually try to stop there.

On your podcast, you guys drop all sorts of nuggets about what’s going on in the sport. You’ll say something on the podcast and I’m like, “Oh, I didn’t know that.” Are you conscious of the fact you’re sprinkling new information out there?

I don’t think we are. I think we’re literally two guys (Griffin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. spotter T.J. Majors) who are 52 weeks a year entrenched in the sport and we’re just talking about a sport that we love. Obviously, nobody in the sport is professionally closer to Dale Jr. than T.J. Majors is, and nobody is closer to Elliott Sadler than I am. Obviously I’m extremely close to Clint Bowyer, too. We have a lot of circles that we get a lot of information from.

Some of them are news-related, some of them are gossip-related, some of them are just facts about things that have gone on in the tech line that nobody’s really talking about. So we’re just in there BSing for 45 minutes to an hour and I think things just come from that.

Half of the time it’s early Monday morning, and we’ve just gotten in (from the race). This past week, I went to bed at 4 a.m. and here we go doing this podcast at 9 a.m. I was so sleep deprived, I didn’t know what we talked about until I went back and listened to the podcast. It’s always funny to me when you’re leaving and you’re like, “I don’t know if that was a good podcast because I don’t know what we talked about” and then you go back and listen and start getting tweets from people and feedback and it’s like, “Oh my God, I can’t believe you guys said this, you did this.”

Last week, I made fun of Kyle Larson, Ricky Stenhouse being best friends, and they wrecked Danica, who is Ricky’s girlfriend, and I was like, “Kyle used his whip around Ricky’s bae.” And people were like, “You’re 42 years old and you’re saying all these young terms! I feel so old.” Man, we just have fun with it.

Do you ever get any pushback in that department? Like do you get the sense that people in the industry listen to the podcast and are like, “Dude, you said this about Larson, you said that he races like a rookie in Sonoma.”

Justin Allgaier actually came up to me in Talladega and he said, “Hey man, I was listening to you podcast and I was in my garage and I got mad because you said I forgot how to drive in the first half of the year.”

And I said, “Justin, you kinda did. You were wrecking a lot.”

“Well they weren’t my fault,” he said.

I said, “You still were wrecking. You’re 30th in points.”

(Allgaier said) “I started slinging shit around and my wife comes out like, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ ‘Brett’s made me mad. He’s talking junk about me in the podcast.'”

Again, I’m a very mouthy, candid person, so at no point am I trying to hurt anybody’s feelings. I grew up in a really small town where there were two things that were important: Sports and winning at sports. And we were taught at young ages if you get in a pile on the football field in sixth grade, you reach over and you pinch that guy’s leg as hard as you can pinch it, or you spit in his face, or you try and get in his head. So I just came up in this culture of, “Say what you think, if they don’t like what you think, they won’t like you, it is what it is.”

Kentucky Speedway, I’ve got a friend there who has given me some information about new elevators, those kinds of things, and she kind of freaks out when we put that intel out there in public. But again, it’s not things like, “Whoa, let’s fry this person this week.” We’re just giving you guys insight, perspective. We watch these race cars go around 40 weeks a year, so we have a different perspective than guys that are in your side of the sport, in the media center, in the garage doing interviews. Your thing is intel, my thing is, “What do I see?” Just a different perspective.

We’ve talked about clearly you’re unafraid to go at people back and forth. You’ve even gone at Dale Jr. a couple of times this year. It seems like nobody really goes at Dale Jr. I think you’ve said his podcast isn’t as interesting as yours, and at one point he fired back. Any behind-the-scenes feedback on that?

I’ve known Dale Jr. since 1999. I was down here and I was sitting on Elliott Sadler’s bus and Dale Jr. walked in, he was a full time Busch Series driver back then and he was doing a phenomenal job making his name in the sport.

He comes in and he’s dressed all goofy and he’s like, “Do you guys wanna go to the Y and shoot basketball?” I’m looking at this guy thinking, “There is no way this guy who looks like he just walked out of the movie Powder will be able to go shoot basketball at the Y.” So that’s the first time I met him, a very long time ago.

The best vacation I’ve even been on in my life, he brought me to Daytona Beach in 2001 in July. We stayed in a house, nine of us, for 10 days. We had an absolute blast. So once again Dale Jr. knows me, he knows how I am. That’s why they came to me about this podcast, was the personality I am on Twitter, the personality I am in real life. So we go back and forth at it.

Sure, we mean what we’re saying, but we also mean it in a very joking manner. Nobody’s gonna get mad. Last week, I guess they played something on (FS1’s) Radioactive — which I don’t listen to, by the way, during the week. But they played something on Radioactive where I guess I said, “You should have wrecked that motherfucker.” And Dale Jr. tweeted that out last week when we were in Sonoma going, “Brett gets all mad on the radio, just tells Elliott to wreck everybody.” So I tweeted back, “Dick move by my boss,” or whatever I said.

So again, that’s all in good fun. It’s certainly not being buttholes with each other. But (that’s) insight the fans aren’t gonna necessarily get see if we aren’t going back and forth. This public display of Twitter is phenomenal. If you’re a sports fan and you’re not on Twitter, you’re an idiot.

It is pretty crazy how we always hear that only 25 percent of adults use Twitter. But in NASCAR, you feel like it’s less.

I feel like it’s single digits. Our fan is an older fan. I’m very fortunate — my mom is in her 70s and she absolutely loves Twitter, loves Facebook — but it’s probably mainly because of me and my jobs. So I definitely feel like our demographic isn’t on Twitter, and I don’t know what we can do to gravitate them this way, but here’s what tells me that: When I look at wrestlers that I’ve never heard of and they have more followers than Dale Jr., I know that our fans aren’t on Twitter like they are on other social platforms. So if you’re listening, get on Twitter.

You mentioned Facebook. Is your Facebook account private for your family and friends?

It is. My Facebook is totally private, I have to accept you to come on. It’s more about my personal life than it is (about) my job. And one thing that I’ve learned from Shaun Hill, who was a quarterback in the NFL for a long time, played for the Detroit Lions, he and I were at Lake of the Ozarks together, and he told me, “Hey man, don’t let your job define who you are, because when your job goes away, you’ll be heartbroken. You won’t know how to come back from that, how to manage all the personal aspects of it.”

So I’ve really taken that advice to heart from a guy who was a professional athlete, because he told me horror stories about NFL guys that worked their entire life in the league, and when the league went away after eight to 10 years, they literally didn’t know what to do.

So I’ve always tried to keep it somewhat separate. That’s why I don’t really listen to what goes on during the week in motorsports news, because I’ve already lived this life. If I’m not hearing about it during the three days that I’m here, I’m not seeing it, I’m not learning from it or it’s not on Twitter, then I’m not meant to do it.

I think we’re oversaturated with some of the news things that we do. When I grew up, all we had was Benny Parsons on Monday night to kind of get recap and then John Kernan on RPM 2Night. Now we have all these different outlets to which fans can consume our media, which is great in the sense of, “If you want it, it’s out there.” But for me, I just choose to live in this little world from Thursday night to Sunday night and then Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday I try to worry about other stuff.

Are you on any other forms of social media where people can follow you aside from Twitter? Do you have a public Instagram, do you do any Snapchat stuff?

I lost my Instagram password. I don’t know how to get that back. Snapchat, I still haven’t figured out. I do it a little bit, sometimes I’ll do funny stuff and I don’t even know who gets it, if everybody gets it or if one person gets it. I need somebody to come give me a really good tutoring session on Snapchat, but it’s cool.