And now, a word about sponsors

Hey everyone!

I just wanted to keep you all in the loop on the latest developments with the website. It’s been going amazingly well and — if you can believe it — about a dozen different companies have reached out so far about the possibility of doing some sort of sponsorship.

That’s really exciting in some ways, but so far I’ve been hesitant because I worry the people who have stepped up to fund my career (you!) might feel I am getting away from the mission of serving them if I accept advertising.

But in the wake of getting a post-race podcast sponsor (SAM Tech, which many of you noted after Martinsville), I’m going to experiment with something on the website, and we’ll see how it goes.

Dover International Speedway reached out and offered to throw some support to the site, and they’ve been super cool about it. I’ve talked to them on the phone a couple times since January, and they’re very enthusiastic and supportive about the whole JeffGluck.com thing in a similar way that many of you are.

I decided to accept their offer, which means I’ll definitely be at both of their races. I also asked them to supply me with a custom ticket link, which means by using this link, you’re continuing to show your support for me and this site.

So when you see a Dover banner ad on things like the 12 Questions in the next few weeks, that’s what that is.

Anyway, I’d love to see you at the Dover tweetup if you can make it. And if you haven’t bought race tickets yet, here’s the handy link where you can do so.

I’m interested in hearing your feedback about this. And as always, thanks for the support!

One JeffGluck.com hat for a good cause

So as you know, Dale Earnhardt Jr. started this whole JeffGluck.com hat thing — which, again, is not real! I don’t have hats! — with a couple tweets during Phoenix weekend. And while I still don’t have plans to sell any hats, Dale came up with a great idea recently that I hope will benefit a worthy charity.

After a fan named @thetechdork made a JeffGluck.com hat and overnighted it to JR Motorsports, Dale reached out and suggested we auction it off for charity. The bidding started at $200 (if you can believe that!) and will last for a week; proceeds go to the Dale Jr. Foundation, which will then donate to Beads of Courage — my preferred charity.

I’m SO happy Dale came up with a great way to use the hat prank craziness for a good cause. My wife, Sarah, is training to be a Child Life Specialist at a children’s hospital and has told me about how kids react to getting their Beads of Courage.

If a child is getting a bead, they’re likely battling a very serious and chronic illness. For every needle poke, surgery or overnight stay in the hospital — just to name a few — the child receives a bead. I’ve been carrying some tire-shaped beads around with me since the Daytona 500 so a child will be able to say their bead was at the racetrack.

Anyway, I hope the winning hat bidder knows they’re helping a worthy charity that makes a difference in the lives of children who are going through hard times.

Here’s the link to the charity auction if you want to check it out.

Thanks again to Dale for coming up with this idea (and by the way, the small print on the auction site says Dale “will autograph the hat if the highest bidder would like for it to be,” so there’s that!).

Below are two videos: The Periscope where we announced the plan and a video where you can learn more about what Beads of Courage does.


A note about the hats

So there’s this hat thing going around (a hat movement!) where people seem to want JeffGluck.com-branded hats.

It started as a sarcastic Dale Earnhardt Jr. tweet, and others joined in on the fun. He later continued the prank — a well-executed troll job, to be sure! I thought it was pretty hilarious.

But now I’m getting a lot of tweets along the lines of: “Hey, that was funny, but we actually do want hats. When are the hats coming?” On top of that, no less than nine people (some very reputable!) have already reached out in the last 24 hours with offers to help me create and produce hats.

That’s all very nice, and I’m certain many of you are serious that you would actually buy JeffGluck.com hats. Super cool of you to be so supportive!

But here’s the thing: I don’t feel totally comfortable with selling hats. Or T-shirts. Or any merchandise, for that matter.

Look, I’m absolutely THRILLED people are so pumped about my new adventure, and it’s going amazingly well so far. At the same time, though, I’m still a journalist covering your favorite sport; I’m not in the sport.

As a media member, I’m supposed to be a go-between linking you with the drivers, so you can find out more information about them and get insight into their personalities. My job is to observe the show, not to be part of it.

I know at times that line has been blurred — especially after the Las Vegas fight video put me in a brief spotlight — but the mission with this site remains a journalistic one more than a business one. I want to have fun with you while watching everything unfold together.

So for now — and I say this despite much respect and appreciation for your wishes — there aren’t going to be any hats. I don’t want to rule out merchandise at some point in the future, but we’re only two months into this whole thing and I want to keep building the website/podcast in a respectable way — not cheapening it with JeffGluck.com coffee mugs and keychains.

Help from an unlikely source

A lot of you might not have heard of Patreon until I started talking about it a couple weeks ago, so I wanted to share how I learned of the site in the first place.

I’m a huge fan of the Survivor podcasts hosted by Rob Cesternino (his podcast is called “Rob Has A Podcast;” his website is RobHasAWebsite.com. Rob has this fun-loving tone to his work (which also extends to many other reality shows) and it’s clear he has a true passion and enthusiasm for what he does. His friendly nature also makes you feel like you could be buddies, which I love.

Anyway, Rob sometimes mentions a link where listeners can go to “learn about the benefits of becoming a patron.” That piqued my curiosity last year, so I went to the site he mentioned: His Patreon page.

I signed up for $5 a month — I get enjoyment from his podcasts and wanted to support them — and initially didn’t think much more about it. But when I found myself in a situation where I may need to change jobs, I started thinking about whether Patreon would work for supporting other kinds of journalism.

But Rob wasn’t just the inspiration for my move. He actually took time to help me with it.

I wrote Rob an email in early January and told him about my plan, thanking him for unknowingly introducing me to a potential new career path.

To my surprise, he not only wrote back, but suggested we hop on the phone.

A few days later, Rob took more than 30 minutes out of his day to help a complete stranger learn more about Patreon and talk through some of the pluses and minuses of the site. And before hanging up, Rob highly encouraged me to start a podcast in addition to just writing on this site.

As a fan of Rob’s, it was a total thrill for me to get advice from someone who is doing it right in the digital world — and feel like I was on my own personal episode of RHAP at the same time. So I wanted to publicly thank him for all his help in getting me started.

Thank you, Rob!

By the way, if you’re a Survivor fan and you don’t subscribe to Rob’s podcasts…what in the world are you doing? His weekly “Survivor Know It Alls” with Stephen Fishbach during the season are absolute must-listens for every Survivor fan (they immediately break down the strategy after the show) and his exit interviews with booted castaways following each vote always shed light on what really happened on the island.

Seriously, I talk my friends’ ears off about what I learned each week on the podcast (ask poor Alan Cavanna). So listen to them; I promise you’ll be a more informed Survivor fan.

Screenshot from one of RHAP’s Survivor Know It Alls episodes. Rob and Stephen live-stream the episodes on YouTube and then post them for podcast listening later.

So, about that name…

As you might have heard, I’m now “Jeff Gluck from JeffGluck.com.” And people seem to be getting a kick out of the name.

For example:


It sounds funny and it IS funny. I’m laughing along with everyone else, and people sort of grin when they ask me if I’m keeping the name.

The truth is, I tried to come up with a bunch of different names before launching this new venture. None have worked out so far, but I figured you might get a kick out of the backstory.

At first, I thought I hit on a good name: Starting40.com (get it? Forty cars in a NASCAR race?). I bought the website domain and then even convinced the dude who had the Twitter name @Starting40 to give it to me for free (although I sent him a $25 gift card to Amazon because I felt bad).

But then I realized there was a big problem: It looks there might not be 40 cars in many Cup races this year! So that would be pretty dumb if I used it and it was really a starting 37.

Next, I thought of a really cool website name that involved the word “restart” in it (I don’t want to say what exactly it is). It would be appropriate because I’m restarting my career and there’s an obvious racing connection to the word, too.

So I looked up the dude who owns the site (which doesn’t have anything on it) and emailed him out of the blue, asking if he’d consider selling it. I got a reply saying it was his wife’s site and he needed to talk to her about it.

A couple days later, some good news!

Hi Jeff,

I talked to my wife and she is ok potentially selling the domain so if you like please name a reasonable price and see if we can work it out together. I was super pumped about this, but I wasn’t sure how much to offer. How much does a website name cost? I dunno.

I wrote back:

That’s very kind of her, please tell her thanks for considering it. I’ve actually never done this before and, embarrassingly, have no concept of what would be an appropriate price. Is $100 in the ballpark? No offense intended if not, I just really don’t know.

Well, apparently that was an insulting offer, because I never heard from them again despite following up several times. Damn.

Then I came across a site called OnTheTrack.com, and I thought that name was semi-cheesy but not terrible. And the site actually had a form on it where I could ask for sales info.

Sweet!

I filled it out and sent it off, with fingers crossed for a reasonable price.
Then I got this email back:

Hi Jeffrey,

My name is (Redacted) and I’m a Domain Broker with (Redacted). We represent the current owner of onthetrack.com.

I discussed this with my client and based on many criteria, their expectations are $19,000.00.

Please let me know if you have any questions or would like to make an offer. Thank you for your inquiry.

LOLOLOL … WHAT??? I couldn’t believe it. $19,000 for a website name? Who pays for this stuff?

Anyway, I went back to GoDaddy and tried to come up with a non-lame name that ends in a .com (I don’t want a .net or .info, personally) and struck out.

With time running out before my site launch, I realized I was stuck with JeffGluck.com for now.

My media friends have been very encouraging so far and keep telling me to say it in news conferences. “Own it,” they say. But instead, I’ve only said things like, “Hi, Jeff Gluck, over here in the middle” after initially mentioning it in the format changes presser.

Anyway, hopefully I can either come up with a good idea or enough money to buy a good name at some point.

In the meantime, we can all laugh together.

What’s Next

Dear Friends,

When I told you on Friday it was my last day with USA Today, there was a lot of speculation about why and what was next. Well, I’m here to give you those answers.

It might seem surprising/crazy/borderline insane to leave a great job voluntarily, but that’s what I did. Ultimately, it came down to this: USA Today needs a NASCAR writer in Charlotte, but I might not live in Charlotte for much longer.

My wife, Sarah, is trying to become a Child Life Specialist (someone who works in a children’s hospital and helps sick kids and their families). She’s currently doing an internship in New Mexico, and she’ll be able to look for jobs after she’s finished in May. It’s a no-brainer for me to support her career and I need to have the flexibility to relocate, because who knows where we’ll end up?

It also seemed obvious that it would be a jerk move to leave USA Today hanging in the middle of the season. What if Sarah gets a job at the start of the Chase and I leave them shorthanded? That wouldn’t be very professional, so this was the right time in order to give them a chance to replace me before the season.

So where does that leave us? Believe it or not, right here. This is my new home for NASCAR coverage.

Let me explain:

My plan is to start a reader-funded NASCAR website and podcast. I will work directly for you, write only about what I think interests you and won’t waste your time with things that don’t. There won’t be any clickbait because, if this works, my income won’t depend on pageviews.

— You can help me by giving small contributions through my Patreon page. Patreon is like a GoFundMe site, except it’s monthly; it offers a chance for people to support someone’s work by becoming a “patron.” So if enough people pledge a small amount (say $2 a month, the cost of one USA Today), I could keep covering NASCAR for a living and hopefully still travel to races.

— This will not be a subscription site. I thought for a long time about this, but I don’t want to put my NASCAR coverage behind a paywall. That would punish the people who might not be able to afford to pitch in, and I’d rather you just be able to give what you’re comfortable with (even if that’s nothing). However, I tried to offer some modest rewards which I hope will express my thanks to you for investing in me (you’ll see those on the Patreon page).

So there you have it. There’s no magic job waiting for me. As Carl Edwards said in his retirement news conference: “There’s no life raft I’m jumping onto — I’m just jumping.”

I’ll be honest: This is the scariest thing I’ve ever done — I gave up a solid income, health insurance, travel budget, etc. — but it’s also the most exciting. I’m totally comfortable with the decision and it would be an absolute dream to make a living while remaining independent.

I don’t know if this will work, but I guess we’ll all find out at the same time!

If you’d like to learn more about how to keep me employed and watch a video I made about all this, please visit my Patreon page.

A note to all of you: Thank you!

My first tweet, like many others I’ve posted over the years, didn’t say much:

It’s embarrassing to look back on some of my earlier tweets now. Many are lame, others are cringe-worthy stupid and a few come across as arrogant or egotistical.

And that’s just last week!

Seriously, though, I’m bringing this up because I passed 100,000 followers today and just wanted to say a huge THANK YOU to all of you who continue to stick with me. I know it’s not easy at times.

Of course, not all 100,000 followers are actual people. There are hundreds of accounts which seem to be spam or perhaps people who once sent a couple tweets and lost interest, never to use Twitter again. In that sense, 100,000 isn’t exactly accurate.

In reality, I’d guess far less than 50,000 are actual people who are engaged and paying attention. If it’s any more than that, I’d be shocked — after all, the shortened bit.ly links I tweet to my USA TODAY articles usually only get a thousand clicks on average.

But no matter what the actual number of followers is, the point is this: I owe so much to all of you.

I’m thankful for those who created Twitter and established the medium, but it’s really about the users. My career would be completely different if Twitter hadn’t come along, and there’s a decent chance I might not even still be writing about NASCAR had it not existed.

Some of you already know this part, but I was laid off from NASCAR Scene magazine in 2010 and had no job prospects. After texting my mom that I lost my job, the next thing I did was tweet (to about 3,000 followers at the time) and ask if anyone knew of any other jobs. I then got a call from SB Nation, then in its infancy, to see if I was interested in helping start up their NASCAR coverage.

That allowed me to stay in racing and keep doing a job I enjoy.

But in all honesty, by far the best part about this job is the interaction I have with you guys. Whether it’s Twitter messages or tweetups or even the friendships I’ve made (more than a few of you have my phone number or have hung out away from the racetrack), I’m deeply appreciative for all of you.

Yes, I’m even grateful for the trolls. It’s so cool to work on a story, tweet it out and then see immediate reaction to it — good or bad. Imagine if you worked on an English essay in school and turned it into the teacher, only to have it instantly graded.

That’s what keeps this interesting, and that’s what keeps me motivated — trying to give you something you’re interested in reading, trying to give you a reason to keep following.

So yeah, even though 100,000 followers doesn’t mean there are really 100,000 people out there reading my tweets, the number still means something to me. Thanks.

Anyway, you know plenty about me by now — especially the ones who have been around since ’09. But who exactly are you guys? Thanks to Twitter analytics, here are some insights:

— 90% of you are interested in NASCAR racing. (Duh, right? But who are the other 10%? I feel sorry for them having to see my feed.)

— You are 74% male, 26% female. That surprised me because I feel like the replies are about 50-50.

— 61% of you are married and 77% of you own your homes. 55% of you have completed high school; 33% have completed college. It’s worth noting all four of these categories are higher than the national average.

— The biggest shocker: Despite its series title sponsorship, only 16% of you use Sprint as your wireless carrier — the same as the national average. 40% of have Verizon and 36% have AT&T.

Anyway, thanks again for following along. I know we won’t always agree on everything, but I truly value you and fully understand I wouldn’t have my job without you reading my stories and clicking the links.

I look forward to seeing everyone at a tweetup sometime soon.

Sincerely,

Jeff