I’ve been coming to Phoenix Raceway for 12 years now, and there’s something about this place that feels special for me.
That’s not sarcasm, although I could see why people would think that — since I’m always ripping on the awful facilities like the media center (they’re fixing it!).
But in all seriousness, Phoenix always makes me stop and reflect. Why? Check out this list of personal firsts:
— It was my first racing assignment for the Inland Valley (Calif.) Daily Bulletin in Nov. 2005. My main job for the newspaper was high school sports, but sports editor Louis Brewster generously allowed me to cover the Phoenix race because he knew how badly I wanted to go.
During that first weekend, Brewster assigned me a story on our local driver David Gilliland, who was in his second career Busch Series race. It wasn’t much of a story at the time (he start-and-parked), but it was Gilliland’s first race with car owner Clay Andrews — a pairing which would pull off the famous Kentucky upset a year later.
— It was my first on-the-road assignment for NASCAR Scene magazine in April 2007. I’d left the Daily Bulletin for my dream job in early ’07, and Phoenix was my first race after a few weeks in the office. I was absolutely on top of the world. Getting paid to travel full-time to NASCAR races? Are you kidding?
Plus, Scene was rolling in cash at the time (it was still the glory days of print advertising) and they paid for FIVE Scene writers to fly out a day early so we could “adjust to the time zone.” Gotta be fresh for the weekend and all that, right?
So we had two days to lounge by the pool at a fancy hotel and eat good food on someone else’s dime. Plus, all of the other writers were guys I practically idolized as a subscriber of the magazine, so I didn’t think it could get much better than that. I wore my Scene polo shirt to the track with pride and beamed when I saw crew members reading it in the garage.
— It was the first race I ever live-tweeted in April 2009!Scene had each of us create Twitter accounts in March of that year, but they wouldn’t let us start tweeting until a sponsored deal with Sprint kicked in. The first race was Phoenix, and we had to tweet #SprintRacing after every tweet. Anyway, I sat up in the press box and tweeted, connecting with some of you for the first time. Much has changed in the time since (or not).
Crew chiefs are telling their drivers that everyone is running the same lap times, so no passing. Track position. #nascar#sprintracing
— This was the first place I traveled for JeffGluck.com. Thanks to your early surge of pledges, I had enough money to go cover testing in January. That was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had, because I was only there because you wanted me to be there.
Anyway, perhaps in part of all these firsts, I always feel like it’s a privilege to come out to Phoenix. If you’re a NASCAR beat writer who makes it out this far west, you’re fortunate to either work for a large outlet with a travel budget or you have the resources to make it on your own.
There aren’t a lot of us left. The only traveling beat writers here this week are from ESPN.com, FOXSports.com, Motorsport.com, NASCAR.com, NASCAR Wire Service, KickinTheTires.net and Catchfence.com. And me.
So I’m pretty happy to be here. It’s another special weekend, and I don’t take it for granted.
After getting back on track at Phoenix Raceway and qualifying ninth, it was Kyle Busch’s turn.
Busch spoke to a pair of reporters (including me) on pit road after his qualifying lap, telling us why he punched Logano last week and adding he still didn’t buy Logano’s explanation.
When Busch tried to make a move down the backstretch and avoid a slowing Brad Keselowski on the last lap, he made contact with Logano. He felt Logano then took revenge right away.
“It was instantaneous,” Busch said. “I made a move down the backstretch that cut Joey off — and I had to; I wasn’t just going to roll out of the gas and fall in behind Brad and probably lose spots to more guys behind me. So I made a bold move — I was two-thirds of my way past Logano, and I figured I can wedge my way through there a little bit.
“And I did, and it was instantaneous retaliation. That’s what I thought and that’s kind of what I still think.”
Logano presented Busch with data during their meeting with NASCAR that he felt proved the incident was unintentional, but Busch didn’t believe it.
“No,” Busch said after being asked whether the data changed his mind. “Nope.”
Busch said he’s raced Logano well over the years and “didn’t expect that move from Joey.” He thought the two would be able to showcase their talent in a good, side-by-side finish and then say something like, “Ah, he got me this time. Damn.”
But Logano “chose a different route,” Busch said.
“And if it was Brad, I would have expected that route to be chosen, you know what I mean?” he added. “So that’s how I interpret that.”
Busch also expressed frustration over “continuing to get wrecked by the Penske guys.” You’ll recall Logano has also been in recent high-profile wrecks with Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth.
As for the lack of NASCAR penalty for punching Logano on pit road?
“There could have been different circumstances that played out that wouldn’t have allowed me to be here, and that’s why I said what I said earlier — that everything is great,” Busch said. “Life is good.”
Oh, and one more thing: Did Busch’s punch connect or not?
Busch’s public relations representative cut off the question, and the driver didn’t answer — but Busch grinned and shook his hand like it hurt.
In case you can’t get enough of this topic, Joey Logano came into the Phoenix Raceway media center Friday afternoon for a scheduled session. Naturally, most of the questions were about the fight.
Here are some of the highlights:
— On what he and Busch discussed during their Friday morning meeting with NASCAR: “I told him that we obviously made contact on the back straightaway. I had a not-very-good entry and had to slow down the car a lot to stay on the bottom and tried to make up some of that speed at the bottom of the racetrack and then I got loose. Once you get loose once, then I was on his door. You get loose again and at that point that was it. That is my mistake.
“The fact of the matter is I tried to stay on the bottom, I made a mistake and got up into him. I hate that it happened. I would take it back in a heartbeat. He asked for data when we talked on the phone (during the week) and I was able to bring that with me and present that and try to explain what was going on inside my race car.”
— On whether he got through to Busch: “Time will tell. I guess your actions on the racetrack are what speaks the loudest a lot of times. I believe so. I tried to be as open and honest and be an open book. There are no secrets. Hopefully that helped.”
— On whether it was intentional: “We were racing to the checkered flag and I have no reason to do anything on purpose for fourth place. That makes no sense. We were racing hard for position and the car got loose.”
— On whether he’s OK with Busch not being penalized: “Of course. I don’t see where there should have been a fine for anything. I didn’t see anything wrong.”
— On his insistence he didn’t get punched in the face: “I have ninja moves man! I slipped. … I can say that I didn’t feel anything (if Busch did connect). It sure didn’t hurt.”
As for Busch’s side of all this? Well, so far all we’ve gotten is “Everything is great!”
Kyle Busch and Joey Logano met briefly in the NASCAR hauler prior to practice Friday at Phoenix International Raceway. Each driver emerged separately — followed by NASCAR executive vice president Steve O’Donnell.
Here’s one thing we learned from each participant:
Drivers can get physical on pit road, but they’d better not use their cars to settle any beefs.
“We’re very clear that we’re not going to allow a car to be used as a weapon,” O’Donnell said. “We didn’t see that in this case. We looked at this as good, hard racing. That’s when we will react — if there’s an intentional something that happens on the racetrack, we’ll have to react.”
The Team Penske driver brought data from the car with him — something he said Busch asked for — as evidence he didn’t do it on purpose (data could include steering inputs, for example).
“I was able to show him that and it was pretty clear, in my opinion, what happened,” Logano said. ” I hope he was able to see that and know I was sincere about it.
“The only thing I can do at this point was to plead my case and say, ‘Hey, it was an honest mistake, it was hard racing at the end.'”
Logano said it “always helps to talk face-to-face” — something he didn’t do in the past, notably with Matt Kenseth prior to the veteran taking revenge on him at Martinsville.
Everything is great.
“Everything is great,” Busch said. “Everything is great. … Everything is great. … Everything is great.”
I grew up a Jeff Gordon fan, but in 2001, I became a Harvick fan. He is from Bakersfield. He grew up near where I grew up. He went to school with my mom, and I actually know his mom. We talked about his first win at Atlanta the day after it happened.
5. Who is your most disliked driver?
6. Why don’t you like that person?
I have never liked his attitude. I wasn’t entirely fond of the fact that the Chase format allowed someone to miss multiple races and still win the championship.
7. What is your favorite track?
8. What is one thing you would change if you were in charge of NASCAR?
I do not like the final race being “straight up.” I am a fan of the new format because it rewards consistency once again, but being better at Homestead is still what will technically crown the champion.
9. What is one thing you would keep the same if you were in charge of NASCAR?
Race lengths. The endurance required is one thing that makes the races so exciting. If they were much shorter, it would take away from that fact.
10. How often do you yell at the TV during a race?
11. Do you have any advice for other fans?
Find people who love the sport. They may not love it at first, but if you see even an inkling of hope that they may grow to love NASCAR, cultivate that hope! Expose them to NASCAR as much as possible. You know how amazing NASCAR is, so it is just a matter of time before they know that as well.
And do not be discouraged by those who say it is “boring” or they are “just driving in circles.”
12. What else do you want the NASCAR world to know about you?
NASCAR has been my main passion my entire life. I love absolutely everything about it. Even as a young kid, I would spent countless hours on Jayski.com reading articles, trying to understand a new rule or looking at paint schemes.
I love NASCAR. I will never stop watching it. I love watching it, reading about it and talking about it with others.
The third edition of the “Social Spotlight” focuses on the social media usage of Roush Fenway Racing’s Bubba Wallace. We spoke last week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
First of all, I have to give you some credit because a few years ago, you told me about this amazing (photo editing app) called Snapseed.
I don’t even use that anymore.
You don’t even use it? What have you moved on to?
They have Lightroom which is a really good photography app you can get on your computer, and is what a lot of professionals use — I think. But they have it for your phone, so I use that now.
Well apparently I have to move onto that. Every time somebody is like, “I really like your Quiet Track picture,” I’m like, “Oh yeah, actually I totally enhanced that using Snapseed,” but I just don’t tell them. Really, I think the trick for photography when you post on social media is you have to make it look nice, but you can’t give it away that it looks too filtered.
Right. Yes. That is true. You’ve got to keep your adjustments and all your secrets kind of in check. First starting out, remember on Instagram you could do all those filters? And then I used three apps and my girlfriend (Amanda) gives me so much crap still — and this was like five years ago — but like the super HDR. It’d be blue sky but I’d turn it black. Oh, it’s bad.
But I’ve come a long way now and cleaned up my pictures. But yeah, I don’t even use Snapseed. There was one called Camera+ and one more that I can’t remember what it was. But good times back in the old app days.
So are you not as into photography these days? I look at your Instagram feed and maybe you don’t have as much time or you’re doing other stuff.
I don’t do it as much and I wish I would. I’m always like, “Ooh, there’s a new camera, let’s go get it.” Which I don’t need a new camera at all. I’ve got really good stuff. But to shoot track photography — which I’d like to start doing again — I need this one lens, but it costs an arm and a leg. So that’s the only bad thing.
I took some stuff of personal vehicles, but nothing like I was doing. I was taking pictures like every day, but I just don’t have time for it now between the race schedule and trying to do stuff at home, being lazy. But yeah, I want to get back into it for sure.
So is Instagram not your favorite platform? What is your favorite social platform to use?
It’s a toss-up between Instagram and Twitter. Instagram, you know, just from the photography side, whether it’s a picture I’ve taken or a picture here at the track that professionals have taken, share it out with the fans. If I post anything with my face in it, my girlfriend will send me a DM or a text of something funny about it — it’s guaranteed. But Twitter, just engaging with the fans or other drivers on there, starting up some funny conversations. Just between those two. There’s not really one that tops it.
Where does Snapchat fit into all that for you?
Snapchat is third to that. Those three are what I use. I get Instagram Stories, so I keep thinking that’s a different app.
When you hear about Millennials, you hear about Snapchat. You go to a concert and you look at people’s phones and it’s all Snapchat. So why do you think for you personally, you’re not 100% Snapchat?
I don’t know. I like Snapchat. The filters on there adds some fun stuff. You look at pictures for 10 seconds or whatever and it goes away. I’ll sometimes scroll through the news part — like the topics or whatever…
The Discover tab.
Discover, yeah. I’ll scroll through those; some things are interesting on there. Some days I’ll be on Snapchat all day, then I’ll go three or four days without doing it. It’s still fun though.
Do you like the Instagram Stories better than Snapchat’s stories?
I’m so used to Snapchat that I keep forgetting about Instagram. And I think I have a lot bigger following on Instagram than Snapchat. But Snapchat is just easy. A little easier to work. You don’t have to swipe over. You just open it up, there’s a selfie of you right there. Snap away. Instagram takes a little bit more work. But I kind of like the drawing stuff on there, the different font types and you can add your location and stuff. It’s pretty cool. I just keep forgetting about it.
That’s the same thing for me. I almost get annoyed when I see people posting Instagram Stories because I’m so used to Snapchat.
I’m like, “Oh, great. Now I’ve got to go through these three people’s (stories) of the ones I follow.” Not everybody does it.
No. Like I follow Lewis Hamilton, Ken Block — I don’t follow them on Snapchat, but I imagine they do it on both. But they are heavy on Instagram (Stories).
That’s interesting, because Lewis Hamilton is super heavy on Snap.
Is he? I don’t follow him on there. But man, he has some cool stuff. It makes me wonder like, “How do you get that effect?” I know they go through some editing stuff.
Actually, seeing how it worked yesterday with (YouTube trick-shot star) Brodie Smith, and he recorded it all, but then they were cutting through sections. Like they cut out a lot of stuff. I’m like, “Huh. That’s interesting. I need to figure out how to do that.”
Like right there, on an app?
So he turned his phone on Airplane Mode, so nothing was going to go through. But he was just recording on the camera roll, and then the NASCAR social team would go through and post it for him, and it was all cut up. They didn’t show like the whole walk up to the Stratosphere. They just showed, “We’re at the bottom, now we’re at the top.” But it was all the same clip. I need to figure out how to do that. It was pretty cool.
Let’s talk a little bit about how you deal with fans — or people who aren’t your fans — on social media. If you have haters, what’s your general strategy? Are you a blocker? Do you mute people? Ignore it?
I ignore it. I don’t know if I’ve blocked anybody on Twitter. I’ve blocked a ton of people on Snapchat, because those are annoying. Just snapchat after snapchat of random stuff.
Yeah, because people are snapping to their freaking friends list. They’re not just posting to their story, they’re sending it to all their friends. You’re like, “Dude! Stop.”
Yeah, exactly. I’ve gotten like conversations like, “Hey, why don’t you talk to me anymore?” I don’t even know who the hell they are. And it’s like, “Oh, you can’t snap me back?” It could be some 10-year-old little boy or whatever. Just freaking around on the damn Snapchat and I’m like, “Sorry, no idea who you are.” And then he’s like, “Oh, hey, I’m — “ BLOCK! So I block that stuff.
But I haven’t had anything crazy on Snapchat, Instagram. Twitter, you’ll get those ignorant comments every once in awhile, but it’s just funny to go back and look at ‘em, laugh, and then think about posting something back but knowing you’ll probably get a phone call if you do. So I just kind of hold off.
So it’s one of those things where your instinct is to reply right away and then you’re like, “Eh, not worth it.”
Yes, yes. You’re going to get that phone call (from Roush Fenway Racing): “We’ve seen your post, that reply to that guy. We get where you’re coming from, but hold off.” (It’s like) “Yeah, OK, Mom.” (Laughs)
Speaking of Mom, do your parents ever say anything about your social media stuff? Because mine do.
No. My dad is on Twitter and at 7 a.m. you’ll see, “Darrell Sr. liked your tweet” or retweeted something. Every day. But my mom, we would be on Facebook back in high school and she’d say, “You can’t be saying ‘Hell’ or ‘Shit’ or something on there.” And I’m like, “BLOCK!” I unfriended her. So we aren’t even (Facebook) friends to this day. I don’t even think she gets on there anymore.
Even still? You haven’t re-friended her on Facebook?
No. I don’t even get on Facebook anymore. I have a tab on my (Internet) Explorer and I’ll click on it and (it’s like), “OK, I’m done.” I’m not on there like I am Twitter and Instagram.
So it’s mostly Roush or people monitoring your feed who are like, “Hey, we’re trying to save you from yourself,” but it’s annoying. That kind of thing?
Yeah, the Fun Police. But that’s part of it. You’re athletes and whatever you want to call us — we’re put on a pedestal, and we’ve got to watch what we say. We can keep it borderline and play on the fence sometimes, but don’t want to push the limits too hard.
How often are you on Twitter? Do you see all of your replies?
Yeah, after a race, I’ll go all the way back until (I think), “Oh, I’ve seen that tweet before.” I’ll read through, especially after a win, I’ll be scrolling for hours. That was three years ago (since he won), so I haven’t done that win scroll (lately). But even if we have a good race, I’ll go through there and read them. You’ll find that one ignorant comment and keep scrolling. But ask my girlfriend how much I’m on my phone. She hates it. I’ll wake up, grab Twitter — I’m hooked on it.
So the like or the heart on Twitter — do you use it to save something, to show you agree with something or do acknowledge something?
Acknowledge. It’s like, “Eh, I don’t really want to reply, but I liked it.”
“I saw that.”
Yes. (Ryan) Blaney is the king of it. Yesterday we did that thing with Brodie Smith and I’m going to retweet anything Brodie posts out. Ryan’s just like, “Like.” I’m like, “Whatever. I’ll get my name out there more.” (Laughs)
You’re trying to do the whole publicity thing, the other guy is trying to get the mutual publicity and Blaney is like, “Nah, I’ll just like it.”
Yeah, that’s it. (Laughs)
After a race when you’re mad, what’s the biggest challenge you face with handling your own social media?
Really, I hate when people to use their social platforms to vent. I probably have — probably a double standard here — but I can’t remember the last time I have. But people who go on their Facebook and post those long posts. “Oh my God, my day was like this today…” Get out of here with that. I don’t go on there and say, “We ran bad today and it’s kind of horrible and I feel like this.” No.
I’m obviously pissed off, but I’ll put in some good music and then go and find something funny on Twitter to kind of relax the mood. I don’t really have any struggles with social media besides actually really wanting to say what I want to say. I’d like to have an uncensored deal and not get in trouble. That’s the hardest part. But everything else is alright.
Your girlfriend has become a big part of your social media. You’re constantly taking spy shots of her or tricking her or shooting a video when she thinks you’re shooting a picture. How often does she get annoyed with you about that?
She doesn’t get annoyed. She’s a good team player. The only thing is she’s private on Instagram, so you won’t ever see me tag her, just because you get those fan girls out there that will go friend-request her.
She’ll ask me sometimes, “Do you know this person?” I’m like, “Yeah, I’ve seen them like my post like 20 times.” But I won’t ever tag her. I’ll just say, “This is Amanda.” but then people will get nosy, go through my following (and find her). It’s crazy how they try to get in touch with somebody you tag in a photo.
So what do you think the future is? Everybody thought Twitter might go the way of MySpace eventually, but it seems to be sticking around OK. People say Millennials don’t like it, but at least in NASCAR, it seems to be thriving. Do you feel like that’s going to be something that’s around for years or disappear and make us find something else?
I think it’s going to be around for awhile. Ask Amanda, though: She deleted her Twitter because “It’s a dying social media.” Mine’s still ticking, I’m still getting followers every day. It’s just a fun, quick way to interact with fans and that’s what a a lot of fans are going to. Even the old school fans are starting to get on Twitter and have some fun with it. It’s just fun to keep evolving. Who knows what will be next though on the social world.
What happened: NASCAR’s penalty report from Las Vegas Motor Speedway contained no penalties of any kind for Kyle Busch, Joey Logano or any of their crew members following Sunday’s pit road fight.
What it means: Angry drivers are allowed to punch someone after a race, and NASCAR is going to embrace that emotion. If that seems like a change from recent years, welcome to the Monster Energy Era. Mixing it up on and off the track is exactly what the series sponsor wants, and apparently even fights are fair game. It’s nice to see NASCAR didn’t act in a hypocritical fashion and fine Busch while profiting from the publicity and using it to promote upcoming races.
News value (scale of 1-10): Six. It’s above average news for the reason it might set a new precedent for how NASCAR will react to such altercations.
Questions: How far can a driver go before getting penalized now? If Busch had injured Logano, would the situation be different? Should Busch get a gift card or something for all the attention he got for NASCAR this week?
Here’s a slo-mo version of the video if you want to break it down frame-by-frame: