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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.