Someone at FOX Sports has big balls

Television broadcasting is hard. REALLY hard.

The professionals make it look easy, but it takes true talent to be able to think of something, make that something come out of your mouth without tripping over your words and then actually provide insight — all while some producer is giving instructions in your earpiece.

So when FOX Sports turns over its entire Xfinity Series broadcast at Pocono to a bunch of amateurs, it’s going to be must-see TV.

Now, these aren’t just any amateurs — they’re experts in their field — but FOX’s concept is a fascinating experiment. From the booth to pit road to the Hollywood Hotel, all of the “talent” will be active Cup drivers.

These drivers all have experience in front of the camera, which definitely makes a difference. It’s not like they’re going to be blankly staring into your TV.

But still, they’re going to struggle with all the things required of a professional. Getting to a commercial without leaving too much dead air? Throwing from one reporter to another on pit road? Setting up a replay?

It could be a total mess. Or it could be one of the best and most enjoyable broadcasts in years.

Either way, you sort of have to tune in, right?

It’s fun to picture Kevin Harvick as a play-by-play guy, trying to wrangle Clint Bowyer and Joey Logano as analysts. Then there will be Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ryan Blaney and Erik Jones trying to describe pit stops and interview wrecked drivers. And Danica Patrick and Denny Hamlin will make small talk in the Hollywood Hotel while keeping the show moving.

That’s the plan, anyway. How exactly is this all going to work? I’m as curious as anyone — and I can’t wait to see what happens. My guess is a lot of viewers feel the same way.

So nice move, FOX. We’ll be watching.

First person essay: Kaitlyn Vincie on her pregnancy journey

Editor’s note: Kaitlyn Vincie is a reporter for FOX Sports who regularly appears on Race Hub, RaceDay and as a pit reporter for Camping World Truck Series broadcasts. I’ve known Kaitlyn since she was trying to break into the NASCAR world, and I’m honored she agreed to do an essay for JeffGluck.com on the story of her pregnancy in advance of Mother’s Day.

By Kaitlyn Vincie

When I first found out I was pregnant with my daughter, Kadence, it reminded me of a scene from the movie Knocked Up. It’s the part where Katherine Heigl had all the pregnancy tests in her hand, wondering if ONE of them would have a different outcome. Like Katherine’s character, all four of my tests said the same thing — and all four were positive.

Yes, there were four.

A quick visit with a doctor gave the final and official verdict after an unsettling 17 hours: Ready or not, my fiance Blake Harris and I were going to be parents. Off to the races, as they say.

I went into last offseason thinking 2017 would be about planning a wedding with Blake, who is the car chief for Furniture Row Racing’s No. 78 team. But while we were ready to get married, we definitely weren’t in the right mindset to have a child. I could barely seem to keep plants alive at my home, much less fathom raising a kid.

However, there was a different plan for us than we anticipated. And I am certain now it’s the greatest turn of life events I could have hoped for.

Blake and I are both career-oriented and like-minded people. As a key member of the No. 78 team, he lives in Denver, Colo.; I have been working the last six years in NASCAR television out of Charlotte, N.C. with a variety of roles for FOX Sports.

We met while working and traveling on the racing circuit at an unusual restaurant near New Hampshire Motor Speedway (just your conventional NASCAR love story). But Blake was easily the partner I had been hoping to find, and through this entire process he has handled our turn of life events with grace and dexterity — while I’ve been the temperamental and often emotional one.

Getting pregnant wasn’t my current dream. Working in sports television, however, was something I had my eye on since I was 18 years old, and I wasn’t anxious to have something sidetrack my current career trajectory.

But once the reality set in we were going to be parents, the biggest thing that worried me about our pregnancy situation was the logistics. “How’s this going to work?” I asked more than once.

Figuring out how to balance a long-distance relationship is hard enough as it is. Now factor in long-distance parenting, a time change and both individuals traveling every weekend for work and — voila! — you have our current dynamic.

Somehow, we are balancing our careers amidst wedding and nursery planning, as well as baby appointments in both Colorado and North Carolina, NASCAR travel and living in separate states across the country. My home is littered with bridal magazines, how-to baby books, doctor bills, airline tickets and NASCAR notes.

In addition, I was tapped to cover four Supercross events, which required learning a new sport in addition to my NASCAR duties. The SX events often put me in different locations than where Blake was for the weekend with the Cup Series, so we had to get even more creative to see one another.

As you can imagine, this year has been nothing short of a whirlwind — and we are only in May. While there’s never really a great time to start a family with the long racing schedule, Kadence is due on Aug. 23 — which happens to be on one of two off-weekends we have all year. If everything goes according to plan, she will arrive in between the Bristol and Darlington events.

It’s funny when you work in NASCAR how everything is referenced in relation to race dates and venues.

Kadence is due Aug. 23. (Photo courtesy of Kaitlyn Vincie)

My current plan is to continue traveling right up until I’m no longer allowed to fly. I never even realized there were restrictions on flying while pregnant — which further proves how little I knew about this whole process. I’ve also learned quickly to always choose an aisle seat now that I am pregnant, because people find it annoying if you have to use the facilities three times during a flight to the West Coast.

Once Kadence arrives I’ll take some time off, but I fully plan to return to work before the season ends; I have a target race in mind. Blake will be by my side when our daughter is born but will have to return to his team obligations in Denver and be back on the road very shortly thereafter.

The life of a road crew member is one of the most demanding positions in the whole garage, and I understand the responsibilities that are on the line. Although it will be hard to operate as a single parent in some ways during that time, I am fortunate to have the support of both my family and his, along with a small, close group of friends.

As far as FOX Sports and my producers behind the scenes, they have all been very supportive — which I am very grateful for. They’ve encouraged me to take all the time I will need in terms of maternity leave, and not rush the process. Many of them have families of their own and understand what my new normal will be.

One of the very first calls I made to share the news was to Krista Voda, my former colleague at SPEED Channel. In a panic, I asked her, “What do I do now?” I remember working with her on our Trackside broadcast when she was pregnant with her daughter, so I knew she had firsthand experience. Needless to say, she talked me off the ledge and continues to be someone I lean on for advice concerning motherhood while working in the sport.

My FOX Sports colleague Jamie Little also has become a sounding board for my various questions about pit-road reporting while pregnant, and was the first to send me a racing-themed onesie.

Jamie and Krista have and continue to be my biggest role models in more ways than one. The job of pit-road reporting is hard — even if you aren’t carrying a small human inside you — and I’m thankful I can learn from several women who have done it before me. But in reality, there aren’t many of us — it’s a small club.

Kaitlyn on the job with FOX Sports, seen here interviewing Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Photo courtesy of Kaitlyn Vincie)

All the logistics aside, I’m determined to make it work. In today’s society, there still seem to be some traditional ideas that women have to choose between career and motherhood. And that is simply not the case. It’s harder — as I’m finding out — but it’s possible.

I don’t want to transition into a lifestyle that doesn’t involve the career I have worked so hard for; that’s not me. I want to be an example for my daughter of a working mother, because I think that’s a very important message to send.

My new family dynamic really is an example of two working parents who have to do everything it takes — even before her arrival — to provide for the family. It’s a constant balance between fostering the careers you have worked your whole lives for and adjusting to what the new normal will be once the latest addition to the family arrives.

When it comes to Blake, racing brought us together. And even though we live in different states, racing still brings us together every weekend. The sport will very much be a part of Kadence’s life as well, as we will likely be bringing her on the road this season and beyond.

Actually, NASCAR is already been part of her life — thanks to a few challenges that I’m thankful Blake has helped me through.

Recently, we had our largest ultrasound scheduled for a Denver appointment on April 26. Well, as Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans might recall, he announced his retirement on April 25 — the day I was supposed to fly out to Colorado on a 3 p.m. flight.

When the retirement news came out that morning, I didn’t even give it a second thought: I changed my flight. As a journalist, I didn’t want to miss what would likely become one of the biggest news days of the entire season. Those are the moments you remember as members of the media — being there, being a part of it and fielding your question to Dale Jr.

So I switched to a later flight, went to the news conference, drove straight to the airport, arrived in Colorado after midnight and was at my doctor’s office with Blake at 8:30 a.m. the next morning. Of course, it was all worth it when we got to see Kadence’s face that day on the ultrasound, along with a plethora of other organs.

Why the name “Kadence?” The musical term “cadence” means rhythm. Our little girl has completely thrown off our life rhythm, so it seemed more than appropriate coming from two parents who are both musically inclined (I sing, he plays multiple instruments). But although this chapter in life has not been without its share of struggles, I am looking forward to what’s next, and I am grateful for the new challenges that have been thrown our way.

Blake and I are expanding from a two-car team to a three-car team. And as any team president would tell you, those expansions usually come with some growing pains along the way.

The announcement of Kadence’s impending arrival. (Photo courtesy of Kaitlyn Vincie)

Social Spotlight with Kenny Wallace

Each week, I’m asking someone from the racing industry about their social media use in a feature called the Social Spotlight. Up next: Kenny Wallace, the longtime driver and FOX Sports analyst. This interview is also available in podcast form.

You were one of the first people in NASCAR to really understand social media, understand how to use your Facebook page, your Twitter page. You’ve always been so into it. Why did you embrace it early on? What did you see in it that made you feel like you need to be part of that?

Well this is incredibly true: It had nothing to do with me. What happened was I had a gentleman who was running KennyWallace.com, and I thought it was boring, and I said to him, “We need to put video on KennyWallace.com.” He said to me, “It’s too expensive.” So then all of a sudden, he said, “Let’s go to Facebook and you can do videos for free there.” And then I remember saying, “Facebook is for children.” And he was appalled; he says, “No it’s not.”

So fast-forward. My career was kind of not going real good and I was driving the U.S. Border Patrol car for Jay Robinson (in 2009). Well, they said, “You’re gonna have to start and park in Montreal, Canada, because U.S. Border Patrol is not gonna be a sponsor there.” Made sense. But I remember being appalled (about being asked to start and park).

First of all, I want to say this: we all do what we have to do, and I’m no better than anybody, but I do not start and park. Maybe it’s just because of my father and my family being so competitive. And I wasn’t broke, but I was not going to start and park.

So I called NASCAR up and we had this idea to create a fan car. So NASCAR said, “You can get away with it, Kenny Wallace.” I remember them saying that. So then that’s how it started: it was everybody could put their name on our car that we raced in the first Xfinity race in Montreal, Canada.

We raised an enormous amount of money (roughly $100,000) and some 7,000 people’s names were on the car, and I wrote Jay Robinson a check and that is the way that I got it out, on Facebook. And then that’s when I went, “Wow. OK.” Then it became entertainment and that’s how it all started with me.

So you are very entertaining on all social media. I’m sure there’s been times where you put out something and you were like, “Oh my gosh, did I go too far with this?” Because you are not afraid, from what I can tell. How do you know when you go too far on social media?

Well, when I look back, there’s things that I’m embarrassed of. In my early days, I still listened to Howard Stern — and I still listen — and people just had this fascination with going to the bathroom. So I felt, “Well, I’ll try this. I’m not gonna copy Howard but…” So I was taking pictures of myself around porta-potties, in porta-potties, and I’m like, “This is ridiculous.” They had the most retweets, they had the most (reply) tweets. Am I embarrassed by that nowadays? I’m like, “Oh my gosh,” you know.

But we all have this fascination with bathrooms. You know, I don’t know if I’d do that over again. Of course, I did something a little about pooping today, which was a little lighthearted. But you know, I really do get something ready to go, I read it and read it and go, “Nope.”

Oh my God, I’ve deleted so many things. I can promise you right now, the hardest thing for me to do is not involve myself in this political viewpoint we have right now because I’m a Republican, and I have so much to say, but I just know you can’t win. And then it becomes no fun and that is when I think I’ve gone too far nowadays.

And I don’t like to hurt. For some reason, I like to crack a joke. I did say something the other day that I did delete. Somebody said that (Eric) Thames with Milwaukee in Major League Baseball has 11 home runs, and what do other players think of that? And I sarcastically tweeted, “Ask (Ryan) Braun” — Braun got caught with PEDs, steroids. And a fan said, “Come on Kenny, can’t a guy just have a good start this season?” And I thought, “Yeah, that was mean of me.”

But I did put that laughing face behind it. But I went back and deleted the tweet. You know, it just came to my mind right away, so it is natural for me to be conversational, tweet because I’m bored at an airport. I don’t like going too far.

You talked about some of the blowback that you might get sometimes — you know, political tweets, whatever. How do you handle people who say something mean, because you’re a very positive person from everything I’ve been able to tell all over the years. Do you just block them, or do you ignore people? How do you handle it if somebody’s coming at you?

That’s a great question, because I’ve had to teach myself and I’m like anybody else: I get my feelings hurt. I’ve been roughed up, I’ve felt like it’s been 300,000 people against me. But I’m tough, so I never say, “Why me?” and I’m really into therapy. I mean, I don’t take therapy, but I tease some really good friends of mine that are very mature and are good to me.

So what I did is when people would rough me up, I would turn it around and I would kind of play a game with them. I would say, “Wow, what happened in your childhood to make you so negative? I really feel sorry for you.” And I would never argue with them. And so I would always use the childhood thing. That always seemed to work — go back to why they’re so mean.

Then all of a sudden, I felt, “Well, this is silly. Don’t even respond.” So I literally started this one deal I had. I said, OK, you can say, “Hey Kenny Wallace, you were no good as a race car driver.” And I would say, “Well, you know, at least I tried.” Or I would say, “I didn’t accomplish what I wanted, but I made a lot of money doing it.” That would be a little bit of a sarcastic innuendo.

So all of a sudden, I said OK, you can debate with me. You can rough me up. But as soon as you cuss me out, if you go really hardcore, I block people. And I’ll tell you, I’ve probably blocked 100 people, I would say that. And it really silenced the noise.

Well it’s interesting because you want to be interactive with people, you want to be fan-friendly, you want to be approachable, all that stuff, but once somebody is like ruining your day with their tweets, they forget that everybody on the other side of it is still human. You still have feelings. You can’t just say, “Whatever, that doesn’t mean anything to me.” If somebody says something, it can get to you. So you can actually make it more fun for yourself by eliminating seeing these tweets in some way.

Here’s what I learned about. Years ago, a dear friend of mine, Felix Sabates, and myself got in a knock-down drag-out over something I said about Chip Ganassi Racing. I simply said they weren’t a top 10 team. I said Kyle Larson’s goal should be to run in the top 20. Well, Felix got really mad at me, and he attacked me and we talked to each other, we were about in tears hugging each other.

So here’s what I say about tweeting: I can start at first in the points in any series. I can start with Kyle Larson and I could go to the 40th place driver, and I could say negative, mean stuff about them — and it’d be true. But that’s not right. So my point is: you can take a four-time champion, Jeff Gordon, and I’ve got enough on him where I can really hurt his feelings. Just because he won 90-something races, everybody’s still got… you know they can be hurt, and they all got secrets, and I know them.

So I said to myself, “Isn’t that something? If I wanted to, I could hurt anybody. Anybody that’s really good!” I could hurt Jimmie Johnson. Just because you’re good at any type of sport doesn’t mean you’re perfect. And once you realize that, and you see Jimmie Johnson get roughed up, it’s like, Jeff Gluck, you, or I, we could get roughed up. Hell, they rough up a seven-time champion more than they do us, so that’s when you really start to bring in the scope. If they can rough up anybody, then that’s when everybody’s free game. And then, it’s just not right.

Part of your social media success in my view is it’s an extension of your personality. When I see you with people, you’re very warm, you’re very approachable. Somebody will come up to you and say, “Hey Kenny, I’m a big fan!” And you’ll put your arm around him, you’ll make it seem like you’ve been friends for a long time. I feel like I want to be more like that in someways; I need to be warmer with people. I guess my question is, how do you open yourself up to people you’ve maybe never met, or you don’t even know what their motives are necessarily, but you are willing to embrace them. How do you do that?

Well, when I look back on my childhood — now what I’m telling you now, I had to learn about myself. So my mother Judy says, “Kenny, you’re an old soul.” And I was like, “What is that, Mom?” And she says, “Well, you’ve been here before.” And I am laughing a little about it. But if you believe in reincarnation, and God knows that we have dreams when we go to bed, it’s kind of voodoo, like, “Gosh, I think I’ve done this before.”

So, with that being said, I was in school and I was always squeaking my chair. I was seeking attention from the teachers. I was always in trouble and they sent me to a therapist. And the therapist said, “He has a sibling rivalry with his brothers. Kenny is reaching out for attention — he’s competing with Rusty Wallace and Mike Wallace.” Well that’s untrue, because I know myself.

What I can tell you I learned about myself is for some reason, if there’s tension or people are arguing, I don’t like it. Now, I am a leader and a boss, but I don’t believe in roughing people up. I believe in organization and big nice meetings, but I don’t believe you have to be a total prick.

So I was born a lover, and I mean that, because I’ve read some things by Steven Tyler, the lead singer for Aerosmith. I’ve seen Steven Tyler give the biggest obese lady the biggest hug and just embrace her, when most people would go, “Oh my God, you’re too big. You’re nasty.” And my mother said, “Boy, Kenny, you are always good to little old ladies.” And it just taught me that, you know, you can’t just hug good-looking ladies. Everybody needs love. So Jeff, I kind of compiled all that and I’m like, “Everybody needs the love.”

You know, my brother Rusty, he’s won 50-something races and he flat-looked at me one day and he was mad at me. He said, “OK, Kenny, you win the ‘Everybody likes me’ award.” And I looked him, and it had crushed me. My brother Rusty was jealous of me that everybody liked me. So, you know, but I’m jealous of Rusty — I’d love to have one Cup win. But here I’ve never won a Cup race, and he wants what I have.

And Jeff Gordon said to me, “God, I wish I could laugh like you, Kenny.” And he was serious. And I take these great drivers, and then I had to learn that, “Oh my God, all they’re good at is driving a car around in circles really fast.”

You know, I really started learning what was wrong with us. So somebody can hit a baseball really far, and what, now you can solve world peace? So I just know that everybody needs to love everybody and nobody is really better than anybody. And if you’re really good at something, I really respect you and I admire you for it. But it doesn’t mean you’re a good person.

Well that’s important and I think that can come through on social media and make a difference because there’s so much negativity out there. If you can sort of cut through that and spread a positive message, make people feel good, show that there’s a different way, put aside the angry people and try to have fun with it, I think that seems to be the key to enjoying social media. I feel like you, maybe more than anybody I see out there, have sort of captured that. Is that fair to say?

Yeah, and I take my chances. This has nothing to do with you, and I want to make sure that you don’t get in trouble for what I’m gonna say, but you know, Jenna Fryer’s a very strong-willed lady, and I recognize that and I’ve known that for years. But she got roughed up (in written form) by one of the world’s greatest race car drivers, Mario Andretti, and it almost appalled me. You know, Mario went at her (about a controversial column regarding Fernando Alonso), and then everybody started going at her.

But you know, we put ourselves out there. And I already knew what she was going through, and I said that it’s amazing that sometimes the media will eat their own. And what I mean by that is that we are in a new environment where it’s insane, you know? Either people are too sensitive or they’re too harsh.

Listen, I’ve got a lot of bad things to say, but there’s no way I would have said them because they’re too hurtful. And it goes back to what I said: If you want, I can go right down the line. It’s like the movie where the man goes around the table and literally makes fun of everybody. It’s like, “Oh my God.” So, social (media) is brutal and it’s great and it’s bad.

What advice would you give to younger drivers who are trying to navigate this world? Right now, the sport’s in need of people to show personality like you’ve shown throughout your career. How would you tell them to do that?

I would tell them that I understand they want their privacy and I understand that they’re quiet. Being quiet is not a cool new thing. Me and Ryan Blaney had a conversation about this. Ryan Blaney said that he wanted to send a message that he’s very serious when we know he’s not. He’s funny, and he has a lot of good wit; he’s funny.

And I said, “Why are you walking around the garage area all serious?” He goes, “Well, I want to send a message that I’m serious.” But then you look at Clint Bowyer, who runs second, wins races, and just is as crazy as me, and he can get away with it because he runs good.

I would tell all race car drivers coming up now today: Be yourself. You know, if you’re waiting for an airplane or you’re somewhere eating lunch and you’ve just gotten moments that you’re just bored, get on social (media). I mean, I’m on social (media) all the time because I truly am bored that much. I’m waiting for an airplane, I’m drinking coffee.

So as hyper as I am and as many places as I go — when you travel as much as we do and you do, it could appear we’re busy, but we’re not. We’re not that busy, we’re just traveling. Get on your phone and create entertainment. It makes me laugh.

Well, thank you for joining us.

No, thank you. And I admire you; I really do. You know, I just want to make sure before we’re done that, you know, you took a chance, you quit your job, you got out on your own, and that’s the American dream, and that’s very hard to do. It’s very scary for me to watch you do it, but you’re my hero, and I wish more of us could do that. That’s kind of what America was built on. So good job and keep digging.

Thank you very much, and the feeling is very mutual. Like I said, I wish I could be more like you a lot of times.

You’re good. (Laughs)

This interview is sponsored by Dover International Speedway. If you’re planning to attend the Dover race in June, please consider using my ticket link. Thanks!

Social Spotlight with Mike Joy

This is the latest in a series of interviews where I ask people in the racing industry about their social media usage. The interviews are also available in podcast form. This week: Mike Joy, the longtime NASCAR broadcaster from FOX Sports. Joy is on Twitter at @mikejoy500.

First of all, I see you a lot on Twitter. Are there any other platforms that you are active on?

I’m on Facebook, but it’s mainly as a member of groups: One for the road race car — the BMW my son races — two for vintage MGs and there’s even a group on there for cars that I used to race back in the 70s in IMSA. So, it’s mainly for the group aspects why I’m on Facebook.

FOX introduced us to Twitter. When Twitter was fairly new, they thought that it would be a good idea for us to have an online presence, and when we saw that a lot of the teams and drivers and crew people and families were on there too — and especially when we found at Daytona that we could sometimes get quicker updates of things that were happening by looking at Twitter than by chasing PR people around the pits — that really became a great platform for all the FOX people.

I’ve done a couple of things on Reddit, but just from time to time, and (those) things are scheduled, so I don’t have a regular presence on there. I have a family, so you have to spend some time offline. (Smiles)

But yeah, every once in a while, if I’m at a hotel or an airport or in the evening, I’ll just pop up on (Twitter) and say, “All right, who’s got questions? Who’s looking for a little more information or, more likely, explanation?” Because it’s hard to get into detail on the telecast — we’re always moving from one story to another, from one car to another, and there’s a lot of things about this sport that we know are difficult to understand in 30 seconds of explanation, so if people have questions, it’s fun to try and help.

Some of the angry people online, they’re yelling at the coverage, they’re yelling about that, they’re taking it on you. And instead of saying to yourself, “This guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about, I’m not even going to give this the time of day,” you explain a lot of what’s going on. Why do you choose to do that?

I think if people are better educated about why things happen in sports television, they’ll be more tolerant when things don’t always happen the way they want them to. So if you explain to people, then they can make an informed decision whether they’re really upset about it or not. And a lot of times it won’t change their opinion, but at least they’ll know why we didn’t interview their driver after a race, or why we only had one or two replays of an incident, or why we keep showing one in-car camera and maybe you don’t see as much coverage of another.

All these things happen for a reason — decisions are made often at a very rapid pace down in that TV truck, and hopefully we come out of it with a really good telecast.

I went home from Martinsville and watched the FOX telecast, and it wasn’t the same race that I saw, because I get to see the monitors and the racetrack. And there are so many battles — especially on a short track — there are so many skirmishes and so many things that you just can’t have a camera everywhere all the time.

But we really do the best we can to do a telecast that’s fair, first of all, and tells the story of the race and shows people as much of the different competition as possible. That’s our goal, and certainly some weeks we’re a little better at it than others, but that’s always the effort. We’ve got the best people in sports television working on these shows to try and do a great job for the fans at home if they can’t be at the racetrack.

When you’re answering somebody’s questions on Twitter, do you ever have to go find the answer or ask somebody else on the crew? Or is this stuff your personal knowledge of everything that happened?

It’s pretty much my take on what happened and my opinion because it’s my Twitter account — it’s not FOX’s account. So it’s my take on what happened, or why it happened, and trying to make it make sense.

Every once in awhile, somebody will tweet something at me that I just feel is totally outrageous, totally off the wall and just totally not right. So I’ll just retweet it and put, “Really?” And we have enough fans and we have enough people that look at the telecast in a positive light that oftentimes, they will just light these people up. You know, “Why are you picking on FOX? Why are you picking on Mike? What’s the matter?” (It’s) to try and show them that their opinion’s not widely shared. So it’s kind of fun to see that happen from time to time.

But I think if our fans better understand what we’re doing and why, they’ll enjoy the telecast better and they’ll watch more. That’s the hope.

What does somebody have to do to get blocked by Mike Joy?

Gosh, I’m not sure I’ve ever blocked anybody. I can think of a couple people that I probably should have. But all I ask is that the fans just be respectful. Usually, I’ll get a reaction like, “Oh, I didn’t know you actually replied to tweets. Oh my gosh, I didn’t really mean that.” And you know, sometimes not. Some people are really adamant about their point of view and that’s fine — that’s their point of view. I guess it only gets me upset when they either try and put forth their point of view as fact without knowing the facts or if they start picking on people directly. That doesn’t go.

Do you use Twitter to help your job when you’re on the air? Or is there too much going on that you can’t really incorporate it?

There was a time about a year ago when we glanced at Twitter during a show, especially during a practice show, looking for scraps of news out of the garage or things that were going on to help lead the telecast in a different direction or a more interesting direction. For a time we were doing it during the race as well. Now, Andy Jeffers, who’s our stage manager, he monitors Twitter during the race and he follows the teams, the PR people, the wives, everybody, the drivers and gets us some interesting comments. There’s some of it we repeat on air, some of which they actually pop the tweet up on air, that kind of thing. So Twitter does become a part of the telecast in that way.

But we’ve got so many different things going on that some day I’d like you to just come and sit in and see what that’s all about to gain a better understanding of it for your readers. But there’s enough going on that no, I’m not checking my Twitter feed during the telecast. No time for that.

I know you have a lot of people helping you, and you rely on them to feed you information. But you may not know everything that’s going on. So some information might not get relayed to you.

Well that’s true, but that’s why we have talented pit reporters and their spotters down on the ground chasing those stories. If Andy sees something or if Darrell checks his Twitter and finds something during a commercial, we’ll look at it; if necessary, we’ll talk about it, we’ll get it up there. But hopefully we don’t miss major stories.

Quite frankly, Twitter has become the place where a lot of stories break now. Twitter has really become the place for leaks and squeaks. A lot of stories come there first and then get explored from there.

When Twitter wasn’t around 10 years ago, compared to now, how has that changed what you do as a broadcaster?

Oh my goodness. Our job was incredibly harder (before) because we’d have to spend a lot more time in the garage, in the media center, running back and forth — and at that time TV, radio, and pit reporters, we’d all run together. We’d all run around and I’d bump into you, “Hey, what do you got, what’s going on, who have you talked to?” I’d tell you, you’d tell me, we’d go in the media center, talk with somebody else.

And now everybody rushes to Twitter with the first hint of a story. So in the morning, that’s the last thing I check before I leave the hotel and I’ll have a look at it when I first get to the racetrack to see what’s going on, see what the stories are. So it’s made the job a lot easier.

On the other hand, it means I don’t spend as much time with other reporters and other broadcasters and writers running around because the information flow is so much easier for us now than it was then.

I suppose in some ways, the fans can see everything just like we can. So TV can be two minutes behind Twitter and fans are like, “Yeah, we already know that.” Do you know what I mean?

Yes, but as a medium, it’s completely different. The job of the telecast is to tell the story and give the news of what happened during that practice session, that qualifying session, that race and put it together in a way that informs, educates and entertains.

Twitter strips a lot of that away just to the bare essence of 140 characters and a lot of times, it’s the drivers directly or the crew chiefs or the car owners directly who are on there with their comments, and that’s just pure and unvarnished. I think that’s where professional athletes, not just in racing, have really embraced Twitter because it’s them getting their thoughts out there, and they’re not subject to interpretation by a PR person or a writer or a broadcaster before they get to the fan.

Where do you think this is all going next? Obviously the NASCAR industry is pretty heavily on Twitter at this point — pretty much everybody’s looking at it. What’s the next evolution of this?

I think the best way to look at Twitter is to look at Dale Jr. — Dale Jr. had a Twitter account, never made a tweet and had half a million followers. Then he finally gets on Twitter and he starts having fun with it and now he’s selling JeffGluck.com hats on Twitter that don’t exist!

So we’re having a great time. I think that the ability of Twitter for the athlete or celebrity to connect directly to the fans with a certain amount of direct connection both ways from the fan’s tweets and the athlete’s tweets, but still maintaining distance between the athlete and the fan, is a great model. I think it works really, really well.

The next step would be having that athlete’s cell number or email address, and that probably gets just a little too direct for people to deal with — especially people who have half a million followers. So I think we’re in a really good place. The athletes, the entertainers, the celebrities, they can share, they can read the comments back, they can emote, they can have a very direct connection with their closest fans and everybody enjoys it. Everybody wins.

This interview is sponsored by Dover International Speedway. If you’re planning to attend the Dover race in June, please consider using my ticket link. Thanks!

Daytona Day is back, and that’s not a good thing

Last year, FOX Sports’ “Daytona Day” promotion was widely ridiculed among NASCAR fans. The minute-long ad with an accompanying jingle showed young people partying and celebrating, but had virtually zero race action.

It didn’t get people to watch; the race was the second-lowest rated 500 ever.

But instead of scrapping the concept altogether, FOX decided to revive Daytona Day for this season. The 2017 version has the same silly song, although the commercial — which premiered during the fourth quarter of Sunday’s Super Bowl — shows more race car drivers and racing this time.

Not to be a Daytona Day party pooper — since the gatherings in the ads look like a fun time — but this is a flawed concept.

Someone got a lot of money to sit in a marketing agency and think of what cool, hip thing they could do to advertise the Daytona 500 and get the “casuals” to tune in.

I just don’t see how this does it.

Non-race fans, by nature, don’t understand racing. I have friends who honestly think the Indy 500 is the same as NASCAR, and they’re not going to know the Daytona 500 is coming up.

This whole campaign does very little to inform people there’s an actual race coming up and the NASCAR season is starting. The hashtag is #DaytonaDay (not #Daytona500) and aside from the very last second of the ad, there’s nothing that screams “HI, THIS DAYTONA THING WE ARE REFERRING TO IS ACTUALLY TO THE DAYTONA 500, WHICH YOU CAN WATCH FEB. 26 ON THIS VERY CHANNEL.”

In fact, the ad might even confuse people. Halfway through the commercial, there’s a scene with actor James Van Der Beek which references “DAYTONA DAY: The movie.” I would bet you real money there were people watching the ad who went, “What is this Daytona Day thing? Ohhhh, it’s a movie! I get it!”

You might think, “Oh come on, people aren’t that stupid. Everyone knows this is a Daytona 500 ad.”

Um….

Anyway, it’s amazing how often advertisers seem to outthink themselves in situations like this. I want to shake them and say: “If you want people to watch the Daytona 500, advertise the Daytona 500! Say ‘Daytona 500’ as many times as you can in your commercial, and make the hashtag #Feb26Daytona500 or something — not #DaytonaDay.”

If there’s evidence out there this kind of promotion draws in casual fans better than a more traditional campaign, I’d be happy to admit I’m wrong. But in the meantime, I’m taking a pass on Daytona Day.

By the way, if you got here via Google search because you don’t know what Daytona Day is, they’re talking about the Daytona 500 NASCAR race, which is on Feb. 26.