Social Spotlight with Noah Gragson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You wore them in TV interviews, I saw.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yeah, absolutely.

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

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

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

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

Well, thanks for joining us. I appreciate it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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