The Top Five: Breaking down the Watkins Glen race

Five thoughts following Sunday’s race at Watkins Glen International…

1. Total Toyotas

Fans can be upset and drivers (coughBradKeselowskicough) can politic all they want, but Toyota is absolutely dominating the series right now.

After a slow start for Joe Gibbs Racing, the four-car team has joined Furniture Row Racing to put six of the fastest cars on the track every week. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s a big track or a road course — Toyotas are likely going to be running up front most of the day.

Just check out Sunday’s finishing order: Toyotas swept the top four spots (for the first time ever) and had all six of its main cars in the top 10. And Toyota drivers also combined to lead 59 of the 90 laps.

As Kyle Larson has faded (he’s now third in the point standings behind Truex and Kyle Busch), it’s increasingly looking like the Toyotas will roll into the playoffs just as strong as they were last year.

Of course, a Chevrolet ended up winning the 2016 title — so that doesn’t mean a Toyota championship is a sure thing.

But it’s certainly looking good at the moment, particularly with Truex holding 34 playoff points (plus staring at another 15 if he hangs on to be the regular season champion).

As a reminder, that means Truex would start each round of the playoffs with at least 49 points — close to a full race — and could still add more points in the regular season and the playoffs races themselves.

So is Truex a lock for Homestead?

“It doesn’t mean that it’s a free pass or we’re just going to skate through,” Truex said. “We’re still going to work hard and try to do the best we can. But I do think that as the playoffs start, the thought process probably shifts more toward, ‘How do we figure out how to run really well at Homestead? Have a shot at winning there?’ Because that’s what it’s going to come down to.”

2. Blink and you’ll miss it

Sunday’s race was the shortest full-distance Cup Series points race in NASCAR’s modern era (1972-present). It was actually three minutes shorter than Saturday’s Xfinity Series race, which is kind of amazing in itself.

The last time a full-distance Cup points race was less than the two-hour-and-seven-minute run-time of Watkins Glen? Hickory in August of 1971, according to NASCAR.

One big reason was there were only three cautions — and NASCAR let the race play out at the finish, with the final 36 laps all under green.

That’s becoming a trend lately, since NASCAR seemingly has stopped calling late debris cautions after an outbreak of criticism following the Michigan race in June.

A recap:

— At Sonoma, the final 55 laps were green.

— Daytona was an overtime finish, but that was set up by an accident.

— Kentucky was an overtime finish, but that was set up by Kurt Busch blowing up after a 100-lap run.

— At New Hampshire, the final 35 laps were green.

— Indianapolis finished in overtime, but that was set up due to multiple wrecks.

— At Pocono, the last 55 laps (all of Stage 3) were green.

I love that. Yeah, it might be more exciting to see a crazy double-file restart in overtime — but if a caution is not warranted, then it’s good to let the race play out. And that’s what NASCAR seems to be doing.

Plus, a long run at the end doesn’t mean it’s a boring race. The finish Sunday was still in doubt and had plenty of excitement right down to the final seconds. So those are all positive things, and I like how NASCAR is officiating these races. I hope this trend continues through the playoffs, when the races mean so much more.

 

3. Brad and Kyle, Part 389

Based on his radio chatter, I thought Busch was going to go punch Keselowski in the face after the race, but that didn’t happen. Instead, Busch shook hands with AJ Allmendinger and laughed about something, then walked briskly toward the garage with reporters trailing behind.

He didn’t say anything notable (“Imagine that,” he said about the contact) — saving his thoughts for a mid-flight Twitter Q&A on the way home — but it was clear he was once again upset with his nemesis.

This is my favorite rivalry in NASCAR. On the surface, the two men have a lot in common: Both Busch and Keselowski are such unapologetically hard racers, both each have one title, both own a Truck Series team and each has a child who was born days apart from the other.

Yet there is ZERO common ground between the two, who have no relationship (despite Keselowski’s attempt at an olive branch through his blog a couple years ago). And they conduct themselves in a much different manner.

I think both are fantastic for the sport and are compelling, interesting people. They add spice to the race weekends on a regular basis. So it doesn’t bother me that they don’t see eye to eye, because that’s entertaining for the rest of us.

Oh, and don’t expect them to ever chat about Sunday’s incident, either.

“I don’t think he is really the listening type, so that is pretty doubtful,” Keselowski said.

4. Points battle blown open

If you haven’t paid attention, the points gap for the final playoff spot (see below) is only getting wider with four races to go.

Joey Logano is now completely out of the picture — he’s 106 points behind Matt Kenseth for the final spot — and in a must-win situation. That’s crazy, by the way.

Meanwhile, Kenseth added to his lead over Clint Bowyer and is now up by 28 points. Bowyer needs either Kenseth, Chase Elliott or Jamie McMurray to have a bad race (or two) while he has really solid results at Michigan, Bristol, Darlington and Richmond.

Of course, this all changes with a new winner. But it’s fairly obvious after Sunday there won’t be 16 different winners, so there should be at least a couple spots available to make the playoffs on points.

5. Must-See TV

NBCSN’s experiment with using a radio-style call for its TV broadcasts this weekend was a smashing success and as well-received on Twitter as any new thing can possibly be these days.

Mike Bagley of the Motor Racing Network fame was phenomenal in his role at the top of the esses, bringing all the excitement and enthusiasm from the radio to a TV screen. But just as impressive was Parker Kligerman, a driver with no formal announcing training, being able to pick up Bagley’s lead and call the action through the inner loop. Jeff Burton also brought a ton of insight in a fast-paced environment.

In addition, Leigh Diffey’s play-by-play announcing from the booth was top-notch. The F1 announcer was filling in for Rick Allen (who was in London for the track and field world championships) and was perfect alongside Steve Letarte, who was typically excellent in breaking down the strategy.

All in all, it made for one of the best NASCAR TV broadcasts in recent memory.

———–

PLAYOFF PICTURE

By patron request, I’m going to start including the playoff picture at the bottom of the Top Five each week. Here’s how it looks now:

IN (13): Truex, Larson, Harvick, Ky. Busch, Keselowski, Hamlin, Johnson, Blaney, Ku. Busch, Newman, Stenhouse, Kahne, A. Dillon.

Points Bubble with four races to go:

14. Chase Elliott +39

15. Jamie McMurray +34

16. Matt Kenseth +28

—-

17. Clint Bowyer -28

(Everyone else more than 100 points or one win behind)

The Top Five: Breaking down the Pocono race

Five thoughts on Sunday’s race at Pocono Raceway…

1. Two-time Cup champion Kyle Busch?

Kyle Busch haters can skip over this part, but the guy is a serious championship contender despite not having won in more than a year until Sunday.

For most of the season, the best car each week has been either Martin Truex Jr. or Kyle Larson. But Busch has been creeping into the picture lately, and he’s been the one to battle Truex the last couple weeks while Larson hasn’t shown as much speed (even before incidents which resulted in finishes of 28th and 33rd).

Busch hadn’t won since the 2016 Brickyard 400 and Joe Gibbs Racing hadn’t won all season until two weeks ago, so everyone has been busy talking more about that than how the 2015 Cup champ might have a pretty good shot to do it again.

Busch has the most poles, second-most laps led and third-most top-five finishes this season. And perhaps most important, he is now tied for the third-most playoff points with Larson and Brad Keselowski.

As JGR continues to gain speed, Busch has been out front the most. He’s led at least 74 laps in four straight races now. That’s a very dangerous car for his rivals to deal with.

“… We’ve had speed, we’ve been right there, we’ve been able to do what we should be doing: That’s running up front,” Busch said. “It’s just been a bit frustrating on the finishing side.”

It’s scary, because with all the near-misses until Sunday, you get the feeling the No. 18 team hasn’t even performed to its potential yet. If Busch and his team start converting all the close calls into wins? Watch out.

2. What’s the point?

Speaking of championship contenders, I was puzzled by the No. 78 team’s decision to pit late in Stage 2 and give up what seemed like a sure playoff point — which would have made 30 on the season.

I get that Truex and Cole Pearn were going for the win, which meant sacrificing a stage win. Had it worked, they would have made a trade for four additional points than a stage victory brings.

But that’s only if it works. It didn’t. So instead of one playoff point, the team left with zero.

“That was the gamble,” Truex said. “That was our mindset before the race. We figured if we felt like we were good enough to possibly win the race, we’d have to pit before the end of that second stage. Just stuck to our plan.

“It didn’t work out, so obviously now I wish we would have stayed out and won that stage. That’s part of it.”

I can’t recall every situation that led to 14 stage wins for Truex this season, but it seems like the team had been going all-out for playoff points every week until Pocono. And as has been discussed frequently, those points are going to be a massive factor this fall in deciding who makes it to Homestead. So why not take as many as possible when the opportunity presents itself?

Truex and Pearn had an easy one point, gambled for four more and ended up with none. That’s what a team in a trailing position should do, not the leader.

This was like a basketball player passing on a wide-open layup with a 20-point lead; there’s no need to take a contested three in that situation.

3. A different level of speed

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was pumped after finishing 12th, pleased he and the No. 88 team “finally put one together” and had a “complete race” despite an early speeding penalty. Earnhardt ran in the top 10 for much of the second half of the day — something he didn’t anticipate after fighting a loose condition on corner entry all weekend.

But even on a good day, he wasn’t really close to running with the top cars.

“Man, I don’t know where the speed is that the front three or four have,” he said on pit road after the race. “They’ve got it every week. We don’t have that, and we’re not going to find in that garage on Friday or Saturday. If we don’t show up with it, we’re not going to find it. That’s somewhere in the shop.”

Earnhardt said it was probably only a matter of time before Busch started matching Truex’s speed, given the information-sharing arrangement between alliance partners JGR and Furniture Row Racing.

But he’s not sure where the speed is coming from, and that’s concerning.

“It’s nothing you can visually see,” he said .”We’re all in the garage together. We can see under their cars, see the springs they’re running, stuff like that. But it’s not in anything like that.

“They’ve got a lot of speed somehow. They’ve got a lot more speed than everybody else. Gotta give ’em credit.”

4. Season slipping away for Logano

Joey Logano’s season of misery just keeps snowballing as the playoffs approach all too quickly for his team’s liking.

Sunday was another race where everything seemed to go wrong.

Not only did the team lack the speed it needed to be competitive, but both Logano and crew chief Todd Gordon made mistakes on pit road.

Logano was caught speeding with 36 laps to go and had to serve a pass-through penalty under green, but then locked up his tires coming to pit road. When Logano told the team he hurt his tires enough to possibly incur a flat, Gordon quickly made the call to pit for four tires.

But that was a no-no, because pitting while serving a penalty requires another pass-through down pit road. By the time it was all over, Logano finished 27th and one lap down.

The result was Logano’s eighth finish outside the top 20 in the 12 races since he won at Richmond but had the win ruled to be encumbered. He’s now 69 points behind the cutoff with just five races until the playoffs begin.

I caught up with Logano as he was walking glumly away from his car on pit road and asked whether he’s ever faced such a stretch of adversity in his career.

“I don’t think so,” he said.

But Logano said his team “still knows how to do it” and added “we’ve just got to built some momentum back up.”

The thing is, momentum might not be necessary. It just takes one great race (or one good race where everything falls into place) to make the playoffs, and Logano is certainly capable of doing that.

There’s not much time left, though.

5. Sunday doubleheader (kind of)

Qualifying on the same day as the race was kind of weird, even though there were a lot of positives on paper.

The flow of race day seemed all messed up, and the laid-back atmosphere that qualifying brings took away from the typical Sunday morning vibe — where the anticipation builds in the hours before the event.

Maybe I’ll get used to it (a similar schedule will be tried again next week), and I hope that’s the case — because there definitely some good sides of it. Fans get added value with on-track activity before the race itself (some of whom never get to see a Friday session at the track because they don’t come for the whole weekend) and drivers/teams get an extra day at home (after all, the Cup Series really doesn’t need to be at some of these tracks for three days).

 

I just wish the schedule could be tightened up a bit. After qualifying, there was roughly a 45-minute gap until the drivers meeting, then a 90-minute gap until the green flag.

Lunchtime quietly rolled by without much fanfare, and the sun started to shift in the sky before the race finally went green at 3:21 p.m. ET.  People were just milling around waiting for it to start.

But come on — this is NASCAR! Big-time auto racing, right? It shouldn’t feel like waiting for the leaders to tee off at a golf tournament.

 


PLAYOFF PICTURE

By patron request, I’m going to start including the playoff picture at the bottom of the Top Five each week. Here’s how it looks now:

IN (13): Truex, Larson, Harvick, Ky. Busch, Keselowski, Hamlin, Johnson, Blaney, Ku. Busch, Newman, Stenhouse, Kahne, A. Dillon.

Points Bubble:

14. Chase Elliott +39

15. Jamie McMurray +38

16. Matt Kenseth +17

—-

17. Clint Bowyer -17

18. Joey Logano -69

(Everyone else more than 100 points or one win behind)

Joe Gibbs defends Furniture Row pit crew suspensions

Joe Gibbs gave a simple defense of his decision to suspend two Furniture Row Racing pit crew members who work for his race team.

Why the suspensions?

“Because of their action and what they did,” he told a small group of reporters Sunday morning at Pocono Raceway.

Martin Truex Jr.’s pit crew is employed by Joe Gibbs Racing, so Gibbs had the authority to suspend them after two crewmen confronted Kyle Busch crew chief Adam Stevens after the two drivers wrecked at Indianapolis.

Gibbs said the video, filmed by FOX Sports, “didn’t capture everything that happened there,” though he wouldn’t elaborate on why.

“We always sit and we consider our employees very important to us and the way they act,” he said. “So anyway, we felt like we worked through it the right way.”

Gibbs also said he did not consider disciplining Stevens for his role in the altercation.

Why?

“Because everything that happened,” he said. “I think we took everything into consideration and did what we thought was best.”

Was Gibbs concerned about the criticism directed toward JGR and the appearance he was hurting the team’s top competitor?

“People are always going to say all kinds of things,” he said. “I don’t think we’re worried about that. And obviously, (the crewmen will) be back. That’s one of the best pit crews on pit road.”

More: My analysis of JGR’s decision on the suspensions

 

Thoughts on Joe Gibbs Racing suspending No. 78 team pit crew members

It seems like “Only in NASCAR!” moments happen every week lately, doesn’t it? And yet another one occurred Thursday when Joe Gibbs Racing suspended two members of Martin Truex Jr.’s pit crew for three races.

Yes, that’s right: JGR issued suspensions to a pair of crewman who pit the Furniture Row Racing No. 78 car — essentially JGR’s top competitor this season.

How is that possible? Well, FRR doesn’t have its own pit crew. As part of its alliance deal with JGR (which supplies FRR with cars), the No. 78 uses a JGR pit crew each week.

So when two of the pit crew members nearly got in a fight with Kyle Busch crew chief Adam Stevens after the Brickyard 400, that was a BIG-TIME no-no.

I mean, think about it: Two employees of a company were screaming in the face of someone who was basically their superior. That would get you fired from a LOT of jobs, to be honest.

But although the suspensions were justified, the optics on this are terrible. Stevens didn’t start the confrontation — one of the crew members taunted the crew chief by clapping as he walked by — Stevens probably should have gotten some kind of public reprimand if the crew guys were going to end up losing three weeks of salary.

Otherwise, the general fan is understandably going to have a “If you can’t beat ’em, suspend ’em” reaction to what happened — no matter how much JGR and FRR try to explain that you can’t get in an altercation with a high-level person from the company that signs your checks.

The Top Five: Breaking down the Brickyard 400

Five thoughts following Sunday’s race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway…

1. Saving Kahne

A few hours before the race, Rick Hendrick sat in the media center for a news conference and deflected questions about Kasey Kahne’s future. It wasn’t exactly a vote of confidence for the driver of the No. 5 car.

A potential replacement for Kahne — William Byron — had kissed the bricks a day earlier. Kahne, meanwhile, hadn’t won in nearly three years and entered Sunday 22nd in the series standings. His future didn’t exactly seem bright.

But after catching a lucky break on pit road and inheriting the race lead, Kahne found himself racing for his career — and delivered.

By excelling on two key restarts — one in which he held it wide open in the middle of a three-wide battle with Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski; another in which he out-dueled race leader Keselowski in overtime — Kahne reminded everyone of his talent.

After all, the guy has now won 18 career Cup races (ninth among active drivers), so that ability is there somewhere. It’s just been buried under a lack of confidence in himself and his team, a snowball effect that’s only gotten worse in the last couple years.

There’s no doubt he’s been mired in a terrible situation and could use a change of scenery despite having a contract through next season. But where could he land if he does part ways with Hendrick?

Well, winning the Brickyard and getting himself into the playoffs will do wonders for his prospects. He remains a popular driver despite his struggles, and now he won’t be an afterthought when it comes to top candidates to fill an open seat.

2. Follow the rules

NASCAR has an overtime rule, the point of which is to try and give fans a finish under green. But it appeared officials basically used the rule to make sure the race finished under yellow — and thus ended — on Sunday.

That’s the second time in a month this has happened, and it’s a disturbing trend in my view.

Darkness was quickly falling and there had been multiple big wrecks and long red flags. So when Denny Hamlin and others crashed on the backstretch, NASCAR waited to put out the caution until Kahne had crossed the overtime line (thus making it an official attempt).

Here’s a picture of what I’m talking about:

In this screenshot, you can see the wreck has started to take place (actually for a couple seconds at this point) and there’s still quite a ways before Kahne reaches the overtime line (the white line at the bottom).

NASCAR could have called a caution there, but they would have had to clean the track and might not have gotten the race restarted before it got dark (maybe, maybe not). So Kahne might have won anyway.

But here’s the thing: That’s not the rule! Whether it was dark or not shouldn’t have mattered at all. If it was dark, then let THAT end the race (like a rain-shortened event) instead of using the overtime line to do it.

NASCAR’s explanation for not calling the caution is it officiates the end of the race differently in hopes of getting a finish. That logic doesn’t hold, though, because it wasn’t the end of the race.

If it was the white flag lap, then sure. I get it and we’ve seen that plenty of times. But just like in the Daytona Xfinity race (where there was pressure to get it over with and move on with a doubleheader race day), the overtime line shouldn’t be used as an out.

At this point, I’ve come full circle and given up on any kind of overtime rule. Just forget the whole thing and go back to finishing races at the scheduled distance if the rule isn’t going to be used as intended.

3. Rowdy restart

Much ado was made of the restart when Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. collided while racing for the lead, moments after Busch had nixed a deal the drivers had kept all race.

Truex and crew chief Cole Pearn were miffed Busch wanted to race for it after Truex had played the good Toyota teammate in the first two segments. That may have played into how hard Truex raced Busch into the corner, but it was also likely because both drivers knew it might have been their final chance to get the lead (even though there was still more than one-quarter of the race remaining).

For that very reason, Busch didn’t even want to wait until the restart in question. On the prior caution (the break after Stage 2), he was in the midst of a conversation with crew chief Adam Stevens about what to do when NBC suddenly interrupted to talk to Stevens. The driver and crew chief never had a chance to address the issue again until the next restart — when Busch called off the agreement.

So even though scrapping the deal ultimately resulted in a crash, Busch shook his head when I asked if he had any regrets.

 

“Dude, hindsight is 20/20,” Busch said. “Do I regret it? No, because you race for the win. You’re supposed to race hard. If I would have done the (deal), he gets a three-second gap on me…he wins the race (and) I’m going to be thinking about it then, right? So you do what you’ve gotta do.”

4. Matt D. does it again

Did you notice? Matt DiBenedetto, who is sort of the ultimate underdog with his GoFAS Racing No. 32 car, scored an eighth-place finish after surviving all the insanity on Sunday.

Incredibly, DiBenedetto is one of four drivers — Kahne, Joey Logano and AJ Allmendinger are the others — to score top-10 finishes in both the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 this year.

“My crew chief, Gene Nead, always tells me before every race: ‘Stand on the gas and hope for the best,'” DiBenedetto said. “That’s pretty much what I did today. Just hoped we were in the right position, hoped it was our day and it was our day. That was pretty intense.”

DiBenedetto said he didn’t simply survive the race and cruise to a finish. He got “clobbered” in Turn 3 at one point — he didn’t even know who — and “made the greatest save of my life.”

Not bad for a team with only 15 employees.

5. Late start

I’m going to be totally honest with you: I was on the verge of tears at one point during the rain delay on Sunday.

Spending my own money to get to races this year has really provided some additional perspective on what fans who travel from out of state go through each weekend.

Back when I was at USA Today, a rained-out race meant a lost day at home (which sucked). But at least I didn’t have to spend my own money to pay an airline change fee or extra day of rental car/hotel/etc. That was on the company’s dime.

Now, though, that money is coming out of my pocket. And though my amazing supporters through Patreon have put me in a great position to get to races this season, spending extra money just isn’t in the budget. So I’m pretty sure I would have had to go home instead of changing my flight to attend a postponed race.

Because of that, it was incredibly frustrating when there was no rain at 1 p.m. (when NASCAR races traditionally start) and the skies were dry until 3 p.m. NASCAR could have gotten a couple stages in during that time, which would have meant an official race.

And while a shortened race wouldn’t have been ideal, it would have been a lot better for fans who spent their hard-earned money to travel there without flexibility in their plans.

Luckily for everyone, the race eventually finished on Sunday. But there was about an hour there where another big storm cell had formed and was heading right for the track — and if it had hit, that would have meant a Monday race. I was seriously sweating that scenario.

At some point, NASCAR isn’t going to be so fortunate. A late start time in the name of better TV ratings will force a postponement when the race could have gotten in had it started earlier — and a lot of fans will have to either eat their tickets or spend money to change their plans.

And when that happens, they’ll have every right to be pissed.

Social Spotlight with Sherry Pollex

Each week, I ask a member of the racing community to shed some light on their social media usage. Up next, Sherry Pollex, the longtime partner of Martin Truex Jr. (Note: This interview was conducted prior to Sherry’s public revelation of a cancer recurrence.)

Let’s start with your Twitter account. Sometimes you’re willing to put yourself out there, get opinionated. You’re really willing to speak your mind. What’s your basic philosophy with how you use your Twitter account?

My Twitter account is my only account that I have that’s public, so it’s my only chance to really give my opinion and be opinionated with the fans or just people in general about how I feel about things, whether I’m talking about my life, my personal life, cancer, racing, whatever. So I kinda use that as my platform.

I know that not everyone probably agrees with me all the time, but that’s OK, they don’t have to. As long as they’re respectful, I don’t block them. I try not to block people unless they’re mean. If they talk — can I cuss?

Sure.

OK, if they talk shit about Martin, I’m gonna block them because I don’t like when people talk shit about him. So I’m really protective of him. If somebody says something bad about him — because he’s like the nicest guy ever — then I have to block them.

You and I have talked a couple times this year about me saying some things that aren’t totally politically correct, so I’m sure I’m not on everyone’s good side all the time. But it’s my opinion, it’s honest — and if people don’t like it, they don’t have to follow me.

From afar, I look at the motorhome lot that we’re in right now and I’m like, “Everyone is so tight-knit.” But you’re saying stuff that at times might make some people mad within the motorhome lot. So do you ever get blowback from that? Does anybody ever come to you and say, “You shouldn’t have tweeted that?”

So that’s not happened to me ever, but I have heard that happening with some of the other wives. I think at times people tend to say things that are a little sensitive to other people’s husbands, and after the race it can get a little ugly on Twitter. I’ve seen some Twitter wars between the other wives. Luckily, I have never been in the middle of one.

I know there’s been some discussions in the motorhome lot after the races. Hopefully they talk it out and let it go. I think that things are just said in the heat of the moment and maybe they weren’t meant to be mean, or they weren’t meant to be rude to that person. So hopefully they talk it out like adults afterwards.

But I’ve actually never had that happen. I have gotten some Twitter wars with people on there that are mean to me, because I think people can be so quick to be judgmental on Twitter because you’re judging somebody by 140 characters or something that they’re saying.

I tell people all the time, “You don’t know me, so don’t judge me.” Don’t judge my situation. Don’t ask me why I’m not married. You know what I mean? There are so many things that are not appropriate for that time. You don’t know my situation, you don’t know my life, so don’t make those assumptions and I won’t make them about you. I think that’s the only time it’s ever really happened to me, with just people following me.

So you feel in some ways that you’re opening up your life, but then you feel like people are thinking they’re entitled to more. Like, “You gave me this one answer, this one insight, so where is the rest of it?”

Yeah. I do think people do that. So a lot of times I’ll start something, but then I don’t finish it because people do that. They keep writing and they want more, and it’s almost like they want me to say something I’m not supposed to say. And I’m not gonna do that, because it’s not the appropriate place to do it.

But I do get the marriage question a lot. I get a lot of people that ask why we’re not married. Well, it’s been 12 years, we’re still not married, we’re probably never gonna get married — so if we’re OK with it, you should be, too. Not everybody wants to be married, let’s just get that clear. So I think it depends. I try to just run that middle line all the time. I try not to make anyone too angry and just try to stay kinda even and cool.

So you’ve talked about the people that deserve the block if they talk shit about Martin. What else deserves a block? Like how does somebody cross the line? Can somebody argue with you but not get blocked?

Yeah. I’m all for a good argument. Ask Martin: I was born to argue. I love arguing with people. But if you’re gonna argue with me, do it politely. Don’t call me names and don’t say anything obnoxious about Martin, because if you do cross that line, I’m gonna probably block you. But I really haven’t had to block that many people.

I’ve had one weird stalker guy on there that was like really, really crossing the line, like talking about my family and hurting me and people in my family. I actually had to get some people involved. It was really creepy. So there is some people that I’ve had to block where I’m like, “Don’t ever come near me. You scare me. You make me feel like I wanna have a bodyguard.” But for the most part, I think everybody’s pretty friendly.

How do you decide who to follow with your Twitter account? How often are you looking at it? Is it something where you’re getting your news from it?

I definitely use Twitter for news. I get on Martin all the time for being on his Twitter, but always he says, “This is where I get my news from. This is where I get all my information.” I tried going on vacation and (staying off it) like, “Don’t go on it for a couple of days,” but I feel like I’m missing out. I haven’t been checking it, and I’m proud of myself for not checking it, but then I feel like I’m missing out on something.

So I think there’s a really fine balance between being on it for informational purposes and to get news and then being on it too much and getting addicted to it, wanting to check it all the time to see what everybody’s doing. I naturally want to know what’s going on in other people’s lives all the time — and I think that’s human nature — but it can also be unhealthy. So I have to control it sometimes, like, “I’m only gonna check Twitter and Instagram once a day. Then I don’t need to be on it again.” It’s really hard to do.

I’ve struggled with that. I’ve pretty much given up, even on vacation, I just can’t stay off it. I think we’re just so tied into it. It’s really a link to the community too, so you know what everybody else is doing, you know what’s going on, and if you miss that, like, “Oh no you didn’t see that? You didn’t know what was going on with me?”

You feel left out, right? You feel like you’re missing out on something. Martin, I give him a hard time because he’s always on his Twitter on the bus, but he never tweets anything. So he’s always on there and I’m like, “Why are you on there if you never tweet anything and you don’t like it?” And he’s like, “I feel like if I’m not on it, I miss out on everything. I don’t know what’s going on. Everybody’s doing something and I need to know about it.” I’m like, “OK, that makes sense, because I do the same thing.” It’s hard to criticize others when I do it, too.

I just figured Martin never looked at it at all. I didn’t know he was sort of a lurker.

He’s like lurking in the background, checking it all the time. And honestly, I probably shouldn’t tell people this, but after the race, he is always checking his replies to see what people are writing to him. I think he likes to see what’s going on during the race and like what people are talking about. So yeah. He’s a lurker. He’s on there a lot. He just doesn’t tweet a lot.

You have Instagram accounts, Facebook, things like that for personal use and you keep it private. Is that just a way for you to have your own space in the social media world?

Yeah. I mean, I kind of struggled in the beginning. My Instagram was open to the public, and then I was like, “Eh, I really need to have something where I can post pictures for friends and family that don’t live here that I want to keep in touch with where they can just see it, and not everybody can see it.” So that’s why I keep my Instagram private.

I’m not a big Facebook person. I have an account, but I just use it for my business (Lavendar Boutique), so I’m never really on there. So I just do Twitter and Instagram. And I’m really addicted to Instagram — I’m on there all the time. I’m always putting stuff on my story and I like to share with my friends and family, but I need my own space to keep part of my life private. So that’s why I do that.

Where do the Sherry Strong accounts come into play (for her cancer prevention website SherryStrong.org)? Do you post a lot on those yourself? Are you looking at replies to those accounts as well?

Yeah, so the @SherryStrongOC pages — we have a Facebook, an Instagram, and a Twitter, and I post on all of them. My sister, Jill, does too because she runs that account. So we both kind of tag team it. Like if I’m like juicing it or doing something cool in the morning that I want them to see that has to do with my health, then I film it. And then we do a lot of articles.

It’s not even just for cancer patients, it’s just for people in general on how to keep their bodies healthy and how to be well and how to use cancer prevention — not just if you have cancer, how to control it. So I love doing all of that. That’s a really cool outlet for me to share with the fans and how I live my life every day. I really enjoy that. So I kinda do both.

I switch around. I help Martin with his accounts sometimes, too, so I do Martin sometimes, I do mine and I do the Sherry Strong. So I have a lot of different accounts that I switch around back and forth between.

What kind of feedback have you gotten from those Sherry Strong accounts? For instance, you were talking about deodorant at one point — like how a lot of the deodorants are toxic — and my wife Sarah switched over to a healthier deodorant after seeing your post about it. So you must get a good response when you’re educating a lot of people that don’t know about this stuff.

Yeah. So I posted the deodorant thing on my personal Twitter after we put out the Sherry Strong site, and it went crazy. People went nuts over it. So I got a lot of questions about that. I mean, that’s great; I’m glad to hear that Sarah switched her deodorant, ’cause that’s good.

There’s a lot of things I learned when I got cancer about toxins on my body or in our house and around the things that we use everyday, and it was eye-opening for me. I wanted to be able to share that with people, so I try to share the important things on my personal Twitter, too, so that people who don’t follow the Sherry Strong sites can see it.

But I try not to bombard people that follow me on my personal Twitter. I know that they don’t want to hear about deodorant everyday — and I don’t write about deodorant everyday — but it is important that people know about the toxins in their body and their environment, so we do a lot of that.

And I enjoy sharing that information because it’s a lot of work to get all that and figure out what that means and what that means in your household and for you body, so we try to decipher all that for all the fans and do it for them.

What are some of your favorite accounts to follow that makes being on Twitter fun for you?

Oh geez, I have a lot of favorites. So I follow a lot of the drivers, of course. I really enjoy following Dale Jr. because he’s really funny. I’ve known Dale for a long time — Martin and him have been friends for a long time — and I know he’s really witty and funny, but he’s really funny on Twitter. Like you see his true personality come out. He’s probably my favorite person to follow.

Then I follow a couple celebrities. I follow Ashton Kutcher and random people, just celebrities that I like in movies and stuff. And then I follow some health-related stuff that I like. You put me on the spot — I can’t think of any others off the top of my head besides I really like to follow Dale Jr.

Do ever have to mute anybody?

No, how do you mute people? What are you talking about?

So if you mute somebody on Twitter, you still follow them, basically, but you no longer see their tweets so they don’t know that you don’t see their tweets. They’re just out of your timeline so you don’t have to deal with them anymore.

I didn’t know you could do that. So now you gave me this new trick that I’m gonna have to do. There might be a couple people I’m gonna have to do that to. I don’t feel like I follow that many people, but I probably do. I haven’t even looked to see how many people I follow (769). But there might be some people who I need to pull that card with now. I don’t know. You just gave me a new trick up my sleeve.

You may no longer see my tweets after this. So are you into Snapchat at all? Have you ever considered looking at Snapchat?

I’m not on Snapchat. Well, I take that back. I do have Snapchat on my phone, I did create an account, but I just never use it. I use it to take the funny pictures with the filters. So I do all the funny faces then I save the pictures and send it to people, but I don’t use Snapchat.

I took over the NASCAR Snapchat one day, and that was fun. Martin and I had some fun with that. But as far as opening it up to the public and using it, I think I just have so many other things that I wanna do with my time, it gets overwhelming.

I’m already doing Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and all that, so I don’t need to have one more thing with my time. I wanna spend time with my friends and family and be present in the moment, so I kinda have to pick and choose.

How much during a race are you looking at Twitter? Obviously you’re watching what’s going on on TV. Do you listen to the radio for Martin? How much information do you pull from Twitter as the race is actually going on?

I definitely listen to Martin’s radio, and then I’m always on Twitter during the race. So whether I’m writing anything or not, I use it for information. I read what the other wives are saying about their husbands’ cars, I read what the teams are saying about their cars, I read about what’s going on when a caution comes out, I read about what the media says. I read everything on Twitter during the race. I think it’s just a good place to get information and it kinda keeps me engaged and I can hear things that are going on with our team outside of Martin’s radio. So it’s super useful during the race, for sure.

Any final thoughts on where you think social media is going? It’s obviously come a long way in our lifetime — in the last few years really. It’s sort of crazy how it’s just suddenly there and everybody’s using it all the time. Where is it going next?

I don’t know. That’s a good question. Social media has blown up. I remember when Twitter first came out and we got on it and everyone was like, “This isn’t gonna be big. No one’s gonna do it.” And it’s huge. So I can’t even imagine where it’s gonna go now with all the video technology. Now you can do surveys and all that stuff. I can’t even imagine in five to 10 years from now where it’s gonna be.

My hope for the youth of America is that they’re not so engaged on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram that they forget to look up and enjoy their lives and live in the moment. I know we’re all kind of guilty of that, and I’d hate to see that with the younger generations.

I think it’s cool that they have all these different avenues and ways they can connect with other people — I just hope they don’t miss out on their lives, too.

Video: Toyota drivers participate in Olympic crossover event

During two days in Utah, I watched as Toyota NASCAR drivers Martin Truex Jr., Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez — along with crew chiefs Cole Pearn and Chris Gayle — mingled with Olympic athletes and participated in various Winter Games training.

It was pretty fun, and I could tell you all about it, but I’d rather show you. So here’s a video I made about it: