Social Spotlight with Jenna Fryer

Each week, I ask a member of the racing community about how they use social media. Up next: Jenna Fryer of the Associated Press.

It’s fascinating to me how much you take on the haters. I feel like sometimes you embrace it and are like, “Bring it on” and sometimes you’re like, “I can’t believe people are getting mad.” So how do you deal on a day-to-day basis with those people on social media?

I recently made a really big change with my Twitter settings in that I changed it to where I only will see your tweet now if you have confirmed your email address (through Twitter). So I think that has cut down on the trolls, which I really enjoy. I really felt it liberating. I noticed it within a day; I noticed the traffic cut down. And it’s unfortunate, because maybe some legitimate people (were cut out) if they haven’t taken those steps with their accounts, but I did open my DMs — which has been a little weird.

The thing about the haters is I can’t believe some of the things people say. I think people think I’m being whiny or thin-skinned or I can’t take it, but sometimes I just think people are inappropriate or mean. One of the things I learned from (13-year-old daughter) Sydnee’s age group is there are certain things that just aren’t tolerated — like body shaming or woman-on-woman shaming. They just think it’s deplorable, like it’s the worst thing in the world. So you get on Twitter and you’ve got people who are just mean.

And sometimes it’s the most innocuous things. You retweeted a link of mine yesterday and said you thought my lede (a writer’s introduction paragraph) was “spicy.” And the mentions just deteriorated into this battle between IndyCar and NASCAR fans — and I don’t want any parts of that anymore.

But when you’ve crossed the line — even if it’s my imaginary moral line — I’m going to call you out on it. I am. Because even if you’re anonymous and we can’t tell who you are because you’re an egg (as a profile picture) or you’ve got a fake name, you deserve people to know what kind of person you are.

But do you enjoy it some days? Do you ever enjoy the back-and-forth and retweeting these people? Because sometimes I just feel like, “Oh, Jenna is from New Jersey, so she doesn’t mind ripping these people right back.”

Sometimes I rip them right back. But like I’ve really been quiet all week on the Danica (losing her ride) thing; I’ve really been offended by all the traffic I’ve seen. I don’t want to attack people to attack them, but I kind of want to shake people and say, “How many of your dreams did you follow? What did you make of your life? How dare you criticize or attack or disparage what this woman has done.” She may not have been the greatest race car driver ever, but she was a tremendous businesswoman who parlayed that into a multi-million dollar career while following her dreams. For people to just tweet nasty, angry things — and I got a particularly bad email this week — I don’t understand why people are like that.

I’ve seen through social media that jealousy is so ugly. And so sometimes I fight back. Sometimes I just can’t take it. Sometimes it’s not worth the headache, but sometimes you wake up and you’re just in that kind of mood and you’re like, “Alright. I’m going to fight back today.” And other days, you’re like, “I’m not even going to look at Twitter today.”

I think your biggest controversy was when you wrote your Fernando Alonso column in the spring (about how he wouldn’t have that big of an impact on the Indy 500) and there were so many people getting mad. Were there days during that time when you decided not to look at social media or were you always checking what people were saying?

No, I stopped looking at it after awhile. You can’t argue with people who don’t want to have healthy debate. You see that all across our country right now, and social media has really deteriorated conversation and debate. They just want to say what they want to say, and they just want to label me with whatever label fits their argument — as someone who is uneducated or doesn’t know or respect Alonso.

That wasn’t it. The issue I always had was, “What is Alonso going to do for this race and this series?” And what’s been difficult for me is I was right! I was right. Everything I said, I was right. The television ratings were not up. He did nothing in this country for the race or the series. Now, he was charming, he was wonderful, he was a delight to watch, he was a delight to cover. He would be a delight if he were here all the time — but that’s a different story. And that was the point. So it’s been very hard for me not to crow and say, “I told y’all.”

I use my column in different ways for different things. I’ve used it in political ways lately, and you get a lot of people who just don’t agree with you. I think there’s certain places for sports and certain places for politics, and NASCAR really stepped into a big hole by inserting itself into politics — and now you can’t really get out of it. You can’t pick and choose. And as a result of me trying to stay true to my moral conscience and true to the obligation I have to my daughter to show her how you must take stances, you just invite this attacking army on you on social media. So some days, I just don’t look.

Personally, I’m super reluctant to say anything I know is going to bring an avalanche of haters. Because it really can bring me down or be deflating. But it seems like you’re more willing to do it — it’s not going to deter you from speaking out if you feel strongly enough about it.

Well, there’s sometimes when I just feel like enough is enough and somebody’s got to say something. We as the auto racing media corps in general, we spend so much time on the nuts and bolts and encumbered finishes and this and that. We don’t tend to look at the bigger picture very often. And a lot of people don’t want to or they get annoyed.

I just think when Brian France took his stand on the Confederate flag, he started down a road where he has kind of cherry-picked where he wants to be involved. And at a time of tumult in this country and when you’re looking for good leaders and you’re looking for the JJ Watts of the world or the Jimmie Johnsons and these guys who step up, you would hope the leadership of the series would step up. But I think they’ve gone backward based on fan reaction, because not everybody cares as much about doing what’s morally right. And they’d rather just stick to their beliefs and keep sports and politics and entertainment and keep them all privately, and I just think NASCAR lost that right.

You’re probably the reporter who is most tied in to both NASCAR and IndyCar — I don’t know somebody else who has mastered having one foot in each as well as you have. So what’s your philosophy in managing that on social media? Sometimes you’ll tweet a picture of you with somebody from a series — is that part of letting people know, “Hey, I’m an insider?”

No. So I really have embraced Instagram and started to enjoy that more —

Is your Instagram public?

No, my Instagram is private, and the reason is it’s a lot of my daughter on there. But I started this thing called #100HappyDays. So unless you follow the #100HappyDays, you don’t really know about it. But in the beginning, it was really great, because it really forced you to look at every day differently. You would look at things and they would be small, minor, little things and you would say, “Oh, this made me happy today.” But then everything started making you happy, so you couldn’t post a picture too soon in the day, because what if something happier happened later in the day?

So as it went on, Chip Ganassi started to get annoyed by it. He started to literally get annoyed by it.

He was trolling you.

He was trolling me. And at a race, he did a media session. At the end of the media session, he asked to go off the record. And we went off the record, and he said everyone in the room had to agree to be honest with him and we had to do it by a show of hands. And he says (in Ganassi imitation voice): “Be honest. How many people are sick of Jenna Fryer’s #100HappyDays?”

How many hands went up?

There were some hands. But from that moment on, I said, “You know what? Now I’m doing #365HappyDays,” and a lot of them are dedicated to Chip. So I’m kind of trolling Chip now back with it. Like I posted a picture with Jamie McMurray the other day just so I could tag Chip. And whenever I have the opportunity to get Chip in a happy day (photo), I do it.

But it’s not to show I’m an insider. I just think I’m an asshole sometimes. Like when that guy wrote me that really mean email the other day and I wrote back, “I think your caps lock button is broken.” Or today, I bought a Marco Andretti shirt at the IndyCar (souvenir) hauler because why not? Like I just think I do things (to mess with people).

So it sounds like what happens is you’re doing something that’s a normal action to you, because you’re so tied in with all these people. But I feel like it’s coming across as, “Wow, Jenna is such an insider because she knows all these people.” But it’s normal to you.

I do get that, and part of that is because I’ve been in racing at a fairly full-time level since 1998, ’99, 2000. What I am seeing is much like Matt Kenseth and all these other guys, everybody that I do know so well, we’re all aging out. Like we all grew up together,  to a degree. Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman and Marty Smith and some of the people who work for Jimmie Johnson — we were all rookies together. Jamie McMurray, too. Well now, as they’re aging out — Dario (Franchitti) has gotten older and Helio (Castroneves) and Tony Kanaan are in their 20th years — we’re getting older. And I don’t know the younger drivers the way I do (the older ones). I’m fortunate I’ve built a little bit of a relationship with (Ryan) Blaney —

And Kyle Larson, I feel like.

Larson, yeah. But I’m not going to roll up on Josef Newgarden and be like, “Josef! Be in my #100HappyDays!” Because I don’t know him that well yet, you know? So there’s a changing of the guard that affects everybody that people don’t realize.

Is that a threat to your career or something you can adjust to? Like when you see younger drivers interacting with younger writers on social media, do you see it as a whole new class of writers that could be a challenge to the current generation of media?

No. I do see what you’re saying and it is a challenge because you have to learn. So much of what we do — yeah, it’s racing, but you have to understand these people. The most fun part of what we do is like dissecting why Kevin Harvick was mad about something or why did Kyle Busch do this. I just think it’s part of the job — we just have to learn new people and build new relationships. I don’t think it’s threatening. That’s a skill you have to have. You have to learn your subjects. It takes time.

Tony Stewart and I went two years without speaking to each other. You go through peaks and valleys and you get to know people and they get mad at you and stop talking to you for a little while or you work things out. It’s just part of the challenge. I’m not threatened. A huge part of it is still try to be professional and be fair and be honest and don’t get weighted down in all the muck. And the younger guys will figure out who you are.

But isn’t it tough to avoid being baited into that sometimes? Because that’s what social media often is — the muck.

I had a good time this past weekend on social media because (Brad Keselowski) and Denny (Hamlin) and Kyle sparring back and forth. I was like, “This was what social media is meant for. This is what I liked about Twitter when I joined it seven, eight, nine years ago.” And we’ve gotten so far away from that, where Twitter is just everybody attacking everybody. I like that, and that’s why I think I’ve migrated more toward Instagram, because you can get out of the muck.

It’s just your mood if you get baited. If somebody catches you or you see something at just that right time, then you’ve opened the hole and down you go and you’re fighting with everybody and you kind of have to step away.

What’s the future for you on social media? You talked about changing your Twitter settings. How do you see this evolving for you and your reporting as you go forward?

I’ve already changed a lot from when I first was using Twitter. I almost used it in lieu of taking notes. Because you would say, “Caution, Lap 145” and you would be able to go right back into your Twitter feed. Well now, everybody is tweeting “Caution.” A few years ago, I stopped doing it. There was such a race to tweet everything, and everybody was tweeting the exact same thing. And if you’re a reader or a consumer, when you open your Twitter account and see nine consecutive tweets and all they say is “Caution,” why are you following these people? Wait until you have the information and wait until you have something to report.

So I’ve already scaled down — I did that a few years ago. I also cherrypick quotes now so that I’m not part of that instant timeline where everybody is just tweeting what Dale Jr. said at exactly the same time.

I think social media is still a good tool. This is a great example: I woke up the other day and was like, “Why is Ted Cruz trending? Who is Sergio Dipp?” And within just a few keystrokes, you’re able to figure out exactly what you missed overnight by scrolling through Twitter.

But I also think for me, I don’t need to do a 24/7 update. There’s enough people who are doing that. I’d like to be a little more of myself, I’d like to be a little more sarcastic and of course tweet the links and the news.

One thing, while I have this (microphone): I think media-on-media crime on social media is the most disgusting thing. It’s awful. Media should not be fighting with media on social media. I think it makes the whole profession look bad. We all have to live together, we all have to work together and when people are critiquing, criticizing, roasting, dragging, complaining about other media, it’s such bad form. And it’s so ugly.

Yeah, we want more driver-on-driver crime — not media-on-media crime.

Correct. (Laughs) More driver-on-driver crime, starting now.

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

Social Spotlight with Amy Earnhardt

Each week, I ask a member of the racing community to shed some light on their social media usage. Up next: Amy Earnhardt, the wife of Dale Earnhardt Jr., who maintains an active presence on Twitter and Instagram.

You’re active on social media, and that has opened you up to a world of different types of people I’m sure you never would have thought you would hear from. What’s the overall experience like for you? Do you find it more positive or negative?

For the most part, I find it positive. Social media was scary for me at first. I just felt like it was this giant world and it was super intimidating, so I waited awhile to even join Twitter. I don’t still have a Facebook account. But I’ve had a lot of fun with Instagram and Twitter so far, and you’re right — there’s a lot of people you get to meet, or just chitchat with that you’d never otherwise have any contact with. Dale had (country singer) Cole Swindell stop by today (at Richmond) and they met on social media. That’s just one of the things that social media would allow that nothing else before has. So it’s been a lot of fun.

You say it’s more positive for you. How do you have that experience? Because from my view, I look at it sometimes like, “Oh my gosh, she must get so much crap,” as I search through all those responses. But you don’t feel like it’s terrible or overwhelming?

It can be overwhelming. I kind of choose when to and when not to get on there. At first, there were quite a few people that I had to block — everybody has those few people who like to just ruin their day. But you have to remind yourself that those people don’t even know who you are, and they’re probably not just doing that to you, they’re doing it to plenty of other people. It’s just their M.O. in life. So I don’t let that get to me at all.

Like I said, I kind of tend to stay away from Twitter on a bad day. If Dale doesn’t do well on the track, I try to encourage him to do the same thing, because he’ll have 90 great comments and then those few that are bad just really bring him down. So I just do the same for myself.

It’s interesting how Twitter hasn’t really done a good job of being able to cut trolls. Because like you said, most people on Twitter are good people and they’re positive and they’re encouraging, but then you get those people who can be so bad that it really can ruin somebody’s day if you don’t have super thick skin. Is there anything you’d like to see Twitter do, or do you think that just comes with the territory?

I kind of feel like that’s the nature of the beast. It’s the freedom of speech. We’re in America, so people get to say what they want and they have that ability. You have that ability to block them, mute them, whatever you so choose. So if you choose not to, then you have to take what they give you. I feel like (Twitter has) done what they can with it.

The biggest blowup that I can think of, when you got the most heat, was when you posted about not letting Dale run the Clash. How did you handle the aftermath of all that?

So that’s a great question. Dale actually threw me under the bus with that because he had been asked over and over again — because he had qualified to do so — was he going to run the race? And he had even told Mr. H (Rick Hendrick) that it was up to me. So after a lot of heckling on social media, especially that week — he must of had an interview where it came up again because that day in particular, I had a lot of responses in my feed — I just got tired of listening to it, so I’d figure I’d put a squash to it.

And I definitely had some negative feedback, but I spoke the truth and I stand by it. I would say it again. He put me in the position to even have an opinion about it publicly, because he was talking about it publicly.

Honestly, I still get responses about that, even on random tweets that have nothing to do with it. People still get hung on those things. But to be honest, when it comes down to it, he’s gonna do what he wants to do. It’s his decision. I just was trying to clean my Twitter feed up. I didn’t want to hear it anymore.

So people were like, “Come on Amy, come on Amy, come on Amy.” And so you give a response and they’re like, “Amy, you suck!”

“Boo Amy! You said the wrong thing!” (Laughs)

You obviously use Instagram as well. Do you prefer Instagram to Twitter?

I do, just because I’m a visual person. I like the pictures. I’m a girl, so I like to follow bloggers, I like to follow foodies and just different famous people. I like to see what people are doing. I’m just like everybody else — the people I enjoy following, I just want to see what they’re doing.

It’s like legalized snooping in a way, because people post these things and they have no idea really how many people are seeing it. And it just seems like a fun little insight into other people’s lives, where you don’t get that as well with Twitter. People can post photos, but it’s more of just a quick blurb, if you will.

How many people are you regularly going through their feed on Instagram? Do you just go through your timeline? Because Instagram timelines are out of order, which isn’t very convenient, so sometimes you have to go back and see certain people.

I don’t try to go back to pages, because I’m gonna be the person who accidentally starts hearting things two months old, and then you’re alerted that I’m a stalker on your page. So I’ve just tried not to do that. But I follow so many people on Instagram, my feed’s pretty current. I can go through the last five and refresh it and have a whole new 10 to look at. So I don’t get bored with it.

Where do you come down on looking at other people’s Instagram Stories? Because for me, I’m on Snapchat a lot, so I feel like people put their same stuff sometimes on Snapchat as they do on Instagram Stories and I get super annoyed. I’m like, “Oh crap, now I have to go through their Instagram story, too,” because I don’t want the circle to pop up and just sit there and look at it. Do you go through most of the little circles?

I do. I love the Stories. It’s a fun way to see what people are doing all day long. I like that they added that, because you don’t have to worry about posting something that you might regret. It comes right off.

I’m with you on the Snapchat and Instagram story thing. I don’t have a public Snapchat for that reason. Like you can’t keep up with both; that’s a lot to do. But it’s annoying, as a follower, if you see the same person posting the same things everywhere. That’s not what the purpose of all these different apps is, right?

I guess I’m going to admit to this, but there are times when I’ll go through and heart several pictures — and then for some reason I don’t feel like hearting a picture. I see it, but I just don’t. So do you ever withhold the heart?

I do the same thing. I don’t even know what that is. Maybe you can help explain even what I’m doing, because I don’t even know what that is either. It’s like, “I’ll heart four or five of your photos, maybe I shouldn’t heart all six of these.” I don’t know what that is.

Is it some sort of thing like “This wasn’t quite good enough to get my half second of time it takes to tap?” Like “I didn’t want to take my energy to show my approval of this.”

I think that it is true. I also think it depends on what comes right before. Like if you have three or four great photos that other people posted and this is just not up to par with those, then you just don’t heart it. Sometimes I scroll back up like, “Oh, I actually really liked it, it’s one of my really good friends, I’ll just heart it anyway.” It’s a picture of their kid, he’s so cute, I’ll heart.

You’re like, “I wasn’t going to (heart) another kid picture, but you know what, I do like them.” So you do heart them after all.

Yeah, you get a conscience.

Going back to Twitter for a second, where do you fall on blocking, muting or just ignoring? I think Dale has said in the past that he doesn’t block anymore, he just mutes. You mentioned you have blocked people in the past. Do you still use the block button a lot?

I haven’t used the block button in quite awhile, actually. When we first started Twitter, they didn’t even have the mute button, so that would have been helpful. But I’ve blocked people back then who were pretty vicious, or who were imitating me on Twitter, and I just didn’t want to see their stuff either. Mute, I haven’t really used that much. I just feel like at this point if it’s going to be there and I know it’s gonna be there, I know that I don’t need to take it seriously, so it doesn’t really matter that much. But I’ve used both a couple of times.

That’s a good point. I should probably take that into consideration a little bit more, because I’ll mute people a lot. I don’t want to give them the satisfaction of knowing they got me upset enough to block, but it does bother me. It gets to me, so I don’t want to see it. You know what I mean?

I can understand that. Muting is great, because you’re right, they don’t know that you did that.

Did you know that you can block people in your phone, by the way, and they don’t know that you blocked them? Like an actual phone number?

Yes! I’ve been doing that for a lot of spam numbers recently because people call me — I don’t know if this happens to you — with the area code and it looks like it must be someone you know.

Right. I don’t know how they figured out how to do that, but you get spam numbers from your own area code. It’s ridiculous.

They disguise their number, and it’ll be like the first three digits of my phone number, too! So I’m like, “It must be somebody I know,” and it’s somebody offering me a vacation to Florida on a recording.

I don’t answer, and I don’t even listen to the voicemail if it’s not a number I don’t have programmed into my phone. I don’t even bother listening to the voicemail.

You screen the calls.

I screen. I’m a hard screener.

We stayed in our pjs all day waiting for this eclipse. Didn’t want to out dress our glasses. #eclipse2017

A post shared by Amy Earnhardt (@mrsamyearnhardt) on

What do you think the future is on social media? There’s all this live stuff now. You can pretty much see into anybody’s life as much as you want to show them. Is there a limit, or is it going to just keep going in that direction?

That’s a really good question. I wouldn’t have said I could have seen social media coming, so I have no idea where it will be going. I can only imagine that it’s going to be…easier and easier for people to use, maybe. But honestly, my brain does not work like that. I have no idea where it would go. What do you think it’s going to do?

I think at some point, there has to be a tipping point both with trolls and with the amount that’s shared because 

Too much skin, is that what you mean? 

Just that I could start an account right now, tweet to Dale Jr. and say “You are the most awful human being!” or whatever, and he might read it. And I don’t think celebrities are going to be on social media forever if that’s the case, because people will just be like, “Why am I doing this?”

I’m more worried about how unsafe it is for kids. I don’t have kids yet, but we’re trying, and who knows what that’s going to look like by the time our kids are old enough to use Snapchat or anything else. There’s so many other apps that kids use that I don’t even know how to use. So that’s the scariest part for me.

As an adult, especially Dale or any other celebrity, I feel like they should just take it as it comes. It’s just part of the gig.

I’ve thought about this myself. Someday when I have kids, how much do I share pictures of my kids publicly? Because it would be nice to have a private account, but then people think you’re keeping stuff guarded. You have a public Instagram and public Twitter. Is there going to be any place where you can just share stuff with your family and friends, where you don’t have to show everybody?

So we do that now. We both have iPhones. Most of the people in my family and Dale’s family have iPhones, so we have photo streams where we share photos. Both of my sisters have kids, Dale’s sister has kids, and so we kind of do that there, and you can comment on there if you really want to, and like it.

You can comment on the iPhoto stream?

Whatever you want. And aunts, uncles, whatever, and they can see the photos you post. They get a little button that pops up.

So you can bypass social media. That’s interesting. Maybe that’s the answer of what will happen ultimately is like mini social media networks — just with your friends and family, where you don’t even have to have a profile.

That’s right, it’s just all in the cloud. You have to remember that.

You say that you’ve given advice to Dale. Has he ever given you any advice about your social media use?

Yes. So this is a great question. I have many a times gotten on Twitter, and I am an opinionated girl. I can be a little cut and dry, and that doesn’t come across so well, especially just in text on Twitter with a lot of people that follow who don’t actually know who you are.

So he’ll see me start typing something, he’ll look over my shoulder and be like, “I don’t think you should send that.” And now I am really nervous about what I send out, because not only do I have Dale watching if I’m gonna send it out, but his entire brand team. There’s a wrath that comes from it, not just from Dale but with his entire team.

Have you ever gotten in trouble with a tweet that you’ve sent? Are people like, “Amy, no. You shouldn’t have said this?”

Yeah, there was a couple. I won’t reference them, but I’m sure everybody probably knows what they are. But I don’t regret it at all.

One last thing I want to ask you about, which shouldn’t be that big of a deal, but you’ve had a couple of messages of tolerance lately. These are really hard times in the world and society, but you’ve kind of had that message of love or different colored hearts for people of different races. What’s been behind that?

I just feel like people use social media, especially Twitter…you find that generally people that have something negative to say. Instead of it being positive, you hear more negative things, especially about politics or about any big thing. Even athletic games, football games, whatever — if somebody does something stupid, you hear all of the trolls versus the people that are excited about it.

So I just feel like if it’s something I really believe in, I’m going to voice my opinion and try to be as positive about it as possible. I tend to stay away from politics and those things — I just don’t want to get involved with it and I have the wrath of whoever wants to fight with me about it on social media. I don’t want to use my social media that way.

It’s supposed to be fun, right? So that’s why I keep it that way.

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).

Social Spotlight with NASCAR president Brent Dewar

Each week, I ask a member of the racing community to share their thoughts on social media usage. This week: Brent Dewar, who was named NASCAR president on July 13 after previously serving as the company’s chief operating officer following a career a General Motors that lasted more than 30 years.

You’ve been on Twitter since 2009 — the early days of the platform. So I’m curious, what attracted you to want to get on Twitter in the first place, way back when it wasn’t as big as it is now?

I came on the marketing side of the automotives, and each of the social media platforms were developing. I liked Twitter because it was like an open email. I was intrigued that you had to get a message out in 140 characters or less. I found that very interesting.

As a marketer, you grew up with 60-second commercials, then it went to 30s, and I love 15s. If I could have done a seven-second commercial, I would have. So I like that aspect and kind of learned the dos and don’ts over time.

So even before society went to this shorter attention span thing, you thought that was something that people would pick up on?

I think it’s not so much shorter attention span — that’s one factor, there’s no question — but as a communicator, the less you say, (the) better and more poignant, because we as humans only retain so much. So I was always intrigued by it. I don’t think I always practice it as well as I want to in those 140 characters, but that’s the essence as a marketer.

As it’s evolved, how much do you use Twitter now, and how much value do you place on it in the role that you’re currently in?

Obviously we have a huge fanbase and they’re very active on all social media. I’ve had accounts through most of the major (forms of social media), and I’ve really focused on Twitter.

What we ask our team is to find your voice. So our voice for competition is Steve O’Donnell, and so we want to make sure he feels comfortable and has the authority to interact on the competition aspect with fans, with the industry and with just folks in general across the industry.

What my role is to play as chief operating officer and now as president, is to find my voice — and I don’t want to step on the competition side of the voice, I don’t want to step on the marketing and (chief marketing officer) Jill Gregory.

So I use it primarily as an amplification tool to the messaging in the industry. That’s been my role, my focus. You might get some business aspects from me because I do the business of NASCAR, but at the end of the day I’m a fan, and so I really approach it from a fan’s perspective.

That’s very interesting that you say that, because my next question was going to be about how you retweet a lot of people in NASCAR. So it sounds like that’s a strategic thing, where you’re taking little pieces from here, little pieces from there, and you’re saying, “Hey, I want to make sure people in the industry are seeing this message.”

Exactly, and that’s one of the big powers of social media, is that first message can cascade so much further. So it is a purely strategic intent; that is the role that I play. We teach that to many of our other executives as well, because if you can connect with the chain on a broader basis, the message goes much further. You can be a Dale Jr. and have four million followers, or you can be a connected part of the industry — and both are very effective in terms of amplifying the message.

Even though you don’t want to step on Steve O’Donnell’s toes, there has to be times where you say, “I really want to say this” or “I really have an opinion on this.” And because you want to stay in your lane, you have to hold off. Are there times where you have to stop yourself from expressing your own opinions?

Yes and no. I would say my lane is never the competition lane, even though I do it in my job. It’s not my social media role. And so I would never be intrigued to go on and do that.

There are times when I do want to say something, and it’s usually a direct message to the driver or a direct message to the industry person and it’s pretty effective as well. You and I have tweeted direct messages back and forth with each other. So I’ve used that mechanism, because at the end of the day, this is a sport, and sometimes people get lost in that. We’re a release for a lot of the things that go on in the world. Like all sports, it’s entertainment, and I just want to make sure that I stay within that and enjoy it at the same time.

You’re known as somebody’s who is very hard working; there’s a lot of hours that you put in and it sounds like you pour your soul into this job. How does the daily social media grind fit into your role? Are you able to see everything that happens on Twitter?

It’s a challenge. I think the expression is “time poverty.” We all suffer from it, so I’m a believer in technology. I always have been. I’m an early adopter. I think I was one of the first BlackBerry users; you don’t want to know what I paid for my first BlackBerry. It’s shocking. But I think we use technology to expand the hours of the day.

I’ve always been fortunate or unfortunate — depending on my mother’s point of view — that I never really slept too much, even as a kid. So I’m awake for the better part of the 24 hours of a day. So I use all these different tools, techniques from technology to get us there.

I try to make sure that I’m consuming the sport with 360 degree view. I’m definitely on Sirius/XM when I have my time for that on the drive. And the guys definitely know when I’m on, because I’ll usually pull off to the side of the road — I don’t text and drive — and I’ll send a couple of direct messages to them if I feel like I need to comment. And same with TV, same with digital, same with social media.

So they all have their place. I think the days of a single medium consuming your information, those days are gone. When I grew up as a kid, we had a big network broadcast and it was pretty easy to get your news. Everybody tuned in at the nightly news. That’s not the case today; it’s instantaneous, so you find your mechanism and platform to get your information and to also share information. So I try to balance it throughout the day.

I think we’ve all found social media can be a drain at times because of negativity. I’m sure I irritate you at times with my tweets where you’re like, “Oh, come on.” So my question is, why do you choose to be on Twitter with all the negativity goes on?

I would say this is the marketing researcher in me. I’ve always been intrigued in human behavior, and sports is the craziest experience of human behavior. So I think what you have to recognize is that sports fans are passionate. That’s where the word “fanatic” came from. Sports fans are 365/24/7.

I think what you have to recognize is that some of the callers, when you talk on a radio sports show, are a demographic unto themselves. And so usually you have to manage the filters and understand that it’s not absolute; it’s directional.

Same with social media: you can’t just read the good clips. You can’t (just say), “Wow, that’s fantastic,” and ignore the other side. So what you want to do is filter and capture the passion, and not the raw emotion. The emotion can get very negative, and you can’t have too thin of skin. You have to really balance points, and you’ve got to put it through a filter what you’re hearing.

Everybody has a response. It’s like, “I’ve got a bad back” — you’ve got to get those symptoms of what’s causing that bad back. Is it a disc, is it weight, is it poor posture? What is it? Don’t respond to the aching back; get to the root cause.

And I would say out of all of these conditions, when you get to the negative, there’s a reason; there’s a root cause. Some of it maybe is just someone jumping on a bandwagon. If you can peel back the layers and you’re truly passionate about it, you’re gonna get to (the truth). And that’s why I try to look at it.

When it gets to hate or real negative stuff, then I’ll turn you off. There’s no place for that in society. But other than that, if it’s just raw emotion, it’s OK.

I argue with’s Jim Utter about Twitter sometimes. I’ll say, “Everybody on Twitter is saying this,” and he’ll say, “Well Twitter’s this echo chamber, it’s not representative of society because only 25 percent of people use Twitter.” How representative of the overall NASCAR fanbase is the opinion that appears on Twitter?

That’s a good question. I’d have to think through that a little bit more, but I’d say it represents the direction. I think where we tend to get caught up is absolutes versus direction, if that makes sense. So it’s directionally correct and absolutely wrong. It’s kind of funny to say it.

What you’ll find is there’s a wave, because it’s an amplification tool. The core elements of what is being said positive or negatively is there, and some people are just amplifying. They don’t even share that opinion, and what I learned also in the early days back in ’09 and ’10, is don’t be taken by the sheer volume (of opinion on Twitter) because in some cases, they don’t even have that point of view. They’re just sharing that point of view with someone else, saying, “Can you believe what someone else had shared?” And you have the understand the mediums, right? You have to get to it and understand it. So I’ll take that assignment on, I’ll have to think that one through.

One thing social media is also good for is getting to know someone personally, and I know a lot of NASCAR fans want to learn more about you. You occasionally share pictures of your daughter, Olivia, who seems like she’s been a lifelong NASCAR fan. How does her fandom shape your view of social media today and NASCAR as a whole?

She’s been with me from the beginning, this is my only child. So before I joined NASCAR, I took her to the Daytona 500. It was the year Jamie McMurray won, and it was also the year of the concrete, the big delay in the race. But it’s really interesting: Even at a very young age, probably 3 at the time, I saw the race through her eyes. She had a Jimmie Johnson jacket.

Over the years, we went to Europe (where he lived for a job assignment) and she would sit in my lap and we would watch tennis — she loved Rafael Nadal because he was left handed — but she would love all the NASCAR races. She would sit in my lap and watch NASCAR from Zurich, Switzerland.

And it’s gone on and on every year and it’s evolved, and she is truly a passionate NASCAR fan. But she’s also a great critique. She asks me questions about, “Dad, why aren’t we doing this? Why aren’t we doing a different thing?” So I always remind her she’s not yet working for the sanctioning body, but she’s kind of a valuable input.

What I look at is she’s not too dissimilar to any other kids. There’s no difference to when I started, going to a racetrack with a friend or a family member. That’s the essence of NASCAR: It’s family, it’s faith, it’s patriotism. And we have to rekindle that.

She just turned 11 last week, which is a funny story. For her birthday, I asked, “What would you like to do?” and she said, “I want to go to Bristol.” And she’d been at Michigan the week before. So she’s gone to Michigan, Bristol and Darlington — three consecutive weekends.

She’s with her dad and her dad’s working, but to see how she’s evolved and what’s important to her, the social aspects are important for her. She loves stage racing because there’s a break in the action where she can talk to her dad or talk to her friends.

We didn’t set out to do stage racing for that reason. We did it because the number one complaint from fans was breaking from green-flag racing for a commercial. And we’re one of the few sports that does it, all motorsports does it. When we worked with NBC and FOX, we worked on a program and the industry came together to create it.

As a 10-year-old at that time, she couldn’t identify that as an issue, but she sees the benefit as a fan, and that’s what we learn about our fans — don’t worry about change; they’ll accept change. What we’re learned over time is that when talking about change, study it, get ready, make sure there’s a benefit for the fan and just do it for the right reasons.

How do you see this continuing to evolve where you can get more of Olivia’s friends to watch and get them interested in it? People get hooked as a kid, so it seems like Olivia’s generation is important. How do you guys keep continuing that and building that initiative to get more of it?

There’s no question. It’s not just sports or NASCAR. Brand preferences are formed somewhere between 7 and 10. There’s been lots of market research and marketers who have studied that for a long time. It could be a precocious 6 year old, but generally that form, they have an understanding of what they value and what they don’t.

And so we’ve worked with the industry, with the track council last year to provide kids under 12 free admission for the Truck and Xfinity races and discount tickets at the Cup level, because we need to get the families to come back together. We actually developed some interesting marketing programs. We’ve talked about the STEM program, we’re in Scholastic in the schools, physics at 200 miles per hour. These are all the enablers to try to connect that you just don’t wait until you’re grown up to get to the racetrack.

The key thing with NASCAR, the 80 million fans we have on an annual basis, it’s the core folks, the 2.5 million that come to the racetrack. Because if you come to the race, it’s just not to attend and have a great experience and that 360 engagement. We know when you watch the broadcast, you look differently at it next time — and they do a great job, but you see the sport differently. You’ll hear the calls from the Sirius/XM guys deeper and much better if you’ve been to the race. And that’s kind of the approach we look at.

I still remember my first race. I was a NASCAR fan growing up in Canada, I was working for an auto company, and I got the assignment to go to Bristol, Tennessee. It was 1988, and I was already a fan. I was grown up — I was working in the industry — but I was a young marketing executive, and I still remember that hauler with what had to be 300 or 400 people standing in front of Dale Earnhardt’s trailer on a Friday at Bristol. I was stunned, I couldn’t believe it.

And that next day, the race, I think (Alan) Kulwicki won the pole, and Earnhardt came in first, I think he beat (Bill) Elliott in a really close race. I’ve seen thousands of races, but that race to this day, even though that was my very first (was memorable).

Bristol was very different then. Still, the shape of Bristol, the core coliseum concept was alive. I took my wife and daughter last weekend, and they had never been to Bristol. They’ve been to lots of races, and they had that same experience that I had. You could just see their eyes light up, the August race under the lights at Bristol. It’s remarkable.

What else do you follow in Twitter that are your interests outside of the sport? I’ve seen some of your tweets. Obviously, you’re a hockey fan. Do you follow any hockey stuff on Twitter, do you follow any entertainment stuff that you enjoy, or is it mostly focused on your work?

I do. I get my news, so like a lot of folks, every news broadcast, NBC, FOX, ABC, and the whole gang.

Most people don’t realize I’m a huge environmentalist. I always have been, growing up on the West Coast. I’ve had that influence since a young age, so I’m very much following what’s happening in the world with those things. We race outdoors, so we understand climate change. The NASCAR Green program isn’t a slogan, we really do care about all those aspects. So I’ll kind get these bits of information as well.

We are in the entertainment business, so we’ll cross-link (with celebrities). I’ve had the pleasure in this job to meet very interesting people from industry and entertainment. So many of them you get to know, and you get to follow them and see what information they have.

Having an 11-year-old daughter, I do follow a lot of the people that she likes in terms of music. We went to an Ed Sheeran concert in Orlando last week, which was remarkable. If you’ve never seen Ed Sheeran in concert, (he’s a) one-man show, incredibly talented.

You can get really insular in your sport, and you have to make sure you don’t get insular and understand what’s happening around you.

Finally, this is a little bit of a tough question to answer because nobody really knows, but where do you see social media going next?

I think it’s about fragmentation. The beauty of the good ol’ days, back in the day you could make your communications (widespread). John Kennedy was elected at the time and used the mass media networks to tell his messages. It was remarkable.

Over time, TV has become more fragmented. So that’s a challenge, but it’s also a positive, because it can be more vertical. It can have a food channel, a sports channel, those kinds of things. So with those fragmentations comes more opportunities which can be more targeted to the audiences.

I think social media is not what some people think it is. It’s truly the media of today’s generation, and it’s not a medium for the young; it’s all generations.

So I think what you’ll see is more fragmentation, which will be challenging because you have to follow what’s new and hot, but you’re also gonna see it come back to much generalizing as well. So it’ll be a place for both.

And I think what you’ll see, it’s the old Marshall McLuhan (theory): The medium is the message. If you can approach it that way, you want to stay relevant as it adapts, but you’ll also want to recognize the platform for what it can deliver. And if you don’t mix those two pieces, I think there’s a place where social media will continue to evolve.

It’s not a fad. It’s really truly a medium for today’s generation of technologists and people around the world. I can communicate through WhatsApp with my family in Brazil. That’s amazing technology. We can instantly communicate. They’ll be following the race today at Darlington, and they’ll be messaging through WhatsApp, which is their medium to communicate with me at the track today.

So I see a great future for all social media. I think we just have to utilize it as a tool to be able to express and receive information and be able to contribute.

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).

Social Spotlight with Brandon Brown of Chicagoland Speedway

Each week,  I ask a member of the racing community to shed some light on their social media usage. Up next: Brandon Brown, digital marketing manager for Chicagoland Speedway.

The Chicagoland Speedway account on Twitter (@ChicagolndSpdwy) does a good job interacting with followers all year long, not just on a race weekend. What’s your philosophy as far as engaging on the feed throughout the season?

Well that’s kind of what it’s all about. I’ve been a NASCAR fan since I was 8 years old, so I appreciate talking to NASCAR fans like a NASCAR fan. That’s kind of my social media strategy.

One of the things I try to do is staying in every conversation we possibly can. For example: On Tuesday, Hendrick announced Chase Elliott was taking over the No. 9 car and William Byron was moving to the 24. I had a video queued up of when Chase Elliott won here in the 9 car in the Xfinity Series in 2014, and fans just started jumping on that. They started sending us pictures, saying, “Man, I was here in victory lane,” or “I saw his burnout.” It’s just great to interact that way. There’s no real science to social media, and that’s the way I look at it.

What’s the balance? Obviously you want to sell tickets to your race, but you also want to keep people informed and interact with them.

It’s a great balance because we want to let people know as Chicagoland Speedway what we have to offer: What the ticket prices are, how many camping spots we have, all the new amenities. But people on social media, you’ll find they become really disengaged when you just hit them over the head with “Buy tickets now, buy tickets now, we want you to buy tickets now.” And social media isn’t really the place for that, in my opinion.

So we hit on all of our marketing messages. We let people know that yes, we have tickets and we want people to come here. Our main goal is to put 55,000 people in those seats, sell out all of our camping spots and give people a great time. But on social media, you have to do different things. You have to stay conversational, and that’s not always hitting people over the head with ticketing messages.

How did you arrive at that conclusion? Is it instinct, or is there data that tells you?

There’s some great tools on Facebook, especially, where you can see what messaging point you threw out there and you lost 10 or 15 followers. And you can use that data to gear your posts toward being more conversational.

But a lot of the time on Twitter, I just do what I think I would want to see. Being a NASCAR fan myself from way back, I put out content I would like to engage with. I would call it sending out shareable content that gives you an emotional investment. If you’re emotionally invested in the content, you’re more likely to relate to it and share it out. And that helps us and that gets the job done.

You touched on Facebook, so let’s talk about that for a second. What’s the difference between content you put on Facebook and what you put on Twitter?

Well I treat Twitter as basically a place where you can have endless conversations with people about anything. Facebook is much more structured than Twitter when it comes to that. If you put out 20 Facebook posts a day, the algorithm will dilute it and all of your messaging will get filtered out unless it’s something that is really, really shareable.

But on Twitter, if I’m out there bantering with Texas Motor Speedway, Talladega, The Orange Cone and retweeting you all at the same time, it’s less likely to do that. So Facebook, we really try to stick more toward our sales messages and put your really, really great content on Facebook. On Twitter, you can be more conversational with it.

What is the strategy from a team perspective at Chicagoland? Do you have free reign to say what you want? Are there brainstorming sessions?

From Jan. 1 to race weekend, we have a great outline as to what we want to accomplish and when we want to accomplish it. But as you know, social media is 24/7/365 and very fluid, so we follow an outline, but you can’t always follow it to the T because things are changing all the time.

Are there any times when you worry about going too far with a tweet? Have you ever been reprimanded for something you tweeted?

I haven’t been reprimanded. I live-tweet all the races, and it’s saying our company message but also as a fan. When Ryan Blaney was battling Kevin Harvick (for Blaney’s first win at Pocono), you’re going nuts on Twitter. So there have been a couple things I’ve been asked to take down, but nothing really, really bad.

But when we were traveling to Michigan, we camped there and my co-worker Michael (Blaszczyk, consumer marketing manager) and I live-tweeted our trip from the Chicagoland account. So we told fans to ask us anything. One fan asked us why we don’t give out free hot passes. I said hot passes aren’t as easy to get as you might think.

But then Dale Jr. quote-tweeted us and tweeted to this guy — his name is Jeff — “Don’t lie to Jeff.”

And of course, what Dale Jr. says on Twitter is the law and it blew up. I had that heart attack moment where, “Oh my God, I’m going to have to delete this tweet, we’re going to have to put out a press release,” all this stuff.

But then Jon Wood (from Wood Brothers Racing) jumped in and was like, “Dale’s just lying” or something like that, and a couple other team guys said he was just BSing. And that quelled it. But you have those heart attack moments where you’re trying to put out something that’s edgy and fun and cool, and you just hope it doesn’t get you in trouble.

You mentioned you grew up being a fan. What was your journey to get to this point and become the digital marketing manager for Chicagoland Speedway?

Since 1993, I’ve either watched, listened to or saw in person probably 99 percent of the NASCAR races. I almost quit Little League Baseball because I couldn’t watch the 2000 Pepsi 400. It’s been a dream of mine to work in NASCAR in some capacity. I went to journalism school at West Virginia University and got a degree in broadcasting, and I wanted to be Ken Squier. Ken Squier is my broadcasting hero.

You have to start somewhere doing something, so I was a sports writer in West Virginia while I was in broadcasting school. And then luckily I got on as a stringer at the Associated Press covering women’s basketball. (AP racing writer) Jenna Fryer went to West Virginia, and she came to our school to speak. And of course, I was asking her (questions), bugging her, went to lunch with her and then I paid my way to the Coke 600 in 2008 just to shadow her for a weekend.

After I got out of college, I was a sports writer at my local paper and then worked at a sports marketing company doing copy editing and publishing and then we started social media marketing. When I was ready to move on, the Chicagoland Speedway digital marketing coordinator job opened up, and I jumped at the chance. I went and applied, and within two weeks, I was hired. It was probably one of the greatest days of my life.

How does that fan perspective inform your decisions on a day-to-day basis?

I think it goes back to what I would want to see and hear and feel and visualize as a fan. Whenever we’re pushing out marketing messages, our videos, even our creative pieces, I want every little thing to make me feel like I did when I was a kid. Like we pushed out Kyle Busch’s 18 Days to Go on our social channels (Wednesday), and Toyota Racing interacted with it and it was just really fun stuff, so it spread out to a lot of people. I want to make all of our fans have an emotional investment like I did when I was a kid.

For people whose careers are just starting off and want to make it in the NASCAR industry like you did, what advice would you give to those people?

If you’re in college, do every little thing you can outside of your schoolwork. How I got on with the Associated Press is I ran stats at the (high school) state swimming meet for two 14-hour days. Basically, they’d swim for a little bit, I’d put the stats on a jump drive and send them down to Charleston, West Virginia. They’d publish them and we’d go back and forth. Basically, I was just sitting there for the majority of the day watching high school swimming.

I didn’t have to do that. They asked at the school paper: “Hey, who wants to do this?” I said, “Sure.” The next week, the AP called me and said, “Hey, do you want to cover women’s basketball?” Then men’s basketball, then football. Then Jenna Fryer came along. So the best advice is to do every little thing you can to advance your career.

What haven’t I asked you that you want fans to know about?

In NASCAR terms, we’re a new track — 2001. A lot of tracks have the history to pull from for content. Dale Earnhardt never raced here. We can’t showcase Dale Earnhardt on any of our social channels, and we know that fans absolutely love seeing old pictures of Senior and videos. We have a smaller pool of history to pull from, so we have to be really creative in stuff we do. So that’s a challenge, but it’s a really, really fun challenge.

It sounds like you really like your job.

I really, really like my job. I kind of stole this from your Quiet Track pictures, but I do sunrises every single race day. The first Cup sunrise (on the job), I sat there and thought of one of Ken Squier’s calls to tweet out, and I started tearing up. Because it was that powerful.

Living the dream, right?

Absolutely living the dream. It’s awesome.

You can follow Chicagoland Speedway on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat (Snap name: CLSNATION). Brown’s personal Twitter account is @BrandonBrownWV.

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).


Social Spotlight with Brendan Gaughan

Each week, I ask a member of the racing community to shed some light on their social media usage. Up next: Brendan Gaughan, who is currently 12th in the Xfinity Series point standings for Richard Childress Racing.

One thing I saw recently was, you got so mad after Mid-Ohio that you didn’t want to post on Twitter. You’re like, “I gotta keep myself from posting.” How often does that happen?

With me, not very often. I tend to normally keep most of my emotions in check, but I was pretty hot after Mid-Ohio. Nowadays everyone in the world wants to vent so quickly. It’s very easy, and sometimes you have to remember that sometimes easy isn’t the right thing to do. So yeah, I stayed off Twitter for a couple of days because I wasn’t real excited about what I would have said.

That was probably a smarter move, because I’m pretty notorious for screwing my life up with my mouth, and for a change, I kept it quiet. I like to say I’m pretty proud of that. I’m only 42 years old, and I finally got there.

So in general, when you’re not having that self control, are you on Twitter everyday?

I don’t tweet everyday. I take a peek at it and look around. Nowadays, like everybody, I get most of my news off of my Twitter account. You follow the things you are interested in and you get the information you want you see the news you want. So I definitely do look through it to get some of my news, some of the social commentaries of things.

But I’m not a guy that posts everyday or something like that. When I do post, it’s normally about personal life and some racing stuff or answer people that ask specific questions. I like being able to respond to fans with it. It’s fun to give them a little bit of access to where they can get ahold of you so quickly, so easily.

You don’t respond to all of them, like if someone says, “Hi.” Sorry. Hi, yes. There. If somebody comes with a real question or something, it’s enjoyable to interact with the fans on social media.

Compared to earlier in your career when that wasn’t an option, how much has this enhanced your enjoyment of the racing? Has that made the fan experience more fun for you?

Well, I mean, actually for the most part, it’s made it less fun, if you want the truth. Here’s the problem that I have with social media, and I try to tell the kids this: I am glad that I did not grow up in this era, because of the ugliness that is on social media, how easy it is for people to be ugly.

But what’s funny is, you look at people who we like to call haters. You look at the haters that are on an Internet site or on Twitter, and you look at their (accounts). They generally have nothing nice to say about any facet of life.

So you go through, you look at a guy that’s saying something nasty about you. And he knows absolutely nothing about you, but most of the time it’s just kind of like what all the old psychology books tell you: If they hate you, it’s because they’re probably jealous.

And so you look at some of the stuff. They’re bashing on a football team, they’re bashing on a cheerleader, they’re bashing on some actor. They don’t have one positive thing to say. And so if that gives this poor guy who’s living in his mom’s basement at 35 years old some peace and happiness, then you know what? If it makes him happy for a moment of the day, let him have it. Because that guy needs happiness way more. I have it in my life.

But it’s tough though, for these kids. They’re 18, 19, 17, and they come into the sport, and there’s so many things that can quickly be said, be seen, be found and it’s tough. You have to be very mentally strong, because no matter who you are, you’re gonna get nasty things said about you.

At 18 years old, man, without having the mentors — I was lucky, I had great mentors in my life and got to come into this later after I had learned a lot of life experience. So I feel comfortable with it. But man, a lot of these kids, it’s gonna be tough for them to really stay happy sometimes. So I always tell some of them to stay off it. But we can’t; it’s too much part of our business model now.

You have thicker skin and you’re used to dealing with critics over the years. But an 18-year-old, like you said, is not necessarily equipped to be thrown into the fire on that aspect. So what do you say to them? What’s your advice?

I mean, everybody’s different. You can’t wrap one answer to the whole world. If it’s somebody that’s very personal and likes to interact, then you tell them to keep interacting and when the negative stuff comes in, just roll right on by it. If you’ve got somebody that’s a little shier or doesn’t like it, then don’t respond to most things and just use it for your business model.

You gotta play it by every person’s personality. And if you’ve got somebody who’s snarky and a moron like me, likes to go back and forth sometimes, it’s fun to pick on the haters. It’s an amusing day. You can always tell when I’m really bored, days that I try to do some of that.

So it is one of those time sucks — that’s all we talk about in this day and age, the time sucks are amazing. Candy Crush and Facebook and Twitter. Really, it’s a giant time suck.

How do you personally deal with the haters? Do you pull out the block button a lot?

No, I only block if you say nasty things about kids, family, get really ugly and dirty. I don’t tend to respond or listen to fake accounts, the “Not So-and-So” accounts. I pay zero attention to them. As a matter of fact, most of them are muted. I use the mute button a lot because then you don’t have to see, you just don’t have to deal with it.

And they don’t even know.

But that’s an easier button because you don’t have to see it, you don’t have to worry about it, and even the ones that are positive, most of them that are fake. The Orange Cone, that’s the only (account like that) I pay attention to. But for the most part, I tend to mute most people who remain anonymous. That’s part of the problem with the world today — it’s way too easy to be anonymous.

That’s for sure. So in general, even if you’re not looking at social media the entire time, are you on your phone all the time? Is it in your hand a lot?

Yeah, I think I’m one of those guys who’s guilty of it being surgically attached to me. It’s pretty bad, but my wife gets mad about it and I get mad the kids are using it too much. Then it’s in my hand when I’m saying, “Don’t.” So it’s a little bit hypocritical on me, but it’s fine.

You and I are old enough to remember the days before we carried these in our pocket, before we had everything in the world at our fingertips. My family had an Encyclopedia Britannica with all the addendums. So I remember doing book reports, and that’s where you went. Nowadays, you just pick the phone up and you can find out just about anything, and it’s made it really easy for some.

I’ve been racing for 20-plus years in NASCAR, and I remember before you left (for a race), you had to get a road atlas and try to figure out how you’re getting from the hotel to the airport to the track. You had to figure it all out ahead of time.

So it’s fun. Even the haters are fun. What I get amused about with social media is you get the guys that are haters that want to say nasty things, especially in our world. You get race car drivers at local tracks that want to say what they want to say.

I do have one favorite one, and I’ll leave his Twitter account unnamed. He is a guy who’s always just trying to say nasty things about a lot of different drivers. But I’m one that he loves to do it with. I even said back to him one day, “My favorite part about this is I know you’re going to walk up to me at an appearance one day and say you’re a big fan.” And he’s like, “Blah blah blah.”

Well, I found out the racetrack he raced at and I found out who he was. Amazingly enough, he actually won a (contest) from one of RCR’s sponsors years ago. Like to come to a racetrack and be a guest — and this is a guy who bashes Austin (Dillon), bashes me, bashes all of us. And he won a (contest), and he showed up with a picture, sat in the autograph line for me and said he was a big fan. And I signed it to him saying, “Told you you’d sit in my line and be a big fan.”

So it’s amazing. That’s the one thing I would say about me: You know if I like you or not, I’ll let you know. I’m not gonna hide it. (Social media) allows personalities to come out, and when you do get those people who are keyboard warriors, as soon as they’re in person, that warrior stuff really goes away.

It’s so difficult to say something mean to somebody’s face, so once you have that personal interaction with them and you know there’s a real person on the other side of it, it’s not so easy.

I’m a psych minor in college, and one of my favorite experiments was learning about the study between what people would do if they pushed the button and you heard somebody screaming in the other room. If you didn’t hear them, everybody pushed the button, just about. If you did hear him, less (people pushed it). If you could see him, (even) less. If you were in the room with him, (even) less. And it’s amazing what breaking that barrier down (can do). And that was a study from the 60’s.

So now the phone is just a live model of that psychological experiment. It’s really easy to say things when people are not in your face, and when they get there, they’re your biggest fan.

Speaking of actual fans, it does help keep you close to people who are your closest fans. I know there’s this one woman, @dianeinla, she’s a huge fan of yours.

Diane’s my old scorer! She was my scorer back when we had scorers. She was an old scorer for us and she was a great lady who still is a fan, still comes to races. She’ll be at Road America with me.

And of course, we would be remiss if we did talk about positive fans and didn’t say Raeann (Plumley), the lady with the tattoos. Everybody knows Raeann as the tattoo lady, and she is very active on social media. That poor thing, she gets picked on a lot on social media. I love Raeann.

I talk a lot about the negatives, but a lot of the positives — there are a lot of great people in the world too, and you can really keep up. As a matter of fact, a girl who’s a big fan of mine, her name is Cherri Montgomery, she’s out there in Arizona. She’s a handicap girl, who back in the Winston West days, she used to show up with Cabbage Patch Kids of Ron Hornaday, of me, of Mike Snow, my old PR guy. And she has all these Cabbage Patch Kids and she’s this sweet little handicapped girl.

Just (last week), she had to go back to the hospital and had a bunch of problems. I don’t keep in touch with the family that often, but on social media, they were able to get ahold of me and say, “Cherri — she’s struggling today.”

So I tweeted her this afternoon and just tweeted her a message of, “Hey, love you, miss you, you’re doing fine. Get up, walk, never give up. I don’t wanna hear this (excuses) crap. And then watch the race tonight.”

And they sent a picture to me two minutes later of her walking down the hallway. So there’s so many great things that come from social media, too, so you can’t ever let the negativity ruin something that can be so good and kind.

We talked mostly about Twitter, but do you use other forms of social media regularly?

You know, it all started because NASCAR really embraced social media before anybody in the professional sports world, and I wouldn’t have known anything about it except for they wanted us to start trying to use Twitter. That was six years ago, seven years ago or something and started using that.

I do Instagram; I do not have Facebook. So anything out there saying that’s me on Facebook, that’s not me. That’s all I really do social media-wise: Instagram and Twitter.

Last safety stop. Awesome dive and Operation Dog Tag was a success ???? #lakenormanscuba #scubadiving

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I’ve got too many jobs. It’s amazing how so many people have time in their lives. I have too many jobs; I gotta actually go to work. This next week, I’m in Mesquite on Monday at the CasaBlanca, our casino. On Tuesday, a new company I’m starting, we’re doing a big deal at the South Point in the hotel towers. Wednesday, I’ve gotta do a deal with my liquor company. So I’ve got too (little) time to spend to spend any more on social media.

Any last thoughts as far as the future goes? Like we’ve talked about how it is now. What do you think is next for social media?

God only knows, man. The technology world is so quick nowadays. One minute a computer is new, and the next minute it’s archaic and you’ve already got the next thing. So technology goes so fast now, it’s amazing that Facebook and Twitter are still making it. Who knows what the next one is going to hold: holograms and God knows what else. It’s an ever-changing world and the people who keep up with it will keep growing.

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).

Social Spotlight with Scott McLaughlin

Each week, I ask a member of the racing community to shed some light on their social media usage. This week: Australian Supercars driver Scott McLaughlin, who has been dominating that series this season by leading in points, wins and poles for DJR Team Penske. I spoke with McLaughlin at Watkins Glen, where he was on hand to watch his Penske teammates in the NASCAR race.

I’m curious to see how social media use in Supercars compares to the NASCAR world because in NASCAR, it seems like almost all the drivers are on Twitter and they’re very engaged with each other and with the fans. How is the Twitter community for Supercars?

I’d have to say that the Twitter community is actually not as big in Australia as it is in America. For instance, I feel like it’s very popular in NASCAR, but for us in Supercars, Instagram and Facebook are far bigger, and not so much Twitter.

Is that because you guys have a little bit of a younger audience, as far as you know, than maybe NASCAR does?

I think so. It’s just Twitter isn’t a popular social media tool in Australia. It’s used by a lot of people, but for following, I feel like a lot of people love seeing the photos. They can do that on Twitter, too, but on Instagram…I don’t know, it’s weird. Australians are weird. Let’s say that. (Laughs)

What is your favorite form of social media to use?

I like Instagram. It’s quick, easy, picture, bang on there and it’s a cool little thing. Facebook is good because I like commenting back — it’s quite easier to do that. And Twitter, I like it for the news. I watch it all and follow the NASCAR teams and stuff, so when I wake up in Australia, I can see what’s going on. It’s sort of my news source.

Do you ever go back and forth with other drivers on there? Is there a dialogue at all?

Yeah, I do. I speak to most of my teammates from America on there, DM on Twitter mostly. That’s sort of my text tool in some ways. Instagram probably not so much, but Twitter is probably the main point I use for interacting with my teammates over here.

I noticed a post you just had recently where you took your mom and dad for a spin in your car. So you posted that on Instagram, and it also gets posted on Facebook and Twitter. Do you have somebody that helps you take those posts and put them in different places, or do you have to manually go yourself and put it on all the platforms?

I do it all myself on my Twitter. It’s something I enjoy. When I was growing up, my hero was Greg Murphy, a famous race car driver in Australia, and all I wanted to know was what he was doing. I’ve sort of taken that on board and gone well with it — that’s what I do on my social media, tell people what I’m doing. It’s a cool thing to bring the fans closer to you and it’s something that I enjoy. It’s not a burden to me at all.

What’s the fan interaction like? You said you go back and forth with people on Facebook, you comment back to them. Do you see what people comment on Twitter and Instagram as well?

Yeah, absolutely. You have your good and bad ones, sometimes you have some rude ones, but you shouldn’t be on social media if you can’t (deal with) the hate. I have a lot of fun with it sometimes. I’ve seen Brad (Keselowski) on there a couple times — he is so funny with some of the dudes on Twitter. But it’s all part of the gig. I enjoy the interaction, like I said.

If you get a negative one, do you block them, do you just ignore them? How do you handle it?

It all depends on what they say. If they say something really bad that I don’t want on my social media, things I don’t find appropriate, then I will block them because you don’t need that stuff, but it’s more for my own fans to see that. I have a lot of young people that follow me as well, and it’s just a bit of respect. Like I said, if you can’t (deal with) the hate then you shouldn’t be on it. I’m pretty sure I’m not too bad at it.

Do you have any accounts that you just use for your personal use? Because obviously you have a lot of public stuff, but you might want to have stuff just for your friends and family. Anything like that?

I have Snapchat, and that’s the only thing I’ve got that’s private. I have a private Facebook page too, but people still seem to find you on there anyway. But my Snapchat is something that’s quick, it’s easy and communicates with a lot of people over in America as well.

So any thoughts on making your Snapchat public, or do you just want to keep that as your own space?

I think that’s the only thing I’m gonna keep private. I feel like I do enough that people can see a lot of my life, and then I’ve got Snapchat there just for a little bit of fun.

Over here, I feel like a lot of young people are like, “Ah Facebook, that’s what our parents use,” and you’re starting to get a lot of the Millennials away from it and they don’t really use Twitter either. Do young people in Australia still use Facebook a lot?

Oh yeah. But I am noticing that a lot of the older generation is using Facebook. Even my Nana is on Facebook, and that’s pretty scary. It’s one of those things that’s quite diverse these days, but definitely the older generation is using that sort of stuff a lot.

How much time do you have to put into it? Do you get the pictures from people and have to say, “Here, can you give me a picture from last weekend?” and you go and try to find the right one for Instagram? How does that process work?

That’s what I do. I actually enjoy going through all the photos. I’m on a Dropbox file with my team so I get all the photos from the sessions across the weekend and I just pick out whatever I like and use it. I’m busier during the weekend with all the social media, but then when I’m away like this, I’m here with Penske and Jeremy Troiano, who’s the PR guy for them, and he takes photos for me or whatever, and I take photos myself. But I think if there’s a good photo of me and Brad or of me and Joey, it’s quite cool to get that from him, and then I’ll post it on socials.

So for NASCAR fans who don’t have a good concept, how big of a sport is racing in Australia?

It’s massive. It’s third…one and two is AFL and cricket and then it’s motor racing. Because we race so much and it’s on throughout the whole year, we do get popular at different times of the year, especially around the Bathurst race and stuff like that. But it’s very popular in Australia, and that goes to show how professional teams need to be.

I heard someone say you actually grew up watching all forms of racing including NASCAR. What did you gain from watching NASCAR when you were a kid?

I just gained a lot of respect on how they raced: The boys have at it thing, I loved that. They get a lot more things than we do, but it’s definitely a really cool thing in regards to how hard they race: Loose is fast, stuff on ovals, how they run the high line, the low line, the middle lane, whatever. I really take an interest in how they strategize throughout the races. It’s really cool.

Did you ever have a favorite NASCAR driver to watch when you were growing up?

When (Marcos) Ambrose came over here, I was a big fan of him. But I’ve always been a Jeff Gordon fan for a long time. Dale Earnhardt. Obviously, they’re the most popular guys, but I’ve always had a massive crush on Jeff Gordon’s car, his DuPont car. I’ve always liked that. The (paint) scheme was pretty cool, but I better say I’ve supported Penske all the way too, though. (Laughs)

Where do you think social media is going next? You obviously are on all these platforms, fans can easily see you and follow you. What is the future like, do you think?

I think it’s pretty good. I don’t know where they’re gonna evolve it from now because it’s very close now. I think live video is still where it’s at. It depends on the commercial side, but the live TV and stuff — now obviously I know that’s a very touchy subject with some of the broadcasters, but I think if you can bring a little more of the live stuff, you can join them in the race car live on Facebook or something like that. I reckon that would be sick, that would be something that’s really cool. And then you can get the data, that would be something cool, you know? I think that’s something they should look at, maybe restricting the rules on the commercial side would be good.

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).

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).