Lapped cars part of racing, but how much courtesy should they give?

Three cars in Saturday’s practice sessions were at least 1.5 seconds off the pace, meaning the leaders should reach them — and start lapping them — within the first 20 laps on Sunday in Phoenix.

It certainly won’t be the only time those cars are lapped, as drivers were reminded again last week at Las Vegas. Reed Sorenson, driving for Spire Motorsports, finished 15 laps down. Cody Shane Ware, driving for Rick Ware Racing, was 14 laps down.

Both cars were running at the finish and were not involved in any incidents, meaning they simply had much slower cars than most of the field.

Sunday’s race will see more of the same, except on a smaller, narrower track than Vegas. The cars of Ware, RWR teammate Bayley Currey and Quin Houff (Spire) all look slow — with Currey and Houff making their first career Cup starts.

Lapped cars have caused some frustration that has bubbled up in different ways for contending drivers of late, and Phoenix might only increase that sentiment.

“Have you been listening to our radios the last couple weeks?” Aric Almirola joked.

First and foremost, drivers say they simply want lapped cars to be respectful and get out of the way — a command the flagman expresses at tracks all over the country via the “move over” flag.

NASCAR has a move over flag, but Almirola noted it’s not even necessary because the lapped cars all have spotters.

“You have a spotter telling you, ‘Hey, the leaders are catching you again and the guy that’s catching you has been running the bottom the last five laps.’ (So) give him that lane,” Almirola said. “I realize they’re here with just as much equal right to the racetrack, but it’s just a common courtesy…and those guys are multiple, multiple laps down and not really going to change their position one way or the other.”

William Byron said lapped cars need to look in their mirrors and see where the faster cars are running — “just like driving on the highway,” he said.

“Honestly, it’s not just enough to say ‘Run the bottom every time’ because I might be running the top at a certain racetrack, and if you come up and block that, you’re completely killing the run,” he said. “You’ve got to constantly adapt. … But you’ve got to be predictable.”

One problem is how the slower cars get out of the way is up for debate. Though Almirola and Byron want the lapped cars to be aware of the faster cars’ preference for top or bottom groove, Denny Hamlin said that could cause other issues.

“As long as a lapped car, especially one that is off the pace, decides that, ‘OK, everyone is going run below me,’ I think that’s fine,” Hamlin said. “It’s when you get the ones that actually have great intentions of letting (someone go by saying) ‘OK, this guy has been running here, I’ll let him have the bottom’ and ‘This guy has been running the top, let me move down’ – that’s where things kind of get bad.

“It ends up being a moving target and you don’t really know where they are. As long as they pick one side or the other and they want to let the field go, it’s good.”

Ryan Newman said he doesn’t care where the lapped cars go — as long as they get out of the way. But he also noted drivers in every form of racing have to deal with slower cars.

“At some point you’re going to be in the way and you just hope it doesn’t adversely affect somebody else’s race, but in the end, that’s part of it,” he said. “… Everybody has to work around those cars, whether it’s the first, second, third or 20th-place car. So how you use them or how they affect your race is a part of racing.”

But Alex Bowman said he takes a different view, having driven a slower car in the past during his days at Tommy Baldwin Racing. Bowman said he was “way more stressed out doing that stuff than I am today (driving for Hendrick Motorsports)” because drivers in the back are trying to balance staying out of the way with trying to get the best finish possible.

“Really all you can ask is for a guy to do the same thing every time so you at least know what to expect when you get there and do the same thing for everybody,” Bowman said. “Their job is honestly, technically, probably harder than our job. The race car is driving worse, so I don’t really think they get enough credit. They get talked crap about and kind of put down sometimes in situations that it’s really not completely their fault.”

Playoffs Media Day podcast with NASCAR drivers

In this goofy special edition of the podcast, half of the NASCAR playoff drivers took a few minutes on Media Day in Las Vegas to discuss a variety of subjects. Topics include Ryan Blaney’s Twitter emoji, what reporting style they’d use if they became a media member, Kyle Larson’s upcoming mid-playoffs wedding and the proper dress code for a racetrack. The podcast features appearances from (in order): Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson, Erik Jones, Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Alex Bowman and Martin Truex Jr.

Young drivers express concerns over future of All-Star aero package

Four of NASCAR’s top young drivers expressed reservations Friday about moving forward with the high-drag/downforce aero package in future races.

While Bubba Wallace, Ryan Blaney, Alex Bowman and Christopher Bell all agreed on the entertainment value of the aero package — which was highly popular with fans in the recent All-Star Race — they said it wouldn’t be fitting for the Cup Series unless tweaks were made.

“As a race car driver, it’s pretty easy to drive,” Bowman said. “We’re the premier stock car series in the world, so obviously you would like it to be a little more difficult to drive. You don’t just want to go everywhere and be wide open.”

The aero package was first used at the Indianapolis Xfinity race last season and most recently at Charlotte for the All-Star Race, which drew widespread praise from fans. It will also be used in Saturday’s Xfinity race at Pocono and next week’s Xfinity race at Michigan.

Drivers also expressed confidence NASCAR will try it again in the Cup Series this season, perhaps even at multiple races later this summer.

But while it might make for a better show, it also brings up a major dilemma: The level of difficulty is decreased.

“We’re all race car drivers; we want to show we’re the best,” said Bell, who has won the last two Chili Bowls and last year’s Truck Series title. “You can’t (show) that when you’re not pushing the issue of the tire and you’re not grip-limited. Whenever you’re not getting the most out of your race car, it’s just a different style of racing. It almost becomes more of chess racing, so to speak.”

Wallace said he saw a post on social media that said the dream of reaching the Cup Series meant being at a superior level, and the All-Star Race felt more like jumping into a local Saturday night race. The Richard Petty Motorsports driver agreed with that assessment.

“If you had the need for speed and decent car control, anybody could have driven that,” Wallace said. “And it shouldn’t be like that when you get up to the big leagues. You know: ‘I can play with LeBron; I can match him.’”

Blaney said the cars were “a little easy to drive” in the All-Star Race and preferred it to be more challenging. Like the others, he praised NASCAR for trying to improve the racing but said changes would be needed  — whether it’s more horsepower or less downforce — to keep more of an emphasis on handling.

That’s the balance that will be hotly debated in racing circles over the coming months as NASCAR tries to figure out which direction it should go. What matters more: The show or the purity of the racing?

“(The All-Star Race) was a great race, and the fans are why we’re here and why we’re allowed to be paid to be race car drivers,” Bowman said. “From that side of things, I loved it. … You have to look at what’s best for the sport, and making the race fans happy is what’s best for not only me, but everybody in this room.”

Kaz Grala, listening to Bell and fellow Xfinity driver Matt Tifft talk about their expectations for Saturday’s race with a similar package, said he was confident the racing would be entertaining.

“I’m sure it’s going to be very exciting to watch,” Grala said. “We’re all just biased because we like to have more control in our hands.”


MORE: Analysis on whether adding more downforce is the right direction in racing

12 Questions with Alex Bowman (2018)

The series of 12 Questions interviews continues this week with Alex Bowman of Hendrick Motorsports. Bowman, a Tucson native, is returning to his home track at ISM Raceway this weekend. This interview is recorded as a podcast but also transcribed below.

1. How often do you have dreams about racing?

I guess it just depends on previous racing experiences. I feel like after Phoenix two years ago (when he almost won), I dreamt about that ending going a whole lot differently every night for a while. But recently, not very often.

If I’m going to play a game on my phone — if I play a lot of Candy Crush or something, I have Candy Crush dreams. I was thinking that since you’ve been in the simulator so much…

No, I definitely didn’t dream about the simulator, that’s for sure. But yeah, that’s kind of odd — you might want to get that checked out.

2. If you get into someone during a race — intentional or not — does it matter if you apologize?

It depends on the situation. And there’s pros and cons to when you apologize as well. Like if you run up right after the race is over, it’s gonna be on the TV highlight reel and TV loves it, the media loves it — but sometimes it gets blown out of proportion, because there are a bunch of angry crew members around and people start yelling and it becomes a bigger mess than it could be if you let the situation calm down first. So I think it really is just situational.

3. What is the biggest compliment someone could give you?

I think for me, I guess it’s easier to ask the biggest compliment I’ve gotten, and that was from Jimmie Johnson in 2014 when I first started running Cup cars. He came up to me after the Vegas race, and he’s like, “Man, when I was lapping you at Vegas, that thing was terrible, out of control. I don’t know how you were driving it.” So just to hear a guy say you’re doing a really good job with what you’ve got to work with, that meant a lot.

Had you ever talked to him before that?

Not really, no. So it was pretty cool.

4. NASCAR comes to you and says, “Hey, we are bringing a celebrity to the race and we’re wondering if you have time to say hi.” Who is a celebrity you’d be really excited to host?

That’s a tough one. Obviously Peyton Manning, but we’ve already gotten to do that. Jennifer Aniston, I’d be pretty excited about. (Laughs)

She’s newly single, by the way.

Is she? You’re way more up on this stuff than I am.

I read it on Snapchat — they have the Daily Mail tab.

I don’t even know how to get to that.

It’s over on the news side.

I mean, Snapchat’s gotten so confusing lately. What happened?

Yeah, I might be done with it unless they switch back.

It’s like the same thing that happened to Jayski. Like, what happened?

5. In an effort to show they are health-conscious, NASCAR offers the No. 1 pit stall selection for an upcoming race to the first driver willing to go vegan for a month. Would you do it?

I saw this question on the previous one. Heck no. Heck no!

No takers so far on this at all.

I mean, it’s such an advantage. I guess honestly, if that really happened, you’re gonna get sat down at your team meeting and be like, “Hey, you’re gonna be a vegan now.” But personally, like…no!

6. It’s time for the Random Race Challenge. I have picked a random race from your career and you have to guess where you finished.

Oh gosh — 36th. (Laughs)

This is the 2015 Dover spring race for Cup.

Oh, we ran really good that day. I mean, for what we had. Did we finish 20th?

Yes! You did finish 20th!

I mean, we got the ol’ 7 to run 20th, we were winning. That was high fives all around after the race. That was doing it right there.

So that one sticks out. You started 30th. You finished right ahead of Denny Hamlin.

Heck yeah, we beat Denny Hamlin in the 7. That was getting after it in the 7 car.

7. Who is the best rapper alive?

That’s a tough one. I don’t really listen to a lot of rap. But I’m a big Mark Martin fan so…Gucci (Mane)? 

He’ll go along with that.

Yeah, going with that because I like Mark Martin. Maybe he’ll retweet me now.

8. Who has the most punchable face in NASCAR?

Oh lord. What kind of answers have you gotten so far?

Most people have not really given a great answer this year.

Yeah, I wonder why. I can’t imagine why most people wouldn’t give a great answer on that one.

I’m gonna go with Matt DiBenedetto, because I owe him a punch in the face.

He didn’t punch you in the face, did he?

No, we’re just buddies and I owe him one for some buddy stuff. He’ll laugh when he hears that, because he would like break me in half if he punched me. I would just disintegrate. (Laughs)

9. NASCAR enlists three famous Americans to be involved with your team for one race as part of a publicity push: Taylor Swift, LeBron James and Tom Hanks. Choose one to be your crew chief, one to be your spotter and one to be your motorhome driver.

Motorhome driver I’m going T-Swift because my girlfriend Emily (Boat) would go insane. She would be so pumped. She’s like the biggest Taylor Swift fan in the world. We’re using one of my off weekends to go see Taylor Swift. So she would be pumped.

Spotter, I’m going with Tom Hanks because he’s calm, cool and collected even when he’s stranded on an island. And crew chief, LeBron. I mean, he’s motivational and knows how to win.

10. What is the key to finding the best pre-race bathroom?

That is a challenge. We had the best pre-race bathroom in our trailer and now we don’t. We took it out. Yeah, that was probably the thing I was excited about most to drive the 88 car, was that we had a bathroom in the trailer. Now we don’t.

What happened?

We needed some extra space, so we no longer have a bathroom in the trailer, which is really, really disappointing. (Smiles) 

11. NASCAR misses the highlight reel value brought by Carl Edwards’ backflips and decides a replacement is needed. How much money would they have to pay you to backflip off your car after your next win?

Probably a couple million dollars, and then also cover the hospital bills.

A couple million plus medical?

Yes, plus medical. Because there’s gonna be a lot of medical.

12. Each week, I ask a question given to me from the last interview. Last week, I interviewed Bubba Wallace. He was wondering, I guess you guys were coming to the line at Homestead 2016 and—

He just turned left and crashed us.

Yes, and he was wondering how long it took you to get over that.

I’d say I was over it pretty quickly because I didn’t see him for a while, and then I saw him and he apologized, but it was like eight months later. But that stuff happens. I was pretty mad at the time, because it was for like 12th on the last lap and we’re like across the start/finish line basically and then I crashed. So it was like super pointless.

It was kinda funny, his spotter texted me and was like, “I’m sorry, that was really unnecessary.” But I guess he didn’t know I was there and it was a mistake. You don’t do that intentionally, so that’s part of racing. But yeah, I was pretty fired up at the time for sure.

I think that was the second race on that race car, so it was fairly new for (JR Motorsports), we ran top three with it all day and then that final restart, when somebody decided to stay out and stack all the front rows up, we got stacked up really hard and kind of got shuffled. We were on two tires, so all the guys that are on four tires are going around you like you’re standing still. So we’re like, “Man, we ran top three all day and now we’re gonna finish 10th or 12th.” And then coming across the start/finish line, you absolutely junk your race car. There were a lot of things that I was mad about at the time, so it’s just part of it.

How do you have such a good memory for races?

Well, you’re picking good memorable ones. I mean, not a good memory with that one obviously, but like Dover 2015, that’s a good memory. That was probably our best race of the entire season. So yeah, you’re just picking good ones. Every other finish would have been like 32nd.

So the next interview I’m doing is with Daniel Hemric. Do you have a question for him?

I don’t really know Daniel that well, but I used to go to Summer Shootout (at Charlotte Motor Speedway) and watch him kick everybody’s butt. And he’s really good in a Super Late Model. And it just seemed like he stalled out there for a couple of years and wasn’t really getting an opportunity, and all of a sudden he got that opportunity in the Truck Series and now the Xfinity Series.

As somebody else who had their career kind of stall out at a different level, what was going through his mind when he wasn’t getting those opportunities he deserved? And how did he approach that — how did he find motivation to keep digging?

That was one that I struggled with for awhile there, like, “Do I keep doing this? What do I do?” And obviously everything happens for a reason, and it all kind of fell into place for me. It’s obviously different in his situation, but somewhat similar there.


Previous 12 Questions interviews with Alex Bowman:

— April 8, 2014

Nov. 1, 2016

 

Rick Hendrick says he had Alex Bowman in mind all along

One intriguing news nugget to come out of Alex Bowman’s ascension to Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 88 car is the team signed him to a three-year deal last October.

But Rick Hendrick said Sunday morning in a news conference that the contract came with no promises of a job other than his current position: Driving the Chevrolet simulator and testing in the Chevy wheel force car on behalf of the team.

“We didn’t know what was going to happen, and we were very careful not to guarantee him anything other than if opportunities arose, he would have a shot,” Hendrick said. “I can’t make all the decisions — sponsors have to be involved. But in my mind, Alex was going to be the next up.”

It was interesting to hear Hendrick say he was pretty much looking to Bowman all along if everything lined up. The Hall of Fame team owner said Bowman was “in the back of our mind for whatever opportunity we had.”

“So it wasn’t much of a decision at all,” he said. “Alex was the guy.”

That doesn’t mean Bowman was the only driver considered. Hendrick was specifically asked about Matt Kenseth — who is available — and said, “I love Matt Kenseth.”

But he said the two had spoken in the past and mutually agreed that “sometimes things just don’t line up at the right times.”

As for Bowman, he just had to be ultra patient — which included turning down “solid opportunities” for this season with other teams.

“There was nothing set in stone,” he said. “It was a big leap of faith.”

Why was he willing to do that? Bowman said it’s because he grew up as a Jeff Gordon fan and wanted to drive for Hendrick his entire life. That was always the dream.

Plus, he said, even being a simulator driver for Hendrick was better than running 35th every week — as he did during his first years in the Cup Series.

“To get the opportunity to stay this year in whatever capacity, I was very happy to take that,” he said. “I didn’t know what was going to happen from there. … I took a chance with it, and I’m very glad it all worked out. “

Social Spotlight with Tiff Daniels

Each week, I ask a member of the racing community to shed some light on their social media usage. Up next: Tiff Daniels, media relations representative for Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 88 team.

You run an account that is giving updates on a driver both before and during the race, and a lot of fans are depending on this account. They’re eager for information. How do you decide what updates to send out and what to leave off?

So with Dale obviously, almost any content, people wanna see, right? The more Dale, the better for our fanbase. However, there are those moments that I certainly wouldn’t want to intrude on with him on the track. So I’m mainly giving them a little bit of an insider perspective, but still (sticking to) things that would be fairly obvious to anyone walking by. It just happens to be that I’m with him at all of these appearances and meet-and-greets that he does.

And then during practice session or the race specifically, I can listen to what he says on the public radio the same way anyone else can and kind of try and give an overview of what may be going on without getting into specific things he says about what the car may be doing.

So if he gives some kind of very specific feedback on, “Feels like we’re loose in, tight in the middle, loose off,” but then goes into more detail specifically about what they might be doing with springs or shocks, I’m not gonna put that out there. But I’ll put the general concept of what he may be dealing with in the car and same goes during the race, just so people following along kind of have an idea of what issues the team might be trying to overcome during practice or the race. And then just general updates on where he’s running and what’s going on — and obviously throw in some pictures into that, too, so they can feel like they’re there.

So essentially it’s stuff that’s publicly available. It sounds like you’re saying if you’re behind the scenes somewhere, it can be construed as a private moment, that’s not something you’re going to throw up on the feed.

Right. So if it’s something that happens inside the hauler and he’s joking around with Greg (Ives) and the team guys, that’s not a picture I’m gonna take and put out there, because they don’t want to have to filter themselves when they’re in a situation that should be considered private. And so you start affecting their communication if you get too involved in showing things behind the scenes that maybe should be kept private, because it’s an interaction between him and someone he’s close to or talking to that he doesn’t want to necessarily push out there.

And with Dale, he pushes out so much himself that if there’s something that he wants to tell you about that he did that’s cool, he’s gonna put it out there anyway. I don’t need to be the one to do that.

If fans of a sports team are tweeting during the game, they’re tagging the team and saying, “This is awesome,” or “This is terrible.” In NASCAR, every car is sort of a sports team and you have a whole nation of fans to answer to. So are you scrolling through the replies during a race and seeing what people are saying, or do you have to shut that off for yourself?

A little bit of both. Sometimes it’s just fun to read the replies, so I’ll scroll through and look. Other times, if there’s a lot going on, I may not have time to look through all the replies anyway. Sometimes I’ll look through them and see if anybody has a question that I can help answer. I don’t usually get involved when somebody says, “Oh, you guys are doing terrible right now,” or, “This is great, we’re so happy.” Those are great; we love to see all the fan reactions, but that wouldn’t necessarily be something that needs a response from me.

But if someone asked during a practice session, “Have you guys switched over to qualifying trim yet?” that would be maybe something I can answer. So every now and then I’ll interact. But for the most part, I kind of feel like now that Dale’s so active, that’s something that he enjoys doing and he’ll pick the questions that he wants to answer and those fans he wants to interact with. And they’d rather that interaction come from him anyway than from me, so I just kind of watch to see what people are saying more for my personal entertainment.

What happens when people get out of hand? Do you just have to ignore it and filter it out and say, “Oh, they’re just venting?” Do you ever use the block button, or is that a big no-no because it might be a fan?

I inherited this Twitter account from the girl who did PR before me, and I know that she had used the block button for a couple people, and it was mainly when people started personally attacking her about something that would have to do with updates — which is kind of crazy anyway, like we’re just the PR reps. What do I have to do with anything?

So I’ve never blocked anyone since I’ve been running it. I will mute people every now and then, especially if I see the same person who’s just using a bunch of cuss words and every post is so ugly that I don’t even want to read it. But I don’t usually block people because I figure my job is to provide the updates — so if people want to see them, they can follow us. If not, they can unfollow.

I often ask people working in the sport how they got to this point in order to give advice to people. I don’t feel like I can do this for you, because you took such an unconventional route. (Daniels is a former Late Model driver who was also an engineer for Chip Ganassi Racing.) It’s not something where you can just be like, “I recommend you start out driving a car, and becoming an engineer, and then going into media relations.” So you’ve touched so many different aspects of the sport.

I will tell you a quick story. So when I first started doing social media in the sport and I’d just switched over to the marketing side, I was working for (marketing agency) GMR on the Lowe’s Racing accounts and I was running the @lowesracing Twitter handle at the track. It was the first time they had sent somebody to the track every week to cover social, so I was around the team a lot more and we were just sending out a lot more updates than what they were used to seeing.

Well, during a race, I sent out some kind of update that was a little too specific, I guess, for Chad (Knaus’s) liking. I think Keith Rodden saw it somehow, and so I got called into Chad’s office the next week — and keep in mind I had not been there in very long. But actually, I get along great with Chad (Tiff’s brother Cliff Daniels is an engineer on the 48 team) and did even then. He was like, “So listen, you maybe understand too much and we’re gonna need you to kind of dilute what you put out there a little bit. These are the kinds of things that we want and we’re OK with, and these are the kinds of things we don’t.” Well, OK, good to know. (Laughs)

That’s pretty funny, because I’m sure there’s a lot of people who come from outside the sport and they have a lot of catching up to do. But here they are telling you, “Hey, dumb it down a little bit. Pretend you don’t know as much as you know.”

Right. And then you get the fans that actually really follow it closely and they want that specific information or they’ll be listening on the radio, because you can tune in from home or anywhere to the radio communications and pick Dale’s channel. They’ll be like, “That’s not exactly what he said — he said this.” I know. I know what he said, that’s just not what I’m allowed to post.

Let’s get into your background a little bit. You obviously started as a driver and you ran some K&N East races. I was looking at some of the tracks you ran, and you even ran Dover, which must be so weird. Everybody else in the media and PR room have only worked in the sport in those roles. But you’re like, “I drove here.” That has to be kind of strange in some ways.

It is a little bit different. I think the only four tracks on the (Cup) circuit I’ve raced are Loudon, Dover, Bristol  and Watkins Glen — which that was crazy.

The first time I came back to those tracks, it was different. Now I would probably have more of the some attitude as any other PR rep, you know: “We’re just here to do our jobs,” and I’m not even thinking about what’s going on out on the track because I’m not plugged into that part of it anymore.

But yeah, it was different at first and then certainly interesting to see after the drivers made a run what comments they would have to say about somewhere. It’s like, “Oh, I know what you’re talking about with that line.”

That’s so funny to me. And it makes me wonder: Do you ever look at the young drivers in the sport (who she raced with) and your competitive juices get flowing? Like do you think, “Maybe I could have beaten you at some point?”

There are definitely times when that can cross your mind. I would say that happens a lot less now than when I first stopped driving and was still coming to the track just working.

But we still like to go out to a go-kart track like GoPro Motorplex and just mix it up. A lot of current drivers will come out there, especially the younger guys. And it would be guys we grew up racing against anyway, and we’ll all have fun and beat and bang with each other. So that’s how I get (the competition urge) out now, and then staying competitive in other ways like triathlon or running. It keeps you kind of from going crazy thinking like, “If this person made it, maybe I could have.”

But I’m so happy where I am now and I feel like this is the right place. So when I look at some of the pressure Dale has on him, for example, when he’s doing stuff, that’s a tough job and not everybody realizes it. So I can certainly appreciate the job those guys do and the work everybody has to put in to get to where they are. Even if people’s parents have money, they still didn’t just end up here without putting in any work. So you’ve gotta kind of appreciate that everybody’s put some effort into it to get here in the first place.

So why was marketing and PR and social media a better fit for you than some of the engineering stuff that you first did when you left driving?

I was actually still driving while I was engineering (at Ganassi) and so maybe that was part of it. I had always been hands-on with my own race cars, and so I felt like from the school part of it, engineering was as close as I could get to that hands-on part and still get an education, and then it would help me with my driving. And it certainly did all those things.

But I was a shop engineer, and when I first started at Ganassi, it was still when NASCAR allowed open testing. So you were gone all the time at the racetrack so it still felt a little more hands-on. And once that went away, it was a big transition to CAD modeling and stimulator work and much more computer-intense, and that really wasn’t the part of it that I enjoyed.

I missed the people, getting out and talking to everybody, and the business side of the sport had always interested me. So just through some of the connections I had met from being in the sport and working in it, it was actually a pretty easy transition over (to marketing and PR), believe it or not.

What’s something that people might not realize when they’re seeing your tweets? What’s something they don’t realize about what goes into your job from afar that you have discovered since you got it?

If it takes us awhile to tweet after something happens (on the track), we have to make sure that what we’re putting out there is exactly right — because I know that’s gonna get picked up by people. So if we think something happened to the car and that’s why we’re coming to pit road, well I need to make 100% sure that after they’ve looked at it, that’s what the answer is before I send something out.

So if it seems like it’s a delay, it’s not because we hate it or we’re distracted and just didn’t feel like giving out updates — we were just making sure what happened.

And if you’re making a trip to the care center, you’re not worried about Twitter. Your primary job is to get to the car and get to the driver, get over to the care center and make sure everything’s good from that standpoint before you even switch back over to Twitter.

I would say I mainly tweet during the weekends, so I think people forget maybe how much work mainly goes into the weekend before we ever get here. Really, once we get to the weekend, that’s the easier part of our job. All of the intense planning happens back at the shop before we ever get here.

That’s so interesting, because there’s an entire job where someone could be a social media manager, but that’s just one element of your job. You’re with Dale everywhere he’s going, and you have to get him from place to place to place for all of these appearances. What percent of your job would you say is social media compared to the whole picture?

I’d say for my job, it’s maybe five percent. It’s not something that I spend any time thinking about. When we’re here on the race weekend, I’ll update, but it’s more of a service that we try to provide to the fans than being important to the actual media relations part of our role, I guess.

And so really, if you think about it, the time that I’ve spent tweeting is so small compared to everything else, and especially the way our accounts are structured, anything that I would really want to push out from a PR standpoint is already being pushed out either by the Team Hendrick account in general or Dale himself or our sponsors. So it’s not like I have to have that platform to be able to get out what we’re doing from a PR sense.

So it really is kind of more of a, “Here’s what’s going on if you’re not here, and here’s an easy way to find what Dale’s doing.” But it’s not so much like the crux of what my job entails.

News Analysis: Alex Bowman replaces Dale Earnhardt Jr. in No. 88 car

What happened: After nearly three months of speculation, we now know who Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s replacement will be in Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 88 car next year: Alex Bowman. Earnhardt sponsors Nationwide (19 races) and Axalta (increasing from 13 to 15 races) will back the team for most of the season.

What it means: Bowman, who had received endorsements from both Earnhardt and Jimmie Johnson, has now made one of the most unlikely career comebacks in memory. Despite being just 24 years old, Bowman’s chances of making a career in NASCAR appeared to be slim after he was fired by Tommy Baldwin Racing just a month before last season’s Daytona 500. But he ran well with limited opportunities for JR Motorsports and then as Earnhardt’s substitute in the 88, nearly winning last fall’s Phoenix race. He remained a valuable member of Hendrick’s organization this season by continuing to drive the Chevy simulator and help with setups, which strengthened his bond with the team. It also means the most prized seat of Silly Season has been taken.

News value (scale of 1-10): Eight. Although Bowman made the most sense for this position, whoever replaced Earnhardt was going to be pretty big news no matter what. It’s also somewhat surprising and significant Hendrick was able to convince its sponsors to back an unproven driver — three top-10 finishes in 81 Cup starts — after being associated with NASCAR’s biggest stars (Axalta was with Jeff Gordon before Earnhardt).

Three questions: Now that Axalta is sticking with the 88, does that mean there’s less of a reason to rush Axalta-sponsored Xfinity Series rookie William Byron into Cup next season? How long will Bowman get to prove himself if he doesn’t produce results? Can Bowman convince some of Earnhardt’s fans to stay with the 88 and make himself a star driver in the process?