Social Spotlight: @MonsterMile’s Lynn Sudik

Each week, I ask a member of the racing community to shed some light on his or her social media usage. Up next: Lynn Sudik, who is the social media coordinator for Dover International Speedway.

What exactly does your job entail? What are you in charge of? Do you have help tweeting and posting on Facebook and Instagram, or is it all you?

It’s a little bit different on race weekend versus the rest of the year. I work for the speedway full time and my primary responsibility is to handle our social media — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Periscope, Snapchat, Reddit — we’re on all of those channels. And then on race weekend I do have a little bit of extra help that comes in to capture content and post photos and other things like that. So this weekend, I actually have three people helping me with all of my social media needs.

For most of the year, your job is far different than two weekends which get super intense and busy and crazy, and I’m sure there’s a lot of pressure. How do you manage the plan going into a race weekend? How far out are you scheduling?

I use a social media management platform called Hootsuite. So I schedule a lot of my posts ahead of time. And what we like to do, since we don’t control the on-track product too much, we like to post about what it is we do control — i.e. stuff that happens in the Fan Zone and our Monster Mile Youth Nation area for kids.

So I will go in and look at our race weekend activities schedule, all of the driver appearances we have happening outside of the track. For example, this weekend we had Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Truex and the Sea Watch International display, we have the International Drone Racing Association here, so I will go in and find out when those events are happening and I will schedule a few posts to go out on various platforms to promote them and get people to go out and make sure that everybody’s aware of what’s happening.

What’s the balance then of running around on race weekend, getting content, photos, seeing what’s going on? You have the scheduled posts, but you also have tons of fan requests coming in that you’re having to manage. What’s the priority?

It’s definitely a challenge to strike that balance. Since I am the most knowledgable about our racetrack because I work here full time, I try to remain stationary in the media center for a good portion of the weekend so I can do those monitoring and scheduling posts to make sure that we’re covering everything and then that’s where my extra help comes in. A friend of mine, his name is Zach, he’s been helping me for a few years now and he’s actually been a race fan — that’s kind of how we got to know each other. He’s a big help in capturing some content on the outside that I can’t get to because I’m in the media center.

When fans tweet complaints to you, what’s your next step? Do you pass them along to other people? Do you just deal with what you can?

Any question that I know the answer to, I will address right there on the spot. If it’s a complaint or it’s a question that I don’t know the answer to, I will send that to the appropriate person on our staff and try and get that answer for that particular fan. I also try to let the fan know that we’re working through an answer for you; we’re not just leaving you hanging.

In general, I’m sure you get tweets like, “Hey, loving @MonsterMile, it’s so great to be here!” as well as people venting about things like, “Traffic @MonsterMile, you stink!” So is it more positive or negative?

We get a combination of all of the above and it also largely depends on the weather. So if we have a nice weather forecast, there are fewer complaints.

This past week for example, on Tuesday and Wednesday, the forecast for the race on Sunday wasn’t looking that great, so we were getting a lot of people asking us, “What’s the contingency plan? Will the race be run on Sunday? Will you move it to Saturday? Will it be run on Monday? What happens if Monday gets rained out?” I’m like, OK, let’s just take it one day at a time, the forecast is gonna change. So it does largely depend on what the weather situation is.

When it comes to a race weekend, is Twitter the one that you’re having to pay the most attention to? What happens to Facebook and Instagram on those weekends?

Twitter can be a handful to keep track of on race weekends. I will leave my computer for maybe a half hour and when I go back, it will take me about two hours to go through all the mentions that we have. It’s not that they’re negative, it’s not that they’re all questions or comments or concerns, but the race teams are tagging us in their practice photos and in photos of the drivers and lap times and all of that stuff.

So it’s sorting through what are tweets that I need to address and what are tweets that people are just posting about because they’re here. And that’s what we love to see, but it’s just a lot of the volume of tweets we get on any given race weekend is huge. Like I said, it takes me a while to sort through them all.

And then Facebook, people tend to spend a little more time complaining on Facebook just because they have more room to work with. So a lot of people will voice their concerns on our Facebook wall, and again, that’s where I can address it in the moment if I can. Otherwise I will pass it along to whoever and get answers or address whatever concerns people have.

How far out do you start planning the tweet up?

I guess it’s probably about a month out. It depends on the situation if we can get a guest there or not. Most of the times if we have to make an ask for a guest, no one is really concerned about our race until at the very least two weeks out.

But I also have a hand in some other things on race weekend. Our Monster Mile Youth Nation, we have a youth autograph session that NASCAR helps us to coordinate. I am the Dover point of contact for that, so when it comes to scheduling the tweet up, I need to make sure that I don’t have those times overlapping. So it also depends on my schedule and when I can make it work on race weekend.

I imagine there has to be a trust factor with your co-workers like Gary Camp (who leads the track’s communications), where you may want to tweet something at times, but obviously you can’t totally speak for the entire track on some issues or some decisions. Do you ever have to go to your co-workers and ask, “Hey am I allowed to say this?” Or have you been here long enough now that there’s a trust level?

When I started, they were a little more involved. I think one of the first days on the job, Gary talked about an intern who had handled their social media at one point before I got there and posted something weather-related, (saying) the weather didn’t look that great. (Camp) made a point that we never want to discourage people from coming to the track. So we always try to keep a positive attitude on our social media accounts.

But yeah, there is a trust factor, and I feel like I’ve figured out what is appropriate to say and what’s necessarily not going to go over well if it’s posted publicly.

What is your background? How did you get into it and what’s the suggested path you may have for people who want to make a similar career move?

I have wanted to work in motorsports since I was around 14 years old. I was born in Indianapolis and kind of grew up around IndyCar racing. I went to college, my degree is in communications. My first job out of college, I was working for a PR agency in New York City not related to motorsports at all. But I still had that dream and I still kept after it.

I actually found this particular opening through an online job board called TeamWork Online. A lot of the tracks, both independent and (International Speedway Corporation) and (Speedway Motorsports Inc.), they’ll post their openings on there as well as a lot of other professional sports leagues.

I also got my Master’s degree in Sports Administration from Ohio University. I just graduated this spring.

But if this is somebody’s dream job to work in motorsports, I would say to never give up. I had to work through a lot and it took me a solid five years of trying, applying for jobs, networking to actually land this particular job. So don’t ever give up on that dream if you want to work in motorsports.

That’s my top advice as well because I feel like a lot of people want to get into racing and then they realize it’s really hard to break in. Just to get that initial foot in the door, and I think a lot of people give up — so half of it is just persevering and sacrificing enough and never letting that dream go. Because eventually, if you’re truly passionate about it, some door will open. Do you know what I’m saying?

Yeah, I would definitely echo those sentiments. It’s about never giving up, it’s about persevering and sometimes it’s just about being in the right place at the right time.

I had made a lot of effort to network and get to know people in the industry, but this particular job I didn’t know anybody at the company before I applied for this opening. And it just kind of happened that I applied at the right time and they called me in for an interview and then I ended up getting the job.

So it’s definitely about who you know, but it can also be about what you know, so make sure that you keep trying and you sharpen your skills to the best of your ability in order to make yourself a viable candidate.

Is there anything else that you want people to know about what you guys do with the Monster Mile accounts or anything like that?

I feel like we talked a lot about people complaining, but I don’t want to the give the idea that the only posts that we receive on race weekend are complaints because they’re not. I just retweeted somebody who posted a picture in the Fan Zone and I was like, “Yeah! Love it! Have a great time, we’re so glad you’re here!”

So it’s a balance of all of those negative and positive comments, but if you’re not already following us, you really should be. We’re @MonsterMile on Twitter and Instagram and Snapchat and then on Facebook our page is Dover International Speedway.

The Top Five: Breaking down the Dover race

Five thoughts following Sunday’s race at Dover International Speedway…

1. Get out of Line

After a disappointing finish to what was otherwise a very entertaining race, the immediate reaction from NASCAR Twitter was, Man, that overtime line rule stinks!

That’s understandable, because fans invested four hours in a race that built anticipation with great racing — only to see a non-finish. Ugh.

It’s easy to follow the “That sucked!” reaction with “NASCAR should change that!” But there are still a few benefits worth considering before throwing the whole thing out.

First, the current overtime rule was designed for superspeedways and still has validity at Talladega and Daytona. By cutting down on overtime attempts, there’s a reduced risk of a car flying into the fence like Austin Dillon or Kyle Larson at Daytona.

Second, it lessens the chances of race manipulation. Remember, this rule was created in the wake of the sketchy Talladega finish in the 2015 Chase.

So with that in mind, NASCAR had to come up with a rule that would address those issues while also applying to every race and all types of tracks (otherwise, people could scream inconsistency!).

But Dover really could have used multiple overtime attempts, so it doesn’t need to be governed by the same rules as plate tracks. Maybe it’s time to separate the two.

NASCAR could bring back the three overtime attempts for non-plate tracks while keeping the overtime line/current format for plate tracks only. After all, it’s a safety thing at plate tracks in a lot of ways and I can’t get on board with ideas like unlimited attempts no matter how much some fans say they want it.

Either way, NASCAR will probably end up changing some element of the overtime rule because fans seem really disgusted about how the end of the Dover race turned out.

2. Monster entertainment

It’s a shame the craptacular finish overshadowed what was otherwise a very fun and entertaining race for the second year in a row at Dover’s spring event.

I watched most of the race from the press box, and I kept getting so caught up in watching the battles that I forgot to tweet updates a few times. The leader never seemed to be able to get very far away, and the passes for the lead seemed to take multiple laps to execute.

There had been talk about adding VHT to Dover’s surface, but it definitely didn’t need it. The race had multiple grooves and drivers were all over the track. There always seemed to be something interesting going on.

I asked Martin Truex Jr. why Dover has put on a good race the last couple years.

“Man, it’s just so hard,” he said. “I think everybody is just so out of control, you run five laps and every one of them is a little different because you’re just out there hanging on. The tires are bouncing and skipping across the track so bad. You can get a little bit of a gap on somebody, and then you get in the corner a foot too deep and you slide sideways and he’s up your butt again and then you’re even looser.

“It’s just really hard to be consistent here and hit your marks. I think that’s why everybody comes and goes. (The cars) are just a handful and you’re sliding around just praying you make it through every single lap — and I guess that makes for exciting racing and guys getting close to each other.”

If that’s the case, this goes along with the theory that the more teams struggle with nailing a setup or finding consistency, the better the racing turns out to be.

3. Playoff Points for Dummies (like me)

Speaking of Truex, he won two more stages on Sunday to bring his season total to eight (most in the series) and has 18 playoff points halfway through the regular season.

For some reason, I didn’t understand how exactly the playoff points worked until talking with a couple people from NASCAR this weekend. So if I didn’t know, maybe you don’t either.

I thought — incorrectly — a driver would start with the playoff points and they were like money. If  the driver didn’t use them in Round 1, they would carry over to Round 2. But that’s not the case at all.

The actual rule is whatever amount of playoff points a driver has, they get that amount at the start of every round whether they needed them in the previous round or not. And they can further add to that total while in the playoffs.

So let’s say Truex doesn’t get another playoff point the whole season (unlikely). He would start Round 1 with 18 points. If he advances to Round 2, he starts with 18 points. Same with Round 3.

That’s a massive advantage and it will really make a major difference in the playoffs, because it creates a mulligan opportunity.

Anyway, hopefully my ignorance will help others out there understand. But I’m sure a lot of you already know that rule and you’re thinking, “Are you kidding me? How many races into the season are we?”

“Are you kidding me?” Truex said when I brought this up. “How many races into the season are we?”

He was well aware of the rule, of course, and that’s one reason why the 78 team has been so aggressive in going after stage wins.

“It is huge, and that’s why we keep trying to pile them up,” he said. “We might be able to get to 30 or so, but that’s still only half a race (with maximum 60 points this year). So they’re going to be important as long as you can be consistent. You’re still not going to be able to afford to have consecutive really bad days.”

In the past, the the typical regular season storyline is “Who will make the playoffs?” This year, that’s joined by the talk of “Who is in good shape with playoff points?”

4. He’s lucky AND good

There’s no doubt Jimmie Johnson got lucky in a couple instances on Sunday. But that doesn’t mean he’s somehow undeserving of getting to victory lane.

Let’s take Example No. 1. Chad Knaus had Johnson stay out while others were on pit road during a cycle of green-flag pit stops, even though the team was already in its fuel window. As it turned out, Regan Smith hit the wall and brought out a caution — which benefited Johnson, who stayed on the lead lap as others had gone a lap down and had to take the wavearound.

I asked Knaus to shed some light on why. Was he hoping to catch a caution, and did he have a hunch? I think yes, but he wouldn’t elaborate.

“Yeah, there is definitely some strategy,” he said with a smile. “For sure.”

Then there was Example No. 2. Johnson was surely going to lose the race to Kyle Larson, but David Ragan hit the wall to bunch the field and set up overtime.

“When I was watching Kyle pull away from me with five to go, I’m going, ‘All right, second is not bad,’” Johnson said. “And then something in my mind said, ‘This thing isn’t over. They’re not over until the checkered falls.’”

Sure enough, Johnson got his chance — but he still had to execute on the restart. Remember, Larson was right there controlling the overtime start with a chance to win. He couldn’t get it done and Johnson did.

As Kasey Kahne noted on Twitter, it wasn’t the oil dry that cost Larson a chance to win — it was Johnson.

Said Larson:  “Jimmie is the best of our time, probably the best of all time. He just has a lot more experience than I do out on the front row late in races and executed a lot better than I did.  I’ve got to get better at that and maybe get some more wins.”

5. Aw, (lug) nuts!

One of NASCAR’s safety rules was tested this weekend, and what officials decide to do about it should set an interesting precedent.

Kyle Busch lost his left rear wheel after a pit stop early in Sunday’s Cup race, much like Chase Briscoe did in the Truck race on Friday. Both incidents were clearly mistakes by pit crews — the jack dropped before the tire changers had secured the lug nuts — and were not intentional moves to make a faster pit stop.

But NASCAR typically does not judge intent — the rule is the rule — and so harsh penalties will likely be handed out on Wednesday. The crew chief, tire changer and tire carrier (of the wheel in question) are all facing four-race suspensions, which is the mandatory minimum as spelled out in the NASCAR rulebook.

So Busch, who hasn’t won this season, is set to lose Adam Stevens as well as two key pit crew members, for a month. All because of a clear mistake on pit road.

That seems awfully severe, and it also puts Busch on the same page as rival Brad Keselowski (who owns Briscoe’s truck).

“At the end of the day, intent matters,” Keselowski said Saturday. “The intent of the rule was to make sure guys don’t put three lug nuts on and have a wheel come off and say, ‘Aw, too bad.’ That isn’t what happened in the scenario we had.

“It was a mistake. … It’s the difference between murder and manslaughter.”

Here’s the thing, though: If NASCAR lets this slide, it’s eventually going to be faced with a less clear decision and have to play judge on whether or not a pit crew intended to send the car out with one lug nut attached (or something along those lines).

Honestly, it’s better just to have rules and enforce them the same way every time — no matter the circumstances that led to the infraction.

DraftKings Fantasy NASCAR picks: Dover

I’m playing DraftKings this season and will be posting my picks here each week. Disclosure: If you want to play and sign up using this link, DraftKings will give my website a commission. Disclosure No. 2: I might be America’s worst daily fantasy player.

Last race’s results: Played the $3 Beginner Slingshot game. Finished 18th out of 200; won $10.

Season results: $26 wagered, $17 won in 10 contests.

This week’s contest: $0 free game due to Delaware state law restriction.

Dover picks:

— Kyle Busch ($10,400). It’s always dangerous to take the polesitter, but there are a lot of available laps to lead at Dover — and I want the people who are going to hog most of them. That would seem to fit Busch, among others.

— Martin Truex Jr. ($9,900). I’m going with Truex as my hammer. Last fall, Truex led 187 of the 400 laps — and I could see him with a similar performance on Sunday. He starts second, so he’ll have a good shot to pile up the laps led early in the race.

— Joey Logano ($9,200). This is pretty much a “He’s starting 26th and I want the position differential” play. It’s been a rough weekend for Logano, who seems to be lacking speed. But that team is capable of rebounding quickly. Maybe it’s not worth the high price to take the risk, but we’ll see.

— Ryan Newman ($7,200). I took Newman for one reason: He was the best driver remaining I could afford. Yes, I picked Newman to plug a hole — choosing him over similarly-priced Paul Menard, Ty Dillon and Trevor Bayne. There aren’t a lot of stats to back this up, other than Newman was faster than those drivers in practice. But this allowed me to take drivers like Busch, Logano and Truex — so that makes it worth it.

— Daniel Suarez ($7,100). I’m going with a value play here for a couple reasons. First, the Toyotas look fast this weekend — and this is a way to get one for cheap. Second, Suarez was 12th-fastest in 10-lap averages — so he clearly has a fast car. The downside (and a big one, perhaps) is he starts third.

— AJ Allmendinger ($6,200). A good value for a driver who was 14th in 10-lap average for final practice. Allmendinger starts 24th, but has been strong here in the past (he’s led more laps at Dover than he has at any other track).

And now, a word about sponsors

Hey everyone!

I just wanted to keep you all in the loop on the latest developments with the website. It’s been going amazingly well and — if you can believe it — about a dozen different companies have reached out so far about the possibility of doing some sort of sponsorship.

That’s really exciting in some ways, but so far I’ve been hesitant because I worry the people who have stepped up to fund my career (you!) might feel I am getting away from the mission of serving them if I accept advertising.

But in the wake of getting a post-race podcast sponsor (SAM Tech, which many of you noted after Martinsville), I’m going to experiment with something on the website, and we’ll see how it goes.

Dover International Speedway reached out and offered to throw some support to the site, and they’ve been super cool about it. I’ve talked to them on the phone a couple times since January, and they’re very enthusiastic and supportive about the whole thing in a similar way that many of you are.

I decided to accept their offer, which means I’ll definitely be at both of their races. I also asked them to supply me with a custom ticket link, which means by using this link, you’re continuing to show your support for me and this site.

So when you see a Dover banner ad on things like the 12 Questions in the next few weeks, that’s what that is.

Anyway, I’d love to see you at the Dover tweetup if you can make it. And if you haven’t bought race tickets yet, here’s the handy link where you can do so.

I’m interested in hearing your feedback about this. And as always, thanks for the support!