What happened: Spencer Gallagher, who just won his first career Xfinity Series race on Saturday at Talladega and is the son of GMS Racing owner Maurice Gallagher, tested positive for a banned substance and was suspended indefinitely by NASCAR. The test result was received by NASCAR on Tuesday, although NASCAR did not say whether the test was taken before or after the Talladega race. Gallagher will go through NASCAR’s “Road to Recovery” program in order to race again. In a statement, Gallagher called his failed test a “one-time error in judgment” and said he had “not upheld the behavior that is expected of me.”
What it means: A deeply disappointing situation for all involved. Gallagher is one of NASCAR’s most entertaining personalities and just experienced the highlight of his career — putting himself into the Xfinity playoffs as a result. It was a great storyline, and Gallagher would have been fun to watch in the playoffs. But that’s all gone now. NASCAR officials indicated they will not give Gallagher a waiver for the races he will miss, meaning he will not be playoff-eligible even if he wins again. That’s a major setback to both his young career and the race team owned by his father, who is also CEO of Allegiant Airlines (which happens to be an official NASCAR sponsor). It’s unclear how long Gallagher’s time in the NASCAR rehabilitation program will take, but AJ Allmendinger was suspended for eight races after he went through a similar process in 2012.
News value (scale of 1-10): Eight. Pretty notable, especially since Gallagher just won and there’s the possibility he could have taken the banned substance before racing (NASCAR isn’t saying either way). This news might be a 10 if Gallagher was a Cup driver in a similar situation, because it would make headlines well beyond NASCAR.
Three questions: What was the substance, and did taking it put any of Gallagher’s competitors in harm’s way? Though almost all NASCAR drug tests are conducted at the track, is there a chance this one was done after the victory celebration (when Gallagher said he would “party like it’s 1999”)? Finally, what was Gallagher thinking?
This week’s Social Spotlight interview focuses on the always-entertaining Spencer Gallagher of GMS Racing. You can follow him on Twitter @23SpeedRacer.
It seems like you choose your spots when you tweet. Sometimes, you only tweet every few days but try to unleash a gem. Is that your basic strategy?
I’m all about quality over quantity, you know? Twitter is full of enough noise as it is, so I try not to add too much to that. If I’ve got something valuable to say, I’ll say it. But I just try not to let people know what my breakfast was every single morning. I find most people find that boring. So I’m the kind of guy that tries to focus on having a real thought. When I have something to contribute to the conversation, that’s when I speak up.
So are you not on Twitter all the time? Or do you look at it and decide not to chime in?
I check somewhat sporadically, but I will say I’ve gotten more frequent with its updates. It really is my source of NASCAR news. So I get on there and I check it, but you know, opinions are kind of like elbows — everyone has them and they’re all really awkward. (Laughs) You like that that was a good modification, wasn’t it?
Yeah, you really saved that there.
Thought I was going somewhere else with that, didn’t you?
We could have bleeped it out if you needed me to.
That’s actually a good idea. What the hell am I saying? You run your own independent site; you can do whatever you want right now, right?
But I try to check often. Whenever I feel my opinion is going to be valuable on a subject or I can contribute some insight, that’s when I try to chime in. I don’t need to tell everyone what’s on my mind at all times, because usually it’s as much nonsense as the rest of ‘em.
What type of reaction do you typically get from your Twitter followers? Do you read all your replies?
I do. I try to go through every single one of my replies and give back to the fans. That’s the real strength of Twitter. That’s why I like it a lot as a platform — it lets you have a direct connection to the people who are putting their butts in seats to go watch you race around on a Saturday. So that’s something I like to do.
Everyone loves seeing that little notification come up. That’s that little hit of dopamine in the arm, when you see that notification come on that someone has touched one of your tweets in some way. It’s really cool. That’s why I like it — it lets you talk to the fans in a very direct way. I think that’s a really cool thing.
That’s a very good analogy. You get that little notification and you’re like, “Ooh, somebody wrote back!”
It is, man! Honestly, that’s why I try to kind of limit my social media usage a little bit, because I see people getting sucked into that a whole lot, and I think it can be a very addicting process. That’s a little piece of noise that sometimes I try to keep out of my life a little bit, but it’s a very valuable thing, and you’ve got to have it. But no lie: Whenever you get that little notification, whenever that little red circle comes up, it’s like, “Ooh! Piece of candy! What have I got now?”
So how do you deal with the negative side of it? Do you have haters? Do people take shots at you sometimes?
Oh God, yeah. Listen — if you’re going to be in the public eye, there’s going to be someone out there that doesn’t like what you’re doing. But I’ll be honest, my way of dealing with it? I remind myself tomorrow I’m going to wake up and drive a race car and they’re not. That’s how I avoid getting too mad about it.
If you get mad on the internet, you lose. So I’ve developed a couple strategies for being very zen about my interactions. Everybody is always going to have an opinion and not everybody is going to like you, and that’s life. But at the end of the day, I still get to do what I love. So how much am I going to let their opinion affect me?
Do you ever go with the block button?
Honestly, no. Because most times, I make it an exercise to find the entertainment in someone like that. That’s my way of helping myself stay zen. If it’s getting really out of hand, then yeah, the hell with you; I don’t need to hear from you anymore. Honestly, most times, I get a laugh out of it.
Do you ever mute people, particularly those who you follow but don’t want to offend by unfollowing?
I think if the mute function had been around when I was following Kenny Wallace, it might have gone onto him. But no, honestly. If I don’t have the inclination to see what you have to say, I don’t need to follow you. I don’t care about hurting feelings that way.
Let’s talk about some other platforms. Do you not have Instagram at all?
I keep that one pretty private. I like to keep a couple platforms just for friends and family. I think that helps you create more meaningful moments and more intimate conversations with the people around you. I do post some public stuff to Instagram here and there, but that’s something I try to keep between my friends and family and my close circle.
Do you treat Facebook the same way?
Yeah, I’ve got an alternate Facebook account (to his fan page). I post sometimes to the public one, but Facebook is the social media platform of record, if you will. So that’s somewhere where I like to be at home, in my loafers — not out in the public eye, so to speak.
I get that not everyone likes that. People love overexposure, but that’s something I really do try to avoid in my life. I like to keep my public things public and my private things private. But don’t get me wrong: It’s a great platform for communicating with your fans. But I think a lot of drivers do that, because honestly, dude, you don’t know how many random requests and, frankly, creepy things get sent over Facebook. I think a lot of drivers keep alternate, private profiles — whether they’re willing to admit it or not.
Like on Facebook, even if you’re not friends with someone, they can slide into your DMs, essentially. You might not look at your messages every day, but you look at it eventually and you’re like, “Whoa!”
Yeah, “Who the hell are you?” Facebook can be a real deluge of people trying to get in contact with you. And a lot of it, you need to reply back to, because it’s a fan legitimately and earnestly reaching out for some communication — and a lot of times, all they want is a card, so I try to get that sent out whenever possible. Some people are a little more obsessive, and that is when they go in the trash bin. But hey, that’s the nature of what we do. You’re a public figure. You’re going to get that kind of exposure.
Where does Snapchat fit into that for you?
Snapchat is friends and family right now. I’ve considered making it public — I’ve gone back and forth on it. I’m really more of a passive Snapchat user; I just love seeing what my friends are doing at any given time. And I do love recording some moments and sending it out.
But as a person, I’m a very in-the-moment kind of guy. I go to a concert and I see all these people holding their phones up, recording, and I’m like, “What the hell are you doing?” You’re missing the whole show because you’re looking at a screen. As much of a nerd as I am, I’m really kind of a technophobe. It’s weird — I know that’s a contradiction — but I’m someone who believes this is a short life and our number of experiences in it are limited, so I try not to experience it through a screen when possible.
I’m making up terms here, but essentially you’re a “soaker” — you want to soak everything up — instead of a “sharer,” where you think, “I want to show this through my phone and share everything that’s going on.”
Yeah. And you know, I don’t want to pass value judgments, but I see a lot of people getting sucked into their screens. I just try to be present in the moment, man. That’s just me.
If you keep parts of yourself off limits, does it create more interest in you? Because you’re not completely out there as much to where people are like, “Yeah, we get it.”
I think it certainly could. When you never shut up about yourself on social media, eventually people get tired. You kind of said it right: It’s supply and demand. When you oversaturate people with information from yourself, you can turn them off. That’s why I try to keep my postings to things I think are valuable and insightful. Because when I speak, I want my voice to be something that provides clarity, something that provides a laugh or entertainment. It’s easy to ruin that by sharing too much. It’s easy to ruin that by oversaturating the people that are listening.
As you’ve moved up to Xfinity, I feel like you’re getting more TV exposure. Are you seeing a rise in your replies and more people trying to interact with you?
Definitely. The other week, I was on Twitter and I posted something and it instantly got like 10 retweets and I said, “Oh my gosh. Well, would you look at that? I actually have a little following. That’s nice!” It’s one of those humbling things that comes along with rising in the ranks, that people are really looking and listening to what you’re saying — which is again another reason to make sure what I say is valuable.
How much do you get in trouble — if ever — for your tweets? Do you ever get slapped on the hand like, “Spencer, you shouldn’t have tweeted that” from your family or PR people? For example: My mom doesn’t like it when I retweet drivers’ curse words from the radio.
I’ve been lucky enough that recently, I haven’t been slapped on the hand for any of my social media escapades. There was a time there when I was, dare say, a little more adventurous. Certain people in the room (his PR people) recall an incident involving me saying something about Tony Stewart covered in chocolate sauce wearing a banana hammock. (PR people laugh nervously)
But no, I’ve kind of learned where the line is and isn’t. And if I think there’s some fun to be had on the other side of it, I ain’t scared of it. But that’s one of those things you save for few and far between.
So would it take to get you to do some public Snapchatting?
Actually, I have to say, I feel a little guilty about not using my Snapchat more publicly, because I’ve got a pair of the Spectacles that were gifted to me.
Oh my God, what a waste!
I know, I know. Hate me, hate me. I don’t blame you. But I really need to start incorporating those more. It’s just one of those things: I leave them on my desk and I forget about them. But they’re so cool when I use them. I really need to start getting more (snaps) out. And Snapchat is a great platform for that, honestly. They’re cool, little disposable snippets of life that you can share. So you’re right: Guilt me into it, everybody. I need the encouragement.
You seem like an old soul, but you’re still a Millennial, and they say Millennials are down on Twitter and less of them are using it. Do you think there’s a future for Twitter still? And what’s the future for social media overall?
I guess I am an old soul, apparently. I rather enjoy Twitter still. I find it an informative, instant platform. It’s a great platform for news, for public conversations, for people to air their thoughts out in a very public way. I like the openness it has. I hope it’s got a future. Apparently the Silicon Valley class to disagree a little bit, but I’ll hope against hope that it keeps going.
As far as the future is concerned, Snapchat is trying to get on strong, but man, Instagram is trying to steal their thunder real hard (with stories). It’s becoming more and more difficult to deal with the juggernaut that is Facebook, if you will.
I think you’re going to see a continued evolution toward more integrated messaging. There was a grand experiment in network design that really Twitter sort of founded where everybody wants things public, right? I sort of see a little bit of a reversal of that trend; people are trying to bring it in, make it more private circles, more intimate content. I think that’s kind of what Snapchat is bringing along, and Instagram, to a certain extent.
Why do you use the @23speedracer name? Did someone already have your name, or did you just think that was cool?
Apparently there’s a Spencer Gallagher that’s in the technology industry over in the U.K. I never have contacted him; I really should. We should have a Spencer Gallagher meet-up. Once I saw that wasn’t available, I’ve always like the “Speed Racer” moniker. It speaks to me a little bit, just my career and how I’ve come to be here. So I took it and ran with it. 23SpeedRacer — it’s distinctive and it’s as good as any name, so use it.