Twitter Takes Over NASCAR -- Road Testament

Uploaded by drive on 01.03.2012

MIKE SPINELLI: Hey, it's Mike Spinelli.
Its Road Testament time, and we're talking
about NASCAR today.
But first, remember to hit us up @Drive on Twitter.
So let us know what you think, what you want to see, and all
that other stuff.
You'll notice we've got a giant crowd here today.
I'll introduce Leo Parente from Shakedown.
Since it's racing, Leo's here.
JF, from everywhere else.
And Matt Hardigree from Jalopnik, who wrote an awesome
piece today about NASCAR and Twitter.
And we're going to get right to what we're talking about
today, which is, is NASCAR the next Twitter sensation?
JS MUSIAL: Well, after last week--
he just got it.
MIKE SPINELLI: I said that for Leo's benefit, because Leo is
sort of the doubting Thomas in this group.
JS MUSIAL: Well, let's establish what happened.
Daytona 500 was rained out.
We went to Monday.
There's a Monday night race.
And they had Juan Pablo Montoya crashed into the back
of one of the jet cars that were cleaning the track or
drying the track.
And the drivers all got out of their cars, and there was a
two-hour period where everyone was talking about this on
Twitter and Facebook and all the social media outlets.
And by the way, I just want to bring it up-- and
we'll put it up--
a tweet that we got during that time by Pierre
Belliveau, I'm going to say.
It's French.
French for "beautiful view."
JS MUSIAL: That just looks like a scribble, but OK.
MIKE SPINELLI: No, but this is what he wrote. "Is it bad that
NASCAR is more interesting when the drivers chill
together on the track while tweeting on their iPhones?"
And the fact is, a lot of us didn't even know that NASCAR
drivers brought their phones in the cars with them.
JS MUSIAL: Or hats.
Or hats, for that matter.
MIKE SPINELLI: What do you mean?
JS MUSIAL: They were all wearing hats when they got out
of the car.
MIKE SPINELLI: Well, they have their sponsors' hats they have
to wear when the cameras are on.
JS MUSIAL: Of course.
You wrote an article about this.
MIKE SPINELLI: So let's get to that.
LEO PARENTE: What the hell did you tell us about?
MATT HARDIGREE: Well, it was a sort of
perfect storm last night.
As was mentioned earlier, the Daytona 500 was rained out.
And everyone made fun of it on Facebook for
getting rained out.
It got pushed to Monday night.
It bumped an episode of House that no one was
going to watch anyways.
And the thing was fantastic.
It was fantastic, great television.
Because nothing beats unexpected TV when you're
flipping through the channels and you kind of know what to
expect, and you see a gigantic fireball.
And then when you see a gigantic fireball, you go,
what is happening?
I want to know what's happening.
And sports like NASCAR and like baseball are honestly--
and F1, too-- are better when you have some context.
And there's no context for a giant fireball.
So all of the sudden, people want to know what's happening.
And then Brad Keselowski reaches into his car and pulls
out a phone.
And he just happened to have a phone with him, which no one
else had thought of.
And he starts tweeting the photo--
sort of the photo heard around the world--
from his car.
And everyone stopped caring about the fireball all of a
sudden and started caring that somebody could possibly be
tweeting from the track.
And all hell broke loose from there.
MIKE SPINELLI: So, I mean, basically it's kind of the
medium becoming--
is it that Twitter brought new people to watch something that
was happening that they didn't know what was happening?
Or is it basically NASCAR-tweeting Twitter fans
already on NASCAR who may have sort of moved away from the
screen and kind of--
JS MUSIAL: It was probably a culmination, as Matt said.
It's 10 o'clock.
There's two hours where there was just a giant flame ball on
television, just being repeated.
When you're flipping through the television on Monday
night, when most people are not out drinking, they're
actually home preparing for the week, a lot of questions
are raised.
MIKE SPINELLI: Well, Matt, so what are you saying?
Are you saying that Twitter became a kind of way to keep
in touch with a race that wasn't really happening other
than the fireball?
MATT HARDIGREE: Yeah, yeah, exactly.
Because there's really nothing worse than watching any sports
commentator, but especially NASCAR commentators, try to
figure out how to fill two hours.
And so Twitter really did that for them.
And it was one of those great moments, too, where--
so Keselowski tweets.
And I think that he brought in probably--
besides NASCAR fans who are probably already watching it,
brought in new people who are either NASCAR fans who didn't
understand why they needed to use Twitter, and then brought
in people like me, who honestly did not follow many
NASCAR people other than a couple of friends and a couple
of reporters that I follow, because I wanted to know what
was happening.
I was all of a sudden curious.
And to sort of back this up, NASCAR PR told me this morning
that in that very short period of time, they picked up over
MIKE SPINELLI: Leo, I just want to go
to you for a second.
Because is this something that is a cultural thing, where
nerds outside of the NASCAR sphere are getting exposed to
NASCAR because of Twitter, because it's the
hipster thing to do?
Or is NASCAR already a Twitter sensation among NASCAR fans?
I'm not sure how to really--
Answer the damn question.
What do you mean you're not sure?
LEO PARENTE: I've been hanging back like Tony Stewart in a
500-mile race, so I'm going to answer your question with a
couple of questions.
Matt, what drove you to watch the race?
Was it the fire or the Twittering?
MATT HARDIGREE: It was neither.
I was planning to watch the race because it was Monday
night and there was nothing else on.
However, I had flipped away for a moment to watch
something else.
And then I-- all of a sudden, Twitter lit up.
And I was like, I need to go back, I need to go back.
And then I went back, and I saw there was a fireball.
And so I kept watching it.
I wouldn't have even known were it not for Twitter jokes
about the race.
I probably would even have forgotten that the race was on
Monday night.
JS MUSIAL: It's like a perfect storm.
LEO PARENTE: So to start-- well--
JS MUSIAL: Monday night.
Monday night.
LEO PARENTE: Thank you, George Clooney.
So to start to answer your question, do you think--
do we all think that there were NASCAR fans who, let's
believe that they're not completely ignorant to things
like Twitter and Facebook.
Was it NASCAR fans that started to aggravate to this
great story of Keselowski talking to
them during the downtime?
Or were there new young hipsters who were saying, hey,
what's this thing going on in some track on fire?
Do you think it was bringing NASCAR together, and that was
bumping their viewership?
Or were there truly new people to NASCAR being introduced to
the fireball that is racing?
JS MUSIAL: Yeah, no, I think it's mostly the latter.
Because people who are watching the race aren't
necessarily going to reach over to their
computer and sign up.
If we take the NASCAR numbers, 30,000 people.
So if all those 30,000 people also added Brad Keselowski,
there are still 70,000 people we have to account for who all
of a sudden followed this random driver.
Now, of course, some of those people are
already NASCAR followers.
But what happens is-- and I know this for a fact because
I've talked to people who were like me or like other people,
and they saw that people were talking about NASCAR, and they
wanted to know what was going on.
Whether they're already racing fans, like F1 or ALMS or World
Rally, or they're just normal human beings
who hear, OMG, fireball.
Turn on Fox now.
They turned it on.
JS MUSIAL: Well, here's a big question.
You look at Monday night.
And I want to ask you, Matt, because you actually spoke to
people at Fox, correct, about the ratings?
How were the ratings last night?
MATT HARDIGREE: I got the overnight.
I haven't spoken to anyone at Fox.
Well, what were the ratings you got from Hollywood
Reporter or wherever it was.
MATT HARDIGREE: The early overnight ratings that came
in, and this doesn't include West Coast, necessarily, or
the numbers aren't as good.
So the numbers change a little bit as the day goes on.
But basically, it pulled a 7.7 rating, which is fantastic.
And it's down from last year's race, which was an 8.2.
But last year's race was going up against nothing.
There was no football.
There was really nothing to watch.
Whereas this was going up against some of the most
popular programs on television--
Hawaii Five-O, Two and a Half Men.
And all of those programs were down, which means that those
people had to go somewhere.
A very few of them went to go watch The Voice.
None of them went to the CW.
Basically, where most of these people went-- just based on
where the numbers are unless randomly people turned on
their television, which is also a possibility.
But because CBS numbers were down, these people clearly
went to watch the race on Fox.
And they heard about it through Facebook, through
Twitter, through all sorts of means, or just flipping the
channel and seeing a giant fireball.
But the fireball was only there for about 15 minutes.
I mean, there were multiple replays.
But I think people had to have found out about it elsewhere.
It was a huge rating boost.
It was Fox's biggest Monday night since Game 5 of the
World Series.
MIKE SPINELLI: So the ratings actually went up by a whole
rating point, right?
I mean, it started at 7.2, and then after the fireball it was
8.2, or something like that?
MATT HARDIGREE: It went up a point.
It peaked, actually, during--
I think it was between 10 and 10:15,
during the whole downtime.
So the red flag was the highest-viewed point.
The racing was actually the lowest-viewed point.
Ratings went up at the red flag, but they stayed
relatively high.
Actually, I heard from somewhere that in Charlotte--
now, Charlotte's, of course, a hub of NASCAR fans.
But they had a 40% take at 12:30 in the morning of people
watching the race in the Charlotte
market, which is fantastic.
And the great thing that also happened after this race is it
took a while to get started, but there were
only 40 laps left.
It ran tight for a while.
There was a wreck.
It ran tight.
There was a wreck.
And then there was a green white checker, which means
they run one lap green, one lap white, and then checkered.
And they just keep doing it until they get a winner.
So it compressed 2 and 1/2 minutes of racing for people
who aren't necessarily racing fans to really latch on to.
JS MUSIAL: That's a good question.
You brought this up early this morning.
Maybe NASCAR needs to make these races shorter to keep
that attention span.
MIKE SPINELLI: I mean, shorter races--
JS MUSIAL: This is proving a valid point of how people
consume racing.
This was kind of, as I said, a perfect storm.
But it brought all these different
elements to the table.
MIKE SPINELLI: Matt brings up something in his piece.
Is that like baseball, NASCAR is a very
statistic-driven sport.
So the more you know about it, the more you get out of it.
And so to people who are really into it-- and I don't
know the percentage of NASCAR fans that are really deeply
into the statistics--
but among those people, you could make it
as long as you want.
And again, the people that are at the race drinking and
eating the bratwurst, they're going to stay there as long as
the race is.
So now you're talking about a TV audience, and yeah, maybe
like watching a train of cars go around the track in one
pack-- and I know, Leo, you're going to have something to say
about this.
Maybe that's where you can shorten it.
But why, what's up?
JS MUSIAL: What's wrong, man?
LEO PARENTE: Matt, I think--
there's nothing wrong.
JS MUSIAL: There's something wrong.
LEO PARENTE: Matt, I think there's a lot to what you
wrote about that makes sense.
And I'll try to keep this as short as possible.
I think the moment last night was the 21st century version
of Cale Yarborough taking a swing at an Allison brother in
a snowstorm on Sunday to make NASCAR take another step up.
And the knowledge of using the new medium tools to attract an
audience has opened the eyes probably to NASCAR in terms of
how to take it beyond the race broadcast, when to show it,
maybe the length of time.
But all of this, we discovered the data and
knowledge of sport.
It's all been in there.
I think a lot of hipsters are maybe discovering there's a
texture beyond just driving in circles.
But at the end of the day, it might be all good because it's
forcing everyone to rethink.
A little known--
I think a little-known piece--
is that NASCAR just bought back their internet rights
from Turner Broadcasting.
And they've got a five-year plan to get young people to
watch NASCAR again.
Aggregating all this media is probably going to
be part of the plan.
And Brad Keselowski is probably their hero du jour
because he showed them a path.
MIKE SPINELLI: Well, you know, by the way, you brought up
something we should probably talk about a little bit of
what exactly happened.
In 1979, Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough--
I mean, you dropped--
LEO PARENTE: I'm the old guy, you know.
MIKE SPINELLI: No, but you just dropped a reference that
people might not be getting, is that Cale Yarborough and
Donnie Allison got into a scuffle after an accident--
JS MUSIAL: Fist fight.
MIKE SPINELLI: Well, yeah, it was an actual fist fight
during the 1979 Daytona 500 that just happened to go on
while the Northeast was in a snowstorm.
So people were home with nothing to do.
And they turned on the race, and they found this
fist fight going on.
And it kind of boosted NASCAR in the consciousness of just
people who hadn't been watching NASCAR before.
And so you're saying that the fireball last night--
LEO PARENTE: Is the Cale Yarborough.
MIKE SPINELLI: Fireball plus Twitter is the
Cale Yarborough punch.
JS MUSIAL: Both instances happened on turn three of
Daytona, right?
JS MUSIAL: Maybe you just have something always happen on
turn three.
LEO PARENTE: So let's build a racetrack
with only turn three.

JS MUSIAL: Just have something always happen on turn three.
LEO PARENTE: Nailed it.
Someone get Brian France on the phone.
JS MUSIAL: Well, where do we want to go with this?
MATT HARDIGREE: It's a valid point.
It's the first race.
So we talked about NASCAR needing context.
Now everyone has bought in the first big Sprint
Cup race of the year.
And so now they have a reason to watch the second one.
And they already know everything that
everyone else knows.
So we'll how the ratings do next week.
JS MUSIAL: How does NASCAR take advantage of this?
That's the big question.
How do they take advantage of a situation like this, where
they're going to have people like you--
LEO PARENTE: My fear is the morning meeting at NASCAR,
someone said, you know what?
We need to get Danica Patrick an iPhone right now.
MIKE SPINELLI: Because notable absent from the Tweeters was
Danica Patrick.
LEO PARENTE: The story, finally, was not Danica.
We've got to fix that.
JS MUSIAL: New rules.
Everyone must have a cell phone in
their car at all times.
And they should be running Ustream direct to
the web, and done.
We're done.
LEO PARENTE: But the serious answer probably is, how do we
get the storytelling on the new media to build this
momentum or sustain momentum and stories during the race?
I feel--
LEO PARENTE: Pardon me.
Go ahead.
MATT HARDIGREE: Yeah, I think there's a couple of
ways they do this.
The first one is to not shoot themselves in the foot.
And they did it this morning.
Because technically, you're not supposed to have a
recording device with you when you're racing a car.
And a phone is a recording device.
It looked like he had an iPhone, but it was definitely
a smartphone.
And they specifically said that they are not going to ban
this type of activity, which the NFL did.
The NFL blacks out players from using Twitter before,
during, and after a game.
NASCAR said, meh, we're OK.
Keep the phones.
Do what you want to do.
So that's one.
Not shooting yourself in the foot.
The second step is actually reaching out to all the teams
and reaching out to drivers and letting them know how they
can do this.
Because social media works by bringing people into a larger
and larger circle.
So every driver already has a circle of people who already
follow them.
They're diehards.
People who already follow them on Twitter or follow them on
Facebook know that when races turn on, they ignore it.
But now they need to reactivate those people,
because people are paying attention.
They saw the fireball.
They want to know what happened.
So they need to reach out to their friends, to people on
Facebook, sponsors, car companies, NASCAR itself--
everyone needs to take this opportunity to know that they
have a week to remind everyone that a race is
coming up this weekend.
And explain to them, provide the context for why this race
is important.
Why is a race out in the middle of a desert?
Why do we suddenly care?
LEO PARENTE: And someone call Kingsford Charcoal right now.
MIKE SPINELLI: And there has to be a fireball every race.
Maybe that's something you work into, in the middle, to
blow something up.
And you get people to--
JS MUSIAL: Lake Lloyd at Daytona, Lake Lloyd is just on
fire, the whole race.
LEO PARENTE: That'd be good.
Sharks, fire, and someone dig up the body of Fireball
Roberts, because--
MIKE SPINELLI: Oh, Fireball Roberts.
I see what you did.
JS MUSIAL: Matt, do you think that they're going to actually
take those steps that you think they should take?
MATT HARDIGREE: Yeah, well, they did one today.
By announcing that they weren't going to fine him and
by actively encouraging, sort of setting the ground rules
for what drivers can do, which is that as long as it's not
endangering the safety of anyone on the track or
endangering themselves, pretty much every social
media thing is OK.
And yeah, I think a secondary move is there.
Because NASCAR--
like Jalopnik, for instance has not published a lot of
NASCAR items not related to Danica
Patrick doing weird things.
But NASCAR PR reached out to us.
And they're reaching out to people who should-- there's
always groups, there are people who
will never watch NASCAR.
People are not cross-watching.
Am I going to watch Downton Abbey, or am I
going to watch NASCAR?
Doesn't happen.
But there are people like us, and people probably in that
room there with you, who watch ALMS and watch other
motorsports and don't really care that much about NASCAR.
And they're getting into it.
And I'll give you a great example.
SpeedSportLife, great little magazine online, has a great
Twitter account.
They will stay up for 24 hours tweeting the 24 hours of
LeMans, but they will never tweet a NASCAR race.
But they tweeted the Daytona 500 last night.
And if NASCAR can engage with them and get them to come back
for the next race, they can build new fans for life.
JS MUSIAL: So NASCAR actually reached out to Jalopnik?
JS MUSIAL: That's a very interesting thing.
MATT HARDIGREE: We wrote that story, and NASCAR PR said, oh,
by the way, we added 36,000 new visitors.
And by the way, we were also seven of
the 10 trending topics.
One that was Tide detergent, because that's what they were
using to clean the track.
Seven out of 10 last night, which is a fantastic number.
So they've figured it out.
I don't think they completely know what's going on yet, but
they know enough not to get in the way of it.
JS MUSIAL: That's good.
That's good.
JS MUSIAL: I think that's it.
MIKE SPINELLI: And that's it.
Thanks, Matt Hardigree from Jalopnik.
JF, Leo, Shakedown on Friday.
I don't know what you're going to be talking about.
LEO PARENTE: Nor do I, so tune in.
And again, hit us up @Drive on Twitter to talk about NASCAR--
maybe, or not--
or anything else.
JS MUSIAL: Or call us those wankers with Chris Harris.
Chris Harris and the wankers.
LEO PARENTE: No, we're leaving NASCAR to Jalopnik.
They're the new hub for--
See you next week.