Guest Author - Debra Lamb
Unlike many other sports, NASCAR is fully in support of its drivers maintaining an active presence in social media. When driver Brad Keselowski used the downtime of a hazard delay during the Daytona 500 to tweet to his fans, NASCAR praised him for it rather than being critical of his actions.
NASCAR did not find any of those tweets in violation of policy. So long as the tweets will not cause any danger for the drivers or others involved in the sport, then interacting with fans through social media is welcome. What is not permitted is the use of phones while driving during a race, since speeds reach well over 100 mph.
Keselowski gained over 100,000 new followers within hours of his race day tweets. He plans to keep his phone with him from now on during races to use during any downtime.
Michael Waltrip has said that using social media is an important way for drivers to build up their fan base. Not all of the drivers are using online social networking yet, but there are many that do.
Fan interaction has changed over the years, from in-person meet-and-greets to reading and responding to tweets. While established drivers who have been around for a long time already have a steady following, newer and younger drivers could benefit from more social media engagement with fans.
Since tweets have not become a major issue in NASCAR, as they have in other areas like the NFL, then there has been little or no discussion of fines and penalties for drivers who tweet what they shouldn’t. This could change in the future as more drivers start to interact online, though.
Drivers are already forced to watch what they say after the race. The wrong thing said can lead to penalties and even suspensions. As more drivers begin to send out tweets, there will be more scrutiny over what is being sent out there to make sure they are not in violation of any NASCAR rules.
The issue that most are concerned with is whether or not the drivers should be permitted to tweet while a race is going on, whether there is downtime or not. The only opportunity they will have to tweet will be during a caution or delay, which would mean drivers are on the phone while driving. A possible solution to this issue could be to have one designated team member handle the tweets on behalf of the driver. He could say it out loud while the team member types it up.