During a red-flag delay at the Daytona 500, NASCAR driver Brad Keselowski decided to pull out his phone and began to live-tweet the action from inside his custom Dodge Charger.
Keselowski had a unique view of fellow driver Juan Pablo Montoya's crash into a jet dryer and began sending his Twitter followers photos of the action. The response was overwhelming -- Keselowski added close to 140,000 followers during the race -- and showed the power of live-tweeting major sporting events.
The 28-year-old Penske Racing driver said there has been some confusion over his tweets. The car was always stopped while I was tweeting, he said while admitting he's overjoyed with the attention he's drawn from his social-media experience.
There are always red flag situations in restrictor-plate racing, so I did anticipate having an opportunity to tweet from the car, Keselowski said. I clearly didn't have any idea that a jet dryer would catch fire, so that definitely added to the drama. Obviously the response has been great. Being able to triple my followers was not something that I ever thought was possible.
Not only did Keselowski add scads of followers in a short time, he also appears to have impressed his sponsors.
One of the first e-mails we received after we got back to Detroit was from Miller/Coors, Bud Denker, senior vice president for Penske Corp, told Fox Sports They said while we might not have crossed the finish line first, it was a win for the brand across the board. We support Brad and all of his efforts in social media.
Keselowski's innovative live tweets raised some concerns that he could get in trouble, but NASCAR has come out in full support of him. The racing body has even encouraged other drivers to get in on the action.
Nothing we've seen from Brad violates any current rules pertaining to the use of social media during races, NASCAR said in a statement. As such, he won't be penalized. We encourage our drivers to use social media to express themselves as long as they do so without risking their safety or that of others.
Nascar's openness to social media is a refreshing change from many of the other big American sports largely shunning social media. The NFL allowed players to live tweet during this year's Pro Bowl, but the league prohibits players from live-tweeting during actual games. The NBA and baseball both have policies in place that bar players from using their cellphones on the bench during the game and a dead period before and after a game.
Keselowski believes that NASCAR's willingness to allow its drivers to explore social media is not only important, but could also boost popularity in the sport.
Football is the it sport in America -- they don't need social media. Plus, they are banned from tweeting before and after games, he said. NASCAR has really made an effort to get behind social media. Maybe that is the way we can cut into the popularity of the NFL.
The next Sprint Cup series race on tap is in Phoenix on Sunday and while Keselowski won't promise more live tweets during races, he says that he will continue to entertain fans as much as he can.
I'm always looking for the next thing, but I won't rule it out, he said about future live tweets. I really enjoy connecting with my fans in unique ways. Maybe I've opened the door for other drivers to tweet.
I want all of us to get behind social media because there are only a few of us that are carrying the flag, so to speak.