Over the past three days of winter testing at Daytona International Speedway, we learned two things: Jamie McMurray still has his Christmas lights on every night and Twitter has taken the NASCAR world by storm.
While Daytona 500 testing certainly gave us a lot to talk about, actually using the information to decide who the winner of the actual race might be is premature. Not much drafting went on in any of the sessions in any of the three days, and when it did it was usually limited to two car drafts. While many of the drivers expressed a desire to participate in the draft, most of the crew chiefs were hesitant due to a rather hectic Goodyear tire test back in December.
While crew members, crew chiefs, car chiefs, car owners, and drivers were all collecting data for the fast approaching Speedweeks, many race fans were watching via SPEED.com’s live online stream of the testing sessions. While actual television time for the three-day test was usually limited to a one hour segment on SPEED Channel, SPEED.com offered over 6 hours of live and commercial free streaming every single day of testing.
With the flexibility of streaming over the Internet, a level of interaction was allowed between the viewers and commentators through a service that many reading this probably use themselves: Twitter.
Those who already use Twitter know the interaction allowed between drivers, media, sponsors, and fans is unprecedented, bringing a constant inside look at the inner workings of the sport itself. But when the SPEED commentators began reading and responding to tweets on the air, the fun began.
Several Twitter users had their questions read and answered on the air, including several questions that were addressed multiple times over the weekend.
The best part of the interaction, though, was when Twitter users (or “Tweeps”) began offering requests for interviews, suggestions for the coverage, and criticism of the on-air talent.
Two instances come to mind on the final day of testing.
At one point, a Twitter user with the username “@turkmon18” sent this tweet to Steve Byrnes:
Not too long after, Steve Byrnes read the tweet on air and Byrnes, Darrell Waltrip, and Larry McReynolds remained quiet for a few seconds and allowed the viewers to sit back and listen to the hum of the engines.
The “moment of silence”, so to speak, even prompted this response from @RacingWithRich:
The long hours of coverage also brought about some criticism, though it was generally light-hearted and good-natured. One tweet that was addressed throughout the day came from @TomDignanSr:
Aside from the on-air interaction, several drivers treated their followers to pictures from inside the racecar while waiting to go out on the racetrack. Some of the best material came from Landon Cassill and Juan Pablo Montoya, though most of the drivers that have Twitter accounts also gave an inside look to their followers.
Though it was nice to see racecars back on the track again, watching single or two cars runs can only be entertaining for a while and eventually people might start tuning out. However, interacting with the broadcast was enough to keep many of the viewers around for hours on end and never seeming to lose interest.
While it’s unlikely we’ll see the same style adopted into the actual television coverage, if SPEED.com or NASCAR.com decides to continue with this online coverage it will definitely be something to look forward to.