Before I start drawing comparisons to explosions or igniting anything, let's take a minute to appreciate that everyone is safe. Dan Wheldon's death last October was a tough reminder of just how dangerous the sport of auto racing can be.
Sure, we can look back now and make jokes about the odds of Juan Pablo Montoya having his car fail in the exact spot necessary to spin into a jet dryer. "It takes just Juan driver to take out a jet dryer," or "the probability of that was Juan in a million." Yep, the jokes are making their rounds today.
But, we're lucky to be able to joke about that and fortunate that everyone was ok. The mass of the explosion and the speed with which the flames spread in Turn 3 was very dangerous. I'm thankful that everyone was unharmed.
It's only because of the immediate response of Daytona's track services and plain, old, good fortune that we can all make light of this, and I can make inferences to the accident as I discuss Brad Keselowski's Twitter account.
That said, when Montoya lost control of his car and blew up the back of a jet dryer in last night's Daytona 500, he did more than ignite the leaking jet fuel, he ignited the world of Twitter.
Avid tweeter Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) happened to have his phone in his car (don't ask why). When the red flag dropped, he was quick to take it out, snap a photo of the blaze, and send out what is believed to have been the first ever in-car, mid-race tweet by a NASCAR driver.
FOX reported on the tweet during its telecast and his Twitter account soon blew up. Within about 60 minutes of the tweet, he garnered over 55,000 new followers on Twitter. He was caught on FOX's cameras tweeting outside of his car. With fans hopeful to connect with the driver in race, the mentions to @keselowski spun out of control. It got to the point where I didn't even have time to read one on TweetDeck, before it was replaced by 10 more tweets.
The most amazing thing was that this trend took place in the middle of a lengthy red flag at about 11 p.m. Eastern. It's hard to believe that NASCAR was pulling the Daytona 500's greatest rating of all-time at that later hour of a weekday night, but the sport was certainly pulling its greatest rating on Twitter!
Closer to home, I accidentally put @NHMS in "Twitter jail" because I was so busy interacting with all the fans that were still tuned in and waiting for the race to resume. "Twitter jail" isn't necessarily a bad thing. Each user is limited to 100 tweets per hour and once that maximum is reached, you can no longer tweet right away. I viewed it as more of an accomplishment and a sign of just how much interaction was taking place in the auto racing world as the calendar shifted from Monday to Tuesday.
We swapped war stories with some fans this morning and we weren't the only ones that were told to slow down by the Twitter Police! @dgoodman53, @Jess_Tow and @chrismcclanaha1 were among those that temporarily went to the impound for tweeting too often. Oh, yes, and @keselowski, of course!
While he didn't get red flagged for tweeting, he had so many mentions and new followers that his account ended up getting overloaded for a little while. Luckily for him, he had a more important issue to which to attend: finishing the race!
We have enough issues trying to get young adults to quit texting while driving, and I'm not encouraging drivers to get accustomed to tweeting while behind the wheel of their cars. Plus, while the red flag discussions were certainly fun for fans, I'd also request that all drivers stay away from the jet dryers during future races for everyone's safety. However, the uniqueness of this situation even occurring shouldn't undermine how special it was to be a part of.
In other sports, (not to name names, but let's just say players nickname it the "No Fun League") players are fined for tweeting during an event. Based on NASCAR's recent attempts to integrate social media into their every action, it wouldn't be surprising if Keselowski got a bonus for his on-the-spot reaction that set off a big bang in the Twitterverse.
The true immediacy and breadth of Twitter was experienced at a new level last night by many of us race fans. However, it certainly won't be the last, as it's just a sign of where Twitter is heading in the future.
I mused on the @NHMS account that it was interesting we no longer had to wait for the end of a commercial break to see if anything had happened, the reporters at the track will keep you in the loop.
The slight tape delay of the broadcast is also interesting, as you'll get tipped off to an upcoming event in the race. Let's be honest, if you're just watching the race under a green flag and your Twitter feed blows up with "wreck," "WRECK!" and "BIG wreck," you'll make sure to really tune in for the next 30 seconds of action!
People ask me what the point of Twitter is and, unlike Facebook, it's a little hard to explain in just a few words. You either get it or you don't.
If you were clued in last night about the time Montoya slid into the jet dryer, you know that a kaboom from an explosion took place in more parts of the racing world than just on the track. It burst open a new online world for racing fans and showed just how popular the sport of NASCAR truly is in America...even at a time of day (night) when all of us fans would have been better suited trying to get some sleep!