In the beginning, when Twitter started to become part of the landscape of NASCAR, many folks within the sport or even just following as casual fans were unsure what it would do. Could it be a bit of a distraction, possibly hurt what the sport was and could become, or could it make a big difference in an ever-evolving era of competition.
What it did was change how communication is done among teams, and even how teams and drivers communicate with fans. News used to come days after a race, or even right before the race weekend began. Now, it comes in an instant, almost as it's being announced. Races themselves are different in coverage with media members at the track getting to chat with colleagues away from the track, and still get to bounce ideas of how to take a story, and where it can go as it develops. There certainly wouldn't be any "Twitter Wars" between drivers when an incident happens on the track, and it wouldn't be shown among millions of people.
Twitter has put NASCAR in a world that many years ago would not have ever been expected. The way we communicate as a whole has changed. Phones are still around, but emails and text alerts are becoming more common. Even as crazy as it can be, social media has become a go-to resource to get the breaking news in the sport.
But think back, moments that many fans and teams remember didn't have a chance to be talked about on Twitter, hashtags going up everywhere and then Facebook having thousands of fans make comments, share a photo, and like shots taken at those moments. What would happen if past NASCAR memories were put to today's technological advances, and today's way of communicating? Let's examine a few.
1979 Daytona 500: Last Lap Drama
Probably the most infamous moment that put NASCAR on the map is the perfect setting for today's Twitter world. The final few laps alone were enough to set the Twitter world buzzing, just like the ratings did that year for CBS. Ken Squier certainly gave one of the most infamous quotes that NASCAR has ever experienced.
Here's a few possible hashtags that could have been from that afternoon:
The only thing that probably wouldn't have occurred is a Twitter war between Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough. They likely would have just done the same thing they did after the race, settled it in a fight.
1985 Southern 500: Elliott Wins A Million
When Winston put up a bonus of $1 million to any driver to win three of four big races on the year, the idea that it was possible to win it in the first year seemed like it was far fetched. But, Bill Elliott won the Daytona 500, then made up two laps under green to win the Winston 500 at Talladega. After not winning the Coca-Cola 600, there was one last chance for Elliott to grab what was at the time the biggest payout put out by the sport.
Twice in that race it looked like Elliott may be collected in accidents and blown engine fluids.
But at the end of the afternoon, the red-head driver that now is going to be entering the NASCAR Hall of Fame claimed the greatest prize in the sport at the time. The bonus in the Southern 500 gave him a new nickname. That nickname can be considered a hashtag as well. Take a look for yourself:
1997 Winston: T-Rex Causes Havoc
There is possibly no more famous race to change NASCAR's rules than what happened one Charlotte night in 1997. No points, just money, and one team decided to play within guidelines, but exploit where the sport was going. Hendrick's Rex Stump helped build a special car for that race, but one that was within the rules and could be run that weekend. It was not only ran, but it dominated.
Starting in the back, it quickly moved forward. "T-Rex" as it was called, mostly assumed to be due to the Jurassic Park look, was crushing every competitor it would face, and would go onto winning a cool $200,000. Afterward, NASCAR confiscated the car, and although it was legal, the team was encouraged not to bring it back. Sure it passed inspection for that race, but according to the sanctioning body, it would not pass the next week. The rule book was expanded, and the grey area was made smaller, and rules were made more clear.
Just think of the fun Twitter would have experienced on that night:
The only Twitter war that would come of this would be Gordon fans vs. everyone else. That and NASCAR vs. Hendrick Motorsports because of the car itself.
1998 Daytona 500: Dale Does It, Finally
Fans of NASCAR no matter what driver they cheered for knew what the Daytona 500 meant to Dale Earnhardt. He came so close on so many occasions, often two corners shy or just one position short of tasting victory in this race, many began wondering if it would happen ever, or if his career would not have that victory included.
But for one afternoon, whether fans were wearing black and silver or those of another driver, it became a race that no one could ever forget. When that car took the checkered flag, and Earnhardt held his hand out the window down pit road to greet every crewman that was there, it became real. Finally, the Intimidator got what he wanted for so long, and got to celebrate what had eluded him for many years. The Daytona 500 was finally his to say, "We won it."
In today's terms, this moment would have blown Twitter up like Mount Saint Helens. It was that big. Here's what could have been trending immediately after:
As for a Twitter war, in this case, there wouldn't be one. It would just be everyone celebrating as one.
Twitter has changed how drivers communicate with their fans, and how the media gets their stories out to readers. Communication has gone from where it's found out days later to mere moments. It has become the most influential piece to the sport, and one that everyone has embraced. If these moments, and many others, were to have Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or any other social media access, just think of how different they could have been, or how much bigger the stories would have been.
Social media and NASCAR, a strong combination that even when looking back at past moments, made them just that much bigger.