One of the first sports to embrace social media, NASCAR now faces concerns from its competitors over whether the platform is playing too big a role.
Kevin Harvick started the conversation Friday at ISM Raceway when he expressed his frustration over a penalty handed down to his Stewart-Haas Racing team. Penalized after a window brace failed on his race-winning car from Las Vegas, Harvick implied the outcry on social media led to the loss of seven playoff points, 20 driver and owner points, and the two-race suspension of his car chief.
Pictures began floating around early in the week showing the rear window caved in on the right side of the No.4 Ford. Questions of its legality followed.
“It just feels like it is a micromanaged situation from above what these guys do in the garage to appease people sitting on social media and trying to officiate a sporting event instead of letting these guys in the garage do what they do and do a great job with it week in and week out,” said Harvick.
It’s a slippery slope if NASCAR officials are going to police the sport based on what is being discussed on social media, said Harvick. He compared it to the “chaos” created in golf when viewers were able to send in potential infractions.
That was done away with beginning this year, but only after fans had impacted two major events. Tiger Woods was penalized during the 2013 Master when a viewer called in an errant drop, and Lexi Thompson was penalized last season when a viewer also called in infractions.
“I think there’s too many voices,” said Kyle Busch on the impact of social media. “I think the powers that be that are way higher than me need to figure out how to shut that off and not pay attention to it sometimes, and do what they think is best for the sport as what we’ve done for 60 years. It doesn’t seem as though we’re setting ourselves up for the best going forward by listening to too many of them.”
The suggestion from Harvick was to keep NASCAR executives off social media during a race.
This week was not the first time those online felt they played a role in prompting NASCAR to act. During the playoffs last year, Chase Elliott’s team was penalized after Reddit users made note that the team had removed tape from the spoiler after the race was over.
As the noise began to rise around Harvick’s window, Dale Earnhardt Jr. expressed concern on his podcast about how NASCAR was going to react to fans trying to police the sport.
“We are only assuming that NASCAR reacted to the deal with Chase last year because of the work that Reddit did,” said Earnhardt. “And is NASCAR going to get in the habit of reacting to the Reddit police? … And here we are in the third race of the season and it’s popped up again. Now, when we get down into the [playoffs] and this is going on, it’s gonna get louder.”
Defending champion Martin Truex Jr. feels NASCAR is in a tough spot with certain things they police. He also called Twitter a knee-jerk reaction.
Kyle Larson was blunter in his assessment. Larson used the word “sucks” when talking about how fans can point things out.
“But social media has hurt a lot of things, so I guess we all just have to live with social media,” he said.
On the other side of the argument, Joey Logano expressed his belief that social media does not influence decisions. Logano believes NASCAR is “bigger than that” even if social media makes things more vocal.
NASCAR has not publicly addressed its view on social media. However, Steve O’Donnell did respond to a tweet this week over the suggestion that NASCAR takes it into account.
Exactly. We don’t penalize based on a photo. If it is wrong at RnD it is wrong. Surprising position from Jim https://t.co/8u6HzEtdW5
— Steve O’Donnell (@odsteve) March 9, 2018