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Chase Elliott: Returning to the No. 9 is ‘getting back home to me’

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For Chase Elliott, the number on the side of his Cup car is a big deal.

But it’s still just a number.

The Hendrick Motorsports driver will once again compete under the banner of the No. 9. It’s the numeral his father, Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, raced with for much of his Cup career and which Chase Elliott competed with for two years in the Xfinity Series, winning the 2014 title.

Chase Elliott returns to the number after two seasons in Cup driving the No. 24 made famous by Jeff Gordon.

Chase Elliott during the Goodyear tire test at Texas Motor Speedway. (Chevrolet)

But the 22-year-old driver has no illusions about his car number leading to more success, including his elusive first Cup win.

“At the end of the day is it going to make me go any faster?  No, probably not,” Elliott said Tuesday during a Goodyear tire test at Texas Motor Speedway. “Do I think it looks better?  Yes, I do. Is it my favorite number? Yes, it is.  Has it always been my favorite number? Yes, it has been. So, all those things are great. I’m very lucky and honored to carry the number that I’ve carried for a number of years before this year, so it’s like getting back home to me from that sense.

“But no, I don’t think it’s going to make me go any faster or slower.  I wish it did make us go faster.  I would love that, but unfortunately numbers don’t.”

The native of Dawsonville, Georgia, will make his 78th Cup start with the 60th Daytona 500 on Feb. 18. Even though he made it to the third round of the Cup playoffs last season, it was despite not earning a win. He came close twice in the playoffs, at Dover and Martinsville.

At Dover, he was passed by Kyle Busch for the lead coming to the white flag. Martinsville was the site of the now infamous run-in with Denny Hamlin, who hit Elliott and sent him into the wall as he led with two laps to go in the scheduled distance.

It led to a heated confrontation between the drivers.

Elliott got a bit of revenge two races later at Phoenix, when an aggressive battle saw Elliott force Hamlin into the outside wall, which resulted in a cut tire for Hamlin and an impact with the wall.

How will Elliott choose his battles in the looming season? He reiterated his mantra from last season that he’ll “race guys as they race me.”

“I mean I think it’s circumstantial,” Elliott said. “I think in life in general you can’t let people run over you and let them get away with it otherwise they are just going to keep doing it. I think that is just a part of life.  If you let somebody control you too much they are probably going to take advantage of you as it goes on. That happens in work places every day.  It happens in racing, I’m sure it happens in football, baseball, basketball, the whole deal.

” … I want to beat people the right way because I think at the end of the day racing people the right way and doing it with respect is probably going to make them more mad than it would if you did something dirty to get by them.”

With the retirement of former teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr., Elliott is now in the position of possibly being voted NASCAR’s most popular driver. Whoever gets the nod, they’ll be first new driver to win the recognition since Earnhardt began his 15-year stretch in 2003.

Entering his third full-time Cup season, Elliott said he’s not planning on changing who he is for the sake of others, especially when it comes to his social media presence.

“I’m not as active as a lot of people are on Twitter,” said Elliott, who has the eighth-most followers among Cup drivers on Twitter. “I think that is just because that is the way my personality is. I’m not going to jump out of the box of my personality to appease other people, never have been that way and I’m not going to be that way.  I have been very lucky to have had some great supporters over the past couple of years. … Look, I want people to if they want to pull for me or like me … because of who I am and the person I am and the way I carry myself.  If I’m not the right guy for somebody, then hey, there are 39 other people to choose from and I think that is your choice, so I will respect it either way.”

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Brad Keselowski tweets on anthem protests, ‘false narrative of choice between patriotism and racism’

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Brad Keselowski posted a series of tweets Tuesday night commenting on the controversy surrounding the peaceful protests by NFL players during the playing of the national anthem over the weekend and on Monday.

Keselowski’s tweets come two days after the protests were met by critical comments from NASCAR owners Richard Childress and Richard Petty and a day after Dale Earnhardt Jr. tweeted his support for the peaceful protests.

Keselowski posted six tweets, the first containing a screenshot of a column written at the Huffington Post with a headline claiming that “White Athletes Still Standing For the Anthem Are Standing For White Supremacy.”

Keselowski, who holds an American flag in his car while celebrating a race win, told friends and fans “I support your civil rights 100%” and “PLEASE DON’T believe this,” referring to the headline.

Here are Keselowski’s tweets edited together:

“My reps want me to stay out of this, I CAN’T. 2 all my friends & supporters, I support your civil rights 100%. PLEASE DON’T believe this. I #Choose2honor our country and hope other do too out of respect and love for a country that has provided us so many blessing. Sure our country isn’t perfect (far from it), the list of misgivings is tremendous, but I hope you can see the positives & honor it as well.

“Please don’t believe that when we stand it’s out of disrespect to civil rights; it is and always will be out of respect and love for our (American flag). I plan to stand and sing the national anthem with my family as long as we are able, every chance possible. I hope you will too. So please don’t fall for the false narrative of choice between patriotism and racism. It’s simply not the case.”

Keselowski’s original tweets follow.

 

Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s peaceful protest tweet strikes chord, becomes his most popular

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At 7:54 a.m. ET Monday, Dale Earnhardt Jr. posted a tweet stating his support for the peaceful protests performed by NFL players Sunday during the national anthem.

The tweet, one of 12,415 he has posted since joining Twitter following his 2014 Daytona 500 win, quickly became his most popular. At press time, it had outpaced his previous best by more than 76,500 retweets and more than 222,700 “likes.”

The tweet contained a quote from former President John F. Kennedy, given in a 1962 speech at the White House in a reception for the diplomatic corps of the Latin American Republics.

Earnhardt, the 14-time most popular driver in NASCAR, is one of the few examples of a high-profile person in the sport showing support of the protests. The protests began last year with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem as a way to protest social injustices.

The mass protests across the NFL on Sunday were sparked by comments President Donald Trump made in a speech in Alabama that NFL owners should fire players who kneel during “The Star-Spangled Banner.’’

The protests were met with remarks from NASCAR owners Richard Childress and Richard Petty stating that anyone on their teams who kneeled or made any form of protest during the national anthem would be fired.

Prior to Earnhardt’s tweet Monday morning, his most popular post on Twitter was from the day following his 2014 Daytona 500 win, when he shared a picture of himself with the statue of his father outside Daytona International Speedway.

Once Monday’s tweet was posted and after he responded to a fan, it was back to business as usual for the driver with 2.2 million followers on Twitter.

He next retweeted a “Mad Men” GIF in celebration of the Washington Redskins victory on Sunday Night Football.

Kyle Busch-Brad Keselowski rivalry heats up on Twitter

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JOLIET, Illinois — Brad Keselowski continued his complaints about Toyota’s dominance, and Kyle Busch offered a forceful response on Twitter Friday before Cup teams qualified at Chicagoland Speedway.

Keselowski said earlier this week that “at this moment, there’s really no reason for Toyota not to have all four spots going to Homestead,” noting how strong those cars have been.

Keselowski continued his commentary Friday after Toyota cars took the top four spots in practice, led by Busch.

Keselowski took his issue to Twitter:

Cole Pearn, crew chief for Martin Truex Jr.‘s Toyota team, was first to respond to Keselowski.

Busch then jumped into the fray with a strong message for his longtime foil.

Busch explained the reason for the strong response, telling NBCSN before Cup qualifying: “We watched those guys be in fast in the beginning of the year,” he said. “We’ve watched them be fast in years past. Even when the Penske guys were with a different manufacturer they won a championship. We didn’t do our complaining on TV. We just did our complaining in the shop on Tuesdays and we went to work. That’s what we’ve done.

“I’ve just got to say of how proud I am of all our Toyota, TRD teammates and guys and teams, Furniture Row, Joe Gibbs Racing, TRD … the whole package is there. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication from a lot of great people, and I feel like right now all he’s doing is slapping these people across the face.”

Keselowski responded to Busch’s tweets.

Keselowski and Busch have been rivals for years. Keselowski wrote about their strained relationship in March 2015. Busch responded a few weeks later and said he was not thrilled with Keselowski’s comments in the blog.

Not to be forgotten, Busch’s teammate, Denny Hamlin, entered the fray on Twitter.

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NASCAR, Twitter team up for on-board camera stream for Cup playoff races

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NASCAR and Twitter are joining together to give fans a unique view of the upcoming Cup Series playoffs.

Beginning with the Sept. 19 race at Chicagoland Speedway, the on-board camera of one car will be live streamed on Twitter in each of the 10 playoffs races.

The stream that can be accessed via NASCAR’s official Twitter handle — @NASCAR — and NASCAR.twitter.com.

The first race, the Tales of the Turtles 400 on NBCSN, will feature the on-board camera on a Toyota.

On the same screen with the live stream will be a real-time curated timeline of Tweets related to NASCAR.

“Through the in-car camera live stream on Twitter, our fans will have another compelling vantage point of the NASCAR Playoffs, where the energy and intensity of stage racing will be elevated to a whole new level,” said Steve Phelps, NASCAR’s executive vice president and chief global sales and marketing officer in a press release. “To provide this level of access on Twitter throughout the 10-week playoffs is a fantastic way to complement the viewing experience on NBC Sports and the NBC Sports app.”

The live stream will be accessible for free for logged-in and logged-out users in the United States via NASCAR’s official Twitter handle and connected devices. Real-time race highlights will also be available on @NASCAR, offering fans additional ways to follow the playoffs at home or on the go.

NASCAR will also debut emojis of all 16 drivers in the playoffs that can be used until each driver is eliminated from the playoffs.

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