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Chase Elliott, Bubba Wallace lead Cup drivers in gained Twitter followers in 2018

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We’re now in the final hours of 2018 and as we all reflect on its highs and lows, it’s time to follow-up on one lingering thread from the beginning of the year.

On Jan. 2 we published a post looking at how many Twitter followers each full-time Cup driver had that day.

Now we’ve gone through and tallied up their totals 12 months later.

These numbers come with a bit of an asterisk. In July, Twitter undertook a campaign to purge the social media platform of bot accounts and the accounts of NASCAR drivers and teams were not left untouched.

On Jan. 2, Jimmie Johnson led all full-time Cup drivers with 2,636,014 followers. According to Kickin’ the Tires, Johnson lost roughly 60,000 followers in the purge, putting him at around 2.6 million. At press time on Dec. 31, his follower count had risen to 2,645,151. He’s the only active Cup driver with more than a million followers.

Overall, Chase Elliott and Bubba Wallace had the largest net gains in followers. Elliott added 74,572 followers in the year where he was voted the Cup Series’ Most Popular Driver. Wallace added 57,163 followers in a year where he finished second in the Daytona 500 and was the subject of a Facebook Watch series that documented the build up to his start in the race.

Denny Hamlin saw the largest net loss of followers. On Jan. 2 he had 763,325 followers. Five months after the purge, Hamlin has 721,289 followers for a let loss of just over 42,000 followers.

Here’s each Cup driver’s follower count on Jan. 2 and their count 12 months later (post bot account purge).

 

Driver                     Jan. 2 total                Dec. 31 total

Jimmie Johnson – 2,636,014                    2,645,151 (Net gain of 9,137)

Kasey Kahne – 963,189                             985,387 (Net gain of 22,198)

Kevin Harvick – 954,433                           981,109 (Net gain of 26,676)

Kyle Busch – 899,151                                 897,231 (Net loss of 1,920)

Brad Keselowski – 766,394                       756,456 (Net loss of 9,938)

Denny Hamlin – 763,325                            721,289 (Net loss of 42,036)

Chase Elliott – 733,157                               807,729 (Net gain of 74,572)

Clint Bowyer – 626,345                              666,390 (Net gain of 40,045)

Joey Logano – 472,237                              481,538 (Net gain of 9,301 in title season)

Martin Truex Jr. – 423,074                         446,344 (Net gain of 23,270)

Ryan Newman – 367,002                            360,882 (Net loss of 6,120))

Kyle Larson – 349,659                                395,424 (Net gain of 45,765)

Kurt Busch – 342,699                                 376,789 (Net gain of 34,090)

Jamie McMurray – 317,209                         317,617 (Net gain of 408)

Trevor Bayne – 272,939                              260,528 (Net loss of 12,411)

Austin Dillon – 270,967                                278,484 (Net gain of 7,517)

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – 227,632                    228,456 (Net gain of 824)

AJ Allmendinger – 217,197                           216,738 (Net loss of 459)

Ryan Blaney – 161,730                                 213,678 (Net gain of 51,948)

Ty Dillon – 156,602                                      159,270 (Net gain of 2,668)

Darrell Wallace Jr. – 126,473                      183,636 (Net gain of 57,163)

David Ragan – 121,643                                120,490 (Net loss of 1,153)

Aric Almirola – 112,423                                127,860 (Net gain of 15,437)

Michael McDowell – 88,435                       88,340 (Net loss of 95)

Alex Bowman – 58,194                                77,965 (Net gain of 19,771)

Erik Jones – 53,041                                     68,140 (Net gain of 15,099)

Matt DiBenedetto – 49,495                        59,864 (Net gain of 10,369)

Daniel Suarez – 41,081                                52,589 (Net gain of 11,508)

Chris Buescher – 38,981                             27,868 (Net loss of 11,113)

William Byron – 36,169                                55,416 (Net gain of 19,247)

 and on Facebook

Ryan Blaney thankful for support after Daytona 500 incident

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Ryan Blaney said he didn’t want to talk to many people the night of the Daytona 500 after contact with Ryan Newman triggered Newman’s horrific last-lap crash.

But when Blaney got home, his parents were there.

“That was nice of them to be there,” Blaney said Friday at Auto Club Speedway, the first time he’s talked to the media about the Daytona 500 since that night.  

Blaney was ashen when he spoke briefly to the media after the season-opening Daytona 500. As he spoke, an ambulance drove by on the frontstretch, taking Newman to the hospital.

Blaney was intent on pushing Newman, a fellow Ford driver, to the victory when it became clear to Blaney he could not win the race. But as he pushed Newman coming to the finish, the contact unsettled Newman’s car and it turned right into the outside wall. Newman’s car went airborne and was slammed in the driver side area while upside down by Corey LaJoie.

Newman walked out of a Daytona Beach hospital two days later. Newman said last weekend in a statement that he suffered a head injury but did not disclose any details. He has since been to Roush Fenway Racing to see team members and also did a video for one of the team’s sponsors that day. Newman will not race this weekend, missing his second consecutive race but said in his statement he looks forward to racing again.

MORE: Ryan Blaney talks to Ryan Newman, looks forward to seeing him at track

Blaney said several people helped him in the aftermath of Newman’s accident. All that was known the night of the race was that Newman was in serious condition with a non-life-threatening injury.

Blaney said close friend Bubba Wallace spent time with him the day after the Daytona 500.

“We talked about some stuff,” Blaney said Friday of what he and Wallace did. “I stayed off social media and all that stuff. You have people that aren’t even involved and have never even watched the sport that have their own opinion on bad things.

“The outreach I got from the calls from former drivers and current drivers that week was pretty remarkable. Their support was good. Even though it is unintentional and it is racing, it still takes a toll on you when it is off of your nose. You never want to see anyone get hurt in this sport. We are all competitors, but we are also a big family.

“Ryan and I have gotten along really well and that was just a bad circumstance and it is great that it worked out for the best. It was nice to have the friends and family and drivers and teams (offer their) support. That really helped me out.”

Blaney cited a couple of former drivers whose calls were impactful.

Jeff Burton and Bobby Labonte called me, people that I looked up to a lot as a kid,” Blaney said. “It was neat that they called me and gave me their peace of mind. That was good.”

Friday also marked the first time for Blaney to speak publicly since last weekend’s race at Las Vegas. Blaney led but a late caution changed the race. He and Alex Bowman, running second, were among drivers who pitted. Joey Logano, running third, did not pit, inherited the lead and went on to win. Blaney finished 11th.

Blaney said Friday it took him 10 minutes to get over how that race ended.

“Yeah, it was over,” Blaney said. “Moving on. I went and stayed in a teepee and forgot about it.”

About his experience staying in a teepee, Blaney said:

“I already had that planned no matter what happened. I like camping. I was out on a ranch in the middle of the desert for a couple days and just hanging out and all that stuff. It was fun.”

As for what he did, Blaney said: “Go hiking a little bit. Cook by the fire. Clear your head. It is just relaxing. I have always kind of been that way. It was nice to get out there. I was out there. I had to be out there for Tuesday night anyway and figured I would stay somewhere other than the (Las Vegas) Strip. I can’t do the strip for very long. I wanted to stay somewhere opposite to the Strip.”

Alex Bowman fastest in final Cup practice at Auto Club Speedway

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Alex Bowman completed a sweep of Friday’s Cup Series practice sessions at Auto Club Speedway by posting the top speed in final practice. He was also fastest in first practice.

Bowman’s top speed was 176.626 mph. He recorded 32 laps in the session.

The top five was completed by Ryan Blaney (176.186 mph), Bubba Wallace (176.177), Kurt Busch (175.816) and Christopher Bell (175.695).

Bowman also had the best 10-lap average at 175.317 mph.

Kurt Busch recorded the most laps with 47.

The only incident in the session was defending race winner Kyle Busch brushing the wall in Turn 3 after his car got away from him on the bumps in the corner. Repairs were made to the car and Busch returned to the track with 17 minutes left in the session.

Click here for the speed chart.

 

Alex Bowman tops field in opening Cup practice at Auto Club

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Alex Bowman posted the fastest lap in opening Cup practice Friday at Auto Club Speedway. Bowman ran a top lap of 179.439 mph.

Bowman was followed by Kyle Larson (177.703 mph), Tyler Reddick (177.607), Kurt Busch (177.375) and Matt DiBenedetto (176.609).

Click here for full practice report

There were no incidents in the session.

Final Cup practice is scheduled from 5:35-6:25 p.m. ET today. Qualifying will be Saturday.

Xfinity practice report at Auto Club Speedway

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Harrison Burton was fastest in the final Xfinity Series practice session Friday at Auto Club Speedway.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver recorded 22 laps and posted a top speed of 174.474 mph in the 25-minute session.

The top five was completed by Noah Gragson (173.779 mph), Austin Cindric (173.775), Chase Briscoe (173.578) and Brandon Jones (173.578).

Burton also had the best 10-lap average at 170.422 mph.

Gragson recorded the most laps in the session with 25.

There were no incidents in the session.

Click here for the practice report.

First practice

Noah Gragson led the way for the Xfinity Series in the opening practice session that saw more than half the 50-minute period under caution at Auto Club Speedway

Gragson ran a top lap of 177.139 mph. He was followed by Austin Cindric (176.022), Daniel Hemric (175.400), Brandon Jones (175.366) and Harrison Burton (175.187).

Click here for full practice report

Alex Labbe brought out the caution when an oil line came loose and he put oil down on the track. The cleanup took about 20 minutes.

Tommy Joe Martins brought out the caution late in the session with smoke coming from the car and then a small fire in the right front of the car.