The most famous – and at one point, the most powerful – website in NASCAR history started as a class project in a college computer lab.
While learning basic HTML programming in 1996, Jay Adamcyk was assigned to create a web page. Its focus was Ernie Irvan, his favorite NASCAR driver. In the infancy of Internet, it drew many questions from fans interested in the status of other drivers, or the annual movement between teams that is known colloquially as “Silly Season” in NASCAR.
Adamcyk made a chart to track drivers in the Cup Series and rechristened the page as “Jayski’s Silly Season” on Aug. 26, 1996.
“That just frickin’ took off,” Adamcyk recalled during the most recent episode of the NASCAR on NBC Podcast, which catalogs the history of a site that was named multiple times to the Charlotte Observer’s list of the 25 most influential, people, places and things in NASCAR.
By the end of 1996, Jayski.com (which was named after the nickname that Adamcyk had picked up while serving in the U.S. Air Force) was averaging an impressive 5,000 page views daily.
Within five years, it had become the primary clearinghouse for NASCAR news and information (as well as a vast gallery of more than 2,000 paint schemes) and drawn traffic in the seven figures on its most popular days.
Virtually every driver who currently races in NASCAR’s national series was affected by Jayski, whether as the subject of one of its reports or as a valuable resource tool.
“When I found out about Jayski and knew what Jayski was, I was on that thing whether it was daily or weekly,” Kyle Busch said on the podcast. “It was a religion going on there checking it out. My favorite, favorite, favorite time of year was December or January when everyone was coming out with new paint schemes for the next year. I’d go on there every day like, ‘Whose new paint scheme got released today?’”
Kevin Harvick was an admirer of the site but also wary of being connected with it during contract negotiations or team personnel changes.
“Man, a lot of secrets got out,” Harvick said. “For me, when I first started, I used to pull up Jayski every day. That was really where I went to get all my racing news, and as I got further into the sport, I realized that was not the place where I wanted to have my name at was on Jayski unless it was something really good.
“But if there were rumors on there, you knew they were coming from somewhere near your situation because they were usually true. It was a pretty valid place and source of information.”
NASCAR on NBC analyst Jeff Burton recalls that Jayski “was a shit stirrer. That was the site that would print anything, write rumors, if you wanted to hear a rumor that’s where you went. It was not without facts. I’m not saying they were always wrong. But they were willing to print the rumors and talk about the rumors about the sport in general. Driver changes, sponsors changes, crew member changes.
“They seemed to have an in with teams and the willingness to print things that other people wouldn’t print. When I think of Jayski, that’s what I think about. It turned and evolved into much more of a reference.”
During the podcast, Adamcyk recalled receiving 100 tips daily from the NASCAR industry when the site was at its peak (once drawing close to 100 million page views annually in 2005). He also lamented running rumors from sources who later turned out to be incorrect and occasionally angering some prominent people (“Richard Childress wanted to kill me at one time.”).
“When something came out, and it was totally wrong, I was not happy. I was very upset with myself for falling for it. But sometimes it might have been in the works, and then they decided not to do it.”
Jayski.com was acquired by ESPN.com in 2006. A site redesign and the rise of social media (which hampered Jayski’s ability to break news) led to a nearly 30 percent decline in page views. In January, ESPN.com shut down the site but eventually returned its rights to Adamcyk.
The site was relaunched May 13 with its throwback black and yellow background and goofy clip art that harkens to its mid-1990s origins. It also has restored its meticulous archive of paint schemes, which have become one of its primary drivers of traffic.
“It’s been really, really cool,” Adamcyk said of the relaunch. “We were known for being about rumors when we started the site. That’s no longer the case. There’s not a lot of rumors out there now. It’s a whole different world now.
“For a while there, I was wondering how relevant the site was even anymore. When everything went down this year, I guess people still liked us doing it.”