I've been attending auto races for over 40 years. One of the things that keeps me going back is that it's impossible to predict what might happen. And there may be no better example of that then the Monday into Tuesday morning Daytona 500.
We'll get to the jet dryer fire in a moment. The news Tuesday morning was that NASCAR was considering penalizing driver Brad Keselowski for having a phone with him in his car and tweeting during the two-hour plus red flag delay.
The good news came later Tuesday when NASCAR released a statement saying Keselowski and other drivers can have phones with them in their cars, so long as of course,they don't drive and tweet at the same time. It seems funny to think about that, but yes, on Twitter Tuesday morning some were saying Keselowski was driving 200 mph while he was tweeting. While NASCAR drivers are talented, let's be real, they're not that good.
Keselowski did a good thing by tweeting live updates from the backstretch where the cars were stopped. Drivers were allowed out of their cars, but could not make any alterations to their cars.
Keselowski's popularity soared on twitter as he picked up 55,000 followers in that time period. Before the red flag he was at 85,000 followers and by Tuesday morning the number was over 206,000. Keselowski assured all that he doesn't tweet and drive. He said he keeps his phone in his pocket.
Keselowski won't be a little lighter in the pocket later this week since there is no fine. NASCAR enforced the spirit of the rule, not the letter of the law. It's not as if Keselowski is driving and talking on his phone during the race. It was OK to talk with him about it because this is new territory and good territory for the sport. What Keselowski did Monday night with his red flag tweeting is something a NASCAR marketing executive wishes he or she would have thought of.
It turned what could have been a long and tedious delay into a social media entertainment event.
The bottom line is that he was tweeting to entertain himself and others who could do nothing but watch. The fans loved it. They loved it at the track and the ones watching all over the world loved it, too.
Keselowski was in a win-win situation here. If NASCAR had penalized him, then he would have been loved even more for being treated unfairly. Since they didn't, fans can always ask, "remember the time that Keselowski tweeted during the red flag at Daytona?"
And yes, about that red flag.
One of the most bizarre moments in all of sports occurred with 40 laps remaining Monday night. Juan Pablo Montoya was coming off of pit road alone and speeding to catch the rest of the field. As NASCAR has done for years, jet dryers were on the track to clean off debris, mostly tiny pieces of rubber which come off tires that can make the racing surface just a bit slippery. Montoya had been complaining to his crew about a vibration and they couldn't get it figured out. And now they may never figure it out.
That's because when something broke on Montoya's car as he was accelerating, he lost control of his No. 42 car and slid sideways into one of the jet dryers, turning it into a fireball as about 200 gallons of jet fuel was on board. Luckily no one was hurt.
Then came the red flag delay.
When the race finally restarted there were two more yellow flags for incidents and eventually and maybe appropriately Matt Kenseth won. I say appropriately because he is one of NASCAR's most unassuming drivers who has done his job very well over the years. And I also say appropriately because for years, people will talk about the jet dryer fire, and Keselowski tweeting, and then ask, who won that race? And hopefully they will remember that too in what was an unforgettable night for NASCAR.