DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – It's a good thing Florida's proposed texting-while-driving ban isn't in effect yet. Brad Keselowski might've gotten a life sentence for what he did at the Daytona 500 on Monday night.
The 28-year-old, perhaps the social media-savviest racer in NASCAR, used a delay from a fiery crash 40 laps from the scheduled finish to tweet from his No. 2 car. First came a grainy picture of the inferno caused when Juan Pablo Montoya spun out and barreled into a track-drying truck and set 200 gallons of jet fuel ablaze. Then Keselowski spent much of the two-hour delay interacting with a group of followers that wouldn't stop growing.
Keselowski, who started the race with around 65,000 followers, more than tripled that number, leaving Daytona International Speedway with more than 200,000. It was the sort of Twitter growth seen recently with just one other athlete: Jeremy Lin.
All but eight of the 43 tweets Keselowski sent from his account – @Keselowski – were retweeted more than 50 times. And it's no surprise. Keselowski isn't just a prolific tweeter. He's good, too.
He was funny: "Maybe the Mayans were right about 2012… " Keselowski tweeted when a fan asked about the oddity of the whole weekend, what with the fire, the rain-delayed start and all of Daytona's other oddities.
He was informative, giving updates from inside and outside of his car on when the race might restart.
He was revealing – or at least he revealed the awful battery life on his iPhone. At 10:08 p.m., it held a 60 percent charge. By 11:30 p.m., it had dipped to 28 percent.
Hey, it was the only one on the track. It was doing some heavy lifting.
"Nobody else has a phone," Keselowski said. "They should get one to see what is going on. They keep making fun for it, but I'm having a good time."
It's nothing new for Keselowski and Twitter. He ran a recent contest for fans to get their Twitter handles on the deck lid of his truck for Friday's truck race at Daytona. Keselowski had come a long way from when he started tweeting to a few hundred people about two years ago.
Since then, Keselowski has become a rather prolific tweeter. He's approaching 5,500 tweets. He's a big night tweeter, according to TwitterCounter, with his most active hour 9 p.m. Other stats from TwitterCounter include his biggest month (August 2011 with 474 tweets), his tweetingest day (Sunday with 842) and preferred method of delivery (phone, and it's not even close).
"That's how Brad is," said Dale Earnhardt Jr., a friend of Keselowski's. "That's what he likes, and that's what he enjoys. I thought it was pretty funny. We did take the phone and put it to good use. We looked up the weather."
For the first time all weekend, they saw clear skies. Of course, that didn't help keep the track any safer. Even before the fire and industrial-laundromat-sized wallop of Tide officials spread on the track, wrecks marred the race. Keselowski had steered clear of them until Lap 187, when he got caught in the ninth of 10 crashes, this one a seven-car pileup on the front stretch that ended his night.
Keselowski finished in 32nd place, his only disappointing number of the night. He noticed how rapidly his Twitter followers had mushroomed and sent a tweet of appreciation out. He was happy for their support, of course, though when asked if he knew how many he had gained, Keselowski made sure to keep his priorities straight.
"A lot," he said. "But I'd take the win first."
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