We are living in some unprecedented times. In fact, we have never seen a situation like the one we are currently enduring with COVID-19. Daily lives are being disrupted, schools are out of session, workers being laid off and sports are not being played. So much of our life as we know it is being taken away for the time being.
Fan Interaction aplenty Despite Unprecedented Times
When NASCAR announced that it had planned to run the races at Atlanta Motor Speedway last week and at Homestead Miami Speedway this weekend with out any fans, the wind blew right out of the sails. Drivers didn’t like it, obviously fans didn’t like it and NASCAR was put in the tough spot of what to do just like any major sporting league. Ultimately, NASCAR made the right choice, they made the best decision for the industry and the fans. As we learned on Monday, NASCAR has taken further steps in the combatting of COVID-19. In a release on Monday, the league has decided to hold off on racing until May 3rd weekend.
Despite the bad news and fans not being at the track, everyone is making light of the tough situation.
Lemons Into Lemonade
We use the phrase ‘turn lemons into lemonade’ when we are dealt a bad hand. With the wide-spread COVID-19 and the shut down of every major sporting event including NASCAR, drivers are still using fan interaction. As we know, NASCAR was built on fan interaction and is a big part of the sport still to this day.
Many fans were upset with the decision to eliminate fans from the race weekend due to the virus, but NASCAR had no choice. Some fans use a race weekend as their vacation time and spend their yearly savings for that one race. The chance to run them at another date is huge and gives the fans hope.
Even drivers weren’t happy with the choice of no fans. Thankfully, we never experienced what that was going to be like. Driver of the Chip Ganassi Racing #1 Kurt Busch took to Instagram following the decision to cancel the races and stated that race fans are the reason why they do what they do.
“It wouldn’t have made sense to race the race with no fans. You race fans are the reason why we’re able to go out and race,” Busch said in his Instagram post.
Since there has been no racing, drivers have ‘turned lemons into lemonade’ with fan interaction. Many have gone on to iRacing and others have used the digital signature to help fill the void for those unable to make it to the track and wait out this period together.
Nascar drivers, crew chiefs and spotters as well as many others took to the iRacing Replacements 100 on Sunday. The platform has given drivers a chance to engage with fans and keep that fan interaction at an all time high. Many of the drivers in the online race promoted the event and helped see nearly 20,000 people tune into the event.
Ryan Blaney’s spotter Josh Williams was the victor of the event. It was a dark day for NASCAR fans with no live racing on television. This event was the closest thing and they certainly turned out.
Online Racing continues to be a big piece in how fans interact with drivers. On Tuesday night, race fans can get their next taste of racing by tuning into the Nascar eRacing Series event that is being held.
Fan Interaction With Digital Signatures
When going to races as a kid, you wanted to have that autograph of your favorite driver. Many of the drivers during this time off have used Twitter and other platforms to sign pictures for fans using the digital signature. This opened up a whole new wave of fan interaction and the race fans loved every minute of it.
Xfinity Series driver Tommy Jo Martins did this on his Twitter page. Many fans would send him pictures of his old cars that he drove and other pictures they hadof him. Martins in return would sign the photos and then he told stories about the cars he drove.
If you’ve got any pics of my racecars through the years, reply to this with the pic & I’ll sign it. pic.twitter.com/txw8z3fh8q
— Tommy Joe Martins (@TommyJoeMartins) March 13, 2020
One of the best tweets Martins released was a photo from a car he drove at Road America and mentioned how bad of a car it was. He states that he bought the car but didn’t know what to do with it. He turned it into a road course car and still couldn’t drive it.
If y’all wanna see the worst car I’ve ever driven here it is. Road America 2014. We called this car Towmater. First gen COT car that couldn’t turn in a 40 acre field. Pretty sure we had a 12:1 steering box on it, too. Absolutely awful. https://t.co/aldYg3LukE
— Tommy Joe Martins (@TommyJoeMartins) March 14, 2020
As Martins mentioned, Hailie Deegan used it first and turned out to be a success. It is that type of fan interaction that makes NASCAR one of the most fun and family friendly sports in the world. The access they get at the track and now the access off of it is unparalled, especially in a crisis like this. How cool for fans to have the chance to talk with their favorite driver and hear stories like the ones of Martins?
For some drivers they chose to spend the off time with family. Aric Almirola posted to his Twitter account on Sunday that his family was getting their racing fix in as well. Except on… Mario Kart. The video shows his family wearing old racing helmets and racing in Mario Kart.
Getting our racing fix on despite the next two races being postponed.
— Aric Almirola (@Aric_Almirola) March 14, 2020
The fans get to see the personal side to the drivers in an bigger light because of this. Fan interaction is important and they are staying connected despite not being at the track to watch the stars shine.
We will get through this situation and racing will continue. Fans will keep going to tracks and cheering for their racer and drivers will continue to sign autographs. But it’s the fan interaction in the toughest of times that people will remember the most. Thankfully, fans and drivers alike have made lemons out of lemonade in a tough spot for the sport.