After Best Career Performance Richard Childress’ Star Elaborates on How to Avoid the Noah Gragson Fate

Published 10/25/2023, 6:07 PM EDT

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When social media platforms exploded in the early 2000s, sporting personalities jumped to cash in on the marketing opportunity. With over 300 million users in the United States this year, it became imperative for racers to create an effective social media presence. One of the most popular NASCAR drivers, Dale Earnhardt Jr had 2.5 million followers on Twitter. But his recent podcast guest was extremely wary of the perils that came along with it.

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The suspension of rookie Cup racer Noah Gragson has probably made several drivers hesitant about utilizing the interactive platform. Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Hill merely solidified his prior resolve.

Richard Childress Racing’s playoff driver feels it’s easy to get in trouble on social media

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Brad Keselowski became a pioneer in advancing NASCAR’s social media interest in 2012 when he live-tweeted during the Daytona 500. By recording the crash-halted race on his iPhone, the driver gained 100,000 followers in a single day. Two years later, another Daytona 500 launched Dale Earnhardt Jr’s Twitter account in celebration of the Hall of Famer’s sensational win. But as usage increased, so did its consequences. In 2016, Bubba Wallace was fined $15,000 for calling race officials ‘muppets’ in a controversial tweet. Brad Keselowski himself was fined $25,000 for tweeting in a later race. Recently, Richard Childress’ team was condemned by the racing fandom for posting a release of their active driver, Sheldon Creed, mid-season.

In light of all this, Childress’ driver Austin Hill, who stands at a career-best 4th place in the driver playoff table, was extremely mindful of the repercussions of one wrong social media interaction. On the brink of qualifying for the final race, the racer also received the sports authority’s message loud and clear when Gragson’s former team, Legacy Motor Club, and NASCAR suspended Noah Gragson for liking an inappropriate post online.

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Determined to steer clear of these situations, RCR’s #21 driver explained his stance in the Dale Jr Download. Hill said, “I’m not really on social media much. I’m not the guy that really cares if people know that I race. I don’t know, it’s just not been my forte.” When Dale Jr pointed out Hill’s own Twitter account, Hill clarified, “I run my own deal but I don’t tweet much. People try to tell me all the time that I need to tweet more, but I just feel like it’s very easy to get into trouble doing that and the last thing I want to do is say the wrong thing. You see it all the time.”

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Interestingly, NASCAR’s social media trailblazer was also forced to alter his stance over time.

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While Richard Childress dealt with the Sheldon Creed incident, his #21 driver preferred to stay away from the social media limelight. After his elimination from the Round of 8 last year, Austin Hill came back stronger to attain 4 wins this season. His focus was the season’s championship, and he would not want to attract any controversy that could derail his career.

Despite the revocation by NASCAR, Noah Gragson’s future remains uncertain. Following his replacement by Legacy Motor Club, the driver went back on social media to take responsibility for his actions. But as rapidly as content changes on the platforms, the original action does not become any less permanent. Once uttered, the transgression is forever etched on the web, available to be discovered years down the line.

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Even social media savant Brad Keselowski learned that lesson. Whether it was the added responsibility of being a team owner or the protective instincts of a parent, Keselowski drastically changed his tune in the past few years. Still a regular user, Brad Keselowski gained renewed awareness about the durability of social media activity. Particularly when it came to his young daughters.

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Speaking to Deb Williams of autoweek.com, the RFK Racing owner cautioned, “It’s a different era to grow up in knowing that whatever you do is permanent and won’t disappear. You want them to understand that. Humans learn from their mistakes. Social media has made it to the point where those mistakes don’t ever go away.” In these circumstances, Austin Hill’s aversion to social media usage was understandable. Perhaps his team would harbor caution before posting in haste next time. 

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Written by:

Parika Singh

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Parika Singh is a NASCAR Author at EssentiallySports. Her combined love for writing and motorsports drew her to the world of sports journalism, where she fell in love with the thrill, unpredictability, and charisma of covering racers and race tracks. Her stories have the right blend of research and storytelling that really make her stand out as a Motorsports Journalist.
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Edited by:

Ranvijay Singh

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