Today, we focus on ESPN NASCAR reporter Marty Smith.
Smith is the lead reporter for ESPN2’s daily NASCAR news and information program NASCAR Now and his reports also appear on SportsCenter, ESPNEWS and other platforms. The Southwest Virginia native also writes about NASCAR for ESPN.com.
An active user of Twitter, Smith has gained a following of more than 30,000 with not only his news and views on NASCAR, but also with his humor on such topics dear to his heart as Virginia Tech football, country music and his family.
Twitter handle: @MartySmithESPN
ESPN Job: NASCAR reporter
Followers: 32,487 (as of 8/8/11)
FR: Who is your favorite person to follow on Twitter?
Smith: Kevin Harvick (@KevinHarvick) and his manager, Josh Jones (@Mother_Function). They mercilessly bust each other’s chops, and it is quality humor. They had a prank war recently, and Harvick bought a roadside billboard on I-40 near Winston-Salem, N.C., and posted a photo of Jones wearing an elf suit. The billboard broadcasted Jones’ Twitter handle to the world, too. Hilarious! I also enjoy following ESPN The Magazine Senior Writer Ryan McGee (@RyanMcGeeESPN). He’s my boy, and makes me laugh out loud about three times a day. I respect his work. No one is more knowledgeable about NASCAR racing and its history. (And that’s to say nothing about his insight on college football and baseball). We’re both rednecks from the country, and our followers call us the Duke Boys, after Bo and Luke Duke from The Dukes of Hazzard.
FR: Who is the one person you follow on Twitter you would want to write a NASCAR Now lead-in for you?
Smith: Definitely not Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson). He can’t spell “cat.” He’s one of the best drivers ever, but those 14-year olds at the Scripps National Spelling Bee would have a field day with him. If I could pick one person, I’d want it to be country music singer Blake Shelton (@BlakeShelton), because he’s hilarious and just doesn’t care.
FR: What NASCAR driver uses Twitter most effectively and why?
Smith: Impossible question, because so many use it well. Johnson has completely changed his image through Twitter. On TV and in print media, fans have always seen Johnson as vanilla, boring, ho-hum, unwilling or unable to step outside the corporate spokesman time-capsule. Through Twitter, he’s totally open to showing his true personality, which, for the record, is a smart aleck. Jeff Gordon (@JeffGordonWeb) is great, and uses the platform to converse with fans and give away items fans love. Harvick, too, uses Twitter very well to discuss his opinions on the goings on of NASCAR racing, the hot topics of the day and his mastery of mind games with competitors. He’s the king of one-liners, and his ongoing antics with Jones keep the NASCAR industry in stitches. Brad Keselowski (@BradKeselowski) is quite open to conversing with fans on Twitter regarding controversial topics, and uses the platform to do so. He’s great. But our guys have to be very careful. Denny Hamlin was once the best driver on Twitter… Then NASCAR slapped him with a $50,000 fine for speaking his mind. Game off. I wish we could get Clint Bowyer on Twitter. That guy is a riot.
FR: Who is the most interesting person who follows you on Twitter?
Smith: [Actress] Angie Harmon (@angie_harmon). We’ve been friends for a while now. She’s the heat, and loves NASCAR racing. She’s a super-fan, man. It’s scary sometimes.
FR: If you could add any one person as a Twitter follower, who would it be?
Smith: My mom — Joy M. Smith. She would be really proud of what I’ve made of myself, and she’d love to have a real-time log of my life.
FR: What’s been your strangest exchange on Twitter?
Smith: I was bored one day, having drinks with my brothers-in-law, contemplating how amazing Tom Petty is. And then I thought, well, my kids don’t even know who Tom Petty is. But yet, they know every single word of the Go Diego Go jingle verbatim. So I posted on Twitter, “Imagine if you were the guys that sang the Go Diego Go jingle.” I do that often, contemplate other folks’ professions or accomplishments, just to see how people will react. Well, the guy that wrote the Go Diego Go jingle wrote me back. He was ticked off initially. He thought I was mocking him, and demanded an explanation. Weird. Really weird.
FR: Why do you use Twitter?
Smith: Myriad reasons. To debate racing with fans. To share my passion for music, sports, kids, life, with followers. To disseminate my work on ESPN. No medium has changed reporters’ jobs like Twitter has. It is a real-time news feed, and the immediacy it provides consumers has really ratcheted up a reporter’s timetable. It also allows me to keep up with people I admire, be it other reporters, singers, athletes, politicians, businesses, whatever.