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Brad Keselowski Racing Adds Austin Theriault

Brad Keselowski Racing announced the driver lineup for the No. 29 team on Tuesday morning and it includes a new name.

@AustinTheriault, who spent two seasons with Team BKR as a participant in the team’s driver development program in the Southern Super Late Model Series, will split time in the seat in addition to the return of its 2014 hosts. Theriault is no stranger to the organization, having worked in the team’s shop full-time.

Cooper Standard will return as the primary sponsor for the No. 29. Theriault will share driving duties in the Ford F-150 with team owner Brad @Keselowski, @JoeyLogano and Ryan @Blaney, who used to drive the truck on a full-time basis.

“I’m really, really excited to be coming back to BKR,” Theriault said in a team release. “I’m coming back to where I started as a part of the late model development program. It’s huge for me to be behind the wheel of the Cooper Standard Ford F-150. I’m looking forward to sharing this truck and soaking up as much information as I can from them and being a better driver. BKR is so strong and to be a part of this organization is a humbling opportunity for me.”

The quartet of drivers will attempt to pursue a championship for Team BKR in the No. 29 in the 2015 season. Chad Kendrick will return as crew chief to call the shots from the pit box for the team.

It was previously announced that @TylerReddick will be the full-time driver of the No. 19 for Team BKR. Broken Bow Records and Cequent Performance will share primary sponsorship with Doug Randolph returning as his crew chief. Reddick made some noise last season with bold passes and risky moves which earned him three fourth-place finishes and nine top-10 finishes.

“The way we closed out the 2014 season was quite a statement for us as a team,” Reddick said.  “We were able to do some really good things toward the end of the year.  It was a great way to end the season and keep the momentum rolling into 2015 as we compete for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship.  It’s great to work with everyone at Cequent and Broken Bow Records again this coming season.  I can’t wait to get started.”

Keselowski stated that he is pleased with the lineup this year as well as the direction his organization has been focused on.

“One of the things I wanted to do at BKR is give talented young drivers an opportunity, Keselowski said.  “Both Tyler and Austin are perfect examples of what I’m trying to accomplish. We saw a lot of improvement with Tyler in 2014. He really stepped up his game during the second half of the season and I certainly think he can compete for wins and challenge for a championship in 2015.

“Austin was part of our driver development program so for him to have an opportunity to drive for us in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is pretty special.”

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season begins February 20 at Daytona International Speedway.

EMAIL ANITA AT anita.goodan@popularspeed.com

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Editorial

NASCAR’s Perfect Digital Storm

(EXCLUSIVE ) In a sport where the growth of technology has exploded on track and in the garage, there has also been a perfect storm occurring for NASCAR from a digital perspective. In fact, NASCAR recently achieved the milestone of one billion total page views across its digital platform this past race season.

“It all started with NASCAR making a decision to bring those digital rights back in-house,” Colin Smith, vice president of NASCAR Digital Media, told POPULAR SPEED. “Our partners in that space before were very savvy but their priorities were just a little bit different than ours. We felt that it was too important of an initiative and too important of a communication issue for us to not have complete control over.

“So, when you bring the rights back in-house it just allows you the freedom and flexibility to reinvest back into that platform and do things on an optimization level that maybe another partner has not been able to do for you.”

After achieving the full rights, NASCAR launched their digital presence on January 3, 2013, right in the midst of gearing up for the Daytona 500 and the full year of racing.

“It took us awhile to really get our sea legs and really understand all the capabilities of the platform,” Smith said. “And then we needed an entire year to go through the process to see our strengths and weaknesses, what we were doing well and what needed work.

“So, in the offseason of 2013, we began prepping for 2014. We really saw in the analytics we had that the changes were paying off. And that led to a better user experience which led to more engagement which led to more page views, not only on our dot com platform but also our mobile platform as well.”

After learning lessons from 2013, the perfect digital storm continued with the excitement generated not only by the racing in 2014 but also the brand new Chase format itself.

“With @DaleJr winning the Daytona 500 and a new Chase format, all of those things played into the excitement that the fans had,” Smith said. “And they went to the digital platform to consume as much information as they could on what was happening on track. It was really a perfect storm of things happening on track and insights from prior years that all came together really, really well in 2014.”

From fans to the sanctioning body itself, no one quite knew what to expect with the new way a NASCAR champion would be determined. While this created some challenging moments across the entire company, the perfect storm continued digitally as NASCAR introduced several new initiatives in which fans could participate in a very different way.

“It was year one for us so we really didn’t know what to expect,” Smith said. “Not only was it year one for us from a digital perspective, but it was year one for everybody across the entire company as we completely restructured how the champion was crowned.

“So, we created our own Chase platform from a digital perspective which all came together to create this digital Chase experience.”

“The flagships were these Chase grid games, the Perfect Grid Challenge and the Chase Grid Battle,” Smith continued. “They did very well for us and we saw new registered users coming to play the games. The biggest lesson that we learned, though, is technically the Chase actually begins with the Daytona 500 because if you win, you are in the Chase. We learned that if we actually talked about the Chase even before it started, fans were really engaged with that content.

“So, in 2015 we are going to start a lot earlier in talking up the Chase, as well as talking about drivers’ strategies and what they might do because it was new for them as well.”

The NASCAR Digital Logo (Photo Courtesy of NASCAR)
The NASCAR Digital Logo (Photo Courtesy of NASCAR)

Managing this perfect digital storm takes a full complement of talented staff, from those that engage fans socially to those that handle the digital development and live race day experiences.

“We have a staff of about 75 folks that are dedicated solely to digital,” Smith said. “If you include our social team in that, it’s probably another ten or so folks on top of that. We have a few people that we picked up that were already here at NASCAR. We picked up a handful of people working in the industry in various capacities but we also were fortunate to get a lot of people that had different digital experiences, from sports, retail or entertainment. Everyone brought their expertise and experience into the mix.”

“The team is really split up with half on the front end and half on the back end,” Smith continued. “Our front end is our ad services group, our products team, the social team, the mobile team, and the digital marketing team. And on the back end we have our infrastructure team and our site team and our live race day operations team. We have a handful of developers as well and use a handful of really strong third-party development groups to help us recreate our mobile application live race day experience.

“It’s a lot of people working full-time making sure that digital platform stays stable and healthy.”

Not only has this past year been a perfect digital storm, but NASCAR expects that this will be the way that future generations of fans will interact and consume stock car racing.

“There is no question that this is the future of engaging race fans,” Smith said. “We have heard from a lot of folks out of NASCAR that their kids enjoy interacting with the sport through things like our RaceView mobile app. They rarely watch a race without having that mobile application up and running side by side and clicking around to find out all the information we provide on the individual drivers.

“There is no question that the next gen fan and that more diverse next gen fan will be reached through these digital components.”

For the upcoming year, NASCAR is working digitally with several partners on two other initiatives that will continue to engage fans through technology, including fantasy products and live streaming of races.

“We’ve spent a lot of time working on our fantasy products,” Smith said. “It’s a very active group for us. It’s not as large as other leagues like the NFL but it is very competitive with the others. What we’ve learned is that the user base is by far our most active users. They are constantly consuming information about the sport and drivers. They will take as much information as we can give them.

“Building fantasy is more than just supplying a need for the avid fans. It’s a great way to get more casual fans involved too. We’re actually rebuilding our Streak to the Finish platform so fans can jump in and out during the season. We are also making it more mobile friendly so you can pull out your smart phone and be done in a short period of time.

“There are definitely opportunities out there and I feel like we’re right on the edge of fantasy becoming a lot bigger in our sport than it is today.”

“Starting in 2015, both Fox Sports and NBC Sports will be live streaming the races as well on their platforms,” Smith continued. “You will have the ability to authenticate yourself and have that package and you will be able to live stream the race to your tablet, smart phone or other mobile device.”

“We also have our Race View product which is the virtual representation of the race. We call it our super product because it’s filled with information, driver telemetry, live in-car audio and track positioning. We find a lot of people access that content on race day as well. There are a pretty strong complement of products to enhance that race day experience.”

Another major initiative in NASCAR’s perfect digital storm for 2015 is working with the tracks themselves to ensure that fans can access and utilize all of this new technology now available to them.

“That’s probably one of the three biggest things that NASCAR as an industry is working on,” Smith said. “Connectivity at track in a way that fans can go and access not only NASCAR’s digital platform but if they are a fan of other sports, their team’s platform as well. And they want to be connected so they can upload pictures of their experiences, as well as keeping in touch with families and friends while at track.

“There is a ton of activity happening at the track level and at the league level to enhance that experience. It starts with connectivity but there is also the fan experience overall, such as the Daytona Rising project, which is best in class as well.”

So, will this perfect digital storm continue as NASCAR gears up for the 2015 season that will kick in just a few short weeks? According to Smith, an avid race fan himself, there is no doubt about it.

“Fans can expect to see new site experiences, a richer gaming platform, educational tools to learn more about the sport, and more detailed stats and live analysis around the racing action in 2015,” Smith said. “We are looking forward to building on this momentum in the upcoming race season.”

EMAIL MARY JO AT mj.buchanan@popularspeed.com

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Categories
News

Jones Joins GMS Racing for 16 Truck Series Events

GMS Racing announced on Monday, January 12th that @BrandonJonesRac will run 16 races behind the wheel of the No. 33 Chevrolet Silverado in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Jones joins@23SpeedRacer as part of the team’s driver lineup for the 2015 season.

“I’m happy to be back with GMS Racing for the 2015 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season,” Jones commented. “We ran well in my two previous starts with the team, and GMS Racing had strong runs throughout the 2014 season.

“Having the opportunity to run with GMS Racing is an awesome opportunity. I cannot wait to continue my development with the team.”

The Atlanta, Georgia native will make his first start of the season at Martinsville Speedway in March, with Shane Huffman calling the shots. The pair worked together last year in the pair of starts that Jones made for GMS. Jones posted a 32nd in his team debut at Martinsville, followed by a 12th place finish at Phoenix International Raceway.

Jones made a total of five Truck Series starts last year, with a season-high fourth place finish at Dover International Speedway for Turner-Scott Motorsports. He also ran the full NASCAR K&N Pro East Series schedule, finishing fourth in the point standings with a victory at Iowa Speedway, 11 top-fives, and 11 top-10 finishes.

“To be able to bring Brandon Jones on is just a thrill, and we are very excited for what he brings to our driver lineup,” Nic Moncher, GMS Racing team manager, said. “We look forward to watching his development in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series this season as he embarks on the next step in his career.”

It was announced in November that Jones will run select races for Richard Childress Racing in the XFINITY Series, behind the wheel of the No. 33 Chevrolet in a ride that will be shared by Jones, Austin Dillon, and Paul Menard.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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