Don’t you just love when something innocuous you said or did spirals out of your control? Sometimes, a person misconstrues what you said and it devolves into a shouting match that you desperately want to escape. Other times, your inexperience lands you in hot water, for reasons you don’t understand.
One tweet at Atlanta Motor Speedway plopped me in the latter.
March 4, 2017, I watched the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race from my seat in the media center, roughly 90 minutes after the conclusion of the XFINITY Series race. I wore a Racing Electronics headset to listen to the radio broadcast (as I do when I cover a race at the track). If you listen to an MRN broadcast at the track, you’ll hear the commercial break banter.
During one of the breaks, Mike Bagley says that he received a text message saying that Kyle Busch’s XFINITY car failed post-race inspection. Instinctively, I tweet that breaking news and turn back to the Truck race.
Two or three minutes later, Bob Pockrass walks over to the NASCAR IMC team to ask if what I tweeted was true. I think to myself, “Wait, did I screw something up?” Another minute or two later, Tom Bryant of NASCAR pulls me aside and asks where I got that information. I told him, he made a note and he probably said something else, but I don’t recall.
Now in hindsight, there was nothing to fret over. After all, I had a source for it, and anybody who was at the track, that day, with headsets heard it, too. Put me in that situation again, and I probably don’t break a sweat.
However, I was a 22-year-old guy starting his second season on the beat. I never broke a news story, prior to that. Furthermore, 2016 was a roller coaster of getting myself in trouble a little more than a few times.
So internally, I panic.
My hands shake and my eyes dart around the room. I couldn’t focus on the Truck race or take race notes. I asked Bryant, who sat across from me, if what I tweeted was true. He said NASCAR will reveal XFINITY post-race inspection results after the conclusion of the Truck race.
With the laps winding down, I grab my notepad, put on my headset and walk out to pit road. I figured watching the race on pit road would clear my head, or get my mind off the panic.
Eventually, the official announcement came. I stood by the entrance to the deadline room, packed up and jittery. No joke, if the announcement was that everyone passed, I was getting the hell outta Dodge, going back to Knoxville, Tennessee, and nobody would hear from me, again.
“Post-race inspection for the NASCAR XFINITY Series is complete,” Matt Humphrey, IMC, said. “The 18 car failed.”
I breathed such a sigh of relief, that I almost fell over.
To this day, I don’t understand what I did wrong.
I’ve told this story to several NASCAR writers, and they all told me either that I should’ve asked for confirmation on it from IMC or noted that I heard MRN say this. Yet I also told this same story to several of my sports writing professors at the University of Tennessee, and all of them told me I did nothing wrong.
Eh, c’est la vie.