DARLINGTON | From Tweet-Ups to YouTube ads, chasing the fan vote for a NASCAR All-Star spot has gone viral.
Richard Petty Motorsports teammates A.J. Allmendinger and Elliott Sadler took part in Twitter gatherings at Darlington in which fans waved signs urging others to vote their driver into the May 22 race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Martin Truex Jr. has a series of YouTube spots for his "Tried and Truex" campaign.
And social media sites are filled with race teams not yet in the elite field attempting to get out the vote.
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"If you're lucky enough and your fans vote you in," Clint Bowyer says, "that is awesome."
It can also be lucrative.
Kasey Kahne had missed all chances to make the All-Stars in 2008 and was on his way home when he learned he'd won the fan vote.
The result? Kahne won the All-Star race, $1 million and a 10-year exemption into the event. He also parlayed the momentum into a Coca Cola 600 victory a week later.
"I love it," Kahne said of the vote. "Hey, the weekend is all about the fans."
Drivers who've won a Sprint Cup race in the past year, former NASCAR champions and past All-Star winners make the exclusive field.
The top two finishers in the preliminary Showdown race also advance to the final field. The last spot goes to the leading fan vote-getter from those not already in and who also finished the Showdown.
As of May 4, the top 10 — which NASCAR gives in alphabetical order to preserve the suspense — were Allmendinger, Marcos Ambrose, Greg Biffle, Bowyer, Jeff Burton, Carl Edwards, Juan Pablo Montoya, Sadler, Truex and Michael Waltrip.
Voting continues until an hour before the All-Star race.
"I think the fan vote is a great thing," Bowyer said. "It is a great tool to get the fans involved."
And websites such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have given NASCAR teams a new network to tap into their fans' passion for everything racing.
Sadler's Twitter entry Monday began: "Nice day in VA! It's a perfect day to pick up your Sprint phone and vote me into the allstar race."
Truex has a video pitch, which made its debut last week ahead of the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.
He's seen in the Michael Waltrip Racing race shop sneaking a T-shirt with his "Tried and Truex" slogan over a life-sized mannequin. Another has Truex outside Mac's Speedshop in Cornelius, N.C., slipping campaign fliers under windshield wipers of parked cars.
"It's fun," Truex said. "It kind of gives fans an inside look at what we do. It's really been well received."
Not all drivers in contention are happy about it. Jeff Burton hasn't won since Charlotte in 2008 and only has Sunday's race at Dover to join the All-Stars the way he wants.
"It is embarrassing that we are not in it," Burton said. "I'm not going to go politicking to get in."
That hasn't stopped Richard Childress Racing from pitching Burton's case to fans.
RCR spokeswoman Christine Brownlow says the team keeps the names of Burton and Bowyer out front as often as possible. "Obviously, it's a big deal for our sponsors to get our cars in the All-Star race," she said. "I have a lot of fans say they see updates and vote every hour."
Burton, whose first NASCAR win came 13 years ago, says he doesn't go on Twitter or Facebook. "There might be some tweeting going on, but it isn't coming from me, how's that?" he said.
Still, Burton says he would be pleased if he were picked.
Greg Biffle enjoys the interaction and immediacy of the modern media. "It's amazing the reaction you get," he says.
Biffle recalled recently tweeting a picture of a rattlesnake found on his mountain property in West Virginia. "Then 10,000 people see it within five minutes. ..." Biffle said. "It's amazing how stuff travels today."
Not that Biffle's got it all figured out.
"I'm a real novice. People come up to me and say, 'You won't accept me as your (Facebook) friend,'" he said. "I'm like, 'You know I like you.'"
Some in NASCAR can tweet too much. Darrell Waltrip recently apologized for scooping Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s announcement he'd drive the No. 3, a number made famous by his late father, in the Nationwide Series race at Daytona in July.
"DW twitters more than anybody," Allmendinger said with a laugh.
Sadler's Tweet-Up raised several hundred dollars for flood relief in Tennessee.
Allmendinger — AJDinger on Twitter — took part in a social media event about four hours before Darlington's start. He spoke with the couple of hundred fans who attended, and was even snapped working a DJ's turntables — which, of course, was chronicled on Twitter.
Sometimes, Allmendinger wonders if it's all too much. "Does anybody want to hear that I took my dog for a walk? I guess they do," he said.
Allmendinger, however, knows keeping them posted on everything might be the difference between racing in Charlotte or sitting on the All-Star sidelines.
"Kasey showed two years ago that all you got to do is get in the race and you have a chance," Allmendinger said.