An Honest Mid-Season Review

As difficult as it is to believe, half of the 2017 NASCAR season’s already complete.

So how have I done so far?

Solid, if unspectacular.

As I’ve told you all before, I’m consistent in both goal-setting and openness about said goals. In fact, going into 2017 I shared my goals (both racing and non-racing) in an article on here.

One important factor in setting and meeting goals is finding time to go through, evaluate and potentially alter your planned achievements based on your performance to date and realistic outlook for the future.

I don’t set any guaranteed time to go through my goals, but the midway point of the season seems as good as any time to do it, and given that I feel the hopeless tinge of insomnia setting in for the next few hours I may as well do something productive with my time.

That said, let’s get into it.

First, a quick caveat: I am my own worst critic. I know and accept this. Understand that I look upon myself critically knowing that it fosters creativity and drive within me. I’m raw and honest because it works.

These were my racing goals going into 2017, per the piece linked above.

  1. Post Consistent Content
  2. Cover at least 15 NASCAR weekends
  3. Be unafraid and vocal at the race track, asking questions and engaging in discussion where appropriate.
  4. Grow my social audiences (2,000 Twitter followers, 250 Facebook likes) and find unique ways to engage on various social media.

I’ll break down each goal one-by-one with a grade, and follow up with an overall grade and commentary.

Goal 1: Post Consistent Content

Grade: B-

I’m better than some in this regard, but still have improvements to make.

One of my goals in coming to Kickin’ the Tires this year was to find a way to create consistent content, preferably with a few set weekly features along with news coverage, storytelling and columns as time allows.

I’ve found a few unique pieces to make that contribute to the sport. My best move to date has been becoming a bit of a point standings specialist, covering both the playoff picture and stage points each week in my Playoff Points” pieces. I’ve also managed to write at least one column each week for one outlet or another.

Where I’m noticing struggles are in daily news coverage and storytelling.

There’s no way around this — for right now, covering racing isn’t my full-time profession. I work 40 hours per week at a day job, far removed from the racing world.

This makes finding time to post news and craft unique stories difficult.

I feel that I do a better job of making sure news is covered on-site than just about any other “citizen journalist” out there, but I often lag behind the full-time beat reporters whose jobs allow them to cover news as it happens.

I also find my overall lack of free time costs me the opportunity to tell as many stories as I’d like.

In truth I feel that I’m in a bit of a predicament on this — I need the time of an actual job in the sport to handle these sorts of stories, but need to be able to handle the stories quickly to get the job in the first place.

C’est la vie, I suppose.

I’ll keep trying to get better.

Goal 2: Cover at least 15 NASCAR weekends

Grade: D

Welp. This goal blew up in my face.

I entered this weekend with grand ambitions to cover 15 NASCAR weekends, becoming somewhat of a beat reporter to justify the faith both NASCAR themselves and Kickin’ the Tires owner Jerry Jordan placed in me this year.

But a few things have worked against me.

First, real life has gotten in the way. My plan to cover the spring race at Atlanta Motor Speedway was undone by a sudden scheduled Saturday at my day job, and the first race at Bristol Motor Speedway proved unworthy of the eight-hour drive when heavy rains postponed the race to Monday when I had work.

I also missed Talladega Superspeedway, solely because I failed to prepare for it.

Due to these missed races, I’ve made only four NASCAR weekends — the Daytona 500 and races at Martinsville Speedway, Michigan International Speedway and Kentucky Speedway.

I’ve been absent from three planned races outright, and missed a planned trip to Charlotte Motor Speedway due to an unexpected opportunity to cover the Indianapolis 500.

So unless I can cover 11 of the final 18 race weekends, I’m out of luck.

There are excuses to be made, but I needed to be better than this. This is a major opportunity for improvement moving forward. I apologize to those of you who expected me at more races.

Goal 3: Be vocal at the track

Grade: C

I’m still not where I want to be on this, but I’m getting better.

Let me get one myth out of the way early: I’m not afraid to talk to any of the drivers, teams, etc. In fact, I’ve lobbied in the past to gain one-on-one interviews with some of the top figures in the sport, though their PR reps (rightfully) refused my requests because I hadn’t yet earned them.

My only real problem here is that I’m too quiet when I’m with the group.

I often find that I’m not vocal during media availabilities, and on pit road after the race. I feel this hurts my credibility within the media center due to my perceived fear or lack of knowledge.

I take pride in the fact that the few questions I do ask tend to yield decent answers. I’ve also noticed that the questions I have in my mind are often ones asked by some of the veteran journalists within the media center.

My mindset and questions are fine. I just need to actually ask them.

Goal 4: Grow My Social Audiences

Grade: C+

I’m getting there. Sort of.

My Twitter followers weren’t on-pace to meet this mark until last weekend, when I got what new followers referred to as the ‘Gluck bump’ — an unexpected benefit of writing for someone with 163,000 followers.

My Facebook audience, on the other hand, has stagnated to the point that I’m considering deleting my page and not wasting my time on it.

As for the content itself, my success varies by social medium.

Twitter’s my go-to, and my followers tell me I use it well, though I feel I’m a bit inconsistent. Instagram serves just one purpose — sharing interesting photos from a race weekend — and people seem to like it. Snapchat is pretty exclusively for Spectacles, though I don’t use it enough, and I’ve gotten rid of all other social media.

My biggest opportunities here lie in stories on both Snapchat and Instagram, as well as a potential new venue for audio in Anchor. I’m currently researching ideas to use these effectively without too much effort.

Overall Grade: C+

I won’t lie, I still have a long way to go. But the good news is that I’m getting there.

My writing steadily improves with each piece I write, and I’ve noticed over the course of the year that my follower base is steadily increasing.

I‘ve also begun to see the quality and quantity of writing options I’ve been presented with increase. What started as a small blog written for fun has turned into a handful of legitimate, paid opportunities in front of increasingly large audiences.

I don’t take those opportunities for granted. They’ve come because of the incredible support offered to me by everyone I’ve worked with along the way, along with everyone that continues to read and engage with the things I churn out.

Instead they’ve had the opposite effect on me. Getting a small taste of what a full-time effort in the sport consists of has increased my urge to work in motorsports.

I feel more motivated than ever to keep improving, to find ways to show that I deserve an opportunity to follow this crazy racing circus full-time.

My biggest opportunities moving forward are obvious. I need to be more consistent with my content, continue to make it to the race track and, on a different note, make sure my writing in clean and error-free — an issue I’ve unfortunately been prone to in small spurts due to typos and mistaken math in Microsoft Excel.

I’ve come a long way. If I can make a few more minor improvements, there could just be a future for me in this sport.

Thanks for all of your support and feedback. Keep it coming.

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