Ryan Blaney unfazed by Twitter emoji on his car; others aren't so sure

LAS VEGAS -- Ryan Blaney has enjoyed some of the social media commentary about the face that is on a decal on the side of his NASCAR Cup Series car.

The image was supposed to be just a simple Twitter emoji. All but one of the 16 playoff drivers now have these emojis on the side of their cars for the playoffs, which open Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

"I've gotten [that my emoji looks like] Tom Selleck to the dude from Dodgeball to Burt Reynolds and stuff," Blaney said with a laugh Friday after qualifying. "I didn't really know they were going to be on the cars when we created that. It's a little bit out there but it's nice."

NASCAR fans who like their paint schemes don't appear to be embracing the new decals, if social media is any indication. Even driver Bubba Wallace said having a Twitter logo and #NASCARPlayofs on his car might be a little bit much, and Kyle Larson concurred that maybe the decals were a little big.

So what's the deal with these emjois-turned-decals? It's all about a new revenue stream teams hope to take advantage of in the coming years.

NASCAR is phasing out the sticker program that features decals of companies that sponsor various season awards, commonly called contingency awards. NASCAR is selling those companies social and digital assets instead of sticker placement on the cars.

That frees up the front side panels of the cars to the teams. The Race Team Alliance, a coalition of team owners, is looking to sell sponsorship for all of its members -- trying to use the power of having 30 or so cars to make more money than an individual team can command.

But the RTA needed a valuation of what that area on the car is worth, so it worked a deal with NASCAR and Twitter to use emojis of the playoff drivers and playoff hashtags in that space. Drivers not in the playoffs use the Twitter bird logo.

The decals had to be big enough so that TV could capture the image and the RTA then can get an estimated amount of media exposure when it goes to sell sponsorship.

"We're thrilled to work with Twitter and the race teams to bring this activation to life on the race cars for fans in attendance and those watching the NASCAR playoffs," NASCAR chief marketing officer Jill Gregory said.

Some drivers had certain designs made. Alex Bowman has an image of a Corvette he owns and he jokingly has rookie stripes -- he's not a rookie but many fans think he is because it is his first year at an elite team -- on his car.

Other drivers have their own logo they use on their merchandise as their emoji.

"I like my logo a little better than most -- at least it goes with our car a little bit," Austin Dillon said. "Twitter is such a powerhouse when it comes to media, it's cool to see it on all the 16 playoff cars. That's an extra bonus to be in the playoffs."

The drivers without their faces on their car seem to be happy.

"Is the Ryan Blaney one, is that supposed to be him or is it supposed to be somebody else?" Logano said. "They missed it by just a little. He looks really cool [though] with the mustache and everything."

The only playoff driver without a Twitter emoji is defending champion Martin Truex Jr., whose team owner Barney Visser is not a member of the RTA. Truex is using the space for a teal ribbon to represent his foundation's work to support ovarian cancer research.