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Brian Lawdermilk | Getty Images
Brian Lawdermilk | Getty Images

Fabricating rivalries entirely from hard data: Twitter mentions

It’s true: people on the Internet like to make up baseless drama, twisting quotes and stirring false tension in search of clicks. As such, we’ve fabricated some potential rivalries of our own ahead of the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season — based entirely on drivers’ Twitter interactions with each other.

First, we mapped out a list of every possible driver-to-driver Twitter mention combination and arranged them all into a massive 31-by-31 table — the lone exclusion Twitter-less Paul Menard, since he’s probably brooding in a dark forest thinking about the end of Sunday’s Advance Auto Parts Clash instead of tweeting selfies.

MORE: Menard irked by Jimmie Johnson’s driving | Full ‘Clash’ results

Using Twitter’s advanced search, we manually scoured each of the 961 combinations, marking whether each driver made even a single tweet at any point mentioning each of their fellow drivers.

A time-consuming process? You bet. But, it helped us — the pot-stirrers on the Internet — do what we do best: artificially concoct conflict. For that reason, it was all totally worth it and absolutely necessary.

Will any of this result in the next Brad Keselowski vs. Kyle Busch relationship? Nobody knows. Let’s first take a look at who’s popping up on everybody’s radars.

 

Most popular drivers (by their peers’ Twitter mentions):

Typically, the most popular driver is one determined by fan votes. However, thank to our data-gathering exercise, we’ve determined which drivers are favored among their peers, at least when measured by Twitter mentions.

  • Kyle Busch (mentioned by 30 of 30 drivers)
  • Kyle Larson (30 of 30)
  • Austin Dillon (30 of 30)
  • Ryan Blaney (29 of 30) — except Chris Buescher
  • Kevin Harvick (28 of 30) — except Daniel Suarez and Chris Buescher
  • Brad Keselowski (28 of 30) — except Ryan Newman and Chris Buescher
  • Denny Hamlin (28 of 30) — except Ryan Newman and Ty Dillon
  • Clint Bowyer (28 of 30) — except Alex Bowman and Ryan Newman
  • Jimmie Johnson (28 of 30) — except Ryan Newman and Ty Dillon
  • Joey Logano (27 of 30) — except William Byron, Chris Buescher, and Ty Dillon
  • Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (27 of 30) — except Chase Elliott, Ryan Newman, and Matt Tifft
  • Bubba Wallace (27 of 30) — except Martin Truex Jr., Aric Almirola, and Ryan Newman

 

Least popular drivers (by their peers’ Twitter mentions):

And, yeah, that goes both ways. The results of analyzing this particular set of data seems pretty accurate, considering the infamously difficult-to-pass Ryan Newman was mentioned by less than half of his fellow drivers on Twitter.

  • Matt Tifft (mentioned by 8 of 30 drivers)
  • Ryan Newman (13 of 30)
  • Ryan Preece (13 of 30)
  • Alex Bowman (15 of 30)
  • Chris Buescher (16 of 30)
  • Landon Cassill (16 of 30)
  • Michael McDowell (17 of 30)
  • Daniel Hemric (18 of 30)
  • William Byron (19 of 30)
  • Corey LaJoie (19 of 30)

It appears like the 2019 rookies — Matt Tifft, Ryan Preece, and Daniel Hemric — have their work cut out for themselves this season to attract the attention of their fellow drivers.

 

Most likely to mention peers:

Sometimes, it’s nice to try to be friends with as many competitors as possible. Based solely on Twitter mention data, these are the drivers most likely to cast a wide net reaching out to competitors on Twitter. Nothing wrong with that.

  • Landon Cassill (mentioned 29 of 30 drivers) — except Ryan Newman
  • Brad Keselowski (28 of 30) — except Alex Bowman and Matt Tifft
  • Erik Jones (28 of 30) — except Chris Buescher and Michael McDowell
  • Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (27 of 30) — except Ryan Newman, Matt DiBenedetto, and Matt Tifft
  • Michael McDowell (27 of 30) — except Erik Jones, Alex Bowman, and Daniel Hemric

 

Least likely to mention peers:

Some drivers keep to themselves. Twitter mention data showed us a handful of drivers who prefer to lie low — still, maybe not as much as Paul Menard, though. Maybe he’ll join Twitter someday and become a total chatterbox.

  • Ryan Newman (mentioned 8 of 30 drivers)
  • Chris Buescher (13 of 30)
  • Ty Dillon (16 of 30)
  • Martin Truex Jr. (17 of 30)
  • Aric Almirola (18 of 30)
  • Kevin Harvick (18 of 30)
  • William Byron (20 of 30)
  • Alex Bowman (20 of 30)
  • Ryan Blaney (21 of 30)
  • Kurt Busch (21 of 30)

 

Mutual rivalries:

Call us Taylor Swift, because baby, now we’ve got bad blood. Here’s where there’s high potential for a rivalry to break out in 2019. These drivers have never mentioned each other on Twitter — not even once.


Kevin Harvick vs. Daniel Suarez

Interesting, considering they’re teammates in 2019. Look out for fireworks.

 

Kurt Busch vs. Ryan Newman

Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman
Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman not talking or smiling. Coincidence? Brian Lawdermilk | Getty Images

Former teammates, Daytona 500 winners, and veterans of the sport haven’t yet interacted on Twitter? The rivalry’s going to erupt this year.

 

Jimmie Johnson vs. Ty Dillon

Maybe they just haven’t encountered each other on the track yet. When they do, tempers will flare.

 

Joey Logano vs. William Byron

An unspoken rivalry of the much-hyped rookie phenoms in two different decades. Soon, they’ll clash, and heads will roll.

 

Erik Jones vs. Michael McDowell

Somebody’s cramping the other’s bright-yellow-car style. What will spark this inevitable fight in 2019?

 

Erik Jones vs. Chris Buescher

Chris Buescher and Erik Jones smile at the awards ceremony in 2015/
Sure, these 2015 champions look happy here, but they’re probably quietly seething. Chris Trotman | Getty Images

These former lower-level national series champions with one Cup win on large tracks have more in common than they might think. But, still, they’ve never acknowledged each other on Twitter, meaning this lack of relationship is ripe for rivalry.

 

Landon Cassill vs. Ryan Newman

It’s hard to think of two drivers with less in common.

 

Martin Truex Jr. vs. Ty Dillon

Maybe they’re secretly best friends off the track and don’t address it on Twitter. Or, there’s unavoidable strife.

 

Martin Truex Jr. vs. Ryan Preece

Somebody’s in for a long rookie season.

 

Paul Menard vs. Jimmie Johnson

Interestingly, Paul Menard and Jimmie Johnson have never mentioned each other on Twitter. Not even once. Sure, a reasonable person could justify such hostility by saying Paul Menard isn’t on Twitter, but it’s more entertaining to fabricate something from nothing. Following the path of bearded vitriol, it’s worth nothing neither Menard nor Johnson has tweeted each other since Sunday’s last-lap contact in the Advance Auto Parts Clash that sent Menard’s Ford to the junkyard and Johnson’s Chevrolet to Victory Lane. A rivalry is born?

See if you can find a pair of rivals we missed based on our complete data table.