Chase Elliott — or someone on his team — has deleted his tweet featuring pictures with gymnast Olivia Dunne from Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Nashville Superspeedway.
NASCAR welcoming celebrities to race weekends is nothing new, and Nashville Superspeedway is certainly one of the more prominent venues on the calendar which lends itself to being the “place to be” for a Cup Series race.
We see celebrities in attendance all the time, and we see drivers taking pictures with them when the opportunities present themselves. It’s not a new concept.
But a contingent of immature fans with nothing better to do took a recent meetup featuring the sport’s most popular driver and a popular gymnast way too far.
NASCAR welcomed LSU and former U.S. national team gymnast Olivia Dunne, the highest-valued women’s college athlete of 2022, to the four-turn, 1.33-mile (2.140-kilometer) Lebanon, Tennessee oval for Sunday evening’s Ally 400.
Before the race, Elliott posted pictures with himself and Dunne, and NASCAR did the same. It is nothing out of the ordinary, and it happens all the time.
Unfortunately, some fans didn’t see it that way, and a couple simple photographs led to rumors of the two athletes dating, and from there, the speculation spiraled out of control.
The following day, Elliott’s post had been deleted.
NASCAR’s post with the two is still up.
The fact that a celebrity can’t attend a NASCAR race and have their picture taken with a NASCAR driver without Twitter melting down and going into a dating frenzy just because of who that celebrity happens to be (Joe Burrow drew the same reaction, by the way) is nothing shy of pathetic.
At the end of the day, these are still human beings. They are not commodities whose only purposes in life are to drive ticket sales and television ratings during competition and to be used to manipulate headlines for fans to obsess over.
While you may not be a fan, they deserve a certain level of courtesy and respect. It doesn’t matter how much money they make.
And it’s not just social media. Google the two names together and you have all kind of dating speculation articles at a variety of different websites, many of which, quite frankly, don’t give a rat’s rear end about NASCAR (or Chase Elliott) on any other day of the week.
One such line reads “Chase Elliott and Olivia Dunne are hot and heavy”. Really?
Or maybe, just maybe, it’s just like any other situation of a celebrity attending a NASCAR race and having their picture taken with a NASCAR driver. But why show respect when you can spread rumors about someone’s personal life to stir the pot?
The age-old, yet simple, down-to-earth question needs to be asked.
"“Now, I mean, isn’t it possible for one person to be nice to another without somebody saying, ‘guess who’s getting married!’?"
Andy Griffith simply never gets old.
In the Twitter/social media era, the answer is no. Some people have nothing better to do than to sit around making things up about peoples’ personal lives, with zero regard for how that might affect anybody else.
There’s another recent example of this same concept. It didn’t take long for Taylor Swift to start “dating” Formula 1 driver Fernando Alonso a few months ago, at least according to the internet.
To be fair, Alonso had a bit of fun with those rumors himself. So did just about everybody in Formula 1, even going all the way up to the Sky Sports broadcast booth.
David Croft, who is generally viewed as a light-hearted yet down-to-earth announcer, was literally committed to Taylor Swift references on a sentence-by-sentence basis in Baku.
What else can you do at that point? Give Alonso credit for embracing the nonsense and being willing to take himself less seriously when that gossip started. We need more of that in today’s culture, where everyone typically wants nothing more than to one-up everybody else, many times at the expense of a third party.
As for Elliott, give him credit for totally avoiding the issue. He did absolutely nothing wrong. Quite frankly, the stupidity and cluelessness of social media trolls which led to the situation spiraling out of control is not something he should have to answer for.
His focus remains on overcoming two earlier absences and rallying for a playoff spot — and winning a second championship. That’s how it should be.
While we won’t begin to speculate why he — or, for all we know, someone on his PR team — ultimately had the tweet taken down, the fact that it no longer exists is a subtle reminder of just how cruel social media can be, and for no reason other than make-believe clout.
There never was and never will be any semblance of accountability where anyone can make up a name and sign in and say whatever they want with no repercussions whatsoever.
When NASCAR’s most popular driver can’t even avoid personal scrutiny stemming from a non-story, it says more than we need to know about society.