CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — Clint Bowyer, a usual Chase for the Sprint Cup championship participant, had to earn a spot into the $1 million Sprint All-Star Race.
It wasn't a surprise when he won Friday night's Sprint Showdown to earn an automatic transfer into the main event.
The upset Friday night went to Josh Wise, the stunning winner of the fan vote. Powered by the online community at Reddit and fans who support him through the digital currency Dogecoin, Wise beat out favorite Danica Patrick to earn his first berth in the All-Star race.
"Man, that's unreal. I can't believe that," Wise said. "I'm still trying to wrap my head around it. This is huge for me and my team."
It's also a big deal for NASCAR, which has seen a surge in popularity among the Millennial Generation because of Wise.
A movement began on Reddit early in the season behind a 16-year-old who was impressed by Wise's effort with underfunded Phil Parsons Racing.
Denis Pavel of Niles, Illinois, noticed Wise had a strong run at Bristol in a car in desperate need of sponsorship. Pavel thought of past fundraisers he'd seen on Reddit, and helped raise enough Dogecoin currency to sponsor Wise's car at Talladega.
The movement then switched to get him into the All-Star race.
"I didn't even know what Reddit was," Bowyer told Wise after the race. "That fan vote is a cool thing, and for you, your community, to beat Danica out is saying something, so good job."
Wise initially seemed stunned by the act and lauded the online community for getting behind NASCAR.
"This is kind of a big deal for our sport, I felt like, because it's a lot of young kids and people from around the world," Wise said. "I've had the chance to interact with a lot of them, and there's a lot of people who had never watched a NASCAR race who have now watched several, so it's a pretty cool deal."
But as fans on Twitter, another social media platform, grumbled that the Wise vote was rigged by computer-generated votes from Reddit, Wise dismissed the potential controversy.
"I don't necessarily care what people say about it," he said. "People vote and whoever has the most wins. That's all I have to say about that."