Tony Stewart: “If it changes at the same rate, we won’t even recognize it from when I started.”
NASCAR has changed drastically in a very short time span. The entire points format has been swapped, multiple times. If you go back another ten years, a bulk of the short tracks were replaced with high-speed intermediate speedways with progressive banking.
In the 90’s, NASCAR had a leader in Dale Earnhardt. Fast forward to 2018, everybody in the garage area has a voice.
Since Tony Stewart joined the sport in 1999. 49 victories later, the sport looks very different than when he climbed into the Joe Gibbs Racing #20 machine.
There’s a drivers’ council, a race team alliance and Denny Hamlin’s secret council that all have a voice directly to the executive offices of the sport. Even the fans have a place to do the same with the NASCAR fan council.
“I think it’s always valuable to hear people’s opinions,” Tony Stewart stated to Kyle Petty of NBC Sports.
“The most important part of that though, is having somebody that knows how to take that input and make the right decisions.”
Future of NASCAR
Sweeping changes are on the way once again. For 2019, NASCAR will debut a new rules package on all tracks over 1-mile. They’ll have a lot less horsepower and a lot more downforce. The cars will be slower on the typical 1.5-mile tracks.
The goal there is to bunch up the field, slightly. It’s also to make passing easier on the drivers.
Related: 2019 NASCAR rules package announced
How does the future of NASCAR look to Tony Stewart?
“If it changes at the same rate, we won’t even recognize it from when I started,” Stewart continued.
“I remember 20 of us drivers went, five years ago, and sat with NASCAR. We said, ‘these are the things that we think will help make the sport better.’ ”
“A person in NASCAR that I won’t name, sat there and looked me square in the eye and said that everything we were talking about and what I was saying was 180 degrees backwards. From what they thought was going to fix it.”
“This is a guy that never worked on a race car, never driven a race car. [A guy] that worked for an auto manufacture. That came in and all the sudden he was smarter than everybody that’s ever been around the sport.”
Former NASCAR President Brent Dewar is a former GM executive. He was signed to NASCAR COO in December 2013. I’m not saying that’s who he’s speaking of, it might not be. Just saying, Dewar was a NASCAR executive who worked for an auto manufacture. Dewar took a different role in NASCAR earlier this year.
“All the sudden, he was smarter than everyone in the sport that had driven race cars for twenty plus years. That’s kinda when I was like, ‘We’re in bad shape. We’re in trouble. Having somebody like this guy that’s changing the direction of what’s going to happen.’ ”
Shorter NASCAR races
The attention span is much smaller in 2019. NASCAR used to be a durability race. To the point where in the past, points were awarded only for laps completed, regardless of finishing position.
We’re long beyond those days. The cars and the engines are overly engineered masterpieces. The days of mechanical failure are all but gone completely.
However, the races are still three and four hours long. In a time when kids won’t watch a youtube video if it’s longer than 5 minutes.
Would you like to see short races?
“You definitely have to be open to that. The first thing we hear from everybody when you talk about taking the races from 500 miles, down to 400 mile races… People lose their minds.”
“I used to get invited to the NASCAR hauler, a lot. So, I had Mike Helton, that I learned a ton from.”
“When I bought Eldora Speedway, I see things from a perspective that the fans don’t see, the drivers don’t see, that the owners don’t see — Everything that we see in the sport, we see from one angle.”
Tony Stewart has hands in all corners. He’s the owner of a dirt track, dirt series, dirt sprint car team and a NASCAR Cup Series team.
“It’s like looking at a pizza. We see it from that one slice. NASCAR sees it from another side of that pie. Everybody’s got a different angle that they see. But, it’s all the same thing.”
“There’s time that I know when I was in that trailer and I was arguing a point with NASCAR, that I knew I was 100% right. But, then they sit there and say, ‘But, you don’t see it from this side and how it affects this.’ ”
“You leave there and you’re still just as mad as you were when you walked in there. But, at the same time, you at least understand why it’s done the way it is.”