“We used to decide a championship over 30-plus races and then it was 10 races. Now it’s one race.”
NASCAR has been making progress in recent years regarding a return to basics. Auto Club Speedway is in the process of being converted from a 2-mile oval to a 0.5-mile track with heavy braking zones. NASCAR is forever working to bring Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway back to the schedule.
However, parties within the industry still step on their toes from time to time. Like SMI’s repave of Atlanta Motor Speedway, which appears to be an attempt to create superspeedway racing on a 1.5-mi track, absurd.
The future change of Atlanta created a spark of voices from the garage area, a boiling over point. Partially because the track was a driver favorite and most of the them were in the dark until the announcement.
At the same time, NASCAR crash tested the NASCAR Next Gen car. After that test at Talladega, drivers felt in the dark regarding the results. The combination of the two brought voices to the microphone…
Denny Hamlin voiced many NASCAR concerns on the crash test “We just don’t get an answer. There’s just a disconnect. You just don’t get a whole lot of response. When it comes to the crash stuff, I’ve asked questions to different NASCAR people, executives and I can’t get a response. That to me makes it even scarier. The disconnect right now between all the parties, NASCAR, the tracks and the drivers, it’s tough right now. It’s not in a good place.”
Denny Hamlin on the Drivers Council
The drivers’ council has dissipated. Does NASCAR need one?
“I’m not sure. In seven years, I’ll be a team owner only, but these drivers, they need to get organized. Their safety is at risk. They need to know what they’re getting strapped into so they need to get organized and they need to have a voice. They deserve to have a seat at the table, whatever that table is.”
“It just stops. When we were very close to having a driver’s association, we got the talk from the France’s – anti-trust, anti-trust and they were like, let’s just start a driver’s council. They react based off of your reaction instead of just really being proactive with it. It’s just not in a good place right now. There’s a lot of miscommunication, no communication. It’s just discouraging right now.”
Drivers feel they were in a better place when the council was active.
“Maybe in a better place for sure, but I think everyone just gets lax and there’s no structure or organization. There’s just no structure or organization to any of this. It’s all just, ‘Oh, you’re upset, we’ll have a meeting.’ Then we’ll be silent for six months and nothing will be going crazy and then some crazy announcement will get made and why weren’t we included? ‘Okay, let’s have another meeting.’ “
“These things should be scheduled and we should be way more structured like other sports because right now everyone is just pointing at everyone else.”
Hamlin was starting his own council, then NASCAR stepped in to control the formation of the council
Year’s ago, Denny Hamlin was a part of group of drivers that were going to setup their own council. He was close to putting it together when NASCAR stepped in to create their own council?
“Close enough. Drivers need to get organized. They just need to get together. Again, this is their future. This is their health and they deserve to understand and have a voice whether it be on safety, competition or whatever. Drivers deserve to have that.”
“They are a big part of this sport, they are why people tune in every single week. We can make arguments about anything else, but ultimately if people want to watch stock cars, they would tune into MAV TV every single week. They don’t, they come to watch Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch and those guys, they are the reason people tune in every week. They should have the voice.”
NASCAR changes; Calls to get back to roots
Hamlin added, “I just think that without social media, NASCAR would stay in its roots, but I think they get fed so much stuff through social media that they want to appease the very small minority that want more of this or more of that or more of this. More Game Seven moments.”
“We used to decide a championship over 30-plus races and then it was 10 races. Now it’s one race. You’re trying to fabricate a Game Seven, those do not always happen. That’s what makes Game Sevens special. They don’t happen that often. Trying to fabricate that through novelties, which is kind of where we’ve gone, I just think it’s a slope we don’t want to go down. That’s my opinion and it might not be right.”
“You can probably ask the other owners, they’re always like, ‘Man, it’s great having fresh blood in here calling out this and that.’ I told them, I don’t understand why you guys aren’t saying more. You have such a big stake in this sport. How can you guys see something that’s not right and not say anything?”
“I’m probably a little more aggressive and abrasive in that sense, but to me, what’s everyone scared of losing? We’re all fighting for our lives here to try to keep these businesses afloat. We’re risking so much money just to try to break even.”
10 years of change; Getting back on track
“I don’t know. It’s tough for me to just not say something when I don’t think it’s right. It’s different for me. I see where the sport was 10 years ago, I see where it is now and when you look at the progression and who’s struggling, who’s doing well. We have to get this thing back on track. I just try to give the best advice or opinions that I can.”
“Again, I’m not sure that they’re always right, but I have enough of a stake in each thing to think that I have a good idea of where we need to go. Whether we can do it or not, I don’t know, but certainly I hope that my voice is heard and I think there’s other younger owners that believe in the same things that I do to make the sport grow.”
“If the teams were healthier, this whole sport would get better, but right now this is a big flow of everyone just treading water right now to try to stay alive.”
“A lot of the casual race fans, all they see is the cars go around the race track in circles every Sunday. They don’t understand what goes into it. Now, you have the avid ones that do understand it. But again, I don’t know how much other sports and they do a little bit, but how much do other sports really say, okay this is what the fans want.”
The fans have had a bigger voice in NASCAR changes. That includes the casual fans.
“They got rid of the kickoff for football because of safety. If you ask the fans, they were probably like, we want each of you guys to lineup at the 40-yard line and run as fast as you can and crash into each other. That’s what they love about football is the contact.”
“But, they had to step in and say that safety-wise, this is not the right thing. I’m sorry, we can’t do that. If you ask NBA fans, maybe they want the basket at seven foot so everyone can dunk and you can do windmills and behind the backs and just post-rise each other on every play. But that’s not true to what basketball is.”
“Again, I just, as a sport, we really need to think about where we want to go in the future. What has made us strong in the past and hopefully we dig our feet into those roots of who we really are.”
Kyle Busch on the crash test
Kyle Busch is another driver that’s lacking information on the crash test.
“I haven’t heard anything. I’ve just heard that the test happened and got the same sheet of paper that you guys got that the data was being sent off to the experts to kind of review it and look at it, so that’s all I know.”
“I don’t know how their process is. They are talking to the experts and stuff like that to get a figure of what those results are. They’ve showed us a little data on the crash stuff they’ve done on simulation, but nothing as it pertains to real life.”
“There’s a lot of fiction out there and what everyone has to realize is that our normal safety testing procedure at the laboratory, so to speak, the proving grounds where we typically set up our impacts and get the data, that was done differently because of COVID, because of the backlog at that facility, so we went and we did that test at Talladega — at a real race track,” Scott Miller told Sirius XM NASCAR Radio.
“So what everybody needs to understand is when we were able to do that testing — and any safety testing that we do — there are reams of data that come off of that. And we, as far as the timeframe goes, it always takes a while to piece together the complete report on what we saw in a crash.”
“So it’s not like we could … anybody should have expected that we would go crash that car and like, look at a couple of graphs and say, hey, we’re done analyzing this data. We see absolutely nothing in the data that’s alarming, but we want to have a comprehensive report.”
“I have no idea how all of the rumors started about that it didn’t go well, because it did go well. So that’s where we are, and hopefully we can get that report out.”
NASCAR on when crash test data would be released
“I’m not sure, I haven’t talked to John (Probst, NASCAR Senior VP of Racing Innovation) and seeing where they are with that and it being presented to everyone,” Miller said.
“It shouldn’t be too much longer, but to expect that was going to happen in a day or two was unrealistic to begin with. And maybe we should have communicated that better up front.”
“It’s not like because it’s taking time, it’s not good. That’s obviously how all the rumors get started. We might’ve, should’ve told everyone up front, don’t expect a comprehensive report because it takes time. So that’s where we are with that.”
The car remains on schedule to be released in 2022.