NASCAR - COMMENTARY ; NASCAR Takes Positive Steps to Brighter Future

By Fryer, Jenna | The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV), July 14, 2015 | Go to article overview

NASCAR - COMMENTARY ; NASCAR Takes Positive Steps to Brighter Future


Fryer, Jenna, The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV)


CHARLOTTE, N.C. - What a different NASCAR we have now.

The sport so married to a dictator-style reign, so resistant to meaningful change and so slow to take a stance on anything that might alienate its fan base has seemingly been turned upside down in a matter of days. In just the past month alone, chairman Brian France has taken a strong stance on a pair of social issues, including his desire to eliminate the Confederate flag at NASCAR events. His position is in stark contrast to NASCAR's Southern roots, and will be slow to be totally embraced by fans. And last week when Ben Kennedy, great-grandson of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., was involved in an accident at Kentucky Speedway, nearly every replay featured a shot of "The Stars and Bars waving at the bottom of the screen.

So it may take some time for NASCAR's position to make a meaningful difference, but France is strongly in favor of separating his series from the negative connotation of the flag regardless of how long it takes.

Same goes for improving the on-track product, which, by the way, looked much improved Saturday night at Kentucky.

The race was the first for new rules packages that have been earmarked for trial at four different tracks. This package of lower downforce was specifically recommended by the drivers, who somehow persuaded NASCAR to allow them to form a panel that has engaged in meaningful discussion with series leaders.

Don't confuse the driver council with unionization, something NASCAR has never allowed. Curtis Turner and Tim Flock in 1961 were both banned for life - Turner's was eventually lifted - for trying to form the Federation of Professional Athletes and second-tier drivers were used at Talladega Superspeedway during a one-week boycott in 1969 as drivers tried to form the Professional Drivers Association.

But times have clearly changed, with three-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart even positioning present day NASCAR in "kind of a crisis situation because of the uninspired racing.

So NASCAR allowed the drivers to create a panel that they selected themselves by vote. Drivers were grouped in tiers and every manufacturer had to be represented. The first meeting, last month at Dover, put in motion the lower downforce package that was used at Kentucky.

A second meeting at Daytona a week before the race opened the door for the use of a similar rules package at Darlington next month, one that features higher drag at Indianapolis and Michigan, and a new tire at Richmond. …

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