DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – NASCAR met again with the newly formed Sprint Cup driver’s council Saturday morning at Daytona International Speedway.
It was the second meeting with the panel, which had its first formal meeting with NASCAR executives May 30 at Dover International Speedway. As in the initial session, Saturday’s agenda included competition, safety and marketing topics.
“I felt great about all of it actually,” council member Dale Earnhardt Jr. said. “The meetings that we have had with them have been really good, real productive. They talked about the direction they wanted to go a little bit.
“We talked a little bit about tires, a little bit about the changing they are going to make. What they want to do with this low-downforce package in the future, and what they want to do at some other racetracks as well. I will let them decide when they want to give everybody that information, but the meetings have been great.”
Earnhardt said among the most-discussed topics was the tire being used at Kentucky Speedway next week. Some teams have expressed concern about whether the tire, which wasn’t tested, will be soft enough to provide adequate grip that offsets the loss in downforce.
“We are trying to make some good changes, and I’m looking forward to seeing how this works,” Earnhardt said. “Whether it works or not isn’t really the question I think the opportunity to even try it is pretty cool. I’m not expecting Kentucky to reveal a lot of obvious answers on the direction we need to go.
“We are going with a low downforce package that the drivers want, but we are not really able to get the tire we want, the softer tire to really fit with that or work with that. The tire is a bit better, but not quite enough. I think that is understood amongst NASCAR, ourselves and Goodyear. The Kentucky weekend won’t be a weekend we take a ton of stock in as far as what this package is really going to be able to lend us, and if it would work somewhere else. I think we will get the opportunity to learn more before the Chase and hopefully understand exactly what direction we need to go in 2016.
“It’s all good. The meetings have been good, productive. Everybody is well mannered, and it’s going good. It’s a good thing for NASCAR I think to be able to even have the communication going on.”
Among the NASCAR executives in attendance Saturday were president Mike Helton, chief marketing officer Steve Phelps, executive vice president and chief racing development offer Steve O’Donnell and vice president of innovation Gene Stefanyshyn.
Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson, Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer and Joey Logano were among the driver’s council members who attended the Dover meeting. The panel was voted on by drivers to represent all three manufacturers with a mix of younger and veteran members.
Gordon attended both meetings, and the four-time champion left impressed.
“In all the years I’ve been in the sport, these two meetings that we’ve had have been some of the highlights of my career,” he said. “I think it’s huge. To open the lines of communication in a sense where, you have every manufacturer represented. You have a lot of different teams represented. And basically, when you get in that room, you realize that everybody’s goal is to just try to do whatever we can to continue to make this sport as great as it has been and possibly even better; and the racing the best we can possibly get; and whether it’s maintaining something that we currently have or improving on something that we currently have.
“Maybe one person might have in the back of their mind that, ‘Oh, that’s going to affect our ability to compete at the level we’re competing now.’ Doesn’t matter. There’s too many other people that are weighing-in on that that would outweigh your reason. It’s phenomenal to be able to throw those ideas out and feel like you’re being heard. Discuss it as a group and knock holes in it. And that’s from NASCAR’s side as well as the drivers’ side. I only want to see that grow and continue.”