NASCAR Sprint Cup Drivers Council adds new members for this season

(Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Brad Keselowski didn’t understand the text from teammate Joey Logano.

“Holy s—- you made it’’

Made what? Keselowski wondered.

He later learned he had been elected by fellow drivers to the nine-member NASCAR Sprint Cup Drivers Council.

“I didn’t actively campaign to be a part of it, yet somehow I got voted in,’’ Keselowski said during Tuesday’s NASCAR Media Day at Daytona International Speedway. “I am not sure what that means. It was kind of like my Sally Field moment.”

Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson and reigning champion Kyle Busch are the new council members. They join returning members Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick and Logano.

Council members not returning this year are Clint Bowyer, Greg Biffle, Jamie McMurray and Jeff Gordon. The group was cut from 10 to nine relative to the cut in the field from 43 drivers to 40 this season.

The council debuted last May when the series was at Dover International Speedway. The reigning champion is eligible to join, as is the top finishing driver for each manufacturer. Other positions are filled by a vote among all series drivers. The group meets regularly with NASCAR executives to discuss issues from competition and safety to matters in the garage and motorhome lot.

Earnhardt is excited for the group’s potential.

“The council is going to do great things,’’ he said. “It’s starting to show its potential. I think trying to get all the other drivers to understand that it is important is crucial.

“The council that we have, they’re not the nine smartest guys, they’re just the guys that drivers voted for to represent them because we need a small group so that the voice is clear instead of having 43 drivers in there or whatever. That would be pretty noisy and messy.’’

NASCAR met with the drivers council last month during the media tour in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“It was fine,’’ Busch said of his first meeting. “It was … just some back-and-forth dialogue about tires, about aero package. We’re already starting on 2017, things like that; some safety aspects about the race tracks and the cars, continuing on down that path. I heard some of the past meetings weren’t quite as pleasant, but ours the other day was good.’’

The drivers on the council stay connected with a group text and chat regularly.

“There’s much more conversation with these guys,’’ Johnson said. “That’s been an interesting perk to it all that I didn’t see coming.’’

Drivers say that NASCAR’s new overtime rule — the leader must cross a designated line on the backstretch the first time by after a green-white-checkered for it to count — came from the drivers meeting with NASCAR last year.

“I think as we add another year or two under our belts, it’s going to be even more productive yet,’’ Johnson said.