NASCAR Cup competitors form Drivers Advisory Council

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Cup drivers have formed a Drivers Advisory Council and will be led by former competitor Jeff Burton. 

The Council, which has current and former Cup drivers, stated in a release Friday that it will work with the industry to “collectively move the sport forward and conduct positive change.”

The Board of Directors for the Council are: Kurt Busch, Austin Dillon, Denny Hamlin, Corey LaJoie, Joey Logano, Kyle Petty and Daniel Suarez. 

Burton will lead the group as Director of the Council. He said Friday morning that having open communication with NASCAR, track operators and industry stakeholders, among others, are key initiatives.

“The drivers have always had a voice, the question is how was that voice best used to positively influence the sport,” Burton told reporters. “Times have changed. The sport isn’t run the way it was run in the late ‘90s. It’s different. Because of that, the drivers need to be different. 

“This, in no way, is going to become a firewall between a driver and NASCAR, a driver and an owner, a driver and a track operator. We don’t want to stop that line of communication directly between a single driver and a NASCAR representative, or track representative, or manufacture representative. We don’t want to do that. 

“We believe, and I believe, one of the great strengths of our sport is the ability to have those conversations face-to-face, where you are with the main guy you need to be talking and he’s talking directly to you. There is no reason for that to stop. 

“The Council’s role is to gather as much information as possible, communicate that with the drivers, be a conduit to communication, not a firewall. We only want to enhance those communications.”

Burton said multiple drivers reached out to him last July at New Hampshire about this type of role with a drivers group. That came a week after drivers expressed their displeasure with the announcement that Atlanta Motor Speedway would be repaved and reconfigured for the 2022 season.

Burton said it wasn’t that situation that led to the drivers council. He noted the numerous changes in the sport and the chance to be part of those conversations even more.

This marks the second iteration of a drivers council. Spearheaded by Hamlin, the group formed to great fanfare in May 2015 and had its first meeting with NASCAR at Dover. Hamlin and Logano were a part of that inaugural group. 

The effectiveness of the drivers council waned in 2018, as Kevin Harvick admitted he was skipping meetings in part because of frustration with the group’s efficacy. The driver council went away in 2019.

Burton said a key to making this council last is for him and others to do much of the work for the group.

“These drivers, they are in a cutthroat business,” Burton said. “They have to pay attention to their driving career. They have to focus on that. It’s very difficult for them to do that and be part of a driver’s council.

“The lesson (from the previous council) was, OK, if you’re going to do it, you’ve got to have someone outside that can help. You have to have someone or a group of people make this happen. … There’s conversations that I’m having every single day that the drivers don’t have to be involved in. They can have a conversation with me, then I can go have the lengthy conversations, and it allows them to be drivers, sponsor representatives and doing all the things that are required of them. That’s the biggest difference between this time and the last time.”

Burton said that Petty will serve a valuable role even though he’s not an active competitor.

“We think that it is important for perspective,” Burton said. “We spend a lot of times talking about how things were. Over time, we tend to glamorize history, we tend to rewrite history to what we think it was. We all believe that learning from our past is really important.

“You got a guy in Kyle Petty, who in our sport has seen as many things as Kyle Petty? … His passion for the sport is amazing. The more I personally spend time with Kyle, I just continue to be fascinated by how smart he is, his experiences, his caring for the sport.”

Burton defended having Hamlin, a team owner, on this council.

“We actually view that as a strength,” Burton said. “If we’re going to be integrated into the industry, we need the perspective of the industry. We need the perspective of every single entity that is involved, so to have a driver of Denny Hamlin’s caliber, the things that he’s been through as a driver, working himself up from nothing as far as a racecar driver to be what he is today, that’s a perspective for all of us. His perspective of the life of the car owner, that’s a perspective that is healthy for us.

“For us to be effective and for us to accomplish our goals … we need to be collaborative. We need to be working with the industry. This isn’t a group where it’s just, ‘Hey, here is our opinion, no matter what you think.’ This is a group that we want to gather information from everybody in order to form the best opinion.”

Hamlin tweeted Friday: “The drivers and the teams align 95% of the time. When that 5% is in play, I will step aside on those issues. One thing is for sure. ALL parties have 1 common goal and that is to GROW the sport.”

Burton addressed performing this role while also serving as an analyst for NBC Sports. Burton said his bosses at NBC Sports are “behind it 100%.”

“I can do both,” Burton said. “I’m not concerned about doing both. I love to work. I wake up, my brain full of stuff and I enjoy it. This certainly fills my plate, but I’m good with that. I don’t want to be semi-retired. I want to be working. I love what I do at NBC. I’m at the track anyway. I’m going to the track every race anyway. It really doesn’t effect a whole lot.”

The Drivers Advisory Council stated it will partner with NASCAR and its key leaders to achieve common success. 

“Collaboration is critical to our growth, and we welcome any opportunity to strengthen communication with our drivers,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, in a statement. “We often look to drivers for input when making decisions that affect the sport, and the Drivers Advisory Council will help streamline that communication. Working together, we will continue to deliver the great NASCAR racing experience our fans expect and deserve.” 

The Race Team Alliance (RTA), consisting of 14 Cup Series organizations, stated it will support and work alongside the council. 

“One of the keys to our sport being successful is collaboration among all of its stakeholders. Having a formalized group through which the drivers can better communicate will be a great asset for all of us. They picked the perfect guy to lead the Drivers Advisory Council in Jeff Burton and have assembled a solid Board of Directors to get the group started with a strong, unified voice,” said Dave Alpern, President of Joe Gibbs Racing and Co-Chair of the Team Owner Council. 

The drivers were divided into groups based on a two-year average of where they finished in points: first to 10th, 11th to 20th and 20th to 30th. Drivers in those groups were either asked or nominated to be on this group. Board terms have yet to be determined but they will be staggered so the entire board does not change at the same time.

Here is what those on the council said in statements:

Kurt Busch

“It’s an honor and a privilege to collaborate with my fellow drivers on the Drivers Advisory Council. The collective experience and insight represented on this council is ideally suited to carry NASCAR into the future and ensure its long-term sustainability. Through the council, I look forward to collaborating with NASCAR and the team owners to continue fostering positive change in the sport that has meant so much to me over the past two decades.” 

Austin Dillon

“I’m looking forward to working collaboratively with the drivers, NASCAR and other stakeholders to put the best product on the track each week, emphasizing the future of the sport and the safety of drivers. My family has been involved in NASCAR my entire life, so, personally, it means a lot to me to be able to help leave my mark and progress the sport that I know and love by serving on the Drivers Advisory Council.” 

Corey LaJoie

“The Drivers Advisory Council will be a united and streamlined channel of communication, with Jeff Burton as our fearless leader, that will benefit the fans, sponsors, media and ultimately the sport. It’s a privilege to have your voice heard alongside your peers to further progress the sport in every aspect.” 

Joey Logano

“I’m thrilled to see the progress in our sport lately and feel that the Drivers Advisory Council will help progress our sport even further. The board is made up with experienced, forward-thinking drivers with a great leader in Jeff Burton. Communication from drivers to other stakeholders in our industry has been a challenge for years. This will most definitely help clarify feedback from drivers and help move our sport forward with a unique perspective from behind the wheel. We have had a welcoming experience from stakeholders, and I know we can all pull the rope in the same direction. Safety, fan experience, and a great on track product, are just some of the goals.” 

Kyle Petty

“I believe the formation of the Drivers Advisory Council is the start of a new era in NASCAR. Through the leadership of Jeff Burton and the Board of Directors, the drivers now have a united voice. A voice that can effect change and improvement in almost every aspect of our sport. The DAC has the opportunity to create a legacy for generations of drivers to come.” 

Daniel Suarez

“First of all, I am thrilled to be a part of this great sport. Since I started my career in NASCAR, after arriving from my home country of Mexico, I have seen a great deal of positive changes. I believe the creation of the Drivers Advisory Council will add a first-hand perspective and, in my opinion, help create more positive changes and increase the speed that diversity can have in the sport. This will benefit present and future sponsors, our current and future fan base, as well as the teams and viewership in general. I say this with great sincerity and commitment to support this sport, the fans and the sponsors we represent.” 

Helio Castroneves rules out Daytona 500

Helio Castroneves Daytona 500
Robert Scheer/Indy Star/USA TODAY NETWORK
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Helio Castroneves might be at the 2023 Daytona 500, but the four-time Indy 500 winner won’t be in a race car.

During a news conference Thursday at Daytona International Speedway, Castroneves confirmed in response to a question from NBC Sports that he essentially has ruled out attempting to make his NASCAR Cup Series debut in the Feb. 19 season opener.

As recently as last Thursday at Rolex 24 Media Day, Castroneves, 47, said he still was working on trying to piece together a deal.

The Brazilian had been negotiating with the Cup team co-owned by boxer Floyd Mayweather and would have been in an “open” entry that lacked guaranteed entry to the Great American Race. That potentially would leave him in the precarious position of needing to make the race on qualifying speed or a qualifying race finish (as action sports star Travis Pastrana likely might need in his Cup debut).

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“Unfortunately for me, lack of experience, no testing,” Castroneves said. “A lot of things. I believe it would be a little bit tough throwing myself in such a short notice, and to go in a place that you’ve got to race yourself into it. So as of right now, yes, it’s not going to happen.

“But we did have an opportunity. We just got to elaborate a little bit more to give me a little more experience on that. So there is more things to come ahead of us, but as of right now, I want to focus on the IndyCar program as well and (the Rolex 24 at Daytona).”

Castroneves, who has a residence in Key Biscayne, said he still might attend the Daytona 500

“I might just come and see and watch it and continue to take a look and see what’s going to be in the future,” he said.

Castroneves enters Saturday’s Rolex 24 at Daytona having won the event the past two years. He made his signature fence-climb after winning last year with Meyer Shank Racing, which he will be driving for full time in the NTT IndyCar Series this year. He became the fourth four-time Indy 500 winner in history in his 2021 debut with Meyer Shank Racing.

The 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar champion also has indicated an interest in Trackhouse Racing’s Project 91 car that aims to place international drivers in a Cup ride (such as Kimi Raikkonen at Watkins Glen International last year). Team co-owner Justin Marks recently tweeted Trackhouse wouldn’t field the Project 91 car at the Daytona 500.

After winning the 2022 Superstar Racing Experience opener, SRX CEO Don Hawk had promised he would help secure a Daytona 500 ride for Castroneves.

Castroneves has been angling for a NASCAR ride for years, dating to when he drove for Team Penske from 2000-20. After winning the Rolex 24 last year, he said he had been lobbying Ray Evernham and Tony Stewart for help with getting in a Cup car.

Fire at Reaume Brothers Racing shop injures three

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A Thursday fire at the Reaume Brothers Racing shop in Mooresville, North Carolina, injured three individuals, according to Mooresville (North Carolina) Fire-Rescue.

Firefighters were dispatched to the shop, which is scheduled to field entries for driver Mason Massey in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series this season, at about 11:30 a.m. Thursday.

The fire department extinguished the blaze quickly. The department stated on its Facebook page that one individual was transported to Lake Norman Regional hospital for smoke inhalation, and another was transported to Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem, N.C. with burn injuries. A third was treated and released.

The Mooresville Fire Marshall’s office is investigating the cause of the fire. The fire department said the shop sustained “significant fire damage.”

In a tweet, the team said it is determining the extent of damage to the building. “More importantly,” it said, “a few of our team members did sustain injuries during the fire and are being transported for medical treatment.”

Trackhouse, RFK Racing, Front Row Motorsports sign sponsorship deals

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Trackhouse Racing, RFK Racing and Front Row Motorsports announced sponsorship deals Thursday morning.

Trackhouse said WWEX, a Dallas-based global logistics group, will increase its sponsorship presence with the team this year, serving as the primary sponsor in 21 races for drivers Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez.

WWEX will appear on Chastain’s Chevrolets in 19 races and will sponsor Suarez twice. The organization was a Trackhouse sponsor in 11 events in 2022, which was a breakout season for both Chastain and Suarez.

RFK announced that Solomon Plumbing, which joined the team last season, will expand its presence this season and in future years. The Michigan-based company will serve as the primary sponsor for several races on driver Brad Keselowski‘s No. 6 Ford.

MORE: Chase Briscoe signs contract extension with Stewart-Haas

Solomon specializes in plumbing and fire services for new development and construction. It initially sponsored Keselowski last season in the dirt race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Front Row Motorsports has signed Quincy Compressor, a Bay Minette, Ala.-based compressor manufacturer, as a sponsor for four races.

Quincy will sponsor Todd Gilliland‘s No. 38 team in three events and Michael McDowell‘s No. 34 team in one race.

 

 

Stewart-Haas Racing signs Chase Briscoe to contract extension

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Chase Briscoe has signed a multiyear contract extension to remain at Stewart-Haas Racing, the team announced Thursday.

The length of the deal was not announced.

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Briscoe is entering his third Cup season with the team. He won his first series race last year, taking the checkered flag at Phoenix last March. That victory put him in the playoffs. He finished the season ninth in the standings. 

“It’s huge to have stability, with my team and my partner,” Briscoe said in a statement from the team. “It just gives you more confidence. Stewart-Haas Racing is where I want to be for a long time. It’s the place I’ve known longer than anywhere else in my NASCAR career.

“I remember getting signed by Ford in 2017 and I told people, ‘You know, if I could pick one place to be, it would be Stewart- Haas Racing. And if I could drive one car, it would be the 14 car. That would be the ultimate dream.’ And now, here I am.

“SHR has such a great group of people, from the Xfinity Series to the Cup Series, and they’ve all just guided me in the right direction. From drivers to crew chiefs to crew members, they’ve always had my back, and that’s been a huge help – just having people believe in you.”

The 28-year-old Briscoe has been with SHR since 2018. He split a limited Xfinity schedule that season between what is now RFK Racing and SHR. He ran full time with SHR in the Xfinity Series in 2019 and ’20 before moving to Cup in 2021.

“Chase has made the most of every opportunity and the proof is in the results. Keeping him at SHR was a priority and we’re proud to have him in our racecars for many more years to come,” said Tony Stewart, who co-owns SHR with Haas Automation founder Gene Haas, in a statement from the team. 

Briscoe’s signing comes two weeks after teammate Kevin Harvick announced that this will be his final season in Cup. 

The Cup season begins Feb. 5 with the Busch Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum before going to Daytona for the Feb. 19 Daytona 500.