Sprint Cup Drivers Council

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Tony Stewart says his presence in owner meetings feels ‘like an episode of Sesame Street’

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FORT WORTH, Texas – The end of Tony Stewart‘s Sprint Cup racing career is less than six weeks away, but the co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing has already gotten a taste of what the life of a full-time owner will be like.

‘The fun thing is I’ve been to a couple of the owners meetings and it’s pretty cool to sit in the room with Roger Penske, Chip Ganassi, Richard Childress and Joe Gibbs and those guys,” Stewart said Wednesday at Texas Motor Speedway.

But the three-time Sprint Cup champion said his attendance made the meetings with giants of the auto racing industry feel “like an episode of ‘Sesame Street.'”

“There’s one thing in the room that doesn’t belong and it’s not like the others and they point at me,” said Stewart, who was holding his annual “Smoke Show” Fantasy Camp benefiting Speedway Children’s Charities.

But even though he’s been co-owner of SHR since 2009, Stewart still doesn’t feel like an owner.

“I won’t say I’m a part of that group yet because I still feel like I’m just a driver right now,” said Stewart, who leaves his NASCAR driver’s seat behind on Nov. 20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. “To be able to work with those guys on behalf of the sport I think is going to be a lot of fun.”

At some point in the next six weeks will be Stewart’s final Sprint Cup Drivers Council meeting. Stewart is one of nine drivers on the council that was founded last year. With him on it are Brad KeselowskiJimmie Johnson, defending series champion Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano.

“The thing that I’m most excited about with the drivers council is I feel like it’s a good group of guys in there right now,” Stewart said. “I feel like their mindset and their ability to work together for the reason and the right causes and goals.”

Stewart’s presence on the council has had an impact this season. NASCAR’s year-long odyssey regarding lug nuts began with Stewart’s rant about the issue in April.

In January he criticized NASCAR CEO and Chairman Brian France for not have a presence in the meetings. France then attended an April meeting in Talladega, an act appreciated by the drivers.

He’s also been an encouraging voice for young drivers like Larson, who admitted that at first he didn’t feel deserving of a spot on the council.

“If you don’t say anything, why are you on this?’’ Stewart told Larson. “You have an opinion, speak up.’’

Stewart has opinions. On everything. But he recently said he’s ready to no longer be the voice of the garage.

Is there any opinion “Smoke” has kept to himself, waiting to drop on the drivers council right before he puts both feet into his role as an owner?

“I’m going to save that for when I get out of the car at Homestead I think,” Stewart joked at TMS. “The hard part is I wish we could tell you guys all the stuff that’s discussed in it but it’s not the right thing to do.”

Stewart is “proud” of what the council has accomplished in it first two years and is a little surprised at how unselfish its members have been.

“It would be really easy in our sport to be selfish and try to work on things that you think are going to benefit you,” Stewart said. “But the driver council does a really good job of not doing that. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised about that, but I guess to a certain degree a little bit I was surprised that everybody really cared more about the sport than they were about what their individual organizations were working on.”

Matt Crafton: No movement on a Drivers’ Council in the Truck series

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FORT WORTH – A year ago at Texas Motor Speedway, two-time Camping World Truck Series champion Matt Crafton stated he believed all three of NASCAR’s national touring series should have a Drivers’ Council.

Crafton’s statement came a month after the Sprint Cup Series’ first council formed.

“(NASCAR’s) constantly making rule changes and trying to make the sport better and sometimes we as drivers feel things whenever they make a rule change, and I think they need to hear it sometimes,” said Crafton at the time. “Not in a bad way or good way, but we need to be able to talk to them for sure.”

Crafton, in his 16th full-time season in the Truck series, now says he hasn’t heard any rumblings about the formation of similar Drivers Councils for the lower-tier series.

“I haven’t had any talks about it,” Crafton told NBC Sports in his team’s hauler Thursday. “I wish they would; they would talk to us. There’s not a whole lot of drivers in this series that they’re probably going to listen to, because they haven’t been here long enough to listen to them.”

The Sprint Cup Drivers Council currently is comprised of nine drivers, including five past champions and defending series champion Kyle Busch. In the Truck series, Crafton is the only champion from the last 10 seasons actively driving in the series. Last year’s champion, Erik Jones, is driving full time in the Xfinity Series.

Crafton said a hypothetical Drivers Council for the truck series would be comprised of series veterans.

“I know there is probably a handful of them they probably should listen to and be able to speak their minds and talk to them about things,” Crafton said. “I’m not saying the rookies shouldn’t have a voice, but at the end of the day, they need to earn the respect to have it.”

Veterans of Crafton’s caliber are sparse among the 20 drivers who have run all six races in 2016. Of those 20, Crafton is one of five drivers who have competed in every race over the past two seasons (22 races in 2014, 23 races in 2015). That includes, Johnny Sauter, Timothy Peters, Ben Kennedy and Tyler Young.

John Wes Townley, who won his first Truck race last year, has missed only four races since 2012. Drivers such as John Hunter Nemechek and Cole Custer, both multiple race winners, likely would have attempted full-time seasons if not for NASCAR’s age limits for tracks larger than 1.25-miles.

If he officially were able to convene with his fellow veterans and a couple of younger drivers with NASCAR, Crafton knows at least one topic he’d like to discuss.

“Differences in how (the trucks) drove in traffic five years ago and how they drive in traffic now,” Crafton said “I’d like to talk about some of that stuff with them and see if we can make the racing even better than what it is already.”

NASCAR America: Drivers know their voices carry weight in Drivers’ Council

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What is the impact of the Drivers’ Council this season? Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brad Keselowski share their opinions and Kyle Petty and Steve Letarte supply their thoughts on the group that formed last year.

Donation from Sprint Cup Drivers Council presented to charity

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The $35,000 the Sprint Cup Driver Council originally raised to pay Tony Stewart‘s fine from NASCAR for criticizing its lug nut policy has finally found its home.

After Stewart politely declined the council’s offer, the money has been donated to Autism Delaware. The check for the amount was presented to the organization Thursday during the Drive for Autism golf tournament in Wilmington, Delaware.  Autism Delaware was founded in 1998 by Artie Kempner, coordinating director for NASCAR on FOX, and his wife, Marcy.

The donation comes three days before the Sprint Cup race at Dover International Speedway, which is co-sponsored by Drive for Autism.

 

Drivers Council donating money raised for Tony Stewart fine to charity

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Tony Stewart will pay his $35,000 fine to NASCAR for comments on lug nut and wheel safety last week himself.

Meanwhile, after the Drivers Council announced it would pay Stewart’s fine, it will now donate the money to charity. In a press release, Stewart announced the $35,000 will go to Autism Delaware.

“I appreciated the Drivers Council support, but I didn’t want them to pay the fine,” Stewart said. “We decided as a group to donate the money to charity.”

Autism Delaware was founded in 1998 by Artie Kempner, coordinating director for NASCAR on FOX, and his wife, Marcy. In the last 18 years, the charity has raised $5 million and helped more than 1,000 children and adults living with autism.

“Artie is such a good friend to all of us and his foundation does a lot of great work,” Stewart said.

The money raised by the council will be presented by Denny Hamlin on May 12 in Wilmington, Delaware, at the Drive for Autism golf tournament, which is hosted by Kempner.

The Drivers Council, in its second season of existence, is made up of Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano, Hamlin and Stewart.