Waltrip: ‘A lot of unrest’ in NASCAR led to driver council
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — NASCAR has never had much of an appetite for drivers uniting to create a single voice. The sanctioning body once banned Curtis Turner for trying to form a union in 1961.
But times have changed, said Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip, who believes dislike of the current rules package has led to the creation of a driver’s council. The group of drivers elected by their peers met with NASCAR at Dover last weekend.
“We’ve never had what we’d call a ‘council’ before ... NASCAR was never too open to meeting with a group of people, but had been willing to meet one-on-one,” said Waltrip, a three-time champion and current analyst for Fox.
Waltrip is certain that a push for better racing is behind the drivers’ decision to present a unified front to NASCAR. Last year, team owners formed the Race Team Alliance to address escalating costs, rules and other issues.
“There is a lot of unrest in the sport currently, and I think that’s why NASCAR is listening,” Waltrip said. “Hopefully, they’ll take drivers’ input and make some better decisions. What we all want ... is good racing and action on the track.”
Waltrip, though, indicated that there’s no need for a new rules package in 2016. The 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup championship last season was competitive, but slight adjustments to the 2015 rules has not provided much carry-over into this year.
There has been talk that NASCAR will leave the rules package untouched for next year — something most drivers have at least privately opposed. Among those selected to meet with NASCAR last week were Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano and Tony Stewart.
Waltrip is in the camp that believes the 2015 rules can stick for some time.
“Last year was the best racing we’d had in a long time, which is why I hated to see changes in 2015, then we weren’t but a few races into 2015 and were hearing talk about changes for 2016,” Waltrip said. “Let it breathe a little. Constant rule changes aren’t helping anyone, making competition better or saving money.”
INDYCAR-BLOCKING: Graham Rahal was not pleased to be hit with a blocking penalty in Sunday’s race, even though he still finished third in the second of two races at Detroit.
The call came after he tried to hold off Takuma Sato in the late stages of the race, and Rahal wants IndyCar to consider adding more driver experience to race control. The current steward system rules by majority vote, and the three stewards don’t often include a former driver.
“I’d like to see three drivers in race control, three retired drivers that know what’s going on,” Rahal said. “I mean, it’s no disrespect to who’s there. I think they’ve done a fair job with what they’ve been given.”
Rahal argued that his use of an on-board camera in his car makes it easier for race control to see everything that goes on with him, as opposed to drivers who do not have the cameras. Rahal even suggested Paul Tracy, currently an analyst for NBC Sports, could be an asset in race control.
“I think you need to go find three retired guys that have been through this, been through the wringer, Paul Tracy, guys like that, that know exactly the ins-and-outs of this. They can make a fair call every time,” he said.
BRISCOE-TEXAS: Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has called on Ryan Briscoe to again fill in for injured driver James Hinchcliffe as IndyCar shifts to Texas Motor Speedway this weekend.
Briscoe finished 12th in the Indianapolis 500 driving for Hinchcliffe, who suffered a life-threatening leg injury a week before the race. Hinchcliffe’s leg was pierced by a broken part of the suspension following a crash in practice.
Conor Daly replaced Hinchcliffe last week at Detroit and finished sixth on Sunday after leading 12 laps. Briscoe won at Texas from the pole in 2010, was second in 2009 and has finished third three times.
Also, Dale Coyne Racing shuffled its two-car lineup for Texas. Pippa Mann will drive the No. 18 on Saturday night and Tristan Vautier will drive the No. 19. Both drove the Indy 500 for Coyne but were out of the cars at Detroit.