After news of the Atlanta Motor Speedway re-pave and reconfiguration on July 6, drivers are sounding off about their lack of input in the decision.
The announced changes include decreasing the width of the track from 55 feet to 40 feet and increasing the 24-degree banking to 28 degrees. Soon after, various drivers stated that they had not been consulted about the changes.
Marcus Smith, President and CEO of Speedway Motorsports, responded to the concerns about the Atlanta Motor Speedway news, stating, “We definitely talked to drivers.”
Comments from SMI director of operations Steve Swift earlier this week did nothing to ease the tension.
“We tried to do what’s good for the sport, and Marcus does talk to the drivers to gauge feedback on what works well for them and he feeds us that information, and I say this with jest a little,” Swift said, “but when a driver is happy the fans aren’t.
While no drivers have come forward to say they were consulted, several have candidly shared their thoughts on the lack of communication.
No one has been more direct than Kyle Busch.
“If they’re going to narrow it up 15 feet, whatever it is, that’s the whole bottom groove,” he said. “We’re not going to be able to run around here 3 wide. You’re going to be stuck at two wide. It’s going to be as wide as Darlington. So trying to run around here at 210 mph, because if they don’t put plates on it, you’re going to be going way too fast.
“Just think about it. Everybody needs to just think. There ain’t nobody thinking. Brains for sale. Never used. Operating racetracks.”
Sunday before the Cup Series race at Atlanta, several drivers were questioned about the current state of affairs.
Brad Keselowski confirmed that there was discord among the drivers.
“I think there are some frustrations that come up time and time again where we’re working together until we’re not, and that can be frustrating, he said. “I sense a lot of those emotions through the garage area right now.”
Joey Logano also questioned why the drivers were kept out of the loop.
I think something I’ve learned over the last few years is everyone can bring something different to the table. When you bring 10 other people around that might change your perspective,” he explained. “We didn’t have the opportunity to do that.”
Kevin Harvick was blunt in his assessment of the Atlanta repave and why the drivers were not consulted.
“I’m just of the opinion that they don’t care. They just do what they want.”
Denny Hamlin addressed the media Saturday and perhaps summed it up best.
“I think we could help. We’re an asset. We are the biggest asset that NASCAR and these tracks could have if they just tell us their goals. We may not agree with the goal but we can help them get to where they want to go.”
No one doubts the importance of fans. Without them, there would be no racing. But, it’s the drivers who strap in and put their lives on the line to entertain those fans. One perspective should never overshadow the other.