So has NASCAR become just a bit too fan-friendly? That seemed to be the consensus among drivers asked to comment on the open-to-the-public drivers' meeting last weekend at Las Vegas.
The drivers' meeting takes place a couple of hours before the green flag, and it's a place for drivers and their crew chiefs to learn about whatever little quirks and idiosyncrasies of the track and rules that may now exist. Topics involve matters of pit road speed, merging onto the track, the role of the double yellow lines, and so forth. Not exactly the most thrilling subject matter, but the meetings often turn into "find your driver" photo-fests ... especially when they're open to the public.
"I like the drivers' meeting to be with the drivers and the crew chiefs, and about the race," Dale Earnhardt Jr. said. "It has become less and less about that. It has to be cool for a fan to be able to have that kind of access. I think there is probably a way to give them that kind of access without going to the lengths that they went to at Vegas. I couldn't see those video screens. I really couldn't pay attention to what was going on. So, the meeting to me didn't serve its purpose."
"The drivers' meeting needs to be more intimate," Jimmie Johnson agreed. "It needs to be an area where drivers, crew chiefs and NASCAR officials can talk about some things ... I just feel like that is what that meeting is for; we need an opportunity to sit there and have open communication weekly. With all the eyes, it limits that ability."
Tony Stewart, naturally, took the opposite view. "I think it's kind of cool," he said. "It allows the fans to also know what the rules are too ... You don't get to sit in pregame meeting with football teams or basketball teams and all that so I think that's a pretty cool deal."
By all accounts, the fans behaved at the Vegas meeting. Of course, heaven only knows what might happen if a too-sauced Talladega fan gets an eyeful of what goes on. Could be quite the howl ... if he can stay awake long enough.