NASCAR drivers want fan access issue dealt with
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Drivers Council met Thursday night during the Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway race weekend that culminated in Saturday night’s running of the Coke Zero 400. According to interviews with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Denny Hamlin on Thursday, prior to the meeting, one of the planned topics of conversation was to be fans on pit road pre-race, specifically the previous race weekend at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway.
It’s pretty much common knowledge that NASCAR fans have more access to their favorits sport and its athletes more than other fans of other sports, but is there too much access? Where should the line be drawn, and has that line already been crossed? Maybe it has. Fan access is well and good, but it can go too far. Sometimes there really is such a thing as too much of a good thing and, maybe, NASCAR fans are getting too much of a good thing.
“I thought that the security on pit road last week (at Sonoma) was pretty bad during pre-race,” Earnhardt said. “So we’ll talk about that a little bit. Some of the drivers are concerned with how messy that’s getting considering what we have going on. We’re trying to get in the cars and it was crazy down there.”
“I agree last week that it was really hard to even walk to your car, and it’s a very small pit road,” Hamlin said. “Things could definitely could get done. I feel like each team should have a 10-foot-square space around their car that is just designated for the driver and team.
“Honestly, they’re monitoring the crew guys from touching the car before the race, but the casual fan can do just about anything they want to the side of the car. It’s really crazy how much. For example, I’ve seen guys just fall over the hood of the car and put a dent in it.
“That’s more than any adjustment any crew guys could make. It’s something that could be addressed and will be addressed.”
Is the answer cutting back on the number of fans allowed on pit road and in the area around the driver intro. stage just before the race? Maybe the answer isn’t decreasing the number of fans with access. Instead, maybe the answer is limited the areas to which they have access.
Unfortunately, I think the need for these questions and answers in response to those questions is a matter of a few ruining things for the many. A lot of the fans with this great access are respectable of drivers and crews trying to do their jobs. That’s right; these guys are at the track to do their jobs, and quite frankly, some disrespectful and self-absorbed fans with access are hindering these guys and gals from doing their jobs. And it’s that few that may end up ruining things for everyone else.
Sure fans had this amazing access back in the day, but managing access was way easier back then. Why? Because there were fewer fans back then. It’s the same as the reasoning for this usually not being an issue in the Xfinity or Camping World Truck series; the crowds are smaller and, therefore, more manageable. The smaller number was way easier to manage. And quite frankly, a lot of folks just seem to have that “me, me, me” attitude and don’t even seem to care about the impact of their behavior on others. And that’s sad.
I’m not sure what the answer is, but Earnhardt and Hamlin are right. Something needs to be done. If you’re in the infield, specifically on pit road and around the stage for driver intros., keep this in mind — drivers and crew members are trying to do their jobs. How would you like it if a group of folks showed up at your job on Monday morning and spent a few hours in your face? I’m guessing you wouldn’t like it, either.
I’ve seen drivers mobbed immediately after exiting porta-potties in preparation for their 400-500 mile drives. That’s just wrong on so many levels. Do those folks not realize there aren’t sinks and running water for washing hands in those things? But I digress.
There’s a time to ask for autographs or to try to strike up a conversation with that favorite driver or a member of his/her team. Time your move wisely. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.