News Analysis: NASCAR ditches All-Star aero package for 2018

What happened: In a story released on its website, NASCAR revealed it will not use the All-Star aero package for the remainder of the 2018 Cup Series schedule, halting momentum that seemed to be building among series officials and racetracks who hoped to see more pack racing.’s story cited a lack of time to prepare for the package in more races this season, saying it “would have been a Herculean undertaking and one that could have resulted in a rushed output.”

What it means: A major development in the ongoing battle for NASCAR’s soul, which had sparked a debate over what was more important — pure competition or the quality of the show (you can find a timeline of this story here). While the All-Star package undoubtedly was entertaining, it raised questions about NASCAR becoming a drafting series if those rules were used in points races going forward. Drivers like Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch had begun to speak out against the idea of using the package in more races, but NASCAR and the tracks — particularly the Speedway Motorsports Inc. venues headed by Marcus Smith — seemed intent on giving it a shot. Earlier this month, NASCAR’s Steve O’Donnell said the package could be used in three more Cup races this season before the playoffs began, and races like Kentucky, Pocono and Michigan seemed like potential candidates. But something must have happened behind the scenes with the various councils NASCAR consults with, because the All-Star package was suddenly snuffed just when its prospects started to burn brighter.

News value (scale of 1-10): Seven, due to the surprise value. No one outside of NASCAR cares about rule packages or even knows what that means, but this had become a pretty important story inside the garage. The fact NASCAR won’t even try the package again in Cup until at least 2019 is a significant and puzzling development (albeit a good one for those who rejected the idea of seeing a restrictor-plate type race every week).

Three questions: What changed? Whose voice or voices in this conversation were able to overrule the other side? Will fans applaud this move to hold off on a major change and keep the racing relatively pure or complain that NASCAR isn’t doing enough to entertain them?

Denny Hamlin doesn’t really think 70 percent of drivers use Adderall

Denny Hamlin wasn’t being serious when he said 70 percent of NASCAR drivers use Adderall or other ADD medications while racing, he said Friday afternoon.

Hamlin appeared on the popular Barstool Sports “Pardon My Take” podcast with Big Cat and PFT Commenter on Thursday, where they asked him about using medications that would enhance concentration. The driver then suggested nearly three-quarters of the field was using an amphetamine, which is the type of drug only permissible in NASCAR with a prescription.

But Hamlin said he was just throwing out a number.

“I think anyone who has listened to their podcast knows they are funny and joking around and not serious whatsoever,” Hamlin told and outside his motorhome at Daytona International Speedway. “They make jokes about a lot of things.

“I literally said we get drug-tested all the time. When they asked me how many (drivers), I said I didn’t know, and they said, ‘Just give us a number,’ and I joked around and gave them a number that has no fact behind it. It’s getting blown up.”

Here’s the transcript of the exchange:

PMT: Do you think that there’s a significant amount of NASCAR drivers that take like Adderall or some sort of ADD medicine to try to focus more?

Hamlin: Mmm…I would say yes.

PMT: Ooh. You gotta put a percentage on it. It’s the old Jose Canseco Rule. You gotta be like, “90 percent of NASCAR drivers do this.”

Hamlin: Seventy percent.

PMT: Wow! OK, that’s a headline grab.

Sure enough, Pardon My Take tweeted a graphic a big number 70 and the caption: Does NASCAR have a drug problem?

NASCAR was furious over the comment because it frequently drug-tests competitors and has a very strict substance abuse policy. AJ Allmendinger was suspended in 2012 and later lost his ride for taking Adderall.

NASCAR executive vice president Steve O’Donnell tweeted Hamlin’s comment was a “ridiculous statement.”

In a separate statement, NASCAR said if any driver is found to test positive for a substance taken without a prescription, that person would be indefinitely suspended.

“Simply put, NASCAR is confident in its drug-testing program,” NASCAR said.

Hamlin and O’Donnell then met in the NASCAR hauler, where Hamlin made the point he was “doing a podcast with a lackadaisical group of guys that have fun talking about sports in a non-real way.” The driver said it was better for him and O’Donnell to meet in person to sort it out because “we can become brash at times through text.”

So does Hamlin really think 70 percent of drivers use Adderall?

“Realistically, no,” he said. “Probably not. We get drug-tested all the time and NASCAR has a zero (tolerance) policy for anything that’s not prescription.”

Hamlin told reporters to “consider the source” next time, because he wants to continue to do fun shows.

But he also acknowledged his role in the matter.

“(NASCAR officials) don’t want us giving out false numbers, for sure,” he said. “So I personally need to probably be a little careful not doing that and playing into it. But I still like doing stuff that’s easygoing and not serious.”

Denny Hamlin walks into the NASCAR hauler on Friday to meet with Steve O’Donnell after the driver’s podcast comments. (Photo: Jeff Gluck)

How I Got Here with NASCAR’s Steve O’Donnell

This marks the debut of a new weekly feature called “How I Got Here,” where I ask people in NASCAR about their journeys to their current jobs. Each interview is recorded as a podcast but is also transcribed on Up first: Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer.

Before we get started, can you tell us about what is required of your job in NASCAR?

Day to day, I’m up in our Concord (N.C.) office and oversee our Research and Development and competition groups. So really it’s all the rules and regulations in the sport and kind of what goes on during the weekend. Then all of the marketing and sales and promotion would be obviously under a separate group with (chief global sales and marketing officer) Steve Phelps.

So it’s a great team of people. I guess I’m tasked day to day from the poll that goes out from Jeff Gluck on if the race is good or not — that’s how I’m judged — and then safety, and then really the relationships with the industry.

I understand you grew up in Egypt, or at least for a time — I listened to Nate Ryan, he had a great podcast with you last year and you talked about that. How did you get to this point in your life?

A lot of twists and turns. I was in Egypt for high school and, candidly, wanted to play college baseball. I ended up at Rollins College, a small school in Winter Park, Florida, and obviously got to know NASCAR a little bit more being in Florida and being near Daytona. I really wanted to be in sports and wanted to figure out how do you do that. And I ended up working in minor league baseball and over at the Citrus Bowl, and saw that NASCAR was really taking some roots.

I started out in the marketing department (with NASCAR), so I was the victory lane guy, I was the hat guy (who hands out various sponsor hats to the team for photos). I did a lot of the pre-race ceremonies, got to know the drivers, the contingency program. So that’s where I started out, and that’s where I probably learned the most and got to meet the most folks as well. That was kind of my entry point into NASCAR.

So you helped with the hat dance? Is there old victory lane footage of you and we can spot you if we go back?

If you want to look around, you would I think find from 1996 to 1998, you’ll find a number of times, Jeff Gordon in victory lane in Pocono — I was the guy and got sprayed with champagne for sure. And I got yelled at a few times. But it was cool because you got to know people. Most of the sponsors obviously are in victory lane. And then the pre-race ceremonies, coordinating with the track, it was good and bad.

What they told me when I started in NASCAR was if you’re a somewhat decent person, you’ll survive in this job because you’ll get to interact with all levels. If you have a big ego, you’re probably out in six months because word gets around. So it was a good experience for me.

Are there any incidents from then that you’ve stuck in your mind? Like do you go back to somebody and say, “I remember when you yelled at me that time, and now I’m Steve O’Donnell!”

I’ve never done it that way. (Laughs)  But I remember way back in the Gatorade days with Ed Shull. Ed used to run the Gatorade program, and NASCAR used to have a program with them. One of the tasks was when that car drove into victory lane, the Gatorade bottle went on the car.

We were in Indianapolis, and Indy does it a little differently. So I’m in victory lane, and the head of the track sees me with my Gatorade bottle and he says, “If you put that on the car, you’re out of here. I will throw you out of victory lane.” And Ed Shull tapped me on the shoulder and said, “You’re putting that on the car.” And so I did.

It was another Jeff Gordon win (1998), and I was summarily thrown out of victory lane. I was escorted to the hauler (to meet) with Mike Helton. And at the time, I knew Mike, but not that well. It was me and I think the senior track guys and Mike, and luckily Mike defended me — which was great.

Steve O’Donnell (arm visible in upper right) places a Gatorade bottle on Jeff Gordon’s car after the 1998 Brickyard 400. O’Donnell was doing his job but got thrown out of victory lane by Indianapolis track officials (Screenshot from YouTube).

Another one was way back in the day at the Milwaukee Mile. Steve Bird was the crew chief and I was getting the driver ready to get out of the car and he said, “Who are you?” I said, “I’m with NASCAR,” and he said, “Get the hell out of my way.” He kind of shoved me out of the way.

So I’m on the plane with Mike Helton, and I’m relaying this story. He said, “Birdy pushed you?” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “We’re fining him!” And I said, “Oh no, no, no, I don’t wanna be part of this.” It was funny back in the day.

Overall, how many years have you worked in NASCAR now?

This is my 21st year. I’ve spent about 12 years probably on the marketing side and then three or four — I did all of our weekly racing series, so similar to minor league baseball, and I traveled to all of our short tracks. We had 100 at the time, and that was part of my job managing that and the touring series. And then (working) straight competition, probably the last four to five years I would say.

At what point did you want to make the switch? I’m sure you have an appreciation for the marketing department, but obviously there was something about the competition that drove you to that side. What was it?

I always liked the operations part and what went on from the track and how we put on events. And then I loved what happened on track, and I knew I didn’t have the full engineering background, so I didn’t push for a lot of that. But I knew I was pretty good at managing people and a team, and was candidly given the opportunity to get into the racing operations side — which was more working with the team owners on some of their agreements, just what we’re doing day in and day out with the track. It was not necessarily the rules and regulations of the sport. But Mike Helton and some of the guys gave me a shot to do that with the R&D Center and that really evolved into, “Hey, can you manage this group of people?”

And I said, “Well, that’s new for me from an experience standpoint. What if Jeff Gluck asks me some in-the-weeds questions?” And they said, “That’s OK, we’re gonna hire the right people, it’s more putting a good team together.” So I think that gave me an opportunity to get more into competition, which, candidly, I love. At the end of the day, it’s all about what happens on the racetrack. That’s the aspect I love of this part of the job.

What would you describe as the big break in your career and who gave that to you?

When (former chief operating officer) George Pyne worked here, we had NASCAR’s 50th Anniversary and we were gonna look at “What do we do? How do we brand this? How do we really make this a celebration of NASCAR?” I was kind of the victory lane guy and I sent George a note and said, “I’m looking at getting involved in some more things. I don’t have experience in licensing or some of these other things, but put me to work if I can be of help.”

(Pyne) created a committee and kind of threw some stuff at me more and more, and it kind of evolved to where he trusted me. It became an, “As we have opportunities, Steve’s the guy we may want to look at.” And that helped me get to the weekly racing series and then from there, I worked hard. Every manager I’ve had has been great. Jim Hunter was a big influence on me and him and George helping me, so I would say that one project helped at least get on the radar internally. And then from there, it evolved to where you’re working with the (France) family and hopefully doing a good job.

So did you ever envision yourself in this role? Could you have dreamed of that when you first started with NASCAR?

No. But I’m not a guy that came into a job and said, “I wanna be the XYZ of NASCAR.” Don’t get me wrong, I have ambitions and want to work hard, but I just liked what I did, and I wanted to continue to do that and as more things came in front of me. I was like, “OK, I’ll go after this and hopefully do a good job and if not, I’m sure they’ll tell me and I’ll be on my way.”

But I love the sport, I love the people and felt like if I could contribute and could continue to be part of that, I was happy to do that. There’s been some times, candidly, where I was like, “Am I over my skis a little bit? This is new to me.” And I think the industry has really has been good to me to help out. What I found is as long as you talk to people and listen, you can get most good ideas just from listening to people and trying to corral where we’re all trying to go.

What’s next in your career? Obviously, you’re still fairly young. You have a long career with many years ahead of you. Do you see yourself doing this the rest of your career? What else do you want to accomplish for yourself?

I’m a big family guy and I think part of the one challenge of the job — and I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining — but I had young kids when I started. I was away a lot.

I’ve got a son now who’s a sophomore in college and a daughter who’s about to graduate (high school), and a wife who’s like, “What are we gonna do?” So I think it will also be an opportunity where — she’s a big race fan as well – maybe wants to come to some more races.

I try to be at every baseball game and did pretty well at that, but I think I’ll have some more time to get up (with people) on a social aspect, go to dinner with a driver, spend some more time with a team owner and try and make maybe some more informed decisions. Some of the times you make a call and you haven’t maybe talked to as many people as you would have liked to.

I love what I’m doing. I think for me the key is setting NASCAR up for the next generation. We’ve got Scott Miller, we’ve got Gene (Stefanyshyn), we’ve got John Probst who just joined us — but who’s that next group of people so that we put this company in a (good) position?

(In the past) NASCAR was a place on the competition side where if you came from a race team, you were probably on your way out or retiring, and it was just, “Hey you don’t wanna go there, you’ll be out of the loop.” And I told Scott Miller if we could ever make this change, that we can get people from a race team (who) actually want to go work here and feel like they can go back and forth (between NASCAR and a team job), we will have succeeded. We’re not there yet, but we’re starting to see that. That’s really my focus, is to just continue to get the right people that everyone in the garage trusts and it’s a place where we’re all working more together.

There’s some famous career advice out there where to find your dream job, find someone who’s already in that job and then try to understand how they got there. If someone out there is reading and is like, “I’d love to do what Steve O’Donnell is doing someday,” how should they get started? Is it something where they should go to their local track and start, or should they try to get into NASCAR in the ground level? What’s the ideal path to get to where you are?

I’ve had people who gave me a shot, so I’m not gonna sit here and say, “Hey, he’s the most skilled person ever.” I’ve been really lucky people believed in me. But for me, what I’ve always seen is internships show that someone really cares and they’re taking the initiative. If you’re in college or whatever and you’re saying, “I’m gonna spend my summer and I’m gonna go try and work here.” — forget even grad school — for me, when I look at a resume, I’m like, “That person took initiative.”

And then when I look back at my career, I was afraid maybe to call some people (because I thought) “They don’t wanna hear from this young person.” I would say, anybody who’s in a position of where I’m at who doesn’t call back someone who took the initiative to reach out for a job is an absolute jerk. Because we were all there.

So I would say make that effort, and don’t be afraid; if it’s a friend of a friend and you’ve got a shot, use your resources. Because at the end of the day, it’s gonna be, “Jeff Gluck knew John Smith and Jeff thinks this person is a good person, so I’m gonna give him a shot and talk to him.” So I’ve always found that that’s a big part of this.

And then the other part is, don’t let people say no. If you are passionate about what you’re doing, stay after it, because people will see that. And if you hate your job, get out, because it’s a long life, hopefully. I did some jobs before NASCAR — I was a sales guy, I’m selling long distance door-to-door in New York City for a year. It was a tough job, got yelled at a lot, learned a lot, but I knew, “I hate this and I can’t do this for the rest of my life.” So I went and did unpaid internships and it worked.

So you already had started your career in some ways and then to reset, you said, “I’m just gonna completely start over?”

I graduated from college and I didn’t know you could even work in sports, but I kind of heard, “Hey, you might be able to work in minor league baseball, it doesn’t pay a lot.” But I was like, “Wow, this could be great.” And went out to (a seminar in) El Paso, Texas, and it’s all the general managers of the minor leagues, and I looked around and it’s 40 people looking for a job.

And at the end of the seminar, they gave everybody the microphone and they said, “You have one minute to say why we should hire you.” I think I did OK to get an unpaid internship in Iowa, but I didn’t have money (to accept it) at the time, so I ended up moving back home.

I was in New Jersey, and I got a sales job literally selling long distance to businesses. So I would cold call, go in, and then I’d get the, “Are you an f’in sales guy? Get out!” But I grew up quick, so it’s like, “Gotta make some money here and try and figure this out.” You learn about people a little bit, and I ended up getting an unpaid internship down in Orlando. I was like, “You know, I’m gonna try this.” I made enough money to kind of survive in the summer and did that, and I turned it into a couple more gigs and then led to NASCAR.

So when the media comes to you with some difficult questions, it’s nothing compared to being yelled at by some New York business guy?

No, I think I actually enjoy that part of it. I know in that role, it’s part of what we’ve gotta do. And I also learned, you know, I know sometimes I can be defensive with some drivers and it’s hard — I wear my emotions on my sleeve and sometimes I don’t even know it. Our communications people are like, “You looked really ticked during that.” I’m like, “What? Really?”

So I enjoy that part. I watch a lot of press conferences of other people (and observe) how they handle things. When you think, “Boy, that guy looked really mad,” from a media person, I’d write, “That guy’s a jerk!”

You (reporters) have a job to do and I respect that. You’re not asking me because, “I’m gonna bury this guy.” Sometimes you may have to, but I respect that that’s your job. And my job is to do the same: Try answer as honestly as I can.

That’s one other thing: No one in this industry has ever gone away. You can be a jerk and try to win that one argument, but two years later, you probably need something from that person — and then (the previous argument was) not worth it. I think you try and work hard, but here’s some advice: Work hard and be nice, because at the end of the day, people will hopefully respect that.

NASCAR Media Tour Day 1: No news is good news

For the first time in a very long time — longer than I’ve been around, anyway — NASCAR will not hold a “State of the Sport” news conference during this year’s NASCAR Media Tour.

In the past, those events have been when NASCAR unveils major changes or makes important announcements about the season.

This year, there is nothing scheduled. And in all honesty, it probably wasn’t necessary — because there’s nothing to announce.

“We feel like we’re coming off a really great year of competition on the track,” NASCAR’s Steve O’Donnell said Monday at a Charlotte Motor Speedway event. “Certainly, you always want to see improvements. But we’re going to head into 2018 confident that we’re going to continue to put on great racing. One of the things our fans have asked for is not too much change, and we’re listening to that and ready to go for ’18.”

O’Donnell said even the one big significant change that had been discussed last year — the potential to not count caution laps during stage breaks — won’t end up being implemented. There was an industry meeting last week, he said, and the consensus was “we were really comfortable with how things played out last year, so we’re going to continue on.”

“We’ll certainly try to speed it up a little bit in between (stages), but it’ll be the same process,” he said.

Other than that? Changes like a spec pit gun, the reduction in pit crew size, the Hawkeye inspection system and potentially more two-day shows have already been announced.

And NASCAR is feeling good about its positioning heading into the year, despite the departure of even more stars like Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth and Danica Patrick.

“The mood is really positive,” O’Donnell said. “(There are) a number of changes with drivers, a lot of younger drivers coming through the system. From our perspective, it’s a new NASCAR. We’ve got a lot of new, fresh faces who really want to reach out to the fans and get going with the season, which is refreshing.

“Then when you look at some of our veterans we may have lost, they’re still connected to the sport. Dale Jr. is still connected, which is a great thing. And when you look at the crop of veteran drivers we have, I feel like (they) are really vested in the sport and want to work with those young drivers to say, ‘Let’s go in 2018 and let’s make this a big year.'”

No news conference needed, apparently; that’s the state of NASCAR heading into this new year.


NASCAR Media Tour news conference highlights in the Brian France Era:

2017: Stage racing format is announced, along with playoff points.

2016: Playoff format comes to Xfinity and Trucks; caution clock arrives in Trucks.

2015: Pit road officiating system with high-tech cameras unveiled.

2014: Elimination-style playoff format announced, along with expansion to 16 drivers.

2011: Points system changes to one point for each position; wild cards added to Chase.

2010: “Boys, have at it” policy announced.

2007: Chase expands to 12 drivers and bonus points are added for a win.

2004: The original Chase format is revealed.

Successful Xfinity Series race at Indy provides glimpse of the future

No matter what you think of NASCAR’s decision to go with an experimental rules package in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway or the merits of such a move, let’s start with the facts.

— There were a race record 16 lead changes, nearly doubling the previous race record of nine. That’s a remarkable number for the Brickyard, which has had 16 or fewer lead changes in 12 of the 23 Cup Series races run here!

— A race record eight different drivers led laps (two more than the previous mark). By comparison, last year’s Brickyard 400 — again, a race that was 100 miles longer — had just three different leaders.

— The margin of victory was just 0.108 second, which was obviously the closest.

So there are the facts. Did those stats — along with the eye test — make for a good race?

Well, as of the time of this post, 83 percent of people in a quick Twitter poll said “Yes.”

I agree. It wasn’t just a better race than in the past, but it was a good race — and I wasn’t very optimistic that would be the case, even with the rule changes in place.

After all, how many times has NASCAR tried something with high hopes (just look at the PJ1 at New Hampshire last week) only to see the race result in somewhat of a letdown?

This time, NASCAR’s extensive research and development work paid off with a concept that seemed to click. It would be shocking if officials didn’t try this idea in the Cup Series sometime in the next year — not just at Indy, but places like Pocono or Michigan.

Was it perfect? No, because it achieved only part of the goal. Slowing the cars kept the race close because the leader could not get away, but passing still seemed like a challenge.

Erik Jones, for example, told me he could easily stay with race leader Kyle Busch while running second — but there was nothing he could do to pass, even if he’d wanted to.

That said, Jones said the package was a positive move overall; it just needs some tweaks, he said.

“A lot of times, these cars are just going too fast,” Jones said. “You go to your local short track and the best race of the weekend is the street stocks or vintage cars, because they’re going so slow that they can go everywhere. They can go all over the racetrack.

“We were definitely a step towards that. You could even see people make passes on the outside, which at Indy is pretty unheard of.”

The whole thing is a bit of an odd concept at Indianapolis, which has rewarded pure speed ever since NASCAR has been racing here. But Saturday’s race had more of a Daytona or Talladega feel, where the leader was punished by getting too far ahead — allowing competitors to catch up in the draft.

Some fans were upset about the concept of artificially bunching the field. It also didn’t sit well with Kyle Busch, who was feeling salty after seeing his chance at a fifth straight Brickyard win disappear.

Busch told me the package was no good and said he would “definitely” be opposed to seeing it tried in the Cup Series.

“They wanted to slow down the fastest guy here so the rest of the field could keep up, and they did,” he said.

But what if there were some tweaks made that perhaps allowed for more passing? Would he be open to the idea then?

“There’s great ideas everywhere,” he responded while walking away.

Xfinity regular Brennan Poole, who finished seventh, disagreed with Busch’s comments. He said there were a couple small changes NASCAR could make to increase passing opportunities, yes; but overall, Poole had no problems with the fairness of the rules.

“I mean, that’s just part of racing,” he said. “It’s the same way at Daytona and Talladega. This package keeps everybody together, but you’ve just got to work a little harder for it.

“It puts on a better fan show for the fans. When there’s more passing and swapping for the lead and everyone fighting, it’s better to watch. I think it was good.”

And if you’re looking for a hint from NASCAR whether a similar package might be used in future races, Steve O’Donnell certainly gave all indications the sanctioning body viewed Saturday’s experiment with a smile.

“I think it passed the eye test,” he told reporters. “Some races, you’re going 200 (mph). Some, you’re down in the 100s on a road course. What at the end of the day matters is how many lead changes did we have and was it competitive throughout. And we thought it was today.”


NASCAR’s Steve O’Donnell on life after Dale Jr.

One of the hot topics in the wake of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s retirement announcement has been: Is NASCAR in trouble?

It’s a fair question, because the up-and-coming drivers don’t seem to have the same sort of big, magnetic personalities drivers like Earnhardt, Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon had.

There are a lot of opinions on this, but a very important one comes from NASCAR itself. Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s executive vice president and the guy who basically runs the show these days, attended Tuesday’s news conference and answered a few questions afterward, saying he was optimistic about the future of the sport.

Among his answers:


— The current crop of young drivers do have personalities that will attract fans, O’Donnell believes, but “they’ve got to win” more often in order for fans and media to recognize that.

“People like winners,” he said. “We’ve taken some steps in the Xfinity Series to move out some of the Cup drivers. The reason for that is we want drivers exposed to winning — (then) they’re interviewed more, people get to see their personalities.”

O’Donnell said there’s “no doubt” the drivers’ personalities will be exposed as they start to have more success.

— It’s one thing for NASCAR to be more involved with developing personalities and scheduling TV show appearances or similar opportunities, but there’s only so much the sanctioning body can do. At some point, O’Donnell said, the drivers have to step up and “take those personalities outside the sport.”

“It’s important for us to work together, but it’s also on the drivers,” he said. “They’ve got to want to do some of these things outside of the sport to help grow the sport as well.”

— O’Donnell is comforted by the fact Earnhardt isn’t going away and wants to remain part of the sport. He believes Earnhardt can continue to help NASCAR develop the young drivers’ personalities, both as an Xfinity Series team owner and other ways that haven’t yet come to light.

In addition, O’Donnell feels Earnhardt will continue to give feedback on NASCAR’s direction (as Jeff Burton and Jeff Gordon have in retirement).

“He’s not hesitant to send you a message every day on, ‘Here’s what I thought about the race’ or ‘Here’s some ideas you all need to explore,'” O’Donnell said. “He cares about the long-term health of the sport. And I think the other drivers he’s interacted with, especially the younger drivers, see that and know that’s important going forward.”

Things we learned from NASCAR meeting with Kyle Busch, Joey Logano

Kyle Busch and Joey Logano met briefly in the NASCAR hauler prior to practice Friday at Phoenix International Raceway. Each driver emerged separately — followed by NASCAR executive vice president Steve O’Donnell.

Here’s one thing we learned from each participant:


Drivers can get physical on pit road, but they’d better not use their cars to settle any beefs.

“We’re very clear that we’re not going to allow a car to be used as a weapon,” O’Donnell said. “We didn’t see that in this case. We looked at this as good, hard racing. That’s when we will react — if there’s an intentional something that happens on the racetrack, we’ll have to react.”


The Team Penske driver brought data from the car with him — something he said Busch asked for — as evidence he didn’t do it on purpose (data could include steering inputs, for example).

“I was able to show him that and it was pretty clear, in my opinion, what happened,” Logano said. ” I hope he was able to see that and know I was sincere about it.

“The only thing I can do at this point was to plead my case and say, ‘Hey, it was an honest mistake, it was hard racing at the end.'”

Logano said it “always helps to talk face-to-face” — something he didn’t do in the past, notably with Matt Kenseth prior to the veteran taking revenge on him at Martinsville.


Everything is great.

“Everything is great,” Busch said. “Everything is great. … Everything is great. … Everything is great.”