Edwards: NASCAR should change product, not formats

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Carl Edwards isn’t in charge of NASCAR, nor will be anytime soon. Still, doesn’t mean the Roush Fenway Racing driver can’t offer opinions on potential technical or format changes for the Sprint Cup Series.

“I’d like much softer tires and less downforce, but the process for new changes was really impressive, the way it was tested,” he said during his first media availability of 2014 during the NASCAR Preseason Thunder test at Daytona. “Of the three things tested, they chose the best one in my opinion.”

Edwards is referring to the raised rear spoiler for 2014, which should actually increase downforce. He joked, “I’d be all for chopping the spoilers off and wetting down the track.”

But, in all seriousness, Edwards praised the unified and increased competition committee involving Brian France, Mike Helton, John Darby, Gene Stefanyshyn and now, Darby’s replacement as managing director of the Sprint Cup Series, Richard Buck. The committee is seeking to improve NASCAR’s racing product, particularly on the 1.5-mile ovals where passing wasn’t particularly easy during the first season with the new Generation-6 car.

“I’m not a very patient person, so it’s very difficult for me to go down this road,” Edwards said. “The coolest part of the test (last year) was, Brian France, Mike Helton, Darby, Stefanyshyn, all saying ‘We can make things better. We’ll work with Goodyear, they’re committed.’ Say what you like about NASCAR or directions, but they’re very committed to changing whatever it takes to be the best we can be. It makes me excited.”

When it came to format changes rather than competition ones, Edwards guarded against change simply for the sake of change.

“It would be like the police changing the speed limit every day when you go down the same road. At some point you’d be like, ‘C’mon, man,’” Edwards admitted.

“There’s something to be said about the history of the sport, not moving things too far away, and I also think we have to be careful … we don’t want take away the credibility of a format by changing it all the time. We need the same measure year-to-year. You don’t want to change all the time just to change.”

Because Edwards’ team has traditionally run consistently stronger over a longer stretch of races rather than the 10 Chase races, he wouldn’t mind seeing the Chase add more races, but didn’t estimate it would happen.

After losing the 2011 Cup title on a tiebreaker, Edwards missed the Chase in 2012 and finished 13th and last in this year’s Chase. Edwards won twice, though, marking only his second season with more than one win in the last five years.

Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry. Time just published a brief piece by Wallace saluting Hamilton as a trailblazer.

The idea of Hamilton attending the NASCAR season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it would seem right for Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — to spend some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).