Alabama Gang founders to today’s NASCAR stars: Fans pay your salaries, don’t forget them

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Three of the remaining founding members of NASCAR’s legendary Alabama gang are not only a group of winners and champions, they’re also very wise men.

Last weekend, the superstretch of Talladega Superspeedway was renamed in honor of the ‘Gang. And during an interview, brothers Bobby and Donnie Allison, as well as Red Farmer dispensed some very sage advice to today’s NASCAR stars:

Slow down.

Not slow down on the racetrack, that is, but for drivers to slow down and appreciate and reevaluate the relationship with their fans, according to a story on 110nationsports.com.

“You’ve got to make sure that the drivers, the heroes, even though they’re making millions of dollars, they’ve still got to remember the people in the grandstand are the ones that pay their salaries,” Farmer told the web site. “Without the people in the grandstands, they wouldn’t have that income. They’ve got to take care of those people in the grandstands, sign the autographs when they want to.

“Maybe slow down a couple of steps when they’re trying to run to meet their schedule and maybe take time to talk to people they’re signing the autographs for. Then they’ll come back. You can’t forget the fans. They’re the ones that make the payroll, and you’ve got to make them happy.”

Farmer is spot-on with his advice. For many of today’s biggest stars, interaction with fans is limited at best. Sure, they may spend an hour or two at their souvenir trailer on race day mornings, but that’s because they’re obligated to do so by contract.

What Farmer and the two Allison brothers want to see is drivers take more initiative in having greater interaction with fans, even on an impromptu basis.

NASCAR Hall of Famer, three-time Daytona 500 winner and 1983 Winston Cup champion Bobby Allison said that back in his racing days, drivers were far more fan-friendly.

“We were families. Our wives and children came and our parents and the community backed us,” Allison said. “The current guys come in their motor coach with their handler or three or four PR people and they don’t talk to anybody. They don’t sign autographs. And they don’t go over to the short tracks even to watch.”

With NASCAR having endured significant drops in at-track attendance and in TV ratings over the last six to seven years, the only way the sport can get back to its glory days of old is to have drivers take the initiative and become more of a giving type, rather than just takers when it comes only to race purses and things of that nature.

“Get the enthusiasm back in about racing, not just NASCAR Sprint Cup racing but the enthusiasm about racing and the idea that the whole family can be part of it,” Allison told 110nationsports.com.

Younger brother Donnie said that the sport itself has never been closer, with great parity.

“NASCAR, in my opinion, has worked very hard to get the racing back to where the guys are racing,” Donnie Allison said. “The guys can drive the race cars. They can race.”

Now it’s up to the drivers to build upon that off the track to bring in new fans and bring back former fans.

The question is, will today’s drivers listen?

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Final 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona results, stats

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona overall results were all streaks: two consecutive victories in the endurance classic for Meyer Shank Racing and three in a row for Acura.

And Helio Castroneves became the second driver to win three consecutive Rolex 24s and the first to win in three straight years (Peter Gregg won in 1973, ’75 and ’76; the race wasn’t held in ’74 because of a global oil crisis).

Starting from the pole position, Tom Blomqvist took the checkered flag in the No. 60 ARX-06 that led a race-high 365 of 783 laps with co-drivers Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud and Colin Braun.

RESULTS: Click here for the finishing order in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona l By class

Meyer Shank Racing now has two Rolex 24 victories and the 2022 championship since entering the premier prototype category of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2021.

“I think what’s so special about this team is we are a small team compared to some of our opponents, but the atmosphere, the way we work, enables people to get the best out of themselves, and I think that’s why we’re such high achievers,” Blomqvist said. “I think there’s no egos. It’s a very open book, and that just enables each and every one of us to reach our potential. I think that’s why we’ve achieved so much success in really a short time at this level of competition.”

It’s the 16th IMSA victory for MSR.

The 61st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona marked the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category that brought hybrid engine technology to IMSA’s top level.

In other categories:

LMP2: James Allen passed Ben Hanley on the final lap and delivered a victory in the No. 55 ORECA by 0.016 seconds. It’s the second IMSA victory for Proton Competition, which last won at Sebring in 2012. It was the first Rolex 24 victory for Allen and co-drivers Gianmaria Bruni, Fred Poordad and Francesco Pizzi.

GTD Pro: Cooper MacNeil won in the last start of his IMSA career as the No. 79 Mercedes-AMG GT3 scored the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for WeatherTech Racing and the team’s fourth career victory.

MacNeil, who co-drove with Maro Engel, Jules Gounon and Daniel Juncadella, earned his 12th career victory and first at the Rolex 24.

“Winning by last IMSA race is tremendous,” MacNeil said.

GTD: The No. 27 Heart of Racing Team delivered the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for Aston Martin, which has been competing in endurance races at Daytona International Speedway since 1964. Drivers Marco Sorensen, Roman De Angelis, Darren Turner and Ian James (also the team principal) earned the victory in the English brand’s 13th attempt.

It’s also the first Rolex 24 at Daytona win for Heart of Racing, which has seven IMSA wins.

LMP3: Anthony Mantella, Wayne Boyd, Nico Varrone and Thomas Merrill drove the No. 17 AWA Duqueine D08 to victory by 12 laps for the team’s first class win in IMSA.


STATS PACKAGE FOR ROLEX 24 HOURS OF DAYTONA:

Fastest laps by driver

Fastest laps by driver after race (over the weekend)

Fastest laps by driver and class after race

Fastest lap sequence

Lap chart

Leader sequence

Race analysis by lap

Stint analysis

Time cards

Pit stop time cards

Best sector times

Race distance and speed average

Flag analysis

Weather report

NEXT: The 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season will resume with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring March 18 with coverage across NBC, USA and Peacock.