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DATE News (chronologically)
06/19/08
nassprint
Drivers a bit irked at Helton's tone
Jimmie Johnson said that last week's drivers meeting called by NASCAR president Mike Helton may show a disconnect between NASCAR and the drivers, teams and car owners who are actually competing the races.

Helton told the drivers that NASCAR is tired of hearing drivers complain about the winged car. And Helton reminded drivers that they make a good living in the sport -- which is, after all, a family-owned business. Helton pointed out that fans are a big part of the equation, that they are spending good money to watch, and that drivers should takes the fans into consideration.

Some drivers accepted the edict, basically to "shut up and drive." Others didn't like the tone. Tony Stewart said he wasn't sure what Helton would allow him and other drivers to say now. Johnson said that drivers may know the fans -- and the big picture -- better than NASCAR officials do.

"I don't think there is any disconnect between the drivers and the public," Johnson said. "We as drivers represent the sponsors, sign the autographs, do the commercials, and interact with the fans. I don't see it disconnecting there.

"What I do see is that there is a communication problem that kind of exists between the drivers and NASCAR. I think that owners in NASCAR have more opportunities, and they talk on a more regular basis than drivers and NASCAR do.

"What you're really seeing through all this is people that aren't happy as drivers, and experiencing things … and unless you say something about it, nobody is going to know.

"So we need to work as a whole to communicate better: from drivers to NASCAR, and NASCAR to drivers. More meetings like that would be much welcomed by the entire field. I think everybody would appreciate that and love to have their voices heard.

"We drivers respect the sport, we respect what everyone in NASCAR has done," Johnson said. "The sponsors, the fans, and frankly some guys just want their voices to be heard, and they've been speaking out."  Winston Salem Journal

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