As a three-time Sprint Cup Series champion, a team owner and a track owner, Tony Stewart is as qualified as any driver in NASCAR to offer a candid assessment of where the sport is making its greatest strides — and where it could stand some refinements.
Stewart was asked to weigh in on this topic Tuesday during a national teleconference with members of the NASCAR media.
Admitting that his primary focus right now is on improving his struggling No. 14 Sprint Cup team, Stewart was quick to praise the sanctioning body for doing what he considers a good job of seeking feedback from drivers.
Stewart specifically praised the new driver council for soliciting the viewpoints of competitors about ways to make the sport better.
The co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing and owner of Eldora Speedway also mentioned the non-NASCAR endorsed Race Team Alliance, which formed last summer so that team owners might work more closely together on initiatives and issues facing the sport.
The goals of the RTA include lowering costs for NASCAR teams and creating one voice on issues facing the teams.
The driver council, on which Stewart is one of nine confirmed drivers, met with NASCAR officials at Dover last month and again earlier this month at Daytona.
"If I had to look and say what I thought was the greatest thing, it's seeing NASCAR as a whole work with the teams and the drivers and be more accommodating as far as having the drivers council, the RTA, them working with NASCAR the way they are," Stewart said. "I mean, that's something in the 17 years I've been in the Cup Series I've never seen.
"It was alright to walk in the trailer and give them an idea, and that's as far as it always went. Now you're actually having meetings, working hand-in-hand with NASCAR. I think that's something that I've never seen in this sport, which to me is really exciting as a driver and owner. I think it's great."
If there's one thing Stewart would change about the dialogue between the driver council and NASCAR so far, it would be greater participation from NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France.
"I'd love to see Brian France show up at some of these council meetings and stuff, but I'm sure he's busy," Stewart said. Jared Turner/Fox Sports