BROOKLYN, MICH. — Many are calling it the All Star package. Kevin Harvick called it “the snorkel package” on his SiriusXM radio show Tuesday, Happy Hours.
Whatever it’s called, if it becomes permanent, former NASCAR champ Brad Keselowski said the great drivers will choose somewhere else to race.
“I think that package needs to remain solely at the All Star race,” Keselowski said during a press conference at MIS Friday. “I think a lot of the drivers in this sport are in a position where they chose Cup racing because of the demands that the cars take to drive. I think there are a lot of fans that come to our races expecting to see the best drivers.”
“I think if you put a package like this out there, like we had at the All Star race, on a consistent basis that the best drivers in the world will no longer go to NASCAR. They will pick a different sport.”
He said the shift would not happen immediately or overnight, but it would happen eventually.
“It would happen over time and be a tragedy to the sport,” he said. “They want to go where they can make the biggest difference to their performance and there is no doubt that the driver makes less of a difference with that rules package.”
Keselowski used IndyCar as an example, which experimented with high-drag packages that created pack racing on some of its oval tracks. It was during one of those races in October 2011 that Dan Wheldon suffered fatal injuries during a multi-car crash at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Since that time, IndyCar has introduced different cars, culminating in a lower-downforce package this season designed to put the racing back into the hands of the drivers.
“I think a decade ago if you wanted to see the best racing in the world, it was in IndyCar,” Keselowski said. “They ran three- and four-wide and put on great shows, but long-term it didn’t translate to the fans or better racing than NASCAR. There are a lot of reasons for that and I would speculate that it goes back to the fact that the best race car drivers in the world were here, in NASCAR. And we saw that when IndyCar drivers came over here and didn’t find success. And they were some of the best IndyCar drivers. We have to tread very lightly with the next steps of this sport.”
In the end though, Keselowski said the decision was NASCAR’s.
“I don’t know what decision NASCAR will make,” he said. “It is their decision. All I can do is give my input and at this time, those are my strongest thoughts.”
Does it matter what the drivers think?
“Long term yes, short term no,” Keselowski said. “Long term yes because if you go to a package where drivers have less ability to determine their fate, they will go to an avenue where they can.”
“There’s a reason why Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon and some of the best drivers of our time moved from open-wheel to NASCAR,” Keselowski said. “Kyle Larson is another great example. They know they have a better opportunity to affect their finish based on talent and they know they are racing the highest caliber race car drivers. They know that they can attain the highest level of notoriety with the highest wages in motorsports in the United States. I don’t think that is a coincidence.”