DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Brian Vickers hopes he’ll never need a pension. Good thing, because NASCAR isn’t about to set up a 401(k) plan for its drivers. Many drivers, most millionaires, were talking Thursday about pensions and insurance after a series of stories by The Associated Press about the sanctioning body’s lack of pension fund. NASCAR’s policy always has been that its drivers are “independent contractors” who are responsible for their finances, health care, retirement and life insurance. This model is followed in almost every form of motorsports. “I’m a big supporter of some sort of fund,” said Kenny Wallace, younger brother of longtime NASCAR star Rusty Wallace. “A lot of things aren’t in our control. “Sometimes, you hit the wall, and this sport takes your life away from you. For that, you have to have a pension. The whole world has pensions. Every company and Major League Baseball, the NFL. Now’s the time to look at it.” But Jim Hunter, vice president of communications for NASCAR, emphasized the sanctioning body is not structured like other sports, thus it isn’t fair to make a direct comparison on pension plans. “People don’t understand when they start talking about pensions that our whole arrangement is different,” he said. “The drivers are independent contractors. They don’t work for NASCAR. “And any time you talk about money, people want someone else to pay.” Tony Stewart, who said he has used money from his own pocket and from his charitable foundation to help injured and down-on-their-luck drivers, said he doesn’t blame NASCAR for not doing more. “Where do you draw the line?” Stewart said. “If you look at NASCAR and the regional series and weekly racing series, there’s thousands and thousands of drivers. It’s not necessarily NASCAR’s responsibility, and it’s not necessarily a responsibility that I have to put on myself, either. “It’s just something that I feel is the right thing to do, and it just makes me feel good to help. … When we’ve been able to send a $5,000 check to somebody to help with a hospital bill, the letter that you get back, to see how sincere they are and how grateful they are that you’ve done something to help. … That makes me proud to be a racer. Racers help racers.” 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! “I was raised to be a pretty responsible person, and, hey, you just take care of yourself and move on,” said Vickers, a 23-year-old NASCAR regular. “It’s not like a big deal to me. “But there are so many people who have come through this sport that, for whatever reason, didn’t have an opportunity to help themselves. There are so many drivers who have done so much for this sport, and they have nothing.”
160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! A message left Tuesday for an A. Rosenthal in Manhattan was not immediately returned. Someone answering the phone at Panzirer’s home in Westchester said he was not home. The dog is currently living at the Helmsley’s Connecticut estate, being cared for by staffers at the 28-room mansion. It was also Helmsley’s wish that Trouble someday be interred with her at the Helmsley mausoleum at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. It seems trouble is following Trouble, Leona Helmsley’s beloved pooch. The late hotelier left the 8-year-old Maltese $12 million and asked her brother to see to it that her pampered canine live out her life in the lap of luxury. But apparently that brother, Alvin Rosenthal, to whom Helmsley left $15 million and a percentage of her charitable trust, is not interested. The New York Post, citing an unidentified source, reported Tuesday that Rosenthal, 80, expressed no interest in caring for Trouble. Whether her grandson David Panzirer, Helmsley’s second choice, would step in was not known.