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Sunday, August 1, 2010

If NASCAR is going to muzzle drivers, they should do it publicly

NASCAR’s hypocrisy was exposed this week when it decided that it’s fine with drivers “having at it” on the track, but not with their mouths.

It’s been reported that Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin received fines, secretly, after being openly critical of the sport. Hamlin believes his fine revolved around Twitter comments he made after a recent race concerning the possibility of fake cautions being thrown to bunch up the field.

Surprisingly, most drivers defended NASCAR’s secretive fining policy, including one of the most vocal drivers of all, Kevin Harvick.

"Well, I think if you got up here and said ESPN sucked, you'd get fired,” he replied to a reporter’s question on the topic. “In the end, it's everyone's responsibility to make sure that the sport is going in the right direction. 'Have at it Boys' on the race track is different than off the race track and having open reign on whatever you want to say about the sport because the last I checked most of us wouldn't be near as lucky having the jobs that we have if we didn't have this sport. So, it partially the responsibility of all of us to make sure that it goes in the right direction. So if you've got something to say, it's very easy to pick up the phone or walk over to the trailer and go express your feelings to somebody. And it's just not the right place to do it through this room (media center)."

Harvick went on to say he didn’t really consider the fines secret.
"Well, I think when you're hiding something you keep it to yourself. But there are a lot of people that are involved in decisions like that and lots of people know. Honestly, I don't think it's anybody's business. I don't think it's your business or anybody in this room's business. I think it's better to keep it between the teams because it's simpler."

Others, like Kyle Busch, just played ignorant.
“I don’t know. Is it the right thing? Whatever NASCAR feels is the right thing, they’re going to do. For us and for myself, it’s not in my budget so I’m not going to be worried about it.”

This all sounds a bit brainwashy to me, but it was echoed by other drivers, too. Apparently, secret fines are cool with them.
I’m not surprised, though. They are making millions of dollars by racing in NASCAR. If Mike Helton tells them to do something I guess they’re going to do it.
That doesn’t make it right, though.

Helton’s defense of this policy is just crazy. He said that the sanctioning body is focused on making sure a positive message about NASCAR is driven home to the public.
"What we discourage throughout the industry is sending the message that the sport isn't worthy of following." Helton said Thursday.

When I hear this statement, and the ones from drivers accepting this, I get an image of “Manchurian Candidate”-style thought implantation.
I don’t want my drivers to be robots running around saying that “NASCAR is good … you must watch” over and over. If NASCAR did something stupid that they don’t like, they should tell everyone without fear.

The good news is that these guys make enough money that a $50K fine isn’t going to shut them up if they’re extra mad and need to let their feelings be known. But you can bet that on most occasions, they will be quiet, especially since it hasn’t really been announced what comments are acceptable and what crosses the line.

The secrecy is what bothers me … I know that in the NBA players are fined for criticizing referees, and the same goes for other sport. But it has to be in the open. Secretly fining drivers without informing the public and other drivers is just inherently wrong.

What do they have to hide?

Strange seeing Almirola in 24 car

It was very interesting to see another driver, Aric Almirola, drive the #24 car in practice at Pocono while Jeff Gordon himself was looking on from high above.

Fresh off getting ready to fill in for Jimmie Johnson in the case of an untimely baby birth (didn’t happen), he’s preparing to take on the same role for Gordon should it become necessary this weekend.

It got me thinking that if there weren’t so many drivers in his stable already, Hendrick might just sign Almirola. He seems to like him a lot. Too bad he doesn’t even have a spot for Kasey Kahne, yet. But at least Almirola’s keeping his name fresh in Hendrick’s mind.


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