Friday, July 30, 2010

Your Turn: Secret Driver Fines

This is a special edition of "Your Turn." The idea is to allow comments on the recently reported issue of secret fines imposed on top NASCAR drivers.

AP reporter Jenna Fryer offered the original story of NASCAR fining at least two drivers this season for comments it felt were detrimental to the sport. In one case, the fine was said to be as much as 50 thousand dollars. This set-off a firestorm of controversy for a variety of reasons.

Here is a group of stories on this topic from a cross-section of NASCAR reporters and bloggers. The list begins with Fryer's original story. Click on the title to read the story.

"NASCAR Gets Tougher To Protect Its Brand" from AP reporter Jenna Fryer.

"NASCAR's Secret Fines A Bad Policy" from AOL Senior Motorsports writer Holly Cain.

"NASCAR’s Gone All Commie On Us And Junk" by NASCAR writer Greg Engle.

"NASCAR Looks To Silence Drivers Critical Of The Sport" by Tom Bowles of Sports Illustrated.

"NASCAR: Come Clean About Secret Penalty Box" by Jim Utter of The Charlotte Observer.

"Secret Fines For Drivers Who Speak Out Signals A Setback For NASCAR" from SBNation motorsports reporter Jeff Gluck.

Professional sports from Major League Baseball to the NFL have a definition and policy that deals with conduct by active athletes, coaches and owners that is deemed detrimental to the sport. Fines, probation and suspension are all part of that policy. So are player unions, collective bargaining agreements and public disclosure of all penalties and fines.

One issue to keep in mind in this discussion is that no football game has ever been stopped and possession given to the losing team because the NFL decided the score was too lopsided. No Major League Baseball team was suddenly given four outs in an inning by the umpire to make the game more exciting.

This season NASCAR has repeatedly stopped the racing action late in events by putting out the caution flag. This has been a topic that has aggravated drivers and owners, especially when what appeared to be the natural outcome of the event was altered. Criticism of NASCAR this season has often been aimed in this direction.

Sprint Cup Series owner Michael Waltrip was vocal in saying NASCAR is correct in calling these "TV timeouts." Waltrip said purposeful late race cautions should be welcomed by the fans. Waltrip stated on Twitter that fans who spent the time and money to come to the races deserved an exciting finish.

SBNation's Jeff Gluck said he is in favor of NASCAR "tightening things up" at the end of the races. If cars are damaged in subsequent wrecks, that is just the price teams pay for playing at the Sprint Cup Series level. "It just adds drama," said Gluck on Twitter.

NASCAR has steadfastly refused to acknowledge that it has ever called a caution period for anything other than a dangerous condition on the racetrack. This sentiment had been backed-up by veteran TV and radio personalities. The issue does not exist to some in this group. Those who dare to discuss it are openly branded as disloyal.

Into this environment strolls the Sprint Cup Series drivers. Normally prepped by public relations managers, the drivers have one big problem. Eventually, they must actually spend some time racing. The result of that is sometimes raw emotion overflows and the resulting statements do not get run through the PR blender.

After fighting for hours to get an advantage on the track, drivers must deal with the fact that NASCAR may choose to alter the outcome by halting the action and calling a "TV timeout." Mark Martin uses an old school term when this happens. He calls them "show cautions."

NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston's statement made a lot of sense. He said NASCAR needs a mechanism to control public statements by high-profile personalities in the sport that are clearly detrimental. Unfortunately, Poston did not address the issue of NASCAR playing an active role in causing those statements through its own actions.

ESPN and several other media sources have named Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman as drivers fined this season. Ultimately, the names don't really matter.

In order for NASCAR to get back on track it must treat the races with the same sense of fair play that fans expect from the NFL and Major Leage Baseball. Only when a level playing field is maintained can NASCAR fairly penalize a "player" for speaking out in anger. Pocono this weekend should be a very good test of this issue.

Certainly, there are other whispers being heard. What else is NASCAR doing in secret? Why didn't NASCAR just disclose the fines originally? What specific comments triggered these fines? Why did NASCAR warn drivers in the pre-season on this topic?

Ultimately, in a week when Jack Roush was involved in an airplane crash, Gateway Raceway withdrew from NASCAR and Scott Wimmer's house burned down, this buzz about secret fines will pass. We will use Thursday to get your opinion and then move on to Pocono and Iowa topics for the weekend.

To offer your comments on NASCAR's secret fines and the media uncovering this topic, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, we do not tolerate profanity or hateful speech. Please keep that in mind when posting.

Thanks for stopping by The Daly Planet for this special edition of "Your Turn." We return to TV and media topics on Friday.


KoHoSo said...

...this buzz about secret fines will pass.

Mr. Daly, I'm not so sure that's fully correct. Sure, it's true that the specific story itself will fade from the headlines. However, in my view, this is yet another straw on the already-straining camel's back just like so many other things that have been piling on ever since the consolidation of the television contracts.

It is all of these things over time that have led to where we are today -- dropping television ratings and declining attendance that started long before The Great Recession. While perhaps not the majority, a significant segment of fans are feeling like they cannot trust what they are seeing or hearing and the "secret fines" incident only adds to that.

For me during this time when I am doing a lot of traveling in order to find a new job and thus missing a lot of NASCAR television (and explaining why you haven't seen much of me here lately), it's just another thing that is making me ask myself if I really care about NASCAR anymore. :-(

OSBORNK said...

Nascar's efforts to have exciting finishes with "debris" or other fabricated cautions late in the race goes a long way in making racing entertainment rather than a sport. When one team or person gets a big lead in basketball, football, baseball, hockey, golf, tennis, etc, the scorekeeper or officials don't change the spread to make the finish exciting. Fabricated excitement is entertainment.

Secretly fining drivers and other team members (you know it has happened)for telling the truth after they were robbed by NASCAR is unacceptable any way you look at it. Every fine or disciplinary action has to be public if the entertainment ever has a chance to return to being a sport.

Since everyone is required to follow the NASCAR script and the fans are only shown what NASCAR deems appropriate, I expect the fan support in attendance and viewership to continue to fall.

Richard in N.C. said...

JD, for balance I think you should have referenced the articles by David Newton and Marty Smith.

I see nothing wrong in NASCAR's actions except that they should have at least disclosed the number of drivers fined.

The NASCAR media is full of people who constantly bash NASCAR either out of bias, laziness, or for personal gain and drivers firing off their mouths without thinking only feeds the NASCAR bashers.

I am a NASCAR fan and there are many in the media who are determined to bash NASCAR first and worry about the facts second - like the argument about "phantom" debris cautions. Whether or not there is debris is not hard to determine - IF you are at the track and care what the truth is.

Several years ago Lenox Rawlings of the Winston-Salem Journal ( a so-called award winning journalist) wrote and stated publically that NASCAR fans are "ignorant and gullible." Over the past couple of years I have become convinced that when Rawlings described NASCAR fans as "ignorant and gullible" he was just letting the cat out of the bag as to how the fans are viewed by the bulk of those in the media center.

Matt said...

Personally, I hate any fine/penalty that criticizes any athlete/owner/participant from giving his opinion on something in their particular sport. So I don't like the policy to begin with. It also flies in the face of NASCAR saying they want drivers to show personality. Apparently to NASCAR that means, a certain half contrived/half real one. All that being said, I could accept the policy (even though I don't like it) because it is done in other sports.

However, I do have a problem with it being done in secret. It makes it appear that NASCAR was hiding it from fans and it again leads to a question of credibility. It's as if they learned NOTHING from the Mayfield drug saga when secret banned substance lists were the big issue.

NASCAR cannot ask to be accepted as a major sport, want playoffs with elmination like a major sport, but run the series like they are some regional minor sport. The bigger you want to be, the more you have change and that doesn't just mean on the track.

Darcie said...

I guess it's not so much the secrecy of the fines and the drivers who received them, but more the fact that Nascar's leaders seem to believe that the fans have no idea what's going on in the sport, and why the sport is failing. Many sports fine their athletes when they speak against the corporate line, so we should not expect anything different from Nascar. Does Brian France really think fans have not noticed that races are being "fixed" for entertainment purposes by throwing phantom debris fans? Does he realize that the fans aren't stupid, uneducated whiskey runners like from the old days? Does he not realize that we know the sport is failing because of decisions HE'S made (the COT, the Chase)? By muzzling his drivers, and most likely every other Nascar employee, he's doing nothing to help the sport. What drivers have been criticizing are things that fans have known for a long time. Brian France needs to know that demanding silence about issues that are already out there is insane. Fans are not going to put up with this crap for much longer and France, Helton, Darby and Pemberton need to wake up before things get worse.

Jonathan said...

I know no one is going to agree w me but good for Nascar! Every time I turned around all I heard was Denny Hamlin bashing Nascar this past couple months and I for one was getting sick of it! Seriously he bashed Nascar everywhere possible from Victory Lane, Twitter, Sirius Nascar Radio, to Interviews enough is enough! We got it the first time you spoke your mind but to keep at it and at it reminds me of a immature high school bully! And please dont tell me how Nascar dosent let the drivers speak there mind they did trust me but im sure they got sick of it just like I did! There has to be a line drawn on how much is to much and what Denny said was way to much. Its like ok guy we got it the first time annnd the 2nd and the 3rd but to just keep bashing Nascar evey outlit possible is overkill! Dont forget who made you Denny if it wasnt for Nascar you would be just another kid w dreams of driving a stock car

Just like what happened after Gateway there has to be a line drawn somewhere w these new policies and I just wish they would of did this sooner cause the damage is done from what Denny said. I dont get it I love this sport no matter how they tweak it theres nothing like 43 stock cars going by you at once! and I will for the most part agree w what Nascar does and this is one I def agree w. Awsome job maybe you should park him for a race next time he runs his mouth!

Trident said...

Nothing new here.

NASCAR management yet again postures the dictatorial role, via its [alleged] driver fines.

Word veri: awlysit

Used in a sentence, a classic Franciscan/Heltonian diatribe:

"Y' awlysit, listen clear and note well: We're NASCAR and we're here to help you."

RPM said...

If the sanctioning body is altering the outcome it is no longer a competetion, it is an exhibition.

Does NASCAR want to be in the same category as professional wrestling? Sure it's flashy and exciting, but it's not racing.

The fact they are hiding these monetary penalties to the disloyal only adds sleaziness of it all.

Be above board with fines and penalties. Don't manipulate the action during the race. Give us some honest racing.

bevo said...

There are so many aspects to this story it's hard to organize for a comment.

First of all anytime an organization that depends on public support engages in secrecy it does so only because it knows that it will cause a ____ storm if they made it public information. They have something to hide that is distasteful. Furthermore whoever is in charge is not a real leader. They are inevitably scared, petty, insecure little men who have to resort to fear and intimidation to maintain their power.

If you want to be perceived as an honest and trustworthy organization everything must be done above-board and in the open.

This is yet another nail in the coffin of NASCAR being seen by legitimate sports media and fans as nothing more than wrestling.

Two old sayings come to mind. Sunshine is the best disinfectant and when all is said and done and we are laid in our graves the only thing we had control over in our life was our good name.

They can never take your integrity unless you let them.

Daly Planet Editor said...


Not too sure what you mean by "for balance."

Smith and Newton reported the same set of facts both online and on the various ESPN TV networks.

In using links, I tried to avoid the companies also involved in producing NASCAR races for TV.


Sally said...

I find the ultimate irony in the fact that Nascar denies throwing cautions to make the 'show' better just as Brian France is talking about 'tweaking the chase' (in an artificial manner) to make 'the show' more exciting. What I don't understand is that Nascar maintains that the drivers are NOT employed by Nascar when the issue is health insurance or pensions, yet feels they can tell drivers what to say when the topic is the races themselves. Having no union or any input as to how the series is run, other than what Nascar chooses to hear, how can Nascar then try to control what they say? If they are, indeed, independent contractors, doing the job they are paid to do, how does Nascar justify this?

Nascar has denied publicly that they tell the drivers to 'shut up and drive', yet this is exactly what they did. Am I supposed to believe anything they say now?

Brett said...

I think what NASCAR is doing is rediculous. I actually sent them an angry e-mail earlier this week venting them my frustrations.

I have never been a fan of Brain France and this just adds fuel to the fire. Mr. France in my mind is a loser. He has doen nothing good for the sport. He cannot admit his own mistakes and just brushes everything off like its no big deal. France will never admit NASCAR is struggling until the IRL takes over NASCAR in ratings (May be a stretch).

Sorry for the personal attack but Brian France has ruined NASCAR and it frustrates me. He thinks that the negative comments from drivers would cause fans to turn off the TV, when in actuality fans are now turning off the TV because they found out what NASCAR is doing.

51 yr. fan said...

Great Column JD! Any secrecy or
manipulation destroys the integrity of the sport a great deal
more than honest opinions. The
fans are not the dummies that the
Na$car and Hollyweird wanna-be's

I agree with your leaving out the
network kool-aid drinkers. We now
the line that they toe.

glenc1 said...

I agree with many of the points here. If I trashed my boss in public I'd probably be fired (in fact, we are told never to discuss anything with the media without permission.) We all know about the NBA fines, etc.
We also know NASCAR people have always been 'censored'...back then the Chase started several drivers said they didn't like it...and shortly thereafter they were all for it. I'm sure that wasn't someone just changing their mind, it was changed for them. But the secrecy--that's the issue. The other leagues are up front about who they fine and why. I'm not crazy about that either, frankly, but to some extent I understand protecting your company. But I also agree with Sally--funny how it's convenient to call them employees when they want to control them, and not when it comes to protecting them. All in all--it's not a shock, but again, the secrecy makes them look like they're trying to keep fans in the dark once again...because we're idiot sheep who should just follow whatever they tell us is good for us and we'll like it.

jerome said...

Great article;

NASCAR is attempting to keep drivers from stating what is obvious to most fans. The racing is not great; the chase stinks; the current car stinks; and NASCAR does manipulate races. Just because NASCAR apologists keep telling me the sport is great; the racing is great, I am smart enough to know otherwise. The drivers are just saying what most of us know. It is a shame the way NASCAR handles the fines, but I know the sport has major issues without hearing it from the drivers. And I say all of this as a NASCAR fans from the late 60's.

GinaV24 said...

I was angry when NASCAR had their meeting with the drivers at Michigan, the infamous "shut up and drive" talk, then we heard that management talked to the drivers and owners in preseason about keeping it all "sweetness and light" and now this which just sort of fuels the general anger I have for NASCAR's management practices right now.

I'd like it very much if NASCAR would stop treating the fans as if they were so stupid and unless we hear it from a driver, we can't figure it out on our own. I have eyes and a brain all my own -- I can figure it out and I feel like I have. It's a joke and its on me for paying my hard-earned money and wasting my time caring as much as I have.

Since the drivers are "independent contractors" and essentially NASCAR controls their livelihood, they are stuck between a rock and a hard place. They don't have the advantage of a player's union and bargaining agreement like the NFL, NBA, MLB does and NASCAR writes its rule book in pencil or sometimes I swear they just make it up on the fly!

Although I was surprised to hear Denny Hamlin be as open as he was with the comments about expecting the caution, it was Mikey Waltrip's assertion that it is OK to do it that really shocked me because for me that is just wrong.

I said earlier in the year when we were talking about Hamlin's remarks that if NASCAR wants to make a RULE that says with "10 to go" or "20 to go" there will be a competition caution, then that's fine with me, but to use it at random or when they feel like the ending needs to have some "manufactured excitement" that changes the dynamic for me.

We hear it all the time in France's comments, in the nonsense that NASCAR's management spoke about the Kez/Edwards issue. It's all about the show and NASCAR has forgotten that for a lot of us fans, its about the RACE.

Anonymous said...

No need in repeating from other posts... I've been a fan of NASCAR for close to 50 years. Lets not forget, Big Bill and Little Bill ran this sport with the proverbial "iron fist in a velvet glove." But at least they knew what they had and what to do with it. Its been a shame watching young France, Helton, et al, and their TV partners try to make the sport something it was never meant to be. Too much, too big, too fancy, too pretty . . .

Anonymous said...

There are several areas which could be discussed.

The most obvious one to me is if Nascar was trying to fix the outcome of races, Jr. would have won several races as it would increase ratings dramatically if Jr. was winning. I was not a Jr. fan, but I'm beginning to feel sorry for him.

Secondly, I do not have a problem with individuals being fined for "detrimental" talk like you see in other sports. Why the secrecy? Publicity probably would bring in more viewers at least for one race and then they could see for themselves whether it was a product they'd want to invest time in.

There is so much I do not like about the direction Nascar is taking to bring in viewers. It basically is turning off me and a lot of other viewers who like actual racing.

Denny Hamlin is emotional and appears somewhat immature. However, Ryan Newman has had more than one very bad accident and if he was fined for speaking about the safety of the drivers, I so disagree. A few weeks ago I heard him speak out on the Carl/Brad situation. I thought his comments were pretty strong, but accurate. Did he get fined again for these comments?


Vince said...

Nascar you can't have it both ways. On one hand you tell the drivers boys have at it. And you want them to show more personality. All good. Then on the other hand you're basically telling them to shut up and drive. No bashing the sport even if the phantom cautions are so obvious a blind man could see it. So which is it? Personally one of the reasons that I've followed Nascar for the last 45 years has been because of the drivers and their personalities. Now with the latest edict from BF am I going to believe anything that comes out of a drivers mouth? Probably not because it'll be all happy talk and not the real truth.

All I can say is I'd like to have seen BF tell Dale Earnhardt Sr. to shut up and drive. If Nascar tried telling Dale Sr., Ricky Rudd, Rusty and some of the other old school drivers what to say, I can tell you what their answer to Nascar would have been. But this is a family site, so I can't print it.

Oh and the fine is $50,000 for saying something that Nascar doesn't like, but only $25,000 for intentionally taking a win away from somebody and wrecking them in front of the whole field of drivers racing for the checkers. Where's the logic in that?

BF runs this sport like a retarded monkey on prozac. With apologies to all retarded monkeys on prozac.

Anonymous said...

They can and should police their participants. If the participants do not like it, then go race in Indy, F-1, ARCA or wherever they want.

What do potential new fans think when all they read is negative, critical comments from the sports stars. Probably "why the heck do I want to develop an interest in NASCAR. Their own participants say it's a sham."

How long can a business survive under constant, negative criticism.

NASCAR is not perfect and never will be. No industry is nor can it be. Yet the media continues it's quest to constantly disparage and the drivers continue to make negative comments.

I fear y'all are killing the goose.

Anonymous said...

I've watched Nascar do a lot of crazy things since I attended my first Sprint race in the mid-1980's. I don't think they'll ever get it. They're schizoprhenic,always over reacting to perceived demons out there. Sunday,Montoya desperately needed a caution. Sure enough, a 'debris' caution appeared. The camera zoomed in on a 2" in diameter wad of tire rubber out of the groove. No further mention for the specific nature of the debris was mentioned. If you watched a replay of the race, similar sized balls of tire rubber were everywhere. But we're to believe Nascar when they say they don't have phantom cautions. The Truck and Nationwide races are a pleasure to watch. Nice and crisp in all regards. The Sprint races are twice as long as they should be. The double file restarts at the end are exciting but wreck a lot of cars. Those restarts negate everything that happened the prior three hours. The stands have a lot of empty seats for a multitude of reasons. Foremost is that the COT car was and has been a disaster from a racing standpoint. You can try to put perfume on that pig,but it's still a pig. Does Nascar really think by stifling criticism that its problems will just go away? The owners and drivers need a Union to air their grievanced.

Anonymous said...

Mr Daly - many excellent points.

My position on this has changed after rehashing it with others.
Since drivers are not Employees - but independent contractors- they & owners should be able to say anything they want. nascar can not claim the "employees can't say bad things " argument. Can't have it both ways boys.

And to the secrecy -well its always been secret, always a "we make & enforce the rules if we want" mentality.
Maybe I'm just old(er)
now this act is old worn out & counter productive, like DWs act. Its why I watch a lot less nascar, will never spend a dime to go to a nascar event again & we could drive to 3 tracks every year in a few hours, (Tampa FL is 2 hours from Daytona). We now go to "local" tracks & watch racing.

Why spend a fortune to watch a race where the "sanctioning body" determines the out come with a "show" or phantom caution?

And to add insult to injury the fraud of "have at it boys"

And the Comrades in charge actually WONDER why hard core, long time fans are avoiding the tracks like the plague?

Priced themselves out of reach of middle class families, the CoT, phantom cautions seen by millions of TV viewers, and
a cloak of secrecy that makes the KGB & CIA envious.

No thanks Brian

Donna in FL said...

The press can have their opinions, of course, but when they are shouting about "secret fines hurting NASCAR", in reality, they are also ultimately hurting themselves.

I think the biggest question is, after all these years why did someone suddenly feel the need to blatantly tell a reporter that fines are being levied in private?

I have no problem with sports organizations maintaining order & level of conduct within their ranks, and doing what they deem necessary to do so. The only reason I wanted to know which drivers got fined is because someone mentioned it... and I'm nosy!! Otherwise, this knowledge doesn't change a thing with me. I form my own opinions no matter what.

As for what I expect from NASCAR, I have already told them.

David said...

I don't so much have a problem with the fines themselves as I do NASCAR double-talking and keeping the fines secretive. If your going to fine someone, say who they are. You can't tell drivers to voice their opinions and be themselves except if it makes NASCAR look bad because then drivers will do what they had already been doing and just remain vanilla.

Late race debris cautions, hell debris cautions in general are DESPISED by me. If it isn't legit and it even hints to being a competition caution I get upset. As a fan I turned to NASCAR and stayed interested because of the competition, not the crashes. If a driver and team hook their car up for the day and are the class of the field and have a 10 second lead with 5 laps to go they deserve the ability to have the race finish under a green flag condition unless a wreck happens. They should not be subject to a phantom caution to bunch the field up to FABRICATE an exciting finish. If the race was a snoozer, it was a snoozer. Like Jeff Burton said though, "I've never seen a boring race" and I agree with him.

I tend to feel the perception of boring races is more the television networks slipping and wanting to make a statement that they hate the COT more then it is bad racing. You don't always have great racing up front. Sorry it's a fact of life. Just like you don't always have an exciting down to the last lap, last turn points championship. But throughout the field there is racing.

Back to the fines though, either let the drivers say what they are going to say or if your going to fine them, at least be open about it.

Darcie said...

Perhaps in the future we will see the NFL going the way of Nascar by changing things to make the end of games more exciting. I can see it now. If a team is less than 10 points down with 7 minutes left, the defense of the team that's ahead is reduced from 11 men to 6. That way, you are assured of an exciting finish.

NASCAR isn't that far off from that scenario with their cautions to bunch up the field. While not technically fixing races, they are manipulating races for entertainment value. Tony Stewart was not far off last season when he said, and was reprimanded for calling Nascar the WWE. Just as wrestling manipulates their matches, Nascar obviously manipulates their races.

allisong said...

I agree with NASCAR on this issue, and not just because other sports fine their players too. With the attendance and ratings situations such as they are, do we really need to hear drivers says things like "If that's the kind of racing you came to see, you should just stay home." (Ryan Newman at Talledega). I understand that he was just wrecked and was emotional, and most of you as die-hard fans know the complexities of what he was referring to, but how does that go over with the casual fan who catches that on SportsCenter?

I love this sport, and nothing bothers me more than the recent profusion of stories about attendance, ratings, and tracks giving up races (Gateway). I don't follow other sports, so I don't know, but is there such negativity being reported about MLB stadiums being half-full?

Bill B said...

The current NASCAR leadership is so fixated with "growing the sport" that they think they need to control every aspect. They need to learn that controlling everything in this day and age is impossible. There are too many eyes watching and too many people with voices (thanks to the internet) Maybe they should be more interested in putting the best possible racing on the track instead of contrived playoffs, race finishes, and positive spin on things that aren't working and aren't being embraced by the fans. If they do that the growth will take care of itself.

allisong said...

One more thing,

By "balance", what I think Richard meant was that those writers support NASCAR's action, unlike the authors of the rest of your links.

rich said...

The fines make sense. All major sports protect themselves. The secrecy of it stinks.

Sophia said...

I agree with KoHoSo & Bevo.

This is so complicated but indeed, just another proverbial straw to break the camel's back.

Yes, NASCAR has ALWAYS ruled with iron fist.

But the changes in the sport WE'VE NOT SEEN ON TV. (Except the ludicrous 3 attempt at GWC!)

Why? Because horrible camera coverage to WHICH Brian France does not care?
He better care. Some of us started worrying about TPTB when Tony Stewart got the behind the hauler whipping &public 'about face' for his outspokeness a few years back.

This 'have at it boys' out of one side of the mouth, when out of the other, behind closed door FINING is only adding to the hypocrisy.

I've cut back on my camera viewing of all things NASCAR 90% this season.

But apparently, the fact TPTB think the coverage/rules/nonsensical fines "don't matter", I feel like we are getting the David Hill word "tough" by Brian France.
As long as the $$$ go to HIS family/Helton's bank account, they were pontificate in their own arrogance until they are speaking to an audience of none.

If EVERYTHING else about the sport SEEMED LEGIT, and this fining of drivers being secret was the only curiosity?... I'd let it go.

But that is not the case.
Thus, it's another nail in the coffin for NASCAR. People are about done with F1 with their shenanigans, people giving me grief for watching that "Indycar crap" and think I'm nuts to be "into the overly crass commercialism of NA$CAR that's nothing more than big time wrestling on wheels!"

Yikes?! What IS my explanation to that comment when sadly, I feel they are right.

Just sad. This was the ONLY sport I TRULY FAITHFULLY watched since 2004.

Now, it's an afterthought.

But again, since tv coverage STINKS on top of the plethora of other issues, and France does not care, he is flipping off all of the fans.

And honking this one off. I refuse to stay in a toxic, abusive relationship--or one that just annoys me constantly.

Babbette said...

Just finished reading a blog by Ramsey Poston on This blog points exactly to what most fans have been saying, and that is Nascar's higher ups are so out of touch with reality that they don't know where the truth lies. Poston has the gall to say that driver's negative comments have greatly damaged the sport. Get Freaking Real, Mr Poston. I submit to you that if anyone needs to be fined for damaging the sport, it should be none other than Brian France. That terrible excuse for a Nascar leader has done more to damage the sport than all the drivers and Nascar media types combined. Poston claims that they must protect their sponsors and track promoters and that's fine, to a point. But perhaps Poston should also realize that track owners and promoters have been their own worse enemy. Tracks who charge enormous amounts for parking and concessions, local hotels who jack up prices 5 times the normal rate, and track owners who force fans to purchase either blocks of tickets or full season tickets, even for races they will not attend, have had more of a negative impact on attendance than a flip comment from a driver.

Once again blogs like Poston's just point to how totally stupid the hierarchy of Nascar has become. When they blame the offhand comments of a couple of drivers for ruining Nascar, and they refuse to believe that THEY are the ones who've taken Nascar down an awful path with their on the spot rule making, the total failure of the Chase and the totally uninteresting COT, it's time for fans to rise up and take a stand. Perhaps if fans stopped attending races for a while, if viewership dropped another 40%, would Nascar then wake up and take notice? Probably not.

Anonymous said...

Until Nascar does something to fix this car the racing on the track is going to suck bad. I mean look at the Indianapolis race, one car takes the lead and he is gone. I barely even saw passing all race long.So if the drivers are saying something true that is obvious to us the fans then they should listen and make changes before the ship sinks. The ratings are dropping every week because of the racing on the track. Is not good enough and TV coverage is not good enough too.

Tex Bartch said...

This is such a non story. I worry that mindless ragging on NASCAR is making them nervous and prompting them to make changes sometimes where they aren't necessary.

First, this is what all major sports do. After this is over they will start announcing names Im sure, like the other major sports. If theyve only fined a driver twice this year it sounds like they have a higher threshhold for criticism than other sports. NBA fines people constantly.

If they end up making the chase into some huge pro-wrestling style crapshoot then they really will have screwed up though. All you people getting sick of Jimmy Johnson winning are going to make it so NASCAR becomes a lottery. I think we should stop praising mcmurray so much too. I dont think it says good things about our sport that such a mediocre team can dominate the two premiere races.

GinaV24 said...

I just read Poston's article on the nascar web page. The comments are hot & heavy and he's not winning the argument with the fans on the community page.

He says he reads all the comments. I'll bet he takes a pill for his heartburn.

Bialar Crais said...

Jon, what do you think of the coverage this topic has been given on Sirius Nascar Radio? Personally I think its been sickening. You have 3 shows that are hosted by paid Nascar employees preaching the Nascar mantra while claiming ignorance the entire time. Theyre willing to yell, scream, and call listeners crazy when the very suggestion of phantom cautions comes up, yet they dont have the nerve to say the same to the people within the sport. SNR is a paid shill service for Nascar, and its a joke.

Anonymous said...

In those bastions of independent thought and free speech, large universities, criticizing officiating by coaches is subject to automatic fines.

Anonymous said...

allisong said
I don't follow other sports, so I don't know, but is there such negativity being reported about MLB stadiums being half-full?

July 29, 2010 12:44 PM
Yes & they even rant endlessly about contraction & they move teams. Yup there is negativity towards all sports in 1 way or another. NASCARs frequent PR blunders just make it worse.

Anonymous said...

NASCAR has a history of dirty work, the fines did not suprise me. NASCAR is now forced to look at new technology, the secret fines and chats in the NASCAR hauler are no longer secret. The ease and speed of social media caught NASCAR red handed. I hope the person that broke the story doesn't get their NASCAR hard card pulled like others have.

As KoHoSo said, this is just another NASCAR action alienating the fans. NASCAR broke something that was great, but rather than admitting their mistakes (schedule, aspects of COT, Chase, Nationwide series, tv, ...) NASCAR uses band-aid fixes. (double file restarts, wave-around rule, mystery debris). It is fustrating to follow NASCAR lately, rather than fix issues, NASCAR would rather silence drivers.

Anonymous said...

JD, I write as an ANON because I must. Please publish me nevertheless.

The issue, the real issue, is balancing between Big Bill's notion of a "good show" and "honest racing."

I fear, and I am plugged in, that we are ({or}our sport is) in danger of becoming "Vince McMahon on Wheels."

'Nuff 'sed.

Todd Crane said...

JD Brian France is taking NA$CAR down the tubes all by himself. I've loved the old NASCAR, but the new one stinks, and now the drivers can't even talk about how bad the sport is??? OMG give me a break!

longtimeracefan said...

TDP's special Your Turn topic - Secret Fines.

Secret is defined as: kept from knowledge or view, marked by the habit of discretion, working with hidden aims or methods, revealed only to the initiated, designed to elude observation or detection.

So why did NASCAR choose to attempt to keep these fines secret? NASCAR's Ramsey Poston's blog post explanation that -it is akin to a meeting with NASCAR in the hauler- and -is something between the driver and NASCAR- is complete PR/BS. Fining a driver 50 K for stating an opinion should be reported widely and loudly, if only to say: this is the line, cross it at your own risk.

A fine is a sum imposed as punishment for an offense. The offense in this case appears to be the expression of personal thoughts by an individual. Did they use profanity? No. Just words.

Sometimes speaking the truth hurts the listener, hard. But if the comment has merit, how can it be OK for that to be a fineable offense? Just because someone does not want a particular opinion to be stated? It makes no sense whatsoever and only perpetuates the negative view that NASCAR is an overly secret, heavy handed organization.

As to ESPN's Marty Smith blog on this subject, he raised, but never addressed, the issue of transparency and waxed poetic about the way things used to be handled. Trouble is today's NASCAR is not yesterday's NASCAR. Comparisons to the way things were handled "back in the day" while nostalgic, are not the subject of today's topic. David Newton missed the point entirely.

Thanks JD for keeping this blog going. Some thought that this latest blunder by NASCAR would have been the last straw for you.

Chris from NY said...

For NASCAR to punish its drivers for something like speaking out is not really surprising. Many corporations would do that to their employees (ESPN was a good example). But instead of coming up with such an age-old, childish response, NASCAR should listen to the criticism if it's constructive.

But then again, it's hard to trust them with any suggestion. VERY hard.

Everyone involved has every right to keep certain pieces of information private, unless it's a matter that actually is detrimental to stock car racing, then the fans need to know about it.

Anonymous said...

I've been steaming about this for days, so here goes.

During WW II, Japanese Americans were interned without due process and their (profitable) lands confiscated, to "protect" America during the War. Who spoke up for them? Only "traitors" to the country. While the internment of Japanese Americans is off the scale on the "outrage" chart, the analogy with Nascar is pretty clear (without diminishing the horror of the internment camps in any way): We'll take what's yours to protect ourselves, and no one can do anything about it, or you're a traitor to Nascar.

Now that I have that off my chest, I wonder what numbskull thought keeping big fines a secret wasn't going to get out eventually. There are NO secrets that won't eventually come to light - that's the nature of the beast in the garage. Do the fans just say "oh well, those guys can afford it," and continue to plunk down scarce dollars for tickets and hotel rooms?

I don't think so. Americans don't like feeling duped. We believe in speaking our minds and saying what we believe is true, with a modicum of manners at the very least. Sometimes it takes great courage to do so.

Nascar drivers aren't employees of Nascar. They're independent contractors. The key word here is "independent." Nascar has always stood for rugged individualism and tough men with ice for blood and more courage than is good for ordinary mortals. Not any more. Not unless every driver pulls out a checkbook to write a whopping check as he says what he truly thinks.

I wish every driver would do so. Thumb their collective noses at Nascar and say "you can't muzzle us, and if you try, we'll make sure the fans know."

What a public relations nightmare.

Anonymous said...

Although no one really confirms or admits it, it is speculated that Nascar takes drivers into the truck and tells them Nascar does not need you. You need Nascar and if you can't conform, then leave the sport. That apparently is what happened to Tony Stewart years ago because he sure tucked his tail between his legs and now tows the mark it seems. We also know deep down that bogus cautions are normally thrown if a legitimate one does not happen - unless a favored driver is leading. In this case, the fines discourage other drivers or crew members, owners, etc from saying what they feel so that is a way to control them. Keeping things secret is what agitates me more. We know we cannot control what Nascar does and it is human nature to find fault so we do. Viewers are slowly leaving and dvr's are being used more and more and I would imagine that most of the time if the show is even watched, then the fast forward button is used a lot.

GA Red

Tom said...

This is just one more instance that adds to the overall idea that NASCAR is more WWE than racing.
1. When it comes to financial obligation (driver support, medical insurance), it is all "Independent contractor". When it comes driver behavior, it is all about "hey, there are lots of other drivers that would love this job". While that statement may be true, it is a terrible view of people working for, or with, a company. Ask just about any old time driver short of the top 10 all time, and you'll hear the same thing: "NASCAR never did a thing for me"
2. Leagues like MLB etc. have similar fines, but also are REAL sanction bodies. MLB is not family owned, NASCAR is, hell even WWE stock is publicly traded! If there is going to fines, let it be known.
3. NASCAR and it's minions employ a great number of paid shills to misinform the public. Sirius is the most glaring example, although as JD rightly points out, network shills exist as well. Think about it! I like Marty Reid a lot just for the fact that he will call out S & P and bad attendance!

Someone earlier said that the "media" thinks fans are "gullible and ignorant". I actually think NASCAR is the one who thinks we are ignorant, because they feed us all this drivel and expect us to buy it! If they have to hide this information, and create entire networks to disseminate it, they must not think much of our ability to think and reason!

Inverness, FL

Richard in N.C. said...

There are a lot of people in what is left of what might be called the NASCAR press who constantly bash NASCAR whether the facts back them up or not - for instance Ed Hinton, Lee Spencer,and Mike Mulhern among others.

Now I may have a distorted view, but I see debris cautions as the NASCAR media's Brett Favre - what is wanted is a topic to attract eyeballs, not facts. I don't read everything written, but I have yet to see where anyone in the media has identified a specific instance where a caution was thrown and no debris was found. In fact, the story received very limited coverage a couple of weeks ago when there was a wreck during practice because a car ran over debris (a loose weight?) on the track.

Given the prevailing negativity in the media, NASCAR should have known that it would be roundly criticized when its driver fines came out and would have been better off to make them public from the outset - and they rightly should have been made public. Now I'm waiting to see when media outlets make public when reporters are reprimanded, disciplined, or made to apologize for errors, distortions, or unprofessional actions in their writings.

The really dumb, irritating thing about the driver fine matter is that NASCAR shot itself in the fooot and gave ammunition to those in the media who want to harm NASCAR for personal gain.

Chadderbox said...

Nascar fans show up at the racetrack to see Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin Race cars. Most Nascar fans don't give a rats rear end about Brian France. But, Brian France and the Suits want to fine the drivers for possibly saying something detrimental to the sport when Brian France is doing more harm to the sport than anything these drivers have ever said. Its all backwards. Lets fine Brian France for being detrimental to the sport!

Darcie said...

RichardinNC, there is an instance where Nascar stepped in to admonish a radio broadcaster when they had the audacity to bash Nascar and one of their decisions. I cannot remember the particulars of the issue and I cannot remember what the bashing entailed, but I very clearly remember the man speaking about the incident and saying to the effect that he was called on the carpet and reprimanded for stating his opinion and refused to talk about it, despite the fact that callers were wanting to discuss the issue. He went further to say that if he didn't toe the line, there would be hell to pay. This broadcaster was on Sirius and he wasn't around much longer after these comments. The guy he shared the show with also spoke on the issue and confirmed that they were not supposed to criticize Nascar. So, there is a history of media members being lectured by the bigwigs of Nascar. Also, remember the flack that Dustin Long received about some of his columns that criticized Nascar? He was put in the dog house for quite a period of time. So, you see that Nascar's heavy hand goes beyond drivers and extend to the media.

Chadderbox said...

Does anyone here want to admit that fans aren't showing up to the track because they heard a driver criticize the Sprint Cup Series?

Are the TV Rating declining because drivers are criticizing the sport?

I personally don't think so.

Fans are STILL showing up despite what Brian France and the Suits are doing to Nascar. The fans are STILL showing up BECAUSE of the drivers.

Maybe back in the day Bill France Jr could call a driver in the Big Red Truck and say "boy we don't need you."

But right now the drivers are putting butts in the seats. Last time I checked, the fans aren't showing up to see Brian France race a car on Sunday! They show up to see Kyle, Denny, Tony, Jeff, Jimmy and Kevin race.

Please tell me whose actions are detrimental to the sport right now?

In my humble opinion its not the drivers fault what is happening in Nascar.

Nascar fining the drivers is dumb and hiding it means they are ashamed of even doing it. Embarrassing if you ask me.

Vicky D said...

Chadderbox I agree with you re BF. I think he's more of a detriment to Nascar than any of the drivers.

Anonymous said...

The timing for this story to break could not have been worse. In light of the Indy attendence, Gateway dropping out, falling TV ratings etc. This ship really is sinking.

Where is Jim Hunter at? Ramsey Posten is typical of the problems. A college educated, public speaker with NO racing background whatsoever.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Thank you for all the comments addressing many topics within this larger issue.

We all have our own perspectives and sharing them is the only way to broaden our understanding and move forward.

The one thing we all agree on is that NASCAR needs to move forward in a positive direction and get back to the business of racing.

A new post is up for Friday comments on the SPEED coverage from Pocono.

Thanks again,


GinaV24 said...

Anon 11:07 - I think that NASCAR has cooked its own goose with its really dumb business decisions and whoever is making policy (I assume Brainless) needs to stop making assumptions that the fans are stupid.

information will out so why not make decisions that make the sport look good instead of bush league. NASCAR is acting like its 1984 and big brother is watching.

Anonymous said...

Ditto to what everyone else has said. What drivers do and don't say isn't going to magically put money in people's pockets to be able to attend a race or keep them from going. It's the "show" itself. If the show is worth watching folks will go.

And from what I've heard they've been saying the same things us fans have. They just have the power to be heard if NA$CAR wants to hear them that we don't :(

@Babbette--if you're still reading. We were chatting about hotels over the weekend. Bristol says they try so hard to get hotels to get decent packages but they've refused to budge. With the immediate area being so small IIRC he said there were only like 7,000 rooms available in the area. Hotlanta has made a deal with a number of area hotels to have a select number of rooms available for under $120 and no minimum stay requirement. Not sure how "good" of a deal it is but very nice of them to try to help more folks come.

Vince said...

If Brian France wants to blame somebody for the down turn of the sport, all he has to do is look in the mirror.

RJ_Number8 said...

This whole "breaking story" was more like the paparazzi or TMZ. And then all those media outlets cursing down on Nascar like it suddenly became a big evil empire overnight for not revealing the names. The tabloid drama is still unfolding day by day of who said what or who did what. It's all been quite a sensational story eh?
Well, I still could care less.
I watch racing.
I will keep watching racing.
For me, I'm going to get off these bloggers and writers who's content isn't news. It's a sick lot of media set out to bash what they're writing about.
As a blogger recently told me in a chat, that makes me drinking the same ol Nascar kool-aid because I am not interested in who got the fines (seriously, he said that).

I am certainly not done with racing, but I am definitely done with what is surrounding it right now.
I will drink my kool-aid in peace.

Sally said...

I just had a thought. If Nascar fined Hamlin for saying they thrwe late race cautions for no purpose other than to tighten up the field to orchestrate a 'close finish', should't they have fined Michael Waltrip as well? after all, didn't he publicly support Nascar for closing the field up to make it exciting for the fans? isn't that basically saying the same thing? If it was fine worthy for Denny, shouldn't the same hold true for Michael?

Anonymous said...

Now hearing that NA$CAR got ahold of DMs that Denny sent. This gets odder and odder the more this goes on :(

oldnewenglander said...

Maybe I missed this, but can these secret penalties follow the normal course?

In other words, could Hamlin or Newman or anyone else appeal Nascar's decision to the National Stock Car Racing Commission?

The commission, for those unfamiliar, routinely convenes 3-commissioner panels to hear appeals of Nascar penalties and is a somewhat amazing collection of personalities from a variety of motorsports backgrounds.

People like Harry Gant, Bud Moore, Humpy Wheeler, and folks like Leo Mehl from Goodyear and Janet Guthrie.

I really don't know if Robert Yates, Mark Arute (Jack's brother, currently running things at Stafford) and Buddy Baker would say the comments were detrimental to the sport.

And I am not sure we will ever find out.

Richard in N.C. said...

It seems completely clear to me that most fans do pay attention to what drivers say - otherwise there are a lot of marketing people wasting an awful lot of money paying drivers to endorse and promote products.

Trident said...

""NASCAR has said only that the penalties were for the sake of protecting the brand. "It is the sanctioning body's obligation on behalf of the industry and our fans to protect the sport's brand," spokesman Ramsey Poston said in a statement. "Any action taken by NASCAR has nothing to do with the drivers expressing an opinion -- it's focused on actions or comments that materially damage the sport. We have specifically discussed this in meetings with teams, drivers and stakeholders.""


Reading comprehension? Contradictory statements from Mr. Poston? Ashamed and awkwardly-worded attempt to cover-up incidents that were clearly meant to be kept 'quiet.'?

Could the double-nothing-statement-quote above be more denigrating and lay even more bare the folly of this sanctioning body's incompetence and mismanagement?

Protecting the sport's brand? Are you trying to be serious, Mr. Poston, or just being a well-paid inner-shill? Protecting the Chase? Protecting the COT? Trying to Protect your flow-down PR 'job'?

""Any action taken by NASCAR has nothing to do with the drivers expressing an opinion..."

And in NASCAR-land, one-legged ducks never swim in a circle.

Word veri: 'shizesse." - A perfect descriptor of the press release, and I'll leave it at that.

Adam said...

Brian France has lost his mind a long time ago but he really crossed the line this time.

Chadderbox said...

"It is the sanctioning body's obligation on behalf of the industry and our fans to protect the sport's brand," spokesman Ramsey Poston said in a statement. "Any action taken by NASCAR has nothing to do with the drivers expressing an opinion -- it's focused on actions or comments that materially damage the sport. We have specifically discussed this in meetings with teams, drivers and stakeholders."

Ok, now I think I understand. Do I have this right? It is materially damaging to the sport for a driver after a race to comment on a possible "phantom caution" for debris but its NOT materially damaging to the sport for Nascar to have throw the possible phantom caution for debris??

So if the all the drivers just don't talk about it or comment on it being a possible show caution then it's not materially damaging to the sport. Nascar is NUTS on this...the fact that they basically want silence on this issue from the drivers proves the point that the "show cautions" could be materially damaging to the sport - so keep your mouth shut about it.

Nascar created the situation they now find themselves in!

Chadderbox said...

BF said last week he was not concerned with the lower than expected tv why fine the drivers if you are not concerned? Obviously you are concerned.

Why can't you be real BF? Could someone in the Nascar Ivory Tower get real and take control of this situation (secret fines) and give us a CONSISTENT, COHERENT explanation? Please.

earl thats all you need said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Richard in N.C. said...

JD- Thank you very much for listing Sledgehammer since I always enjoyed Bob Margolis' writing. From reading his blog, Bob M. is still one of the very best writers about NASCAR and far, far more insightful than the vast majority of those writing about NASCAR for a living. I commend his recent post about NASCAR's Problems to all NASCAR fans - it was more balanced and insightful than anything I've read this season anywhere about NASCAR's problems. Thank you very much.