Welcome Back Smoke–Not

What happened on Thursday? Words fail me. In the morning, in a surprise announcement, Tony Stewart made public that he was coming back to drive at Richmond International Speedway. Just a few hours later, he was fined $35,000 for saying things that NASCAR deemed unfair criticism toward the sanctioning body. Welcome back, Tony.

Methinks that things are getting a little testy in Daytona Beach. After all of the loose wheels on Sunday at Bristol (I will avoid the old Kenny Rogers parody of his hit song “Lucille”), Greg Biffle among others had spoken out about putting fewer than five lug nuts when changing tires during pit stops. It’s interesting that nothing happened, but when Stewart mentioned that NASCAR should monitor this phenomenon, the punishment was swift. What gives?

It all seems strange to me. The rule instituted last year was interesting in that it instituted penalties for anyone disparaging the sanctioning body. Let’s think about that. Freedom of speech? Not in NASCAR, apparently. It was a short time later that the NASCAR driver’s council, led by Denny Hamlin, one of many who has been secretly fined in the past and includes Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski, and Joey Logano, announced they would pay Stewart’s fine. Now an apparent line in the sand has been drawn.

It’s been a very controversial time in NASCAR this year starting with Brian France’s endorsement of the Presidential run of Donald J. Trump and Phil Robertson’s controversial prayer at Texas Motor Speedway. What happens next will be interesting.

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Ron Fleshman has followed NASCAR racing since attending his first race at Martinsville Speedway in 1964. He joined the Motor Sports Forum on the CompuServe network in the 1980s and became a reporter for Racing Information Systems in 1994. In 2002, he was named NASCAR Editor for RIS when it appeared on the World Wide Web as www.motorsportsforum.com. He can now be found at www.ris-news.com. Ron is a member of the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association. You can find Ron following and reporting on the top three NASCAR divisions each week. As a lifer in his support of racing, he attends and reports on nearly 30 events a year and as a member of the motor sports media, his passion has been racing for 47 years. He lives with his family in rural West Virginia and works in the insurance industry when not on the road to another track.

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