Following a weekend at the Texas Motor Speedway that was loaded with story lines, NASCAR Chairman Brian France turned up the following Monday morning at the Fox Business Network, (FOXB), for a live television interview with network journalist Dagen McDowell. Also known as an avid fan of NASCAR racing, McDowell presented a well prepared interview and didn’t pull any punches with her questions.
Referencing reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski’s surprise media tirade against NASCAR officials, following Saturday night’s NRA 500 at Texas, France was asked if NASCAR had plans to levy a fine against the driver.
“No, we’re not,” France said adding “because that’s the beauty of NASCAR. We do allow the drivers to express themselves in that way even if they say things that we would disagree with. Certainly, i disagree with everything he said but we have the most intense racing in the world and it’s not surprising that, every once in a while when things don’t go your way, you just, sort of, blow off a little steam.”
Following the Texas event, Keselowski was angry over the fact that his car, and the car driven by team mate Joey Logano, failed pre race inspection. The rear end housing of both cars were confiscated and had to be replaced. Keselowski’s #2 Penske Racing Ford barely arrived in time at the starting grid before the race. Logano’s #22 Ford had just exited the inspection station when the command to start engines was announced. He had to move to the back of the starting grid. Logano rallied to a fifth place finish while Keselowski finished ninth.
After the race Keselowski, with video and audio equipment in front of him, addressed the media and accused NASCAR officials of specifically targeting his team over the last seven days and called it “absolute bulls**t.” He also said: “there’s so much stuff going on- you have no f***ing idea what’s going on. There’s nobody, no team in this garage, with the integrity of the #2 team and the way we’ve been treated over the last seven days is shameful.”
In the past, a tirade of that nature could easily fall under NASCAR’s rule known as “actions detrimental to the sport of stock car racing” and it was often followed by some form of official sanctions. A recent case in point occurred back on March 3d following the Sprint Cup race at the Phoenix International Raceway. That’s when driver Denny Hamlin openly criticized NASCAR’s new Generation Six race car by saying the teams were struggling with the new car’s aero balance making it difficult to pass another car. Hamlin also claimed that the new car wasn’t as good as the Generation Five, or Car Of Tomorrow, model.
Compared to Keselowski’s anger tinged comments, loaded with language issues, the Hamlin observations were low key and even presented in a rather respectable manner. Somehow Hamlin received a $25,000 fine for his actions detrimental to the sport while Keselowski is apparently receiving a free pass.
A lot of NASCAR observers are wondering why that is. So was McDowell who approached that topic with Brian France during the FoxB interview. “The line that we draw is: you can’t criticize the racing product,” France said adding “you can criticize our decisions, you can criticize everything else which is more than any other sport might allow. Just don’t go and talk about our racing product not being the best in the world because it is.”
So, what have we learned here? Criticize the new race car and you better be prepared to write a check that reads “pay to the order of NASCAR.” All other topics are seemingly fair game and open to criticism. You can even spice up your opinion with some dramatic “F-bombs.”
Sometimes NASCAR’s sense of justice is a little complicated.