The Frontstretch: Newman, Stewart Spin Tangled Web Of Confusion On Driver Fines by Jay Pennell -- Friday July 30, 2010

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Newman, Stewart Spin Tangled Web Of Confusion On Driver Fines

Dialing It In · Jay Pennell · Friday July 30, 2010


The hot topic of the week continued Friday in Pocono, when both Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin were questioned about comments they made that resulted in NASCAR secret fines.

While this is not the first time drivers have been publicly critical of the sport, it does mark the first time stock car officials have handed fines out in secret, based on a basic philosophy of protecting their brand. For months, the sport attempted to keep a lid on the fines, but thanks to a report by The Associated Press earlier this week, those doors were opened slightly.

Devastating crashes like these at Talladega have made Ryan Newman a consistent restrictor plate critic. Apparently, the last of those digs at NASCAR’s system back in April also made him a little lighter in the wallet.

Speaking with members of the media Friday at Pocono Raceway, both Hamlin and Newman confirmed reports they were both hit hard in the wallet, with one fine reportedly as high as $50,000.

Without divulging financial details, Hamlin acknowledged his penalty came from a conversation he had with reporter Jeff Gluck on the social networking site Twitter. One of the most active drivers on the website, Hamlin’s conversation away from the racetrack cost him a hefty chunk of change.

“More than likely, it was the Twitter comments that kind of got me in trouble with them,” he said. “Chicago weekend, talking about some of the Nationwide stuff, but most of those conversations were all direct messages to one person.”

For more on the conversation that got Hamlin fined, check out an story from earlier Friday. As for Newman, his fine was a result of critical comments made about the style of racing at Talladega Superspeedway. One of the biggest proponents of safety in the sport, Newman argued the style of racing at the restrictor plate tracks was “fake,” more of a marketing ploy on the side of NASCAR than anything else.

“I was thinking about when I was out there, these shouldn’t be points races,” he said back in April after being involved in a wreck. “If they want to have these races for the fans, just let us come here and do this but don’t let it affect our championship because it’s not racing. If is NASCAR racing, we should be here for the Talladega Event Marketing or something like that. Something different besides racing.”

NASCAR has offered little – to no – information on this issue ever since, with many of
the drivers tiptoeing around the subject in press conferences Friday. However, as facts emerged and drivers offered their thoughts on the fines, it quickly became clear that wasn’t an act; in truth, only a few people were aware of what actually took place.
Talking with Newman’s crew chief Tony Gibson following Friday’s qualifying session, Gibson explained he had not learned of the fine until arriving at the track earlier that day. Crew members of the No. 39 car knew very little, and team owner Tony Stewart claimed he was unaware of the penalty early in the day.

“I didn’t know,” Stewart insisted. “I did not know. I think it was just between (NASCAR) and Ryan.”

Newman, however, tells a different story. He claims Stewart was aware of the fine. When asked to clarify, neither Stewart nor Newman would discuss the issue further.
“What’s the point of the story? Does it have anything to do with making anything any better?” Newman said when questioned. “It’s your job to write good things about our sport, otherwise we don’t want you.”

“You guys are making way too big of a deal out of this penalty deal,” Stewart added. “You’re making it much bigger than it really is.”

So whether this is simply an example of overanalyzing a decision by NASCAR, by the media, or simply drivers unwilling to go into details, either way those involved – in particular those on the Stewart-Haas side of things – are keeping their secrets and seem to be finished talking about it.

There is no question everyone in the garage – team owners, drivers, crew members, officials and, yes, even the media – have it in their self-interest and the interest of the others in the garage to help make NASCAR succeed. However, when news leaks and stories conflict, it’s the media’s job to get to the bottom of things and make the situation clear for those that are not privileged enough to walk the NASCAR garage. To the fans at home and in the grandstands, this issue will not go away as easily as both the drivers and the sport hope.

Stewart has not only had choice words for NASCAR in the past, but he is also one of the biggest critics of the media. Over the years, he has ridiculed questions asked, and Friday was no different. When asked about what he would change about Pocono, Stewart smiled and said, “I would bar all media from the race track. You asked an honest question, I gave you an honest answer.”

Simply trying to find transparency in a situation is no fault of the media; in fact, it is their job and their duty. But being critical and hurting the long-term growth of the sport are not one in the same. There is a point at which some complain simply to complain, however, this is not one of those issues. When news such as this gets shrouded in secrecy, speculation, and conflicts it is those three things that do damage to the sport – not the members of the media looking for answers.

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07/30/2010 08:22 PM

I really hate when people get in trouble for saying the truth.

Jeff Gluck sounds like one of the idiots standing and cheering during “The Big One.”

After watching the Indy fiasco it seems Brian Barnhart has a place reserved in NASCAR.

07/30/2010 08:47 PM

I would use my name but NASCAR would fine me or pull my credential for what I am about to say. Since when was it the media’s job to just write good things about the sport? Their job is to ask questions and inform the public. That means there will be good and bad. NASCAR needs to realize the media is not the same as the throngs of PR reps walking around with a hardcard around their neck. If NASCAR screws up we are obligated to cover it. If they do great, we are obligated to cover that, as well. This story will pass but I am afraid by keeping things like this secret, it will only cause further distrust of the santioning body by the fans.

07/31/2010 07:32 AM

Nascar has joined the “blame” game. They want to blame the media and drivers for any decline in interest in Nascar. So media and drivers – they want you to say only the good things regarding Nascar.
It might surprise Nascar how many fans agree with the comments made by Hamlin and Newman. I think they hit the nail on the head.

07/31/2010 11:26 AM

If nothing else, this whole secret fine fiasco has finally cost NASCAR any credibility the santioning body had left, if there was any left! Unfortunately, the situation will not get better as long as “Brian-With-His-Blinders-On” France is in charge. Only when the shareholders and anyone else who can pull it off gets that idiot to finally admit he is no good for the sport to get out and turn it over to someone who has the knowledge to run the sport properly! The drivers can’t speak! The owners can’t speak! Bruton is useless! The only ones who are speaking, and doing so with their wallets, are the fans, but France won’t listen! Your product is not entertainment! It is supposed to be a sport! And right now, it sucks!

Hey, Mr. France, here is a dare! I dare you, Brian France, to actually go to one of your shows for more than a photo-op, and talk to the people who made you and who you need the most, the fans! And when you do, don’t take one of those media yes-men you have on your payrole to take notes, take some who are not afraid of your retaliation when they print the truth about you and your poorly-run organisation! Oh wait, then you would have to get your head out of a place it wasn’t meant to be and actually listen!

Alas, Poor NASCAR, I knew Ye well!!

07/31/2010 04:07 PM

I don’t understand all the concern for drivers and media speaking out. As far as I can see, the product speaks for itself.

Richard in N.C.
07/31/2010 05:10 PM

The late Bill Safire once referred to the media as the “Nattering Nabobs of Negativism” and it is as true today as when he penned it. For comparison, you might recall that EESPN suspended Tony Kornheiser for 2 weeks for making humorous, but true, comments about Hannah Storm.

NASCAR should have made public the fact that it had fined the drivers as their secrecy has only given the media more ammunition in its constant bashing of the sport.

old farmer
08/02/2010 12:36 AM

Safire’s comment about journalists was tongue-in-cheek, for he was one himself.

Sherri T
08/02/2010 09:09 AM

The part of this whole thing that I find amusing is, that by issuing the fines they bring up the quotes again! That’s probably why they wanted to keep it secret – to avoid the rehash of what was said, but by doing so, they just shined a brighter spotlight on it! Way to go!

08/02/2010 11:16 AM

The only good thing that has come out of this is that the money collected for the “fines” is all going to charity.

08/03/2010 06:07 PM

It would be nice if the rest of the media would focus on the political goings-on as closely as CNNSI is focused on drivers speaking their mind.