The Frontstretch: Silence! NASCAR's Unspoken Cry To Opinionated Drivers Needs To Stop by Summer Bedgood -- Monday March 11, 2013

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“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” It’s a mantra that was repeated on the school playground, a lesson taught to us by our parents, and a phrase we have to repeat inwardly to ourselves when the boss is in an especially critical mood on a Monday morning.

It is, however, a foreign concept to NASCAR—a lesson that Denny Hamlin learned the hard way. After making what NASCAR called a disparaging—or, what most of it would call it, honest—statement about the Gen 6 racecar, it was announced that Hamlin had been fined $25,000. Though Hamlin stated on Twitter that he would appeal, NASCAR never balked at the prospect of shutting up the drivers when they say something negative.

It wasn’t but a couple of weeks ago that Keselowski was called to the NASCAR hauler for comments that, too, were made with an honest assessment of NASCAR’s product, though this was about their business model rather than the product of the on-track racing. Still, for some reason, NASCAR is bearing their teeth to any driver who dares gives negative feedback.

The worst part, however, is that it seems to be working. Not only were drivers cordial in expressing their opinions about the new car following the checkered flag yesterday in Las Vegas. From the way it sounded, they were simply delighted in the way it drove! It’s never been better!

In their mandatory post-race press conferences for the top three drivers, Kasey Kahne and Brad Keselowski were about two seconds from doing rock-paper-scissors to determine who had to answer the question “How did the car drive today?”

Now, to be fair, the race really wasn’t that bad. I felt like it was a decent race considering the kind of “show” intermediate tracks usually put up. While there wasn’t a ton of passing, it looked like the faster cars generally could pass and tire wear played more of a roll than they had in a while.

Still, though, clean air and track position was the most important aspect of the race, which has been a complaint with the car for a long time. Why can’t the drivers talk about that? Why shouldn’t they?

Here’s what I’m concerned about. Right now, NASCAR has a little bit of breathing room because drivers and their crews are still learning the ins and outs of the new car. That can be the excuse for a good while. They can silence the drivers for a good while and fans will probably believe that to be that problem. But what happens afterwards?

This car has its problems. I’m sure anyone could have guessed that it wouldn’t be perfect and that there would be an adjustment period. But after a while, people are going to get sick of waiting around for some of the little quirks and mannerisms to fix itself.

Who better, then, to give the feedback on areas of improvement than the ones who are behind the wheel every weekend? I know NASCAR’s preference would be that the drivers deliver this feedback behind closed doors and not to the media. That’s not realistic, though, either. First of all, NASCAR wouldn’t have its reach, appeal, or popularity without the media.

Also, who is right there in the drivers’ face first thing after they exit their racecar on pit road? Who do the fans turn to when they want to hear their drivers’ thoughts after a hard wreck?

You can’t shut the drivers up about everything except for the rainbows and lollipops of the sport. First of all, fans are smarter than that. The drivers can get out of a single-file race at Daytona, say “What a great race!” and the fans will cry foul. Secondly, it’s completely unfair. If NASCAR is working on a solution to alleviate the issues that the sport is facing, I think the fans deserve to know about it.

Simply put, this whole “don’t talk about our sport unless it’s positive” needs to stop. Like I said, fans are smart enough to see right through it and you can’t be in damage control over damage control. In other words, you can’t try and protect the image of the sport by not letting the drivers say what they feel. They are human beings and many are very opinionated. Let them do so!

After all, negative feedback is only negative if you don’t listen.

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Sue Rarick
03/11/2013 09:39 AM

I have to agree it was a decent race but as soon as Mat crossed the finishline we were off to another channel. You know your going to hear nothing but the Nascar PR dogma.

We also have stopped watching anything remotely pre-race. Between hearing the official Nascar story line and usually terrible singers destroying the National Anthem, there is no reason to watch. Generally we get to the race within the first dozen laps.

03/11/2013 09:49 AM

I, like Sue, don’t watch pre race activities or shows..and turned the channel as soon as the race was finished. I was curious as to the robotic thumbs up answers the drivers were bound to give..but I was way to bored to stick around just for a few laughs. I love love racing…all types…but in the past few years NASCAR has steadily declined on my must see list! It’s too bad…my love of racing hasn’t changed..but NASCAR is just getting too painful to watch!

03/11/2013 10:42 AM

Look, it is unrealistic to expect any company to allow their own people to criticize their product. You be the real judge. If you enjoy the racing, support it, otherwise don’t watch. Why do you need the drivers opinions to form your own?

Personally, I thought both Phoenix and Vegas races were good and can’t wait for Bristol.

03/11/2013 11:22 AM

I am behind Denny 100%. I saw the replay of what he said and NASCAR definately made “something out of nothing”. It was blown way out of proportion. If NASCAR is trying to get new fans, they are not going to accomplish it by putting muzzles on the drivers.

Carl D.
03/11/2013 11:36 AM

Hotdogger… there’s a difference between baseless critism and an honest assessment of the facts. Summer is right… you cannot expect drivers be silent about the obvious fact that the racecars still need some work. I read Denny’s comments and they were, frankly, rather mild. They certainly didn’t warrant a 25K fine.

However, what I take real offense to is your statement that “If you enjoy the racing, support it, otherwise don’t watch.” I’ve been a fan for over 50 years. I’ve supported Nascar for my whole life. For years I attend several races a year. I brought friends and family to the track and made lifelong fans out of most of them. I think I’ve earned the right to share my opinion and watch what I want to watch whether you like it or not.

03/11/2013 11:38 AM

I think people’s biggest problem is the fact that Nascar hyped this car up big time. So much so that it was as if this car was going to be the savior of the sport.

After 3 races, it doesn’t look like anything is different. How long have they had to work things out with this car? Why do the fans have to suffer through fixing this car to the detriment of the races? And how long is this going to be “a work in progress”?

They obviously don’t want to listen to their drivers, so why should the fans have any hope of things getting better. It was pathetic watching the drivers trip all over themselves praising the new car this weekend.

And DW needs to just go away. Telling everyone to be patient after all the hype makes him look like a bigger idiot than he already is.

03/11/2013 11:49 AM

Steve , you are spot on, ole D.W. and Larry Mac sure love the NASCRAP B.S. !!

03/11/2013 12:44 PM

Think I’ll stick with going to the local dirt tracks.

03/11/2013 02:18 PM

I have to agree with Steve and Fuzzy. Almost gagged when I heard DW stick up for NASCAR and pretty much say that Hamlin shouldn’t be running his mouth. Short memory Mr. Waltrip. You’ve forgotten how you got the nickname “Jaws” in your pre-boot licking days.

03/11/2013 02:32 PM

I could have not stated it better Carl D and it’s been 40 years for me.

03/11/2013 02:33 PM

If nascar could, they would shut down this site or any others that show nascar’s dirty side.

I’m sure they don’t miss David Poole.

There are very few reporters who will really put the hard questions to nascar for fear of losing access. NONE of the TV personalities will do it.

03/11/2013 02:56 PM

I Have No intrest in hearing “thank the team the sponsor Goodyear & Nascar over & over ..If drivers have nothing to say worth hearing we turn off. It’s that simple..Only one on the broadcast section worth listening to (cause it’s straight up & Not politically correct) is Kyle Bush (Don’t Lose him Speed) DW is so far up nascars butt it’s like listening to a commercial..& MW has No business there at all as an owner (sounds completely non biased) ..FOX What gives? & Denny really should’nt be so militant (“I’m not paying that fine”) & from here on in just roll with it cause taking on nascar is not smart over this..Hope he’s still driving by Bristal ..Note: Best at Vegas in a while

03/11/2013 05:15 PM

Summer, good points. Yes, the fans can think for themselves. NASCAR did themselves NO favor with this fine and MESSAGE to the drivers. I prefer to believe my own eyes when it comes to whether or not the racing was good. So far, I’m not that impressed. It was a nice Sunday here in the Philly area. Since I fully expected the Waltrip/Wallace onslaught telling all the fans that we don’t “understand” and that Denny is wrong, well, I chose to avoid it and did other things for most of the day. I got home and watched the end. I also didn’t watch the post-race garbage. The drivers joined hands and sang the praises of the car. Do I believe them? Nope.

CarlD, I second your comments to hogdogger. I, too, have watched the sport for many yrs and I know it can be done better. I will watch or not, as I like.

03/11/2013 05:44 PM

I am outraged at NA$$$$CAR’s actions. The email address I used is, I sent them a 4-letter word laced rude and nasty email. No response yet.

03/11/2013 07:21 PM

boy nascar has me po’d. if
you present a crappy product you should expect
drivers to be critical. most of you don’t remember the tire wars between goodyear and hoosier. the drivers such as mark martin and others were highly critical of nascrap and did not get fined. this bunch of france the president and pemberton all suck. the race was so boring i only watched the last 60 laps. it this is entertainment then you haven’t seen a real race

03/11/2013 07:22 PM

Dennis said nothing wrong and it was no way a slam. I knew these paid shills would try to tell us that we fans and Dennis don’t know what we are seeing or talking about. Just like they tell us how great Sparkle Pony is with nothing whatsoever to valid their biased paid for observations. Get rid of the whole lot of them, Ricky Craven even drinking the PR Koolaid of Nascar, shame. Kyle Petty is the only honest one!!

03/11/2013 08:32 PM

If they want to fix the racing they should give them a real race car. The crew chiefs have said that they cannot make the adjustments they need to get the car to handle better because NA$CAR wont’t let them. Goodyear can help too but they won’t.

03/11/2013 09:15 PM

Goodyear is afraid to bring a softer tire because they might have too many blowouts. At least that is the gist of an article I read somewhere online.

NASCAR wants a car it can controls so they give everyone this spec car. They want parity but apparently some teams are doing OK with it. Certainly Kenseth seems to be OK as well as HMS, except for Gordon of course (sigh).

Jim, you’ll get a canned message saying ‘thanks for your message. NASCAR appreciates its fans” from that e-mail address. No one reads anything submitted there – it is strictly an automated response. There is a physical address in Daytona Beach if you really want to write to NASCAR.

Spencer E Lawton
03/11/2013 09:25 PM

@jim – I was told this evening that Nascar did not send the Fan Council questionaire to members of Fan Council to fill out on race this past weekend. They probably did not want to hear the reaction of their members to this outragous fine.

honda killer
03/14/2013 12:55 AM

Might as well stick to dirt track where bumpin and swapin paint is legitable nif you argue or get pissy just go else where and spind your money on the road