The Frontstretch: NASCAR Wants Silence? No One Gives A Rip Anymore by Summer Bedgood -- Monday April 15, 2013

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NASCAR Wants Silence? No One Gives A Rip Anymore

Summer Bedgood · Monday April 15, 2013

 

“Silence! I ‘keel’ you.”

Oh, come on. Don’t tell me you don’t know the lovable little skeleton I’m referencing. He’s famous for “Jingle Bombs” and being slightly offensive but mind-blowing hilarious.

However, it appears another entity is attempting to utter a very similar phrase: NASCAR.

Brad Keselowski, angry over what he claims is NASCAR “targeting” Penske Racing will likely receive a fine on Tuesday after openly criticizing the sanctioning body on national television.

No, they won’t be “keel”-ing anyone, but they seem to be trying their hardest to silence those with something negative to say about them. No one knows this witch-hunt better than Denny Hamlin, one of the sport’s more vocal drivers who was recently fined $25,000. Why? It was for a comment that couldn’t be pointed out, in a 350-page novel because it wasn’t even remotely controversial. It was a simple criticism, on the development of the Gen-6 race car made out of a strong opinion and a desire to improve the racing. Hamlin was only trying to be honest; so much for that.

Instead, with the punishment, severe by NASCAR’s standards its result was to silence the other drivers in the media center. The very next week, they were kissing NASCAR’s butt with such force you could practically see the indiscreet feces rolling down their face at Las Vegas.

I apologize for that mental image. Did I make my point?

Saturday night in Texas, though, proved that you can only silence a squeaky wheel for so long. Drivers have opinions, are passionate and, fines or no fines, won’t take any crap from NASCAR about it. If something needs to be said, there are a handful of drivers who will darn well say it if they feel the need arises.

Brad Keselowski, the sport’s reigning champ, is tops on the list, one top-tier wheelman all sides of the sport can look to for honesty. He, too, has run into trouble with NASCAR but it has never stopped him for very long (See: February’s USA Today article and subsequent fallout). Apparently, this weekend was one of those times, because Keselowski had a lot to say about NASCAR’s … erm … “integrity” once he exited his car on Saturday night.

Here’s his quotes:

“I have one good thing to say. That’s my team and effort they put in today in fighting back with the absolute bull that’s been the last seven days in this garage area. The things I’ve seen over the last seven days have me questioning everything that I believe in, and I’m not happy about it. I don’t have anything positive to say and I probably should just leave it at that.”

“There’s so much stuff going on … you have no f——— idea what’s going on. And that’s not your fault and that’s not a slam on you. I could tell you 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 absolutely shameful. I feel like we’ve been targeted over the last seven days more than I’ve ever seen a team targeted. But my guys kept their heads on straight and they showcased why they are a winning team and championship team. We’re not going to take it. We’re not going to be treated this way.”

“I’m very worried about losing my crew chief, Paul Wolfe. But I tell you I’ve got one of best owners [Roger Penske] in the garage and I’m going to be first one at his desk telling him if anything happens. We’ll both be in a meeting with anybody and everybody who’ll listen. There’s been so much stuff going on, I could make a list two pages long, but I’m out.”

Now, some context is in order here. Prior to the start of the race, Keselowski and teammate Joey Logano’s Fords were held in the garage after NASCAR discovered they had illegal rear end housing. Officials forced both teams to alter their vehicles before allowing them onto the grid, confiscating the parts they felt were “bad.” While Logano nearly missed the green flag, starting the race from the rear Keselowski was able to make it to the grid before the green ever flew. Everything seemed fine, in the end as Keselowski went on to finish ninth; his teammate, Logano actually pulled off a top-5 result.

However, Keselowski’s post-race meltdown was basically some pushback at NASCAR for apparent, behind-the-scenes nonsense connected to what happened that sent him over the edge. Criticism over the team being “targeted” also likely stems from Martinsville, a week earlier when the No. 2 car was called for a violation, pitting outside their box when cameras clearly showed the call was wrong. However, no specific details were mentioned in these rants; instead, they’re vague references to “things” and “concerns.”

That’s what makes it so hard to gauge the whole truth. Though I can’t quite make up my mind whether Keselowski is whining, or if what he’s saying needs to be taken seriously, the truth is that I was surprised by his candor. After all, hasn’t NASCAR made a recent statement that no negative press at all will be tolerated?

Yes, some of Keselowski’s outspokenness came from the fact that penalties are expected for the team on Tuesday, anyway. Perhaps he had nothing to lose. At the same time, based upon how the driver was phrasing his disgust, this rant was a long time coming. It was built up, over a period of weeks and months and this incident was the final straw. Keselowski was going to have this statement, no matter what, and the assumed penalty basically gave him the outlet necessary to vent.

In other words, he really doesn’t care.

That didn’t surprise me. Keselowski has and likely always will be the outspoken model we need in NASCAR. One person I didn’t expect to be so bold, though was Martin Truex, Jr. While he was well on his way to what looked his second career victory, NASCAR threw an ill-timed and questionable at best caution for debris that effectively screwed Truex over. On the final pit stop, he lost on pit road to Kyle Busch and was just never able to recover from it.

On pit road after the race, Truex was asked what he thought of the last caution and if he would have won the race without it. His response? “Shoulda, coulda, woulda — it happened to us a few times last year, too.”

Hmm … to me, it sounded like he answered the question by not answering the question. Truex also indirectly hinted that this decision is a routine thing. That’s not something we don’t already know, but for a driver to say it after NASCAR has essentially threatened them is somewhat surprising.

However, the biggest surprise came on Twitter later that night. They were two words that made me do a double take as I rushed to scroll back down my timeline to make sure I’d seen it right: “Debris huh????”

Um … yeah. NAPA Know How ain’t buyin’ it. And, unlike Keselowski, Truex does have something to lose. Though he’s not off to a great start this year — 18th in points and 100 off Jimmie Johnson’s pace – the last thing he needs is to lose any more ground for an angry response.

Will he get penalized for it? I doubt it, but at the same time I didn’t see a Hamlin penalty coming, either.

The truth is, this” honesty” isn’t altogether rare. Even when NASCAR gets their panties in a wad, it seems drivers are still willing to speak out. Stewart has been haggled by NASCAR several times for his comments and still will say the most controversial things. Hamlin, out recovering from an injury will stay quiet for now but inevitably go back to his outspoken ways at some point. And as for Kurt Busch … well, he’s Kurt “motherf—-ing” Busch.

That willingness to take the risk, regardless of consequences speaks to NASCAR’s credibility to drivers when it comes to their at times overbearing attitude. If you’re going to get fined for every sneeze that gets snot on NASCAR’s cufflinks, you might as well make it a good one. You may as well speak your mind when walking on glass! Bottom line, the penalty has become meaningless to them; instead, it’s all about reporting the “crime” and holding NASCAR accountable for their accusations.

We often make much of drivers not speaking their minds enough, but the truth is, the ones that do seem to be getting bolder. NASCAR’s mode of punishment, then is backfiring; they’re shooting themselves in the foot every time they fine a driver for an opinion they give. And the outspoken ones, from Hamlin to Keselowski are realizing that. The backlash, should a penalty come won’t be at the driver or the sponsor: it will be at NASCAR. If they’re fining a driver for speaking the absolute truth, that just makes it worse.

So I, for one, was thrilled to see Truex’s and Keselowski’s comments, along with other drivers who refuse to put up with the attempt to suppress any alternative opinions. Let’s hope NASCAR takes the hint and backs off.

For in all honesty, a squeaky wheel is just what this sport needs to stay relevant.

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janice
04/15/2013 08:00 AM
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are fans at home going to be able to call in and question “questionable” calls by na$car like someone did at the masters this past weekend? apparently a fan watching game on high def tv noticed a penalty that wasn’t called and called into the tv station who in turn alerted the officials to the issue and penalty was noted.

Carl D.
04/15/2013 08:06 AM
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I suspect Nascar will start docking points as well as issuing fines for drivers who dare make a disparaging remark. Drivers won’t be so quick to speak their minds when the penalties affect the entire team and not just their own bank account.

That said, the drivers cannot continue to allow themselves to be bullied by an overbearing Nascar CEO who cares only about his own wealth. The time is now for drivers to show some solidarity, for crew chiefs to be forthcoming about what’s really going on behind the scenes, and most importantly, for owners to fully support their teams when they’ve been wronged by Nascar. It’s probably going to take a few extreme measures to make an impact. When a marque driver decides to sit one out rather than race, or multiple drivers hold a joint press conference to spotlight the issue, the resulting media firestorm will really put Brian France front and center of a controversy I guarantee you he doesn’t want.

Kudos to Brad Keselowski for not letting Nascar bully his team without calling them out for it. I’m sure there will be a price to pay, but there are times when you simply have to stand up for yourself and say “enough is enough”.

JP
04/15/2013 08:50 AM
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If the sponsors reach a point to where they no longer want to spend money on a team or driver who is a target of Nascar, then, maybe, that would make a difference. Or not.

Nascar would gladly just let the sponsor be “the official sponsor of Nascar” and the driver/team would be on their own.

Until there is a REAL pushback from the drivers and teams and OWNERS (or who are not Hendrick), then I don’t see much changing.

God bless you Brad. Keep up the good fight.

Terry
04/15/2013 09:25 AM
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This sport is dead until Brian France sells his stake. The shrill tone of their press releases and willignless to lie in the face of plain truth indicates massive disfunction behind the scenes.

The sport needs to be bought up and more than half the current staff need to be let go to cure the cancer that runs through it.

It no longer serves any master but France’s paranoia, vanity and ego, as we are no longer about The Fans, no longer about The Tradition, no longer about The Race.

I dont want to watch this dishonest parade that feels so much like footage from a tin horn dictatorship showing off its military hardware.

Glen H.
04/15/2013 09:52 AM
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The drivers all think that NA$CAR has the power and they must be sheep and do as they’re told. What they need to realize is that they have the power because without the drivers, NA$CAR is nothing. If they all stood together and told Brian France and NA$CAR to go screw them selves, NA$CAR would have to give in to their demands (the manufacturers finally figured that out which is why the Gen6 cars look more like street cards).

jo-jr
04/15/2013 10:21 AM
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been going to the races since back in the 60’s, stopped going two years ago,and have been taping, and fast forwarding,so, I, even shocked, myself, when one third ,thru, the race ,saturday night, I stopped watching the farce of a race, and whtched programs I, had recorded!! the races now are a joke, and not worth watching and certainley, not worth ,traveling hundreds of miles, and spending your hard-earned money to already know who gets the win!! NASCAR IS A RIGGED, UP JOKE ANYMORE! It is almost,on it’s death bed!

Lydia
04/15/2013 10:32 AM
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I want to take sides…but I need more info then the ramblings of Brad. The guy made no sense! It was like watching a building implode..exciting while it was happening..but after the dust settled you just look at the pile of rubble and say…boy that was alot of hoopla and all that’s left is a small pile of rubble…and that’s what I fear may happen to Kez. For me Brad’s tirade would have made me say Ah Ha…if he hadn’t pulled out the black helicopters….I need more facts and less rambling. The drivers want to be heard..make a difference…bring changes to a sport that is so desperately in need of revival…I just don’t know if what Brad eluded to is going to help his..or anyone’s stance… NASCAR wants to be right…Brad wants to be right…Penske just wants everyone to get along…I fear it’s going to be a long season for everyone…and no one is going to come out ahead…especially the fans.

Alan Sorensen
04/15/2013 10:36 AM
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How about addressing the cowardly withdrawal from backing the sponsor of the race? Nothing like biting the hand that feeds you! Anybody got the sand in their craw besides Kez to address the NRA being outed? I didn’t think so… Don’t want to get those girly-boy politicos upset with you…

ginaV24
04/15/2013 10:46 AM
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I applaud Brad’s honesty even though it is going to cost him. NASCAR always wins. It is frustrating as a fan to watch them run this sport. The powers that be in NASCAR have pretty much taken all of the fun out of things. The racing and results have become incredibly predictable. NASCAR never lets the facts get in the way.

I have NO expectation that any of the marquee drivers will speak up. I’m a Gordon fan and I know that he will simply state the PC deal, and so will Mr. Vanilla Johnson.

DonMei
04/15/2013 11:06 AM
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Not hard to figure it out Lydia. Do you believe that those involved have the right to voice an opinion that might not be the same opinion as that member of The Lucky Sperm Club who runs Nascar? Yes or no; pretty damn simple.

grumpiestoldman
04/15/2013 11:29 AM
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I’m a KyBu fan, but that last caution was BS.
For some reason, NASCAR doesn’t like Brad K as their champion, or the fact that Logano has hit the right situation and is doing well.
Oh, that’s right…they don’t drive for Chevy.

spot1
04/15/2013 12:00 PM
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Um, grumpiestoldman, there were only two chevies in the top 10 so your last sentence is a little off base.

Bill B
04/15/2013 12:32 PM
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I would bet that behind the scenes, weeks ago, that when the NRA sponsorship became a hot topic that NASCAR heavily discounted the NRA sponsorship (i.e., refunded a large percentage of the originally agreed upon price)and told the NRA that, while they could still be the official sponsor of the race, they would not be getting the exposure that normally comes with such sponsorship.

And, while I agree with all of you that want the drivers to band together and stand up to NASCAR, what you are really talking about is unionizing. I am not going into whether that would be good or bad but that’s what it would take.

Lydia
04/15/2013 12:55 PM
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You’re kinda right (in my opinion) DonMei…it COULD be a yes or no answer…but I truly don’t know what the question is… I truly don’t know
what Brad was ticked off
about…was his team truly
being picked on? Were the
Penske cars truly illegal?
What garage was in in the last
7 days he kept alluding to
where NASCAR was breathing
down his neck? What’s on
Brads many paged list of
“things” they have been raked
over the coals for? I’m not
saying Brad is wrong…or that NASCAR is right…I need to
know the issues…not just hear Brad’s “had enough”! I’m a
Stewart fan … You gotta know with being a Stewart fan
comes alot of controversy … I
just need the facts….I’m not going to buy a ticket on either bandwagon until I know where each ride is taking me!

Lydia
04/15/2013 01:06 PM
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And to Alan concerning the NRA sponsorship…I read two articles this morn…both said Fox/NASCAR gave the NRA exactly what they asked/paid
for to sponsor the race…title
sponsorship, an hourly
mention of the NRA and
signage…it was the package
chosen by the NRA…they
didn’t spend the extra $$$ for
more hoopla…which I thought
was impressive…it really
wasn’t the time or place for
politics.

Wayne T. Morgan
04/15/2013 01:21 PM
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I love your mental imadge as it covers what most see but never say. Should let Brad and the rest say what they feel and let it be. Ha! Maybe next year it will be named “The Abortion 500” as it’s an amendment and law too! Why Not??

k
04/15/2013 01:44 PM
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Problem = Brian France

phil h
04/15/2013 03:06 PM
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was it Nascar’s fault that the two drivers in question were illegal? it seems 2 & 22 weren’t following the rules and they got busted!!
Why are you guys busting Nascars’s ass for catching them bending the rules that the other 41 drivers had to abide by.
If Brad and Logano don’t like that they were caught cheating and felt they were being picked on. Then, just stay at home and see what happens then!

Sue Rarick
04/15/2013 03:15 PM
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No Fine for Brad K… If I were Hamlin I’d pay that fine when hell freezes over.

Carl D.
04/15/2013 03:48 PM
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phil h… I’m not so sure the issue is as black and white as you imply. According to Jayski, NASCAR VP of Competition Robin Pemberton stated “It’s just something that is not in the spirit of the rules”. In other words, it’s not technically against the rules, it’s just one of those things that Nascar selectively and situationally rules on. I understand that Nascar can’t foresee everything that a crew chief might do to gain an advantage, but Brad’s comments, especially since he alludes to Nascar’s actions over the entire week, have me convinced that we don’t know the whole story here.

Old Fan Bill
04/15/2013 04:24 PM
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This artical must have been written before they found that Truexs car was to low, since there is no mention of the violation.

Gerry
04/15/2013 04:31 PM
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NFL soon Please

john mcmanus
04/15/2013 04:32 PM
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Most Nascar fans aren’t old enough to remember Roger Penske’s first major win in the Carribian in the 60’s. He violated the FIA rulebook but got away with it. Integrity indeed!.

Steve
04/16/2013 02:41 PM
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Lydia, if you notice in Brad’s rant, he made no specific allegations and never mentioned Nascar. That was by design. Having said that, he is subject to penalties, so the fine will just get added in even though its not an official fine according to Nascar.

You have to wonder if Truex failed inspection was after his interview about getting screwed by that debris caution. coincidence?

I remember Jimmie’s car “not in the spirit of the rules” at some point in the past, but yet no penalties and certainly no cars being held up from taking the grid. Nascar is consistent at being inconsistent.

DoninAjax
04/16/2013 07:56 PM
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The “problem” with the rear end housings sounds very similar to the “problem” that cost Mark Martin his championship. It’s not against the rules but NA$CAR doesn’t like it. It’s a decision based on their rule book.