The Frontstretch: NASCAR Mailbox: Harsh Comments and Penalties Galore by Summer Bedgood -- Wednesday May 8, 2013

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NASCAR Mailbox: Harsh Comments and Penalties Galore

Summer Bedgood · Wednesday May 8, 2013


It’s an unfortunate thing that NASCAR is so impacted by the weather, but rarely do we sit through two meteorological marathons in one weekend. For Talladega, the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series were both either pushed back or set on hold for so long because of rain that the impending darkness at the light-less racetrack became more of a hazard than the inevitable “big one”. It got to the point where we were groaning and saying, “Just END it already!”

Yet when I opened my inbox on Wednesday morning, there was an e-mail from NASCAR Integrated Marketing that read, “NASCAR’s Air Titan Delivers at Talladega.”

Um … yeah, about that. If a nearly four hour delay is revolutionary, then call me crazy, but I’m rather underwhelmed. Yes, I know the sun wasn’t out, the wind was blowing, temperatures were cool, and a constant drizzle probably impacted the drying time. But, gosh, the process wouldn’t have been any faster had they used the old fashioned jet dryers to clear a drenched racetrack. What exactly did the Air Titan “deliver” that couldn’t have been achieved with its predecessor?

I’m sure this machinery will eventually be able to dry these tracks so fast that rain will no longer be an issue, but let’s give a hand to NASCAR for sprinkling pixie dust on horse crap.

Now onto your questions:

I wholeheartedly agree with Ryan Newman’s comments in Talladega. NASCAR doesn’t care about the drivers. They only care about stuffing their pockets with wads of cash, and they know that big wrecks will do that. Another driver will be killed before something changes again, and even that may not be good enough. That said, what kind of penalty can Newman expect for telling the damn truth? Rick

According to NASCAR … none! They announced just a couple of days ago that, while they strongly disagreed with Newman’s comments, he didn’t say anything out of bounds.

If you think back to Denny Hamlin’s penalty in March, he was penalized for comments that could have been construed as criticizing the on-track product. However, Brad Keselowski was not penalized for insinuating that there were shady things going on in the garage area, directed at his team and Penske Racing as a whole.

Brian France has drawn the line in the sand very clearly here. Drivers can criticize anything they want in terms of the sanctioning body and the decisions they make, but they cannot criticize the car or the on-track racing. Ryan Newman wasn’t criticizing the racing. He was criticizing NASCAR for not finding a way to keep the cars on the ground at restrictor plate tracks. You don’t have to agree with that discretion, but it is a very black and white rule and one that NASCAR has been consistent with all season.

Considering their lack of consistency literally anywhere else, this is rather refreshing.

I disagree with your assertion though, that another driver will be killed before NASCAR is willing to do anything. Everyone may have hated the Car of Tomorrow, but a huge part of the design of that car went into safety. Even with the now more showroom friendly Generation 6 models, many of those safety innovations were translated into the new car. NASCAR has invested tons of time and money into making the cars safer, and that’s not to mention other aspects such as SAFER barriers and HANS devices that have nothing to do with the car itself.

I’m not, however, predicting that we won’t have another driver death. Racing is a dangerous sport and always will be, and I can’t help but have the heart wrenching feeling that another racing related death is inevitable. The fact that drivers have been sidelined by racing related injuries several times over the last few months is enough evidence of that. But that won’t be from a lack of effort by NASCAR or the racetracks.

One thing that everyone needs to realize is you can’t have an exciting on-track product and invariably keep it safe. What I don’t understand is that I hear people like you say NASCAR doesn’t care about the drivers’ safety, yet you’ll turn around and herald the drivers of old because they would race with devastating race-related injuries. The sport is heads and shoulders above where it used to be in relation to safety because of the changes they’ve implemented, yet they can’t win with the fans on this.

You want to have your cake and eat it too, but the reality is that NASCAR is an exciting sport because it is so dangerous. We don’t want to see drivers hurt, but we want to see exciting racing. You have to pick one or the other; there is no other way around it. Thankfully, we have a somewhat happy medium right now with injuries being the exception rather than the norm.

Back to the original question, though, I agree with their decision not to fine Newman. I just wish they’d get rid of this ridiculous footnote that you can’t criticize the product. Constructive criticism is a good thing, and I wish the sanctioning body would realize this.

“Summer, I watched the replay before the restart, and David Ragan _did switch lanes like Brad Keselowski said. Why didn’t NASCAR penalize him”_ Josh

Because NASCAR told him to. Amidst all of the confusion with the darkness, the rain, and a frantic attempt to clean up the final big one of the day before either of those things made finishing the race impossible, NASCAR determined they had David Ragan in the wrong place and him switch right before the restart.

NASCAR apparently did communicate this to the irate Keselowski before the green flag ever waved, but neither he nor his crew chief got the memo. As a result, Keselowski made a jerk of himself on Twitter where he essentially said Ragan wouldn’t have been the winner without the switch.

In his defense, he did apologize and explain what happened on his website. If you want to read the full apology, click “here”:

I need an outlet for my emotions and frustrations after an 8 hour race. I know…I’ll attack the winner on social media! #somebodyrevokemyphoneprivilges

I’ll admit then when I first read Keselowski’s rant on Twitter, my heart sank as I began to think Keselowski was turning into one of these entitled whiners on the racetrack that I’ve written about in recent weeks. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw he apologized. You don’t need to be a champion to whine, but Keselowski showed a ton of maturity and leadership when he admitted he was wrong and apologized. I can’t think of many other drivers who would have done that.

“I’m so confused about all these penalties and appeals. Who got what and was anything reduced? Why can’t they just race??” Amanda_

It is a little confusing. Let’s start with Penske Racing.

Penske Racing was appealing a penalty they received after failing pre-race inspection at Texas Motor Speedway. The team was determined to have unapproved suspension parts on their cars prior to the race. The original penalties were:
• Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano were each docked 25 driver points.
• Their crew chiefs—Paul Wolfe and Todd Gordon—were both fined $100,000.
• Both the crew chiefs, car chiefs, and engineers were suspended for seven weeks—plus the All-Star Race—on both teams.
• Travis Geisler, competition director for the team, was also suspended for seven weeks.

Now, the team lost the original appeal to NASCAR’s appeals panel and none of their penalties were reduced. However, when the team made a final plea to NASCAR chief appellate officer John Middlebrook, the suspensions for all affected individuals were reduced from seven weeks, to two — including the All Star Race at Charlotte.

All other penalties were upheld.

Next up, is Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 20 team driven by Matt Kenseth. Following their dominant win at Kansas Speedway, they failed post-race inspection when it was discovered that a connecting rod did not meet minimum weight. The penalties in this one were rather lengthy and significant. They were as follows:
• Matt Kenseth was docked 50 driver points.
• Crew chief Jason Ratcliff was fined $200,000 and suspended for seven races.
• Joe Gibbs was docked 50 owner points and had his owners license suspended for six races, which means the No. 20 team will be unable to earn owner points during that time.
• The win at Kansas will not count towards Kenseth’s bonus points when the points are reset if Kenseth makes the Chase.

• The pole at Kansas will not count as eligibility for the 2014 Sprint Unlimited.
• Toyota was docked five manufacturer points.

Who was able to beat the rap and preserve his Kansas win and all that went with it? “This Guy”.

These penalties were also reduced, drastically, when Joe Gibbs Racing appealed on Wednesday.

• Kenseth’s points penalty was REDUCED from 50 points to 12.
• Ratcliff’s fine still stands, though he will only serve the suspension for ONE race.
• Joe Gibbs’ points loss drops from 50 to 12. He will be allowed to earn owner points from here on out.
• Kenseth will receive the bonus points for the Chase and his pole will now count towards next year’s Sprint Unlimited.
• Toyota’s penalty increases from five to seven points.

I hope that helps!

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Contact Summer Bedgood

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Carl D.
05/09/2013 07:44 AM

I’m not sure we got a real good measure of how much better the new air titan system is over the old jet dryers. Every time the officals would get the track almost dry, another shower would come and they’d have to start all over again. Quite honestly, I think they were fortunate to get the race completed with the weather they had in Talladega over the weekend.

With all of the penalties that have been reduced recently, I think it creates the perception that Robin Pemberton is over-regulating the teams. I can’t say that the perception is correct because I’m not a tech guy or an insider. Still, maybe Nascar should dial it back a bit when it comes to dishing out such harsh penalties.

05/09/2013 08:32 AM

The Middlebrook decision on Penske smells fishy. Nascar and Middlebrook raised a lot of eyebrows last year with the overturning of the penalties on the 48. (Still hasn’t been explained) The decision to reduce the Penske penalties comes across as trying to keep the dogs at bay. Hoping that everybody leaves well enough alone.

The Gibbs penalties being reduced is a MAJOR win for Toyota. It was extremely stupid for Nascar to slam Gibbs like they did for a part that was under the limit by less than 3 grams. Or about the weight of an envelope. I suspect Jack Housby had a lot to do with this decision. And Nascar is NOT happy. LOL.

Bill B
05/09/2013 09:30 AM

What I wonder is why they even have the first two steps in the penalty process. NASCAR should just document the infraction and then hand it over to Middlebrook. No debate, no appeals, no long drawn out process. NASCAR could present it’s case in writing, the team in question could document their opinion or excuse, and let the chips fall where they may.

As it is, it seems like the main purpose of the penalty process is to create headlines and keep NASCAR in the news between races as well as keep fans talking and debating.
Maybe some people think that’s a good thing but I feel it’s a waste of all of our time and effort.

05/09/2013 10:00 AM

I am THANKFUL that there is a step between Nascar and Middlebrook. I’d bet my house that Middlebrook would NOT have overturned the Gibbs penalties.

And at least there IS a process that the teams can go through instead of the constant dictatorship and questionable calls of Nascar.

There’s still a little hope….LOL.

05/09/2013 10:40 AM

Wow, there IS a few in the media who “get it” after all….

Glen H.
05/09/2013 10:51 AM

I have to disagree with you on NASCAR not waiting until there’s a driver death befor they do anything to improve safety.

Adam Petty, Kenny Irwin and Dale Earnhardt Sr. all died before NASCAR mandated the HANS device and put in SAFER barriers; either of which would have prevented their deaths and were in use in other forms of racing. Their deaths also led directly to the safety features designed into the COT.

05/09/2013 03:21 PM

Glen you beat me to it. Nascar has never been proactive when it comes to safety, just reactive. There are still plenty of walls at high speed tracks on the schedule that still don’t safer barriers and is also the reason why Denny Hamlin has been out of the racecar for weeks.

While I agree with Newmans comment and don’t think he should be penalized, I don’t understand Nascar’s reasoning. If he is talking about keeping the cars on the ground, isn’t that criticizing the racing product?

Nascar is good at one thing for sure. They are consistent at being inconsistent.

How come none of the Nascar media is discussing Brian France’s legal issues with his divorce? Only the AP and mainstream media seem to be talking about it.

05/09/2013 04:35 PM


Yahoo Sports has info on the France stuff. So does jayski.

I suspect most of the nascar media doesn’t want to touch it…everyone’s scared of nascar and that’s how nascar likes it.