Race Weekend Central

NASCAR Mailbox: Harsh Comments and Penalties Galore

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”: http://bradracing.com/news/open-letter-sundays-race-talladega.

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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