Shape up or ship out! That's exactly what NASCAR's governing body needs to be told to do.
In the world of sports, most leagues keep a pretty tight leash on what they will or will not allow their athletes to say about them. For example, the NBA and NFL do not take kindly when players or owners openly criticize the officials.
In March the NBA fined Jerry Sanders $50,000 for alleging that officials made calls that heavily favored the Miami Heat. In January the NBA fined Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban $50,000 for comments made via Twitter about NBA officiating.
During the 2012 season, the NFL fined both Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and Washington Redskins coach Kyle Shanahan for conduct involving referees. Newton was fined $21,000 when he verbally abused a referee after what he thought was a bad call. Shanahan was fined $25,000 when he followed a referee off the field to question a call that was made in the game.
Both the NFL and the NBA do their best to let their players know that you cannot question the officials. Some of the men, without question, crossed a line, while others simply voiced their opinions. Regardless, neither league stands for such actions, and they levied the fines to prove it.
It's a shame that NASCAR doesn't have that strong of a backbone.
Prior to the NRA 500, Brad Keselowski's No. 2 Miller Lite Ford had some issues during pre-race inspection. It was at this time that NASCAR confiscated the rear-end housing from the car as well as other pieces. As a result of this, Keselowski and teammate Joey Logano were delayed in getting their cars to the starting grid.
After the race, Keselowski launched a verbal assault against NASCAR.
There’s so much stuff going on, you guys have no idea — you have no (expletive) idea what’s going on, Keselowski said. I can tell you there is no team in this garage with the integrity of the 2 team.
The way we’ve been treated over the last seven days is absolute shameful. I feel like we’ve been targeted over the last seven days more than I’ve ever seen a team targeted in my life. My guys keep their heads on straight and they showcased why they’re a winning team and a championship team.
Keselowski actually said on live television that he believed NASCAR was intentionally targeting him. If that is not questioning the integrity of a sports league, what is?
NASCAR's response to this rant? No fine.
In 2011 Keselowski was asked about NASCAR's new fuel injection system. He had the following to say:
I don't think we're really going to save any gas. It's a media circus, trying to make you guys happy so you write good stories. It gives them something to promote. We're always looking for something to promote, but the honest answer is it does nothing for the sport except cost the team owners money.
NASCAR's response to this? A $25,000 fine.
Earlier this season, Denny Hamlin compared the Gen-6 cars to the previous model. After a race in Phoenix, he had the following reaction:
I don't want to be the pessimist, but it did not race as good as our Generation Five cars.This is more like what the Generation Five was at the beginning. The teams hadn't figured out how to get the aero balance right. Right now, you just run single-file and you cannot get around the guy in front of you.
I hate to be 'Denny-downer,' but I just didn't pass that many cars today. That's the realistic fact of it.
After making that comment, NASCAR saw it fit to fine the driver of the No. 11 machine a cool $25,000. Okay, so maybe NASCAR was just cutting Keselowski a break. He is, after all, their current champion, and they did have the whole matter of dealing with his part confiscation ahead of them.
So what in the world is their excuse for how they handled Tony Stewart late last season? Stewart had some unique post-race comments after wrecking at Talladega.
I'm upset that we didn't crash more cars. I feel like that is what we are here for.
I feel bad if I don't spend at least $150,000 in torn-up racecars going back to the shop. We definitely have to do a better job with that.
If we haven't crashed at least 50 percent of the field by the end of the race, we need to extend the race until we at least crash 50 percent of the cars because it's not fair to these fans for them to not see any more wrecks than that and more torn-up cars. We still had over half the cars running at the end and it shouldn't be that way.
NASCAR also decided to let these comments slide without any sort of fine.
It would seem that NASCAR's stance is that it's okay for driver's to talk poorly of the sport, fans and officials. However, they better not dare speak any ill will of their equipment.
I understand that NASCAR is all about the "rubbing is racing" philosophy, and they want to let their drivers settle it on the track. With that mindset comes drivers who are going to speak their minds and give the media quote-worthy sound bites.
What NASCAR doesn't seem to understand is that they are not giving any credibility to their sport when they hand out these punishments.
When a casual fan hears a rant like Keselowski's or comments like Stewart's, their initial reaction is that they most likely enjoy it. In today's very politically correct world, it's refreshing to see people who are allowed to openly speak their minds.
Then the same fans see Hamlin compare how the new car races to the previous, and he receives a fine. That same fan that loved Keselowski's targeting comment sees him get fined for commenting on the fuel injection system.
To say that this comes across as confusing would be an understatement.
No system is going to be perfect, but NASCAR has to come closer then this. You cannot argue that NASCAR is protecting the integrity of the sport by fining for critical comments about their equipment and not fining when they are accused of conspiring against a team.
The fans deserve better, and the drivers certainly deserve better.