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France to drivers: Don't denigrate direction of sport or quality of racing
Brian France muzzles drivers with fines
Getty Images for NASCAR
NASCAR Chairman Brian France met with the media Friday at Homestead. Just two days before what could be as dramatic a finish to the season as the sport has had in recent years, the topic was not about the racing but another secret fine NASCAR has issued.

The Associated Press reported this week that NASCAR had secretly fined Brad Keselowski $25,000 for comments he made recently about NASCAR’s move to fuel injection next season.

In this story in USA Today, Keselowski called fuel injection “a disaster.’’

He also said: "My dislike list is very long," Keselowski said. "I'm not a big fan of it at all. Carburetor technology is 50 years old but is very simple. The benefit of a carburetor is that it's very, very easy to police. That's why NASCAR stuck with that. Now, because of all the green initiatives, etc., etc., the sport has taken a lot of flak from different groups that probably don't understand that. They've been pressured into switching it through the green initiatives. In reality it's no more efficient than what we have, and it costs a lot more."

France was asked often by the media about the secret fines.

“When you cross a line that denigrates the direction of the sport or the quality of racing, we’re not going to accept that, not going to accept that,’’ France said. “Happy to have any other criticism, any other complaint, happy to hear them all but if I own a restaurant and I say, “You know what? The food in my restaurant is not very good.’ We’re not going to accept that. It’s as simple as that.’’

Asked why not reveal the fines, France said: “What would be the benefit? The drivers know exactly what we’re after. We have these annual meetings with them, right? And then we semi-annual meetings with them and we meet them every weekend at the track. So they know exactly what we expect out of them and when they don’t handle that, the only way we can control that is, obviously, a fining system. Look, don’t panic over this. We’ll look at it over the offseason. If we need to change it, we’ll change it. Not a big deal.’’

Ryan Newman has been secretly fined for his comments about the sport. It came last year in comments he made after a crash at Talladega where he questioned the racing there.

So, I asked Newman how being secretly fined for comments affected what he says and if he wonders why some drivers get fined and some don’t. This is what Newman said:

“The comment that Brian said that we all know (that line) and we all don’t know that line. We know that area, but we don’t know that line. Yes, there are times, and I’m sure you could go talk to every driver out there where they wanted to say something at one point and they decided not to, whether it was a four-letter word, whether it was a comment, whether it was a biased opinion of somebody or whatever, that has always happened in the history of all the sports. Knowing that line is entirely different than knowing that area of where you cross that line.

“There’s things that I’ve heard people say that I questioned. There’s things that I’ve said that I don’t think should have ever been an issue but they were. It’s not black-and-white, it’s not cut and dry. It’s not that simple. Period.’’

In other areas that Brian France discussed:

# On how much he hopes to end tandem drafting at Daytona and Talladega: “It is one of the things we are after. We would prefer to eliminate tandem racing in the manner it exists today. There is no question about that. We are working on rolling back the clock to traditional Daytona, Talladega races. We'll have to see how that goes. I think the majority of fans would like to see that and so would we.’’

# On if there will be changes to the Chase: “It's possible. I don't know. We take those ideas throughout the year. We really look at them as carefully as we can. Then what we do is we run them past the team owners and drivers and other  everybody else in the industry in the offseason before we would do anything, and that's exactly what we did last year going into this year. We looked at all kinds of things and settled on this as a nice step forward to simplifying the point system. Hopefully getting what we have, which is a more competitive Chase, and we'll look at it again. I don't know where we'll end up.’’

# On uptick in TV ratings: “We've always said that ratings go up and down because of many, many things. The things we can control are showcasing the racing, telling our story, and giving the drivers some big moments to race for. That will help us. You never know how it all percentage wise what really matters the most. But we know that that's the NASCAR we want. We want to see these elevated performances, and they're just fun to watch. We want to see what's happened. I'm confident if we do that, and do a lot of other things, we will have better ratings and better attendance.’’

# On why no penalties to Matt Kenseth or Brian Vickers for their incidents but Kyle Busch was penalized for his incident with Ron Hornaday: “Well, there is something being done about that. We're having a conversation about that, and they are very different circumstances. One was on a mile and a half track, a lot faster. One was under caution, which is very significant different. Racing accidents under green are always subjective. Even though you may say this one wasn't, but typically there is always a debate about who went where. Ron Hornaday was racing for a championship, and you know we value that greatly. So there are lots of differences. It doesn't mean though that we didn't think the line was almost met or somewhat close, whereby, we would have a conversation to explain that. We will be having a conversation with both Brian and Matt regarding really what happened in Martinsville the week before, which is a short track. A lot of contact happened in that particular race. Like I said earlier, there is a line. The drivers know where the line is. If we should be guessing about that for some reason, we're happy to sit down and walk them through it.’’

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