Brian France defends "secret fines," says policy open to change

By Amanda Ebersole and Rebecca Kivak

Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR
Just yesterday it was reported by the Associated Press that Brad Keselowski was the most recent driver to be fined by NASCAR. These fines have not been publicly released and are widely criticized as “secret fines” that NASCAR has levied against several drivers, at least four now that we know of. These fines have been issued when drivers have openly criticized NASCAR, in some cases via social media or through interviews.

According to the AP, Keselowski was fined for comments he made last week that were critical of NASCAR's move to electric fuel injection next year. The fine is believed to be $25,000.

NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France addressed the hot-button issue Friday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. France was asked by the media about NASCAR’s stance on these fines and the secrecy surrounding them.

“Let me tell you what we've done in the last couple of years. In the last couple of years we've taken a position that drivers are going to be able to speak their mind and criticize the sport way more than any other sport would allow. So let's start with that,” said France.

“However, there have to be some limits. We thought those limits were being exceeded in the last couple of years because you can't denigrate the sport. You just can't do that. We're not going to accept that,” reiterated France.

Defending the fines, France says, “You know what is interesting, almost every driver has come up to me at one time or another and said I'm glad you did that, because I don't like it when somebody just says something that is irresponsible about the sport.”

“Let me say one other portion of this. They are perfectly fine to criticize anything we do, any call we make. They can say they don't like it, they disagree with it. We didn't make the right call. That's fine. But we're not going to let anyone denigrate the sport, and that's going to continue.”

France said he couldn't address what Keselowski said specifically that crossed the line because "we didn't issue a public fine on that."

Speaking as to the necessity of the fines being public knowledge, France said, “Whether we make the fines public or private, we didn't see a benefit to making them public. If there is some benefit to that, we'll take a look at it. But that is the reasoning behind the penalties.

“If there's a benefit to announcing them to the public and the media, we'll take a look at them. We just didn't see a benefit at the time. Maybe there is a benefit.”

France did suggest the current policy is open to change.

"But look, don't panic over this," he said. "We'll look at it in the off-season, if we need to change it, we'll change it. Not a big deal."

France also addressed the following issues during Friday's press conference:
  • On "boys have at it" and drivers knowing where the line is: "There is a line and the drivers, they may walk around and say sometimes that they're not clear about it, but they know the line. We have these conversations with them all the time. ... If they're close to the line, we have a conversation that day. If they go over the line, we'll deal with that too. So this idea that there is no -- nobody knows where the line is, not true. Not accurate."
  • On the Brian Vickers-Matt Kenseth incident at Phoenix: "We're having a conversation about that ... 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. ... 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."
    • On if the current system doesn't reward winning enough, and comparing Matt Kenseth's one win in 2003, the last year before the Chase was implemented, to Carl Edwards' one win this season: "Because we didn't change the point system because somebody had one win or a few wins. That was never the emphasis. The emphasis was that we could create bigger moments if we had a more playoff style atmosphere as opposed to a complete consistency model in the years past. And we've achieved that goal, not all the time because it's obviously out of our control. I would tell you the one win that Carl had might make the difference though. He only leads by three points. The one win in Las Vegas may well make the difference tomorrow."
    • On possible tweaks 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 off-season 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 think the current system and more tweaks will always come and we'll just have to see what they are."
    • On NASCAR's decision this year to limit drivers to one series championship: " ... I think it's worked the way we want it to. We want to showcase the young drivers in their own series and still have the participation with drivers with a lot of experience. That's exactly what we've gotten. The honor and prestige of winning a championship and the money that comes with that and all the rest has been a good thing."
    • On tandem racing at restrictor-plate tracks: "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 not being present at every race or more available for press conferences: "I frequently say, and I've said this before, if I thought that I was the last one out of every event and I turn the light off on the way out that that would grow the sport in some way, I would do it. What we have is a different sport than it was 10, 15 years ago, and that's real clear. I don't publish my schedule, but it's pretty busy. We feel like we're managing the sport. We know we're managing the sport the best way that we need to to grow the sport."

    Brian France defends "secret fines," says policy open to change Brian France defends "secret fines," says policy open to change Reviewed by Admin on Friday, November 18, 2011 Rating: 5