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(Photo Source: Zimbio.com/Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images North America)

Tony Stewart fans were beyond excited yesterday when the driver announced not just a timeline for his return to his #14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro chevy but that he was BACK in his race car effective immediately.  Hours later many of those same fans were outraged that NASCAR turned around and issued Tony Stewart a $35,000 fine for talking about the issue of teams not tightening enough lug nuts during pitstops since NASCAR no longer polices this during a media obligation the day before.  If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter you know that I was ramped up yesterday about Tony receiving that $35,000 fine and I still am. I have NEVER thought a fine was such a, pardon my  language, bullshit fine in my life as a NASCAR fan. One of the many many reasons Tony is my driver is that he has never ever shied away from speaking his mind. Yes it’s gotten him into some hot water from time to time. And sometimes he might not say things in the most diplomatic way but he says them because they need to be said.  Sometimes he says things in the heat of the moment but what driver doesn’t. This was not one of those times.

Now if Tony were to have gone out there and lambasted specific people in NASCAR’s hierarchy regarding this issue I might have understood the fine. But from what I heard and read Tony say about the lug nut issue is that he is mad (I believe his actual words were P.O.’d) because he feels no longer monitoring/requiring the amount of lug nuts tightened is going to get someone hurt.  It’s a safety issue.   At least two other drivers, Dale Earnhardt Jr and Greg Biffle, have made similar complaints as has crew chief Rodney Childers. I don’t see them getting fined. NOR SHOULD THEY. It’s a safety issue that needs to be brought to someone’s attention before a driver or a spectator get injured.  Tony talks about it and he gets fined.

NASCAR came out of the box this season stating what exactly the fine scale would be for drivers who spoke poorly of NASCAR or it’s racing product. I was hopeful that this meant the fines would be more transparent and more evenly distributed than ever before. They have failed on this BIG TIME.  Take for instance Kyle Busch.  Several weeks ago Kyle Busch claims NASCAR is fixing races on his team radio because they threw a yellow flag that he felt could have cost him a possible win in the Xfinity Series – clearly a much more inflammatory statement against NASCAR and it’s racing product and yet he doesn’t get fined (he did get fined that weekend but it was for bailing on post race media obligations post race and not for his statement about races being fixed by the sanctioning body).  There has to be consistency and fairness in the penalties and fining Tony Stewart for bring up lug nuts and safety (a conversation that has been going on since late last year at least) is not something that should be something fine worthy.

It seems that the drivers agree, as the Sprint Cup series driver’s council issued a statement late last night that they didn’t think that the fine was fair and they would be helping pay the fine. This tells me that they feel the same way Tony does so they should all feel the fine pain so to speak.  I hope that this speaks volumes to NASCAR. They have a possible safety issue that they need to seriously consider. Fining drivers for talking about a possible safety issue is like fining a baseball player for considering wearing a helmet when he’s up to bat, or fining a bull rider for wearing a flack jacket during his 8 second ride.  It doesn’t make sense because without the athlete- you don’t have the sport. (more…)

Since I got all philosophical, sentimental, or whatever you would call that with the Texas Race Report –I left out the “Notes” section where I usually go into all things NASCAR that didn’t fit nice and tidy in the race post. So I present to you- NASCAR tidbits in no particular order that have been floating around in my brain: (more…)

On February 17th (seems like ages ago doesn’t it?) the 48 car entered in the Daytona 500 field failed it’s initial race entry inspection because of illegal C-posts.  The C-Posts were confiscated by NASCAR and the team was allowed to repair the 48 car and go back through inspection and then into practice.  First thought is where the heck is the C-Post…well I found and stole this graphic from an old article on NASCAR.com:

Click graphic to be taken to the story on NASCAR.com that it was borrowed from.

Anyway- today NASCAR announced the “punishment” for the illegal parts. They were found to be in violation of three sections of the NASCAR rulebook*:

Sections 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing); 12-4J (any determination by NASCAR officials that race equipment used in the event does not conform to NASCAR rules detailed in Section 20 of the rule book or has not been approved by NASCAR prior to the event); and 20-2.1E (if in the judgment of NASCAR officials, any part or component of the car not previously approved by NASCAR that has been installed or modified to enhance aerodynamic performance will not be permitted – unapproved car body modifications)

Chad Knaus, crew chief of the 48, was fined $100,000 and suspended for 6 weeks. Car chief of the 48, Ron Malec, was also suspended for 6 weeks.  Jimmie Johnson was fined 25 driver points. Jeff Gordon was fined 25 owner points.

Wow…is it me or is that a little heavy handed? I posted a sentiment like that on my facebook and I guess it might just be me. But never the less I stand by my initial reaction that it’s a harsh penalty…too harsh.  I have several reasons why I think the fines are a bit much:

  1. It’s my understanding that this particular car had been used several times last season. If that is the case- why did it not fail any of those numerous inspections? (Initial inspection, post qualifying inspection, post race inspection). I mean sure I suppose the car could have been completely changed during the off season- but really?
  2. NASCAR needs to be more consistant with it’s fines.  What do I mean by this? Consider this- Clint Bowyer’s car failed post-qualifying inspection.  Yet NASCAR did not offer any fines whatsoever there- not even a mention of possible fines the whole week between qualifying and race day. Yet as soon as the 48 failed inspection on Friday- it was news and talk of heavy fines floated around the team ALL week long.  While the parts that failed inspection are apples and oranges- the end result is this- the cars were both non-standard and thus failed inspection. Yet one team was heavily penalized and the other was let go without even a slap on the wrist.  This is unfair and unequal treatment between teams. NASCAR needs to decide whether or not they are going to be heavy handed rulebook thumpers or the nice “give a team the benefit of the doubt” kind of sanctioning body. It can’t be both.
  3. Since it was the initial inspection and the team never practiced or qualified with the offending parts on the car, I don’t think it should be fined at all. Technically the team gained nothing from the offending parts because they did not USE said parts- the car never touched track.  They removed them and I assume that the car that Jimmie raced in the 500 this past Monday had no technical issues (with the exception of the big technical issue of being crashed in lap two). This, going back to the Clint Bowyer senario mentioned in 2, is really unfair because if there was something unstandard on Bowyer’s car he practiced and qualified the offending part- having gained some possible benefit from it.

Now I am sure some people will argue with “But Chad has done this before- remember when he was suspended and Darian Grubb took the helm as crew chief?” Yes, I have not forgotten this.  My thought in this- Chad and the 48 team have already paid for those mistakes…Chad was removed and fined for those issues. That issue is closed. This is a separate issue. To that arguement doesn’t make any sense. It’s like a tardy student getting expelled instead of suspended this year because they had an unexcused absence and and an additional unexcused absence five years ago, that they already served a detention for five years ago.

So there you have my three reasons I think NASCAR was heavy handed with the fines.  Misty, while agreeing with me in general that the NASCAR punishment is too harsh, also has some good albeit different points about the situation and I highly suggest that you read her post about it as well: The 48 Smackdown: Overkill.

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* I want a rulebook. Just because.