June 10, 2011
The issue of secret fines reared its head earlier this week when news broke that Ryan Newman may or may not have been fined for an altercation that may or may not have happened in the NASCAR hauler in May. Now, under direct questioning, neither NASCAR nor Newman have denied that such a fine was levied, though they offered no further clarification on the incidents that could have led to the fine.
The sequence of events is as follows:
Aug. 12, 2010: Newman and Denny Hamlin were reported as the two drivers "secretly fined" by NASCAR for comments critical of the sport. While not directly commenting on the fines or their cause, NASCAR officials said that "Any action taken by NASCAR has nothing to do with the drivers expressing an opinion; it's focused on actions or comments that materially damage the sport." Speculation for Newman's fine centered on quotes he made about the "lottery" nature of racing for the win at Talladega.
Hamlin and Newman both confirmed the fines were levied, and Hamlin's quote at the time was prescient: "What was the point of fining me if you're not going to tell anyone?" Hamlin said. "If nobody knows, nobody's going to learn from the mistakes of others. I think all this coming out is a positive thing. I think it's going to make our sport better."
April 30, 2011: Juan Pablo Montoya and Newman battle on-track at Richmond International Raceway, where Newman pushed Montoya into the wall in Lap 108, and Montoya responded by spinning Newman on Lap 238. Newman raged over his radio that Montoya should be black-flagged and that he would "take care of it after the race." Montoya left the track infield on a golf cart while Newman visited the NASCAR hauler; no confrontation ensued.
May 6: In a meeting with NASCAR officials before Darlington practice, Montoya and Newman allegedly came to blows, with Newman allegedly striking Montoya. Neither driver commented on the incident, though NASCAR took the unusual step of issuing a statement on the controversy: "NASCAR did meet with Ryan Newman and Juan Pablo Montoya today before the first Sprint Cup Series practice. The drivers were given their final warning and are fully aware that we will be watching this very closely. The meeting didn't go as well as we had hoped it would and we're not completely through with this issue." Both drivers have also leveled pointed critiques of the other.
June 6: In the wake of the Childress fine, PRN/SiriusXM's Jim Noble disclosed that there had been an undisclosed fine against Newman. The AP's Jenna Fryer followed up and found neither side willing to offer a comment. "Anything relevant to discussions that NASCAR has with competitors in the hauler will continue to stay between NASCAR and the competitors, and NASCAR will always work to protect that bridge of confidence," NASCAR's Kerry Tharp said.
June 10: When asked directly about whether he was fined, Newman said, "I've always said private things happen privately. What happens in the trailer stays in the trailer. There's a reason NASCAR does things the way they do." Again, that's in no way an admission of the fine, but it's about as far as you can get from a denial, too.
We've written in this space about the absurdity of secret fines; the primary problem with them is that they perpetuate the notion that NASCAR is fixing the game and manipulating the players behind the scenes. As long as NASCAR persists in non-answer answers, the questions will continue to come, and the suspicions will continue to rise.
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