NASCAR's 'secret' fines shrouded in mystery

Jay Hart
Yahoo Sports

HOMESTEAD, Fla. – In the wake of NASCAR keeping quiet a $25,000 fine leveled against Brad Keselowski for comments he made about the impending switch to fuel injection, chairman Brian France said the sport has "never been more transparent."

"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 will allow," France said. "However, there has to be some limits, and 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 it."

Keselowski was reportedly fined for calling into question next season's switch from carburetors to fuel injection, saying NASCAR is only doing it to placate "green initiatives."

"They've been pressured into switching it through the green initiatives," Keselowski told reporters after a Q&A session at the NASCAR Hall of Fame last week. "In reality, it's no more efficient than what we have, and it costs a lot more.

"We're not doing this because it's better for the teams," he continued. "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."

Each unit will cost approximately $25,000, with teams needing 10 per car.

Keselowski's is the fourth "secret" fine NASCAR has leveled against a driver in the past two years. Last season, NASCAR fined Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman (twice) – Hamlin for intimating over social media that NASCAR fixes race, Newman for criticizing Talladega and for reportedly punching Juan Pablo Montoya.

In a contentious question-and-answer session with media on Friday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, France shrugged off the notion that NASCAR suppresses open dialogue, and took issue with a reporter's question about a perception that the sport acts as an "autocratic regime."

"We went 50-something years and never had a system for fining anybody for disparaging remarks in this sport," France shot back. "We were the only sport on the planet to have that. So we simply, really in the last couple of years, changed that policy because we thought we needed to.

"This idea that there are a bunch of things going on behind the curtains – we've never been more transparent," he continued. "If there's a benefit to announcing them [fines] to the public or the media, we'll take a look at that. We didn't see a benefit at the time."

Hamlin speculated the reason NASCAR keeps fines a secret is that it doesn't want to draw any more attention to a disparaging comment.

Newman said the only issue he has with NASCAR's policy is that drivers don't know where the line is drawn. Drivers know when they're toeing the line, but he said it's subjective when you cross it.

"It is not something that we want to discuss or talk about because it is not good for our sport, but it has to be managed and I think they do a fair job of managing that," Newman said. "Whether it is a certain driver or a certain car owner or certain situation, every cause has an effect and they have to play that judge."

Keselowski isn't taking issue with the fine, explaining Friday that prior to the season France met with every driver to talk about criticizing the sport. In the meeting, Keselowski said France compared it to a waiter criticizing the food at their own restaurant.

"I could have handled it better," Keselowski said, "and when I say I could have used better digression, I could have gone through some channels that I did not make enough time for."

When asked if he's changed his mind on fuel injection, Keselowski replied, "No, not so much."