From the Marbles - NASCAR

January 23, 2008

Will NASCAR get real?

Is a simple yes or no too hard?

Picture this. My daughter is at her friend's house and texts me. "Can so-and-so and so-and-so sleep over tonight?" I'm thinking: I've got to get up early; our youngest is already asleep; I don't want a house full of girls tonight.

Over the next ten minutes I have this back and forth text conversation with her. "It might not be such a good idea." "How about next weekend?" I Ignore her for a while. I complain to my wife and text a little more. Finally, my wife puts us out of our misery by picking up her phone, calling our daughter and says, "No."

We need my wife's forthright clarity in NASCAR right now.

I'm reading the NASCAR preseason Media Tour transcript and (at least) one question begs a simple yes or no answer.

Q: Brian, one of the hot drivers being allowed to express themselves, their personality. Would you agree that NASCAR has been a little too heavy-handed in administering punishments? Going forward, will you be perhaps less inclined to fine for points and money for transgressions like shoving or swearing?

The answer required a tag team effort between France and Helton which lasts 363 words.

A: (BRIAN FRANCE): Well, I would certainly agree that we're relooking and making sure that our policies of enforcement don't make it where our drivers can't express themselves. There are lots of characters in our sport. There's lots of emotion flying fast and heavy at the events.

If you were in our position, what you're always worried about really isn't necessarily the specific incident, it's really escalation. That's what commissioners and officials in any sport are mostly concerned with.

But on your way to making sure things don't escalate, you want to be pretty stern with your penalties. There's no question it can put a cloud or restrict, rather, the drivers expressing themselves. We want to see more of that.

I think Mike, you should mention that, too, because you're going to enforce it week in and week out.

(MIKE HELTON): Brian is right. The first thing is, we want the drivers to be themselves. Our sport has done very well on the character of the sport. The character of the sport is built by all the drivers that participate, as well as owners, the other penalties.

I think part of NASCAR's responsibility is for us to keep our hands around the entirety of the sport. So if we've seen things that seem to be moving in a direction that's not good for the sport, not unlike it might be on a street in a neighborhood you live in, if the traffic got real out of control, the local law enforcement may come in there and work on it to get it back under control then give it some breathing room.

NASCAR is in that same position, as is other sports. So when you see things escalating, you react in accordance to that until you feel good about the environment that you've got, you've got your hands around it, then you're able to give a little bit of breathing room.

I think you can point to several situations in 2007 where NASCAR did that. I think we accomplished what we wanted to in '05 and '06, and I think in '07 we were able to give up a little bit and let the breathing room take its place.

That's an answer that will wear you out, especially when a yes or no would do.

France and Helton missed their opportunity to re-embrace the core NASCAR fan base here who is tired of the over-penalizing, over-fining and over-restricting hand of NASCAR.

I'd have liked to see Brain pump his fist in the air and say, "Hell yes!" Then for good measure give Helton a shove for cutting him off on previous comments.

Later, Helton still simmering from the confrontation, sticking out his leg and tripping France as they walk off the stage exclaiming, "Paybacks are a bitch," and passes him by.

Then, my friends, we would KNOW that NASCAR is serious about returning reality to NASCAR. Where a driver who has been racing 180 mph for 2-hours and just got wrecked into the wall can immediately have a microphone shoved in his face and show some emotion without fear of losing 100-points and $50,000.00.

Is this the year that NASCAR throws all these damn precedents out the window and starts fresh with some logic?

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