Discipline on the Down-Low

Jul 29 2010 - 11:00pm

What do you think of the whole “double-secret probation” NASCAR fine scenario? In short, NASCAR reached into the pockets of Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman, rifled around in their respective wallets and removed $50K from each for comments deemed out of bounds to NASCAR’s hierarchy.

In Hamlin’s case, it was talking about debris cautions he didn’t think were warranted, and in Newman’s it was comments about the racing at Talladega. NASCAR didn’t make the fines public, and apparently that set a few high-powered members of the NASCAR media aflame with indignation.

OK, I get that. NASCAR has been doing business for 60-plus years and you’d be hard-pressed to say that they’ve broken an arm letting people know what they do in the confines of the hauler, the back office or in the garage area.

At some point, they have the right to do whatever they want. It’s their series. At another point, it’s kind of hard to reconcile the “have at it, boys” attitude on the one hand and the “hey, you can’t say THAT” on the other.

Personalities are personalities, and when you unhook one side of such from the other, there are bound to be inconsistencies. Such as, Driver A just got done moving Driver B to win a race, then gets out of the car and rips NASCAR. Adrenaline is flowing along with the champagne, emotions are high and mouth becomes disengaged from that part of the brain that considers exactly what will happen when the speakers deliver to Race Control.

If they have to stop and think about what they’re saying all the time, then it takes the emotion out of the proceedings. It’s sort of a case of unintended circumstances, in my opinion.

As long as we’re talking about my opinion, this is not out of character for NASCAR. It was set up from the get-go as a benevolent dictatorship, and sometimes folks forget that it’s still a dictatorship.

There is no democracy when it comes to NASCAR. The body will do what it wants, and for the reasons it assigns, and if you have a problem with that, then you’re going to have to have a problem by yourself.

They do take a lot into consideration, but at the end of the day, it’s their way or the highway. You don’t HAVE to be a NASCAR driver, team owner, supplier or fan. If you can’t deal with the sometimes-arcane world of deciding as you go along, then NASCAR isn’t for you.

I’m not slamming NASCAR in this. As they say at the 14 shop, it is what it is. NASCAR is not a social engineering unit of the sporting world. It’s like the NBA, NFL, MLB and the other major sports, and it will do what is best for it.

The troubles show up when that choice is not a clear one, like now. The sport is losing steam, especially among the 18-34 demographic of males. You know, the ones who drive what’s cool and what is paid attention to in the world of pop culture.

Those guys have bought into MMA or World Series of Poker, and NASCAR is like that old cassette tape of Pearl Jam stuck under the couch, demographically speaking.

When you have one side of the corporate face saying one thing and the other, clandestine side of the corporate face kicking butt on the down-low, this is what you get.

Have a great weekend, watch Pocono and get ready to discuss next week!