NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France wants drivers to continue to express themselves and show personality, but vowed to continue issuing fines if any of them criticize the sport itself.
"When you cross a line that denigrates the direction of the sport or the quality of the racing, we're not going to accept that," France told reporters Friday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. "Not going to accept it. Happy to have any other criticism, any other complaint, happy to hear them all."
The NASCAR media grilled France on several issues, but most notably on the purpose of secret fines after Brad Keselowski was penalized for anti-fuel injection comments recently.
France said drivers would continue to be fined because it was like a restaurant owner telling the public, "You know what? The food in my restaurant is not very good."
So if drivers aren't allowed to criticize the direction of the sport or the quality of the racing, what can they criticize?
"They are perfectly fine to criticize anything we do, any call we make," he said. "They can say they don't like (the call), they disagree with it. We didn't make the right call – that's fine. But we're not going to let anyone denigrate the sport, and that's going to continue."
As for why NASCAR refused to publicize the fines, France asked what the benefit would be. He said drivers already know what is expected of them, so there's no purpose in making the fines common knowledge.
"When they don't handle that, the only way we can control that is obviously a fining system," he said.
France dismissed the idea fans would think NASCAR has many coverups or conspiracies and said, "We've never been more transparent."
But have there been more secret fines we don't know about? "There could be," he said.
As the barrage of questions went on, France hinted NASCAR could review its policy in the offseason.
"Look, don't panic over this," he told reporters. "If we need to change it, we'll change it. Not a big deal."
Other topics addressed by France:
• NASCAR wants to eliminate two-car drafts at Daytona and Talladega. "We would prefer to eliminate tandem racing in the manner it exists today," France said. "There is no question about that. ... I think the majority of fans would like to see that and so would we."
• France doesn't need to be at every race like his father and grandfather were in order to manage the sport, he said. "If I thought I was the last one out of every event and I turn the light off on the way out that that would grow the sport in some way, I would do it," he said. "What we have is a different sport than it was 10, 15 years ago, and that's real clear. I don't publish my schedule, but it's pretty busy. We know we're managing the sport the best way that we need to to grow the sport."
• NASCAR's "emphasis on winning" has made a difference in competition, but officials can only do so much. "Clearly we cannot make winning the only thing," he said. "There are 43 teams racing at every weekend. However, we can make sure that we emphasize that. We can make sure that we reward that. And we're pretty happy that that translates into better racing."