When Brad Keselowski was fined by NASCAR earlier in the week for having a cell phone in his car, it left many scratching their heads. After all, it was Keselowski who became a Twitter sensation during the Daytona 500 for live-tweeting the aftermath of the jet dryer explosion in Turn 3.
But according to NASCAR chairman Brian France, who gave his annual year-end address Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, there was no contradiction. The sanctioning body was only following the rules that have always been in place and, in France's words, only "evolved" since Daytona.
"That was the first time at Daytona that we had seen somebody in real time tweeting during a red flag at that point," France said. "So we immediately loved the idea, loved the attention that it brought to the sport and encouraged it. But (we) have to balance it in the competition end to make sure nobody gains an advantage."
NASCAR's aversion to allowing cell phones in cars stems from the possibility that the technology on a smartphone could be used as some sort of driving aid. This will become especially true when NASCAR introduces a digital cockpit – possibly as soon as 2014 – and will feature real-time telemetry that could easily be manipulated by a cell phone or a similar digital device.
"We just know now that we have things in the car that could be affected by devices, smartphones and the like," France said. "We have to make sure that we don't interfere with that and give somebody an opportunity to – even if it was unintentional – to manipulate some portion of digital devices that we're going to have in the car."
Some other highlights of France's press conference include:
• While there is nothing official to announce, France acknowledged NASCAR is exploring the "possibility" of awarding a Truck Series race to Eldora Speedway, a dirt track located in Ohio and owned by Tony Stewart. The only hurdle yet to be cleared is reportedly whether the track can install SAFER barriers, which NASCAR requires every track hosting a national touring series race to have.
• Before France's presser, it was announced NASCAR is lowering the age limit in the Truck Series from 18 to 16 on all tracks less than 1.1 miles in length, plus road courses.
• In regard to the Jeff Gordon/Clint Bowyer fracas at Phoenix, France stressed while NASCAR is a "contact sport," there are "limits" to what will be tolerated. According to the chairman, drivers know what those limits are and when then they cross that line, NASCAR will continue to hand out punishment accordingly.
• The manufacturer-specific car which will be introduced next season will be referred to as the "Gen Six" car. NASCAR's expectation is that this new car will improve the quality of racing – especially on intermediate tracks – which comprise the bulk of the schedule.
• France hopes other drivers follow the lead of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and admit when they are experiencing concussion-like symptoms. However, he did not say whether NASCAR would be changing its policy going forward.