Oh, NASCAR how you love to tease me so. Just as I was feeling really good about the front office and the general direction of the sport, you guys take one step forward and two giant steps back.
I'm talking about the fining of drivers Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman, two of the more outspoken and honest of NASCAR's elite. Both drivers were fined $50,000 on July 26th for comments reasoned disparaging to the sport. With both drivers being named and identified on Thursday, I'm filling this space to further question why these fines were levied in the first place.
It's not clear which statements led to the fines. What 's known is that both penalties were not related to each other. Newman was fined first while Hamlin's came afterward. While NASCAR views this as catching up to the stick and ball sports, I choose to view this as the status quo and NASCAR's iron fist policy of "Our Way or The Highway".
Not exactly compatible with the "Have at it Boys, Attitude", is it?
'Have at It' should be an idea and a philosophy, not a part of NASCAR's ever-changing on track rulebook. It almost seems contradictory to let drivers police themselves in competition and then have the sanctioning body take over in the press and on the internet. That's silly.
There's no question that Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman are both NASCAR loyalists. They love the sport and owe all of their success, financial and otherwise, to it. But they also understand the position they find themselves in as NASCAR veterans. At just under a decade in the series, both drivers carry an incredible amount of influence in both the garage and front office. They have what I'd like to call, 'stroke', and they know it.
It's a position of influence in a league that they risk life and limb for. And more than Brian France or Mike Helton care to admit, the drivers have a full right to mold the league by whatever means they can. And if that means pointing out phantom debris cautions or inconsistent rulings by race control, than a $50,000 fine becomes a small price to pay.
When the day comes that Hamlin or Newman fail to stand up for themselves, they'll risk becoming the next Helio Castroneves or Regan Smith; fall guys for the sanctioning body's ever-changing and written-in-pencil rule book.
Guys like Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart could easily move mountains on the front line but are far too comfortable and secure to worry about the little guy. Those two might as well be NASCAR representatives themselves, especially the 'whipped' Stewart who has been tamed by the sport for at least half a decade.
I applaud Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin. Drivers like these are the closest NASCAR will ever have to a drivers union. Just consider the fines an application fee and move forward, boys...