Jeff Gordon received a $100,000 fine and loss of 25 points for wrecking Clint Bowyer, while Alan Gustafson, Gordon's crew chief, and Brian Pattie, Bowyer's crew chief, were fined $25,000 apiece for failing to restrain their crews from brawling.
But also buried in NASCAR's fine announcement was a $25,000 slap on the wrist for new championship leader Brad Keselowski for carrying his cell phone in his race car, a penalty that flew in the face of previous NASCAR statements and suggested that maybe he wasn't being penalized for having his phone.
After Sunday's race, Keselowski admitted to incredible frustration with the way Gordon and Bowyer raced one another after watching their incident occur right in front of him. Asked what offended him the most about the wreck, Keselowski responded:
Well, it's the double-standard that I spent a whole week being bashed by a half a dozen drivers about racing hard at Texas and how I'm out of control and have a death wish, and then I see (expletive) like that. That's (expletive). That's all you can call that. These guys just tried to kill each other. You race hard and I get called an (expletive) for racing hard and called with a death wish, and I see (expletive) like that, and it just (expletive) me off.
Those comments were not broadcast live, but numerous media outlets picked them up. NASCAR, however, does not have a rule against swearing in the media center, according to PRN Radio's Doug Rice.
NASCAR chose not to return to the policy of undisclosed fines that the sport halted in January 2012. Unable to penalize Keselowski for "actions detrimental to stock car racing" without further specifying the nature of the fine, it elected to go after him for violating Rule 20-6.7A, which bans drivers from keeping electronics of any sort in the car.
However, that contradicts NASCAR's original ruling on Keselowski from this February, when he tweeted from the car during a two-hour red flag in the Daytona 500. "Nothing we've seen from Keselowski violates any current rules pertaining to the use of social media during races. As such, he won't be penalized," said a NASCAR press release at the time.
Keselowski has previously stated that he keeps the phone in the car in order to contact family immediately after an accident. He's only tweeted during races four times this season: during red flags at Daytona, Richmond in September, and Phoenix on Sunday, the purported explanation for the fine, and a tweet from Victory Lane at Bristol in March.
But just last month, NASCAR executive Steve O'Donnell told ESPN.com's Bill Speros that social media had a significant future in the sport. "Our ultimate goal is to bring people into the drivers’ seat during the event as possible -- show them what’s going on and give them access," he said. "The more information we can bring to the race fans that we can, we will."
Why call for penalties now, 34 races after the tweets that started it all?
Sure, Keselowski's assessment of Sunday's race was harsh and unforgiving. That being said, many agreed with him. All season, he's been praised for openly voicing his opinions without fear of consequence. That outspoken nature has gained him a host of fans and a reputation as a budding superstar.
This time, however, NASCAR decided that what he said crossed the line, and it found a convenient excuse with which to penalize him for it. Unfortunately, the penalty counters every statement the sport has made in favor of social media for the entire season.
The real travesty, though? Rather than discussing how Keselowski is just one race away from giving Roger Penske his first Sprint Cup title—something that neither Rusty Wallace nor Kurt Busch, both former champions, could ever do—we're discussing how he got fined $25,000 for something that NASCAR loved back in February.
NASCAR thought they could bury Keselowski's fine in all of the other penalties from Sunday. Instead, they're burying the lede, and the leader, in the championship race.
For more from Christopher Leone, follow @christopherlion on Twitter.
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