NASCAR Will Never Win With Fans: Proof in Driver Fines Backlash

Kelly CrandallSenior Writer IAugust 2, 2010

CHARLOTTE, NC - MAY 23:  NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France attends the 2010 NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at the Charlotte Convention Center on May 23, 2010 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

In every story, there’s a hero and there’s the evil villain. A villain that everyone would like to have five minutes alone with.

In entertainment or sports, some fans make no bones about putting their celebrities or heroes on a pedestal. They can do no wrong, they are the greatest, everyone else is second best, and those that do something to ruin their day become public enemy No. 1.

In NASCAR, it’s no different.

With every story in NASCAR, there’s the hero (the driver) and the villain (NASCAR), and you can bet that the story will always end the same. Fans criticize NASCAR for whatever decision or rule change they make, and at the same time, the drivers are being punished for no reason.

It’s very rare to not hear of NASCAR being the big bad wolf in every instance. Drivers do no wrong…NASCAR is always wrong.

No matter how many changes are made because it’s what the fans want, double-file restarts, getting rid of the wing, letting drivers show more emotion, not policing bump-drafting at Daytona or Talladega, etc., fans are never happy.

And don’t look for them to thank NASCAR; that would take time away from them always finding something that’s wrong with the sport and making it a point to show others just how much it’s gone downhill.

It’s a never ending circle.

When a story broke last week that two star drivers, later revealed as Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman, had been fined by NASCAR for remarks they felt were disparaging to the sport, the reactions around the sport were exactly as you would expect. The initial curiosity and shock soon turned to outrage.

Newman said his fine resulted in comments he made after crashing at Talladega. Hamlin was fined for remarks he was making on his Twitter page.

Once again it became, how dare NASCAR penalize the drivers. Rose-colored glasses are a powerful thing, and they continue to be at their best during this controversy.

The most common reaction seemed to be that this is America and drivers can say as they please. The Bill of Rights was mentioned more this week then it has been probably in the last year in the sporting world.

On NASCAR Raceday, Built By The Home Depot on the SPEED channel Sunday Morning, Kyle Petty told race fans that this is America and we should be able to say what we want. Petty got a cheer from the crowd and certainly made a good point, while leaving out another.

Being American citizens and having the freedom of speech, allowing everyone a voice for their opinions, is being taken out of context and used as an excuse/defense for everything. Everyone has the right to voice his or her displeasure with something. However, you need to do so in the correct manner.

NASCAR isn’t only a sport, as some might think. It’s also a business, and in any business, there are rules. One of the biggest rules is to never, ever criticize those that run the show or question their decisions. That’s what Newman and Hamlin did, and they paid the consequences.

But that driver pedestal is pretty high.

According to fans, and some media, NASCAR was showing they run the show and can make up the rules as they go along. It was they, not the drivers, that were ruining the sport and so on and so forth.

Did anyone ever consider the fact that what the drivers were saying was actually hurting the sport?

It’s not as easy to just get in the car each weekend and drive. Drivers are the ambassadors of the sport, and whether they like it or not, what they do is going to be closely watched. By spouting off about how mad they are or what they think NASCAR is doing right or wrong is going to be eaten up by fans and media.

We all know what the results from that action are. Fans become unhappy and refuse to watch or attend races, when the numbers have been falling over the last year. Then it becomes they don’t trust NASCAR or believe anything they say.

The sport gets a black eye when fans of other sports or media look over and see that NASCAR can’t control their drivers.

Then you have those that will be turned away from becoming fans of NASCAR because all they’re hearing is about how horrible things are.

But yep, let’s have the drivers do as they and say as they want.

These fines deliver an old but strong message to everyone in the sport: NASCAR was here long before you and will be here long after you. And you need NASCAR more than it needs you.

Or, think about it this way: If someone in your organization was making comments that didn’t sit well with you, there’s no way that individual wouldn’t have some type of consequence. NASCAR saw that Newman and Hamlin weren’t happy, and they weren’t thrilled with how they went about expressing those thoughts and went about dealing with it.

Whether it was behind closed doors or aired out in public shouldn’t matter, as Kevin Harvick said on Friday it shouldn’t be public, it’s no one’s business but the teams. As much as fans and media feel entitled to know everything that goes on with their drivers, sometimes it just isn’t good for business to have dirty laundry out for everyone to see.

Nor is it good for business to have the star athletes running their mouths.

There should be no mistake about that now, and there should be no mistake that it doesn’t matter what your name is, NASCAR doesn’t wear rose-colored glasses.