In The Pits: Should Newman be fined for comments?

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 6, 2013 at 4:20 pm •  Published: May 6, 2013
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"I have been crystal clear in the meetings with all of the drivers and all of the owners about the fact that we are going to give them more opportunities to criticize more things than any other professional sport in America," France told The Associated Press after Hamlin's fine. "Having said that, there is one line that we are not going to tolerate and that's going to be criticizing the quality of the racing product in any way, form or fashion.

"No other professional sport lets you have at it, criticize anything, criticize me personally, calls we make, decisions we make, because those are judgment calls that we make week in and week out. The other sports don't allow that — they look at it as infringement on the integrity of the officials. But we allow that, and only want them to be careful on one topic."

Under those guidelines, Kasey Kahne is safe.

Kahne is the driver who reminded everyone on Saturday that NASCAR is terribly inconsistent in calling the last lap of races. An accident behind the leaders on the last lap of the Nationwide Series race at Talladega brought out the yellow flag that gave Regan Smith the win, but Kahne would have gone to Victory Lane had NASCAR let the drivers race to the finish line.

"I was really surprised they threw that caution, so many times they wouldn't in that situation," Kahne said. "NASCAR always switches it up, you never know what's going to happen."

Criticism of a call. Allowed. Move along, Kasey.

Newman? Eeek. That one is trickier. Everything he said is technically allowable under France's guidelines, and after all the incidents Newman has experienced at plate tracks, his comments might even be justifiable.

But he had a message he wanted to deliver in front of a live television audience. It was a similar message to the one IndyCar's Will Power was trying to deliver with his two-handed obscene gesture at race control in 2011.

Now we see if NASCAR is going to take it or shrug it off.

NASCAR has been heavy-handed the last month with technical penalties, and senior management has a busy week of appeals. Penske Racing goes before chief appellate officer John Middlebrook on Tuesday to argue its $200,000 in fines and suspension of seven crew members for the Texas inspection. Then on Wednesday, Joe Gibbs Racing begins the appeals process when it goes before the three-member committee seeking relief from the severe penalties NASCAR levied for a rod three grams too light in Matt Kenseth's race-winning engine at Kansas.

There's been sympathy in the garage for JGR — and that's fairly unheard of in this cutthroat series — because the NASCAR penalties against the team were so harsh even though the infraction was manufacturer Toyota's fault and did not create a competitive advantage.

But again, it's a case of NASCAR having the power to rule as it pleases. And now Newman waits to see which way the wind is blowing.