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NASCAR: Come clean about secret 'penalty box'

Wednesday, Jul. 28, 2010

Somebody needs to come clean.

Late Monday night, NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston essentially confirmed an Associated Press report that said two unidentified Sprint Cup Series drivers had received monetary fines this season for making remarks disparaging the sport.

The identity of the drivers remains a secret.

But what is most important is not who the drivers are or what they said, or even that they were penalized - criticism of officiating will get you penalized in most sports.

The problem is, NASCAR has been secretly penalizing its drivers.

What else does NASCAR do in secret? That question tears at the integrity of this or any other sport.

NASCAR issues almost-weekly press releases on penalties assessed to drivers, crew members and team owners.

Now we find out about a secret, darker "penalty box" in NASCAR.

Since we know such a system exists, how do we interpret the sport going forward?

When drivers are asked about controversial subjects, how do we know we are getting their genuine response instead of one coined to avoid a fine?

When "official" penalties are released, how do we know the "unofficial" ones aren't more severe?

When NASCAR officials come to the media room after a race and announce post-race inspection is "all clear," how do we know it was?

According to NASCAR policy, fines collected are directed to the NASCAR Foundation. Are the "secret" fines included? Are they kept separate, recorded in some secret book?

The ramifications of this policy are real.

"Any action taken by NASCAR has nothing to do with the drivers expressing an opinion; it's focused on actions or comments that materially damage the sport," Poston said.

Can anything a driver says about NASCAR materially damage the sport more than NASCAR promoting "self-policing" by drivers on the track while secretly policing the garage?

There is one way the drivers can clean this up: If every one who received a "secret" penalty immediately came forward and admitted it to the media and the fans.

They can police themselves, and clear the murky waters NASCAR has waded into.

Have at it, boys.