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NASCAR's secret fines out front as final weekend arrives

- jutter@charlotteobserver.com
Friday, Nov. 18, 2011

HOMESTEAD, Fla. – The very public championship battle between Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart took a backseat on Friday to another secret NASCAR fine.

Brad Keselowski confirmed a previously undisclosed $25,000 NASCAR fine for comments he made last week critical of the decision to move to electronic fuel injection.

“I think I could have said what I thought with a lot more discretion and I guess that’s probably the strongest thing that I take from it,” Keselowski said Friday as rain washed out Sprint Cup practice at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“I’ve got a great sponsor, which encourages me to be me, to say what I think and how I feel about things. That moment where I didn’t use probably the highest level of discretion with my words was an authentic moment, how I felt.”

Keselowski was critical last week of the cost involved with the move to EFI. He also called the transition from carburetors to EFI "a disaster" and said the move was basically a public relations decision to "give (NASCAR) something to promote."

It's the fourth time in the past year NASCAR officials have assessed an undisclosed monetary penalty against a Cup series driver for comments or actions.

Ryan Newman has twice been fined, once for comments about the racing at Talladega and another time for a confrontation with driver Juan Pablo Montoya inside the NASCAR hauler.

Denny Hamlin has been fined for comments he made on Twitter that were critical of the use of caution flags to alter the outcome of the race.

Earlier Friday, Brian France, the NASCAR chairman, defended the use of the secret penalties. All of them have all eventually become public knowledge.

“When you cross a line that denigrates the direction of the sport or the quality of the racing, we're not going to accept that. Not going to accept it,” France said. “Happy to have any other criticism, any other complaint, happy to hear them all.

“If I own a restaurant and I say, you know what, the food in my restaurant is not very good, we're not going to accept it. It's as simple as that.”

When what Keselowski said that officials considered inappropriate, France said, “I can't elaborate on that because we didn't issue a public fine on that.”

France said NASCAR had not seen any benefit to making all of its fines public, but said officials would re-evaluate the issue after the season.

“The drivers know exactly what we're after. We have these annual meetings with them, right? And then we have semi-annual meetings with them, and we meet with them every weekend at the track,” he said.

“When they don't handle that, the only way we can control that is obviously a fining system. We'll look at it in the offseason, if we need to change it, we'll change it.”

Whether drivers are clear about the lines they are not allowed to cross, on and off the track, remains unclear.

“We know the area, but we do not know that line,” Newman said. “It is tough to speak your piece sometimes when your piece is not what some people want to hear.”

Jeff Gordon believes he knows what you can and cannot do.

“I know where the line is, if I do something or I say something that it's probably going to get me in trouble or it's something that I shouldn't have done,” he said.

“Now, that doesn't necessarily mean that I know that I'm getting fined.”

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