NASCAR’s record fine quickly becoming quite the conundrum

Brad Keselowski believes NASCAR has found itself in a conundrum.

A $75,000 fine to Ricky Stenhouse Jr. earlier this week was the largest in history issued to a driver for fighting. As a result, NASCAR did the seemingly impossible in uniting the fan base and the garage area in the belief that the fine amount was surprising and contradictory to the sport continuously promoting the fight between Stenhouse and Kyle Busch.

On the one hand, actions have consequences. On the other, such actions also drive media attention.

“If I’m NASCAR, certainly I want to be careful about the message I’m sending through the garage area and even more than the garage area, through the other levels of the sport about what may or may not be acceptable,” Keselowski said. “I understand why they need to react, but then I also understand this competing agenda of [how] it garners attention whenever there are fights in the garage area because it communicates a level of passion, and passion itself is not a bad thing.”


NASCAR’s official YouTube page has multiple videos of the fight and its aftermath. The footage of Stenhouse and Busch in the garage has 275,000 views. There were also multiple posts about the fight, different angles of the altercation, in-car audio, and other related content on NASCAR’s social media pages.

The incident also reached mainstream media throughout the week. NASCAR issued its penalty to Stenhouse Wednesday. Ricky Stenhouse Sr. and two JTG Daugherty Racing crew members were issued suspensions.

“I think it’s just this spot that our sport is in where it’s like, ‘Hey, we want the attention. We want people to like us. We want people to talk about us,’” Keselowski continued. “We don’t always get that when we have great events. It seems kind of silly to me – we’ve had some great races this year, and some of the moments that I think we would like to break through as a sport to nontraditional media … doesn’t seem to do that.

“Then someone throws a punch and all of a sudden we’re on all kinds of traditional media. I just have a lot of empathy for NASCAR. If I was in their shoes, I don’t know how I’d handle it any differently.”

Chase Elliott knew that Stenhouse got fined but he was shocked in the Charlotte Motor Speedway media center at how much the fine ended up being.

“That’s a lot of money,” Elliott said. “That seems wild to me. Yeah, that seems like a lot for that situation.

“You’re going to fine him, but you’re going to promote with it? Like, what are we doing? That’s a little strange to me. … It’s not OK, but we’re going to blast it all over everything to get more clicks. I don’t really agree with that.”

JTG Daugherty Racing has until 5 p.m. ET Tuesday to appeal the penalties. In the meantime, Stenhouse continues to hear drivers like Elliott, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and others, and even the fans disagree with him being penalized for showing his emotion while bringing attention to the sport.

Daniel Suarez was one driver who reacted on social media soon after the fine was announced. He reposted the NASCAR tweet with the penalty details and said, “If it’s so wrong, then why is it all over NASCAR social channels? We should be allowed to show our emotions, I don’t get it …”

Suarez reiterated his feelings when asked about them Saturday before practice for the Coca-Cola 600.

“I just think that it’s very important to show emotions and to show personalities,” he said. “We have had several conversations with many people in NASCAR at all different levels, and the fans want to see personalities. They want to see emotions. Who is Daniel Suarez? Who is Ricky Stenhouse? Who is Chase Elliott? Who are all these people?

“In my mind, if we go down this route, eventually, every single driver is going to act exactly the same because we can’t show anything. I don’t think it’s a good thing in the long run, but that’s just my opinion and I could be wrong. The other thing is, I felt that [the fine] was a little bit excessive.”

Ryan Preece also didn’t like the fine amount and said he wouldn’t be able to race because he wouldn’t be able to pay it. Joey Logano said all that matters is that NASCAR is consistent about what is OK to do and what is not, and what is the price to pay if a driver does do something.

NASCAR has not offered many details on the penalties as they await for the fine to be paid or the penalties to be appealed. But the indication was that they stemmed from how long Stenhouse had to calm down between what happened on the racetrack and confronting Busch.

NASCAR being criticized for perceived inconsistencies is not new. Denny Hamlin is hearing the same this week about the penalties but feels NASCAR has always reacted one way when it’s a heat-of-the-moment confrontation versus one that happens after some time has passed.

“Still, it’s kind of unprecedented from a number standpoint,” Hamlin admitted.

Promoting the same incident that resulted in penalties doesn’t surprise him either.

“That’s been going on for a really long time,” he said. “I think there have certainly been things that they quietly like to root for, but publicly they have to do something different because they don’t want it to get out of hand. I don’t know how much more it really gets out of hand. Certainly, I think with that dollar [amount] fine, you are going to have people think, ‘I don’t want that.’ So you might not get what you probably are hoping for if you’re NASCAR. It might hurt a little bit in that instance.

“But I think they are OK with general altercations. I think … it was the amount of time that elapsed between the incident and when (the fight) happened that got them off guard.”

Story originally appeared on Racer