Drivers Need to Bring Honesty Back to NASCAR, Without the Fear of Penalty
An old cliche that many people should, and do, live by is "honesty is always the best policy." No one really gets anywhere by lying, it just creates more chaos and in the end more hurt.
Think about it, not being honest cost Lance Armstrong not just sponsors, not just his foundation...it cost him his livelihood. Not being completely honest cost Pete Rose his career, and despite revealing the truth years later, it was too late, as the damage was done. Not being honest put Jeremy Mayfield into bankruptcy, because he couldn't be truthful about what he took that got him suspended.
But, in NASCAR, when it comes to competition on the track, it seems that being honest does something different...it gets one in trouble.
When Denny Hamlin was critical of the new Gen-6 car after Phoenix, saying it didn't drive as well and even compared it to the car that ran in 2012, NASCAR hit him with a $25,000 fine, citing it was "actions detrimental to stock car racing." But rather than mind his P's and Q's, instead Hamlin went on the offensive and didn't apologize because he was being honest, and flat out said he wouldn't pay the fine. He went as far as saying he'd appeal the fine, which he then dropped, but still refused to pay, and NASCAR then decided to take it out of his winnings.
He then made mention of something very unique in the sport, something that really hadn't been exposed until he said it.
Hamlin said that for the most part, drivers are only honest about 10 percent of the time during interviews, and the rest of the time is just them trying to stay on NASCAR's "good side" so that the sanctioning body has a positive image.
When did it get to the point where being honest meant also getting fined? Maybe NASCAR needs to let the drivers be honest and hear the truth of what they said. It not just goes towards the racing on the track, but also about other drivers. That certainly was the case on Sunday when Tony Stewart confronted Joey Logano after the conclusion of the race.
When Steve Byrnes approached Smoke to get his side of what happened, there was no "making NASCAR look good" attitude. He went straight to the point, so much so that FOX elected to tape the interview and enter in the censors so that they themselves didn't get fined by the FCC.
Stewart went to say, word for word, to Byrnes, "What the hell do you think I was mad about? Dumb little son-of-a-bitch runs us clear down to the infield. He wants to bitch about everybody else and he’s the one who drives like a little prick. I’m going to bust his ass."
There was certainly no mincing of words in that moment. Even after he went to the hauler, got changed into his street clothes, he still was blunt and to the point.
"He's going to learn a lesson. He's run his mouth long enough...he's nothing but a little rich kid who's never had to work in his life, so he's going to learn what us working guys who had to work our way up...how it works. He's talked the talk, but he hasn't walked the walk yet. He's always got his crew guys walking the walk for him."
It's that kind of honesty that made NASCAR what it is, and what keeps fans coming back for more. Last year, we saw Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer's teams get in a fight in the garage, and their crews brutally honest about what happened.
Going even farther back, Dale Earnhardt won the 1987 Winston, the day of the infamous "Pass in the Grass" and when asked about why he ran Bill Elliott as hard as he did, he didn't mince words in victory lane, nor did Elliott when he was asked about it in the garage area.
Gordon certainly isn't a rookie when it comes to being honest about his actions on the track. Look at him being forth-coming about his bump-and-run of Rusty Wallace in 1997 to win at Bristol, then doing it again five years later in the night race.
NASCAR needs to let these drivers be honest and in some cases blunt about what is going on, obviously within reason. Sometimes it creates change. When NASCAR began asking drivers about the old Generation-5 car and ways to make it better, they were honest and told the sanctioning body they wanted to see the spoiler return, since the wing was not working as it was expected.
NASCAR listened, and gradually the car began to look like a stock car again. Drivers again were honest about getting the new Gen-6 car exactly like they hoped for competition, and it has worked thus far.
If NASCAR wants to keep the old-school fans happy, and even bring some back, they need to truly let the drivers "have at it." Let them be honest and not have as big a fear of being punished for saying what they really feel.
Honesty is always the best policy, so let these guys and gals be honest for once.