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Amid the fallout from NASCAR's latest embarrassment, Brad Keselowski shows class....Penske Class

 Brad Keselowski: One of stock car racing's newest stars. And NASCAR executives hit him with a 'secret' $25,000 fine for what? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern


   It was a great story this season, while it lasted:
   Brad Keselowski.
   The second-generation stock car racer, from a classic stock car racing family, made a remarkable bid for the Sprint Cup championship, coming alive over the summer and running strong right up till getting caught up in someone else's crash at Martinsville three weeks ago.

   Wins at Kentucky, Pocono, Bristol. Great runs at Darlington and Talladega. And an amazing display of growing maturity, in this rough-and-tumble sport.
   Keselowski, the kid, now 27, that legendary Roger Penske picked, almost from obscurity, arrived at Martinsville just three weeks ago ahead of Tony Stewart in the standings and only 18 points behind Carl Edwards with four races to go.
   Let's quickly review that Martinsville incident: Keselowski, after a remarkable comeback in the Oct. 30th race, was running fifth on the final restart with two laps to go, when he got tagged by Denny Hamlin, who was battling hard with Dale Earnhardt Jr. Keselowski spun, he finished 17th, and his title bid was all but over.
   Fast-forward to last Tuesday. Keselowski was over at NASCAR's downtown Charlotte Hall of Fame, doing his part to promote the sport…and when the topic of fuel injection came up, he offered his opinion – which happens to be the opinion of many in the Sprint Cup garage, and even up in Detroit. And NASCAR executives decided they didn't like Keselowski's opinion.


Brad Keselowski, on pit lane (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   So NASCAR 'secretly' fined Keselowski $25,000.
   Outrageous? You be the judge.
   Embarrassing? Obviously.
   Secret penalties? Un-American it would seem to most.
   And Keselowski isn't the only man that NASCAR has secretly fined. How many more NASCAR boss Brian France won't say.
   Now where in the world did NASCAR come up with the idea – this, mind you, after 60 years of letting drivers speak to their peace – that racers are no longer allowed to have opinions that run counter to what the sport's bosses in Daytona like to hear?
   Let's put it more succinctly: why should anyone in America believe anything any of these drivers have to say about anything, now that we all know NASCAR executives can secretly fine them if they don't like what they say?
   Think about that for a moment: Why should anyone believe anyone in the NASCAR garage about anything?
   The late Jim Hunter -- the sage PR man who helped this sport get through so many rough times, with his savvy and understanding – may be rolling over in his grave. Hunter's mantra for years was that NASCAR was big enough and strong enough to handle any criticism, and that drivers were always free to speak their peace.
   Alas, no more.

   It seems curiously out-of-sync for supposedly sharp NASCAR executives themselves to be stealing the spotlight from the sport's great championship battle, now down to Carl Edwards versus Tony Stewart, by so clumsily handling that Kyle Busch Texas Truck race incident – letting it all fester so publicly for a full week instead of quickly and succinctly resolving it down in Texas that weekend – and by now so clumsily handling what should essentially be a non-story, Keselowski's opinion about fuel injection.

    Brad Keselowski (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   An outsider might look at all this and call it for what it is – poor marketing, bungled PR.
   It's only the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship on the line right now, and much of the spotlight has been focused – by NASCAR executives themselves – on sidelight issues, which are disturbingly distracting.
   And everyone in the garage here knows full well what's coming down Monday, the day after the season ends – Black Monday, crewmen are calling it, when many, too many, expect to get fired.
   Instead of promoting the positives in this sport, NASCAR executives have for some reason gotten sidetracked. And then they found themselves here quickly on the defense over the latest 'secret' penalty.

   Ryan Newman has been twice secretly penalized by NASCAR (once, for complaining about the racing at Talladega last year; and for an altercation inside the NASCAR hauler at Darlington in May with Juan Pablo Montoya, part of a five-year running battle between the two, which NASCAR either never noticed or chose to ignore).
   France says NASCAR talks to drivers frequently throughout the season and the drivers know where 'the line' is.
   Several drivers, including championship contender Tony Stewart, have said they still don't really know where all these 'lines' really are.


Ryan Newman: speaking your mind in NASCAR is now verboten. And if you do offer an opinion, it can come with a very stiff 'secret' penalty. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   Newman's take on 'the line' and Keselowski's fine….
   "There are two parts to that -- one part is saying the right things at the right time, and the right place; the other part is how people are impressed, or lack of impressed I guess, from what you say at that time or at that place.
    "We have seen it, and we know certain people have been recipients of it; but I think it is a good thing that NASCAR manages that, I think it is a good thing that they do it the way they do.
    "It is not anything that is fun to talk about or any part of it that we need to go into any deeper…but it is tough to speak your peace sometimes when your 'peace' is not what some people want to hear."

   Hamlin naturally can relate: "Of course I stopped quite a bit when I did get fined, and anybody would in that situation.  Yeah, then you reserved your comments to stay outside of the sport itself.  You talk about your day or something like that. But you don't talk about how you see things from the outside… because those are the things that they don't want you talking about. 
    "It definitely changed the way I used Twitter.
    "I'm not going to just keep getting fined.  Sure, I want to go out there and speak my mind.  There are some things I do and don't agree with. But I'm not going to just keep hacking up a fine every time I have an opinion."

Keselowski winning at Kansas, launching his run at the Sprint Cup championship (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   Through this latest PR debacle for the sport, look at how classy Keselowski himself is handling things here.
   "It is my goal -- if you look at the role I have, as an owner on the Truck side -- to become a man of stature in this sport…who can be part of a leadership role that I think it takes for this sport to be complete – driver with the fans, media, sanctioning body.
   "And it's because of that that I speak my mind.
   "…this particular instance probably not with the highest level of discretion. I could have done a better job with that.
   "I think I could have been honest without perhaps as confrontational.
   "It's also useful for me to look out for the sport, and look out for those I might need along the way to be successful.
   "Certainly that is not something I desire to have to go through; but sometimes you have to go backwards to go forward."
   And Keselowski insisted he would not let NASCAR's penalty change his thinking. "No; I think you can be yourself. I think you can say what you think.
   "I think I could have said what I thought with a lot more discretion.
    "I've got a great sponsor that encourages me to be me, to say what I think and how I feel about things.
   "At that moment when I probably didn't use the highest level of discretion with my words was an authentic moment – how I felt.
   "If anything, I'll probably be smarter, not necessarily quieter."

    Team owner Roger Penske (R) and Brad Keselowski, celebrating their 2010 NASCAR Nationwide series championship (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   Keselowski says he does understand NASCAR's thinking in this deal…"although I may not agree with it.
   "What I said was a reflection, out of protection for the sport…not out of any wish to do harm. It was my intention to be open and honest and share how I felt with the fans (this situation was at the Hall of Fame, meeting with fans, part of a NASCAR-organized promotion), and what I felt was in the best interests of the sport.
   "Obviously that contradicted someone else's thoughts."
   Keselowski thus confirmed NASCAR's secret penalty, and said the $25,000 fine "is a lot of money."
   And Keselowski defended NASCAR's 'iron fist.' "The sport is run -- as it has to be run – as a dictatorship. 
   "My uncle (racer Ron Keselowski) used to tell me 'Keeping racers together is like herding cats. They all go different directions, and they never go the way you want them to go. And the only way to get 'em to go straight is to give one guy the cattle prod, or the net, or whatever it takes to get 'em right.'
   "Am I surprised?  Nothing surprises me anymore.  I think I've done other things and gotten away with them that were worse. 
   "My dad used to tell me when he got a ticket once for going five miles an hour over, and I remember thinking 'Man, that's garbage, Dad. You should appeal that.'  He said 'I've done a lot worse than that, and I had this one coming.'  I think that's probably fair in my case too."

   Bottom line for Keselowski: "You know that group has the power, and you have to respect it.
   "I think I can continue to have the same candor, and continue to be authentic…but you can use a little discretion…
   "The big story is we're here for the championship…and this is just one star in the galaxy that will fade and burn away and we'll all move on."





I secretly fined Francecar -

I secretly fined Francecar - I quit going to the races and stopped watching fuel economy races and a championship where the winner won't win a race in the playoffs.

"Keselowski, the kid, now 27,

"Keselowski, the kid, now 27, that legendary Roger Penske picked, almost from obscurity"

Let's see, Brad's most recent previous employers were JR Motorsports and HMS. Not exactly the depths of obscurity, Mike.

we've followed BK right from

we've followed BK right from the start, and he's been impressive:

Talladega 2009:

and the follow-up

and this year:

and Bristol:

Off subject .. But exactly

Off subject .. But exactly what the heck IS a fuel mileage race?? Fuel stops are dictated by the race..and sometimes it works out a driver has to either stretch his fuel or make a dreaded pit stop..would fans like it better if NASCAR threw a "mandatory yellow for fuel"...which would certainly make the finish "manufactured"? I just don't see what some call a fuel mileage race??? As far as NASCAR and their secret fines I quit caring about "management" along time ago..I just focus on the racing.

part of the problem with

part of the problem with these fuel mileage races this season is they've become dangerous, with cars at speed one moment, then suddenly slowing the next, creating potential for big wrecks:


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