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Drivers' Reaction to NASCAR's secret penalties: Mixed

   Kevin Harvick: With NASCAR doling out secret penalties, why should anyone believe anything drivers or NASCAR officials say? "Good point....Don't care." (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


    By Mike Mulhern

    POCONO, Pa.
    NASCAR's 'secret' penalties on drivers for saying things that NASCAR execs didn't like?
    That was a hot topic here Friday.....with drivers themselves offering mixed messages on the issue.
    Kevin Harvick, the Sprint Cup tour champion, curtly dismissed the topic of secret penalties: "Honestly, I don't think it's your business.
    "I think it's better to keep it between the teams."
    Bluntly, why should anyone  believe anything any driver or NASCAR official says now, knowing that there are possible secret penalties involved?
   "Good point," Harvick said. "Don't care."
    And teammate Jeff Burton's take on that question?
    "That's a valid point, and I understand what you're saying," Burton said.
   "All I can say is whenever I feel compelled to have a conversation about something, I'm going to have that conversation. And I think I can do that in a way that we can talk about an issue and it's also productive. I'm not in fear of being penalized for what I say, because I think I can say it in a way that it will be understood and can create a productive conversation.
   "Not every idea that is good for this sport comes from within this sport.
   "Bringing an issue to the conversation many times brings a better answer. The competitors and NASCAR don't always have the best answer. sometimes the best answer comes from y'all. Sometimes the best answer comes from the fans.
   "So having a conversation and talk about an issue is a good thing. But the way you do it determines whether it's constructive or destructive.
   "Don't hide, don't ignore it...but do it in a way that can be productive, that can move the sport in a positive direction. If you do that, I believe there's almost nothing you can't talk about."


   Jeff Burton concedes "It's a fine line" (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   Harvick, who was once 'suspended' by NASCAR from a Cup race at Martinsville for his actions earlier that weekend, but who has mellowed considerably since, says the media doesn't need to know everything that's going on in NASCAR.
   "If you got up here and said your business stinks, you'd get fired," Harvick went on.
   "In the end it's everyone's responsibility the sport is going in the right direction.
   "'Have at it, boys,' on the track is different than off the track and having free rein on whatever you want to say about this sport.
   "Because most of us wouldn't be nearly so lucky having the jobs we have if we didn't have this sport.
   "If you've got something to say, it's very easy to pick up the phone or walk over to the (NASCAR) trailer.
    "It's just not the right place to do it in the media."
   That, of course, is perhaps the heart of the deal – not just that NASCAR is dishing out $50,000 penalties to drivers for what they say, but that NASCAR is being secretive about it all.
   The secrecy?  Doesn't that hurt NASCAR's credibility?
  "It's an interesting dilemma...when it's 'boys have at it...but not in this case....'," Burton concedes.
   "The fans want to know what's going on.
    "I don't have a problem with NASCAR telling us 'Why air out things in the public when you can have a conversation with us and be productive and make something happen....versus just getting on television and ranting about something, and 'NASCAR is just out to get you.'
   "The ultimate goal for NASCAR is to make this the best racing in the world. And they are trying to move the ball forward.
   "There have been incidents over the years where people handled themselves in a way that wasn't productive.
   "That's not to say you shouldn't tell the fans the truth, but you should be working behind the scenes on the ugly to make it pretty, rather than just complaining about it.
   "It's a fine line."
    Another issue: Burton concedes he not only doesn't know who the specific drivers are – apparently they're Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman – but he also doesn't know what they said that they got fined for.
    "There is an appropriate place and time to say what you feel," Burton said. "One of the great things about our sport is the ability to show your emotion, and we need to keep that.
   "There is a line where we cross where we're not being productive, we're just being negative. And we need to be careful about that.
   "NASCAR made it clear to us this winter where the line would be drawn, and I understand where that line is.
    "There is nothing I've ever said in my 16 years doing this that would subject me to fine.
   "So when Brian told  my group what would be fined, I was thinking how that would affect me, and I didn't see where it would affect me, so I didn't put any more thought into it."


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    Ryan Newman (L) confirms he's one of the men secretly penalized by NASCAR; Is Denny Hamlin (R) the other guy? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)





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