CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Ryan Newman had to open his checkbook the last time he spoke out at Talladega.
Fed up about the style of racing, he said in 2010 that fans shouldn’t even bother going to the track. He was punished with a secret fine that didn’t come to light for months, and the true amount has never been revealed.
But it’s precedent that could cost him after his strong rebuke of NASCAR on live television Sunday.
Newman, no stranger to harrowing accidents at restrictor-plate tracks, had just witnessed Kurt Busch’s car barrel-roll on top of his at the end of a long and dreary day. The closing laps of a Talladega race are frantic by nature, and Sunday it was wet and cold and getting darker by the second when the 12-car accident erupted on the backstretch with six laps remaining.
Newman was as frustrated as anybody would be after a 3,400-pound car had just landed on top of his hood.
But he was also fed up.
So he stepped up to the live television camera and let it all out.
They can build safer race cars, they can build safer walls. But they can’t get their heads out of their (expletive) far enough to keep them on the race track, and that’s pretty disappointing, Newman said. I wanted to make sure I get that point across. Y’all can figure out who they’ is.
He continued on to criticize NASCAR for restarting the race with 10 laps remaining despite the looming darkness. Rain had forced a 3-hour, 36-minute delay midway through the race, and Talladega doesn’t have lights.
That’s no way to end a race. That’s just poor judgment in restarting the race, poor judgment, Newman said. I mean, you got what you wanted, but poor judgment and running in the dark and running in the rain. That’s it, thank you.
Logic would say those comments are going to cost Newman some cold, hard cash this week.
Only logic doesn’t apply anymore, and NASCAR’s decisions seem to be changing on a daily basis.
NASCAR chairman Brian France has attempted to put boundaries on what drivers can and can’t say, and the new car and the quality of racing are out of bounds.
I have been crystal clear in the meetings with all of the drivers and all of the owners about the fact that we are going to give them more opportunities to criticize more things than any other professional sport in America, France told The Associated Press after Hamlin’s fine. Having said that, there is one line that we are not going to tolerate and that’s going to be criticizing the quality of the racing product in any way, form or fashion.
No other professional sport lets you have at it, criticize anything, criticize me personally, calls we make, decisions we make, because those are judgment calls that we make week in and week out. The other sports don’t allow that – they look at it as infringement on the integrity of the officials. But we allow that, and only want them to be careful on one topic.
Newman? Everything he said is technically allowable under France’s guidelines, and after all the incidents Newman has experienced at plate tracks, his comments might even be justifiable.
Now we see whether NASCAR is going to take it or shrug it off.