Where is NASCAR headed?
BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS Jeff Burton's No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet sits outside of the garages at Pocono Raceway prior to qualifying on Friday. Burton will start 8th on Sunday in the Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500.
LONG POND - Saving the sport of NASCAR.
Although the statement does seem like a bit of a stretch, recent attendance and poor economic times in a sport that greatly relies on blue collar fans, has shown a decline with the likelihood to show more problems than solutions.
One solution to limit the negative and critical outbursts by drivers has placed NASCAR in the center of a swirling wind that some say smells foul. With 200 laps on Sunday around a racetrack called the Tricky-Triangle, drivers will have a tough time controlling what they say.
Earlier in the week, NASCAR levied fines on Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin for comments they made about race officials as far back as Talladega to the tune of $50,000 dollars.
Despite some negative criticism of the closed door action by some members of the media, the response from the drivers has generally been receptive to the new method.
"There is a line we cross where we are not being productive, we're just being negative," driver Jeff Burton said.
Kevin Harvick was in support of fines that were not made public and only supported by the drivers in question admitting to the fines.
"Honestly, I don't think it's anybody's business. I don't think it's your business or anybody in this room's business," Harvick said.
Tony Stewart, who is never at a loss for an opinion weighed in with his support as well as his reasons for the decline of the support.
"What everyone has tor remember is that NASCAR has done a good job building this sport for over 60 years." Stewart said. "In my opinion what NASCAR is doing is pretty appropriate,"
Stewart pointed the finger at the drivers for their part in the negative image that the sport has taken on as well as took a swipe at painting blame on the media for declining attendance.
"When you tell somebody long enough, long enough, you are finally going to convince the people that it is," Stewart said.
"The facts show that the racing is better than its ever been, it's more competitive than its ever been," "We've all lost sight in what we really got here."
Four-time champion Jimmie Johnson feels the fans should have nothing to worry about and that taking care of business within the NASCAR ranks is a positive step for racing circuit.
"I look at this being a private matter, thinking this is actually a good thing," Johnson said. "I don't think its good to have everything out in the press because we all we continue to do is focus on negative things time and time again and the circus builds on it.
Johnson added that there are things that should be kept between NASCAR front office and the individual teams.
"We have some many good things to talk about in our sport, why is this even an issue?" Johnson said. "[The Drives are] trying to shoot ourselves in the foot and NASCAR is trying to take the gun away."
Harvick came up with a simple solution for his fellow drivers about airing criticisms of other drivers launching into NASCAR bashing tirades,
"If you've got something to say, it's very easy to pick up the phone or walk over to the trailer and go express your feelings to somebody. And it's just not the right place to do it through this room (media center)", Harvick said.
No matter what the press will write about, the drivers support it, or the fans like it, NASCAR has taken steps to clean up its public image to get the focus back on racing.
"The way I perceive this is that NASCAR is wanting to send out a reminder that we are all in this together and we need to make sure we are pulling the rope in the same direction," Johnson said.