Gluck: NASCAR should rescind Tony Stewart fine – USA TODAY

6 months ago Comments Off on Gluck: NASCAR should rescind Tony Stewart fine – USA TODAY

CHARLOTTE — NASCAR owes Tony Stewart a refund.

Five days after Stewart’s attention-grabbing rant about safety and how NASCAR’s lug nut policy put drivers at risk, NASCAR changed its rule. It wrote new language requiring all five lug nuts be on the wheel – before, during and after the race – and announced potential penalties to give teams incentive to comply. Teams had been speeding up their pit stops by securing just three or four in an effort to pick up spots in the running order.

By changing the rule when it did, NASCAR showed it essentially agreed with Stewart, who said it was unacceptable and unsafe to have cars fly down the track at 200 mph without their wheels completely secured. Someone – driver or fan – could get hurt.

Makes sense, right?

But this is NASCAR, which means logic rarely prevails. Despite announcing the policy change, officials declined to rescind Stewart’s $35,000 penalty for his comments. The sanctioning body also didn’t tell Stewart which part or parts of his comments earned him the fine to begin with, but drivers know if they publicly question NASCAR they are at risk of penalty.

Think about that for a moment. Stewart was the catalyst for immediate change. Though the rule may have changed eventually, Stewart’s words – and the nine-member driver council’s reaction to show support and pay his fine — created public pressure to make it happen now. And yet, those same words were apparently so off base that they warranted a $35,000 fine.

How can it be both ways? It’s one of those only-in-NASCAR, head-scratching puzzlers that seem to defy reason.

The racing is consistently the best it’s been in more than a decade. Every weekend, fans buzz on social media about the entertainment value and quality of the events.

But then the weeks themselves seem to be filled with endless and unnecessary off-the-track foolishness that makes it hard to feel enthusiastic about the direction of the sport. The resilient race fans who have stuck around through a decade of changes deserve better.

Human nature means people make mistakes. We all react in the moment. NASCAR officials overreacted to Stewart’s comments, which were coming from a place of good intentions — he was seeking change and concerned about driver safety.

But given the end result, it would be refreshing to hear someone from NASCAR say, “You know what? We don’t like being questioned on safety, but Tony was right. We listened, we’re making a change and rescinding the fine.”

Wouldn’t that garner more fan respect?

Going forward, NASCAR needs to do its best to focus on what’s happening on the track and get away from the sideshows and questionable decisions that make can make it harder to be a fan.

Follow Gluck on Twitter @jeff_gluck

PHOTOS: Tony Stewart through the years

Gluck: NASCAR should rescind Tony Stewart fine – USA TODAY

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