|Pocono Power Rankings|
|Ryan Newman knows that the first rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about Fight Club. That's likely why the Sprint Cup driver was so evasive when pressed last weekend about whether he had been secretly fined by NASCAR for allegedly punching driver Juan Pablo Montoya -- as first reported by Jim Noble of Performance Radio Network -- during a meeting with NASCAR last month at Darlington.And even more importantly, as a driver who admitted last year that he had been the recipient of a clandestine fine for maligning the quality of racing at Talladega, he knows that the first rule of NASCAR is you do not talk about NASCAR ... unless it is positive. Malign labor, never management. Denny Hamlin -- who was also fined last season for criticizing the sport on Twitter -- is the only other driver to admit to secret sanctions.Perhaps it is easier to talk about it if you've never been impacted by it. Then again, as Carl Edwards admits, what are you going to believe anyway?|
"I haven't had a secret penalty yet. I don't know if you can believe that statement inherently, but I haven't had a secret penalty," he said before the race. "I have had some good public penalties. I don't know. Due to their secret nature I don't know what they are or what they were for, so I don't know what to think about that. I guess you have to be careful what you say around here."
Perhaps not careful enough. Edwards' engine began to grumble 60 laps into the race on Sunday and eventually failed and required a lengthy repair, relegating him to a 37th-place finish and, in essence, a 34-point penalty for the points leader.
Ingenious. Insidious, NASCAR.
And of course, ludicrous, but the boundary between nonsense and plausibility is easily obscured in the absence of complete transparency. NASCAR fans are likely to be titillated by palace intrigue until they feel it has impacted their favorite driver in some way. No one wants to feel as if their loyalty has been cheapened by a sport not running a fair game. Certainly NASCAR has thrived under the heavy hand of a ruling family and secret police for more than a half century. The sport would likely never have been cattle-prodded into a national major league as a democracy, considering the disparate, nomadic nature of racing and racers.But tales of strong-arm tactics and harsh sanction have never before been so instantly consumable by a fan base willing and able to gather information and part-information via electronic sources. A series so conscious of the penetration of social media must realize that it no longer gets to control the plot and the outcome as before.
Emerging from the mist and woody shroud of rural Pennsylvania, the weekly Sprint Cup power rankings.