France: Not NASCAR’s job to penalize often, and certainly not in legal arena

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One of the topics NASCAR Chairman Brian France addressed Tuesday night during his annual “state of the union” interview on Motor Racing Network’s NASCAR Live was penalties, how they are assessed and where they are assessed.

A year ago the new penalty level system came into being; several penalties were doled out in the wake of the post-race fisticuffs at both Charlotte Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

France said it is not NASCAR’s place to penalize its drivers if a separate legal situation is ongoing. This was tested earlier this year in the face of the Tony Stewart/Kevin Ward Jr. tragedy in New York, and more recently as Kurt Busch is in the midst of an investigation – now closed and headed to an attorney general – for alleged domestic assault.

“We will have a very strong, bright line, and if that’s crossed we’ll be very aggressive in dealing with it,” France told MRN’s Eli Gold. “We have Kurt Busch going through his own allegations at this point – no charges – and some other things, and we will watch that carefully as an example.

“What we wouldn’t do is try to get out in front of a set of facts that haven’t been determined yet by the court system. Society has a way of evolving with important topics like domestic violence. That is dealt with much more severely, and rightfully so.”

Where France said NASCAR would – and has – drawn the line on penalties is when it comes to criticisms of the racing product by the personnel involved in the series. Denny Hamlin, notably, fell afoul of this in early 2013.

“We try to give the most latitude of any sport in terms of what our drivers or other participants say,” France explained.

“Where we take objection is when there is, even is, and most of the time this is inadvertent, but every once in a while there are comments derogatory towards the racing product. When that happens, we have to draw a line.

“We can’t have our most important stakeholders, drivers, teams and tracks, working against putting the best steak on the plate we can – that’s where we draw the line.”

These issues and a handful of others – including what were more or less dismissals of mid-week races or a Chase road race – were discussed during Tuesday night’s appearance.