CHARLOTTE, N.C. — NASCAR said Wednesday it will stop issuing undisclosed fines going forward, a practice that made fans distrust the sanctioning body.
"While there are always sensitivities related to sponsor relationships and other leagues may continue issuing disclosed and undisclosed fines, NASCAR has decided that all fines moving forward will be made public after the competitor or organization that has been penalized has been informed," NASCAR said in a statement.
It's not clear how many times NASCAR failed to disclose a penalty against a driver or a team, but the practice first came to light midway through the 2010 season when it was learned that Denny Hamlin had been secretly fined for posts he made on Twitter.
In the fallout from the Hamlin fine, it was revealed that Ryan Newman had been previously penalized for disparaging comments he made about the style of racing at Talladega.
Then, word of another Newman fine spread last season after the driver was involved in some sort of physical altercation with Juan Pablo Montoya during a meeting with NASCAR officials. Fans grew increasingly angry with the practice of not publicizing all fines, but NASCAR wouldn't comment one way or the other on the issue.
The tipping point came on the eve of championship weekend in November, when The Associated Press reported Brad Keselowski had been secretly fined $25,000 for comments he made about electronic fuel injection.
NASCAR chairman Brian France was peppered with questions about secret fines the next day, and coyly said no one would know if there had been other fines the public was still unaware of.
"When you cross a line that denigrates the direction of the sport or the quality of the racing, we're not going to accept that. Not going to accept it," France said. "Happy to have any other criticism, any other complaint, happy to hear them all. If I own a restaurant and I say you know what, the food in my restaurant is not very good, we're not going to accept it. It's as simple as that."
"What would be the benefit (of announcing fines)?" he continued. "The drivers know exactly what we're after. They know exactly what we expect out of them and when they don't handle that, the only way we can control that is, obviously, a fining system."
The questioning continued, and with championship weekend in jeopardy of being overshadowed, France relented and promised to reconsider the practice of not publicizing every fine.
NASCAR said Wednesday it evaluated the issue during the offseason and based its decision from "feedback from the industry."
The decision to stop the secret fines comes on the eve of France's annual preseason remarks to the media. The NASCAR presentation is scheduled for Thursday afternoon at the Hall of Fame.