NASCAR: Drivers Send Message To Governing Body, Our Voices Matter

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

Tony Stewart’s NASCAR return was greeted with a fine from the governing body for comments he made earlier in the week and his fellow drivers have come to the forefront to pledge their support for Stewart and pay the fine on his behalf.

The stock car world saw both sides of the excitement coin on Thursday, all surrounding famed NASCAR owner-driver Tony Stewart. The excitement grew to a fever pitch as Stewart announced that he would return to racing this weekend at Richmond International Raceway, and be eligible for the Chase for the Sprint Cup if he wins a race and finishes in the top thirty in points. However, that excitement was dented at the very least when NASCAR levied a $35,000 fine on the popular driver.

The penalty handed out stemmed from comments made by Stewart surrounding the growing concerns about NASCAR’s lug nut rule, allowing for less than five lug nuts to be attaching a wheel to a racecar. Stewart’s comments in part are seen here:

"“I’m beyond mad, I’m P.O.’d at NASCAR about it, to be honest. For all the work and everything, all the bulletins and all the new stuff we have to do to superspeedway cars and all these other things they want us to do for safety, we can’t even make sure we put five lug nuts on the wheel.”"

Needless to say, the NASCAR brass and Brian France were not happy with those choice words, and slapped Stewart with a fine. But then, the NASCAR Drivers Council stepped in and made their voices heard. The group of leading drivers from the garage released a statement supporting Stewart and going even one step further, in a statement from Denny Hamlin:

"“We as drivers believe Tony has the right to speak his opinion on topics that pertain to a sport that he has spent nearly two decades helping build as both a driver and an owner. While we do not condone drivers lashing out freely at NASCAR, we do feel Tony was in his rights to state his opinion. We as a Council support him and do not agree with the fine. Therefore, we fellow council members have agreed to contribute equally to paying his fine.”"

Such a strong statement of support by the drivers for one of their own is not overly surprising, but the willingness to pay the fine in part is unique, as it would be the first time in major sports history in the United States that such a move would happen. It could also prove to be a landmark day in NASCAR history, where the drivers fought back to have their voices heard and respected.

When NASCAR announced new regulations on what drivers and teams could say about the sport and its leadership, certainly many thought this day would come where the sanctioning body would reach out and defend its authority. But few if any would expect this response, where the drivers seemingly band together to defend their voices, and rightfully so.

For a while NASCAR has needed to respect the voices of their drivers more than they currently do, especially considering what an important role they could play in the sport’s future. Perhaps this statement of support from a group of drivers to one of their own will make the leaders listen more to what one of their biggest groups of stakeholders believes. After all, not only are drivers coming out to support Stewart, but fans too.

Further more, it will be interesting to see where the RTA (Race Team Alliance) falls in this situation. Stewart as an owner/driver clearly has the support of the drivers, but does he also have the support of the owners.

Related Story: NASCAR: Breaking Down Tony Stewart's Chances Of Making The Chase

What do you think? Should NASCAR have fined Tony Stewart, and were the drivers smart to stand behind him and help pay his fine? Will the RTA get involved and make a statement? Leave a comment below with your opinion, or send it to us via social media.