Keselowski was the center of attention, and NASCAR seemed trendy and hip _ a description its executives surely adored.
Turns out, tweeting from the car isn’t cool with NASCAR.
Keselowski was fined $25,000 on Monday for tweeting during the red flag at Phoenix International Raceway. The punishment was confusing to fans who vented on Twitter, of course, wondering why Keselowski was punished for Sunday’s tweets when he was celebrated by NASCAR for doing the exact same thing in February’s season-opening race.
Some alleged the Sprint Cup Series points leader was actually being disciplined for his profanity-laced outburst after Sunday’s crash- and fight-marred race.
NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp on Tuesday dismissed the conspiracy theories, and said drivers had been told after the Daytona 500 that electronic devices _ including cellphones _ could not be carried inside the race cars going forward.
“Brad’s tweeting at the Daytona 500 was really our first introduction to the magnitude of the social media phenomenon at the race track, especially how we saw it unfold that evening,” Tharp said. “We encourage our drivers to participate in social media. We feel we have the most liberal social media policy in all of sports, and the access we provide is the best in all of sports.
“But we also have rules that pertain to competition that need to be enforced and abided by. Once the 500 took place, and in the days and weeks following the 500, NASCAR communicated to the drivers and teams that while social media was encouraged and we promoted it, the language in the rule book was clear and that drivers couldn’t carry onboard their cars electronic devices, like a phone.”
Keselowski, who takes a 20-point lead over Jimmie Johnson into Sunday’s season finale in his quest to win his first Sprint Cup Series title, has not commented on his penalty.
But with the championship on the line, his crew chief indicated Tuesday he’ll be doing his best to keep the phone out of the No. 2 Dodge this weekend.
“Never even crossed my mind, to be honest with you,” Paul Wolfe said. “We get so involved in worrying about how to make the race car go around the track that, obviously, Brad’s cellphone is not on my mind a whole lot. I’ll definitely remind him this weekend.”
The Daytona 500 was stopped for nearly two hours when Juan Pablo Montoya crashed into a jet dryer that was cleaning the track during a caution period. The crash caused a fuel explosion, and Keselowski used his phone to tweet pictures, answer questions and give updates on the cleanup during the delay.
The race, which had been rained out for the first time in 54 runnings, was being aired on Monday night in prime time for the first time in history and Keselowski’s tweeting drew worldwide headlines.
Afterward, NASCAR specifically said Keselowski did not violate a rule barring onboard electronic devices and would not be penalized.
“Nothing we’ve seen from Brad violates any current rules pertaining to the use of social media during races,” NASCAR said the day after the race. “We encourage our drivers to use social media to express themselves as long as they do so without risking their safety or that of others.”