Is there another professional sport that feuds with its talent more than NASCAR?
Fresh off the contentious deal with Denny Hamlin — who got slapped with a $25,000 fine after criticizing the Gen 6 model earlier this season — defending Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski has stepped into the fray.
And it's not a pleasant conversation about the No. 2 car.
"There's so much stuff going on, you guys have no idea — you have no [expletive] idea what's going on," Keselowski told reporters after the Texas race on Saturday night. "I can tell you there is no team in this garage with the integrity of the 2 team.
"The way we've been treated over the last seven days is absolute shameful. I feel like we've been targeted over the last seven days more than I've ever seen a team targeted in my life."
Keselowski's issues were with the way his team was delayed during inspection the previous week at Martinsville before practice and then penalized for his pitting outside his box during the race.
In a curious twist, NASCAR officials said they won't fine Keselowski for his Texas tirade, despite the accusatory tone pointed at the higher-ups. The team is awaiting word on penalties because both Penske Racing drivers (Keselowski and Joey Logano) and their teams face issues with their rear housing.
"That's the beauty of NASCAR," NASCAR chairman Brian France told the Fox Business Network. "We do allow the drivers to express themselves in that way, even if they say things that we would disagree with. And I obviously disagree with everything he said.
"Look, they're frustrated. This is the most intense racing in the world. It's not surprising that every once in a while when things don't go your way, you just blow off a lot of steam."
France said that Hamlin was fined because "you can't criticize the racing product," which may sound like he is splitting hairs but at least gives drivers a manifesto moving forward.
Boys Have It will apply to everything but ripping the new car, it seems.
I'm not sure this is the best business model, but it's the nature of NASCAR. Drivers have very little leverage and influence in the big-picture scope of things.
They are the face of the sport, but the sport hires them as independent contractors. Any thought of introducing that vile five-letter word into the NASCAR vocabulary — "union" — has been systematically shut down.
The closest that drivers came to separatist unity, if you will, was in 1969 at Talladega when stars including Richard Petty, Buddy Baker, Bobby Allison and Donnie Allison didn't want to risk racing at the track's high speeds. The late "Big Bill" France, who ran the sport at the time, simply filled in the blanks with drivers from other divisions of NASCAR.
NASCAR can point to the fact that it's the only major professional team sport without a strike or a lockout in the past two decades.
But there's still civil strife. Just ask Denny Hamlin or Brad Keselowski.
Tough roads for Gordon and Stewart
They have won seven NASCAR Cup titles between them, but that doesn't mean squat in the here and now.
Jeff Gordon is 15th in the standings. Tony Stewart is 22nd.
There are still plenty of laps left before the cut is made to determine which 12 drivers will make the Chase for the Championship in 2013. But the reality is that Gordon and, in particular, Stewart have some making up to do while overcoming erratic results.
Gordon has a top-5 and a top-10 finish, but he also finished 34th at Bristol and crawled to a season-low 38th-place finish at Texas. He was sidelined on Lap 306 with a front-suspension issue.
Stewart has one top-10 finish but has averaged a 21st-place finish in his last five races. He finished 21st at Texas.
"We just couldn't get the car right," Stewart said. "It's pretty obvious we've got some work to do."
Onto Kansas this week, where Gordon feels a good vibe. Gordon has two victories (2001 and 2002) in 14 starts and has eight top-5s. But he has never won a pole there.
"I think we have made gains, so I'm confident we can make improvements when we get there," Gordon said. "But we are really going to have to be on our game."
The horrific events at the Boston Marathon will impact all sporting events in the immediate future, including this week's race at Kansas. Fans are likely to experience longer waits for security checks, all part of an increased security presence.
"We've had several meetings with our local contact with the Kansas police department, which interphases with Homeland Security and the FBI," track president Pat Warren told reporters on Tuesday. "We don't discuss publicly the things we do because we don't want somebody who might do something bad to know what our plans, policies and procedures are.
"What I would say is that we treat every event seriously, and we treat the safety and security of our fans seriously. Probably it's a good idea for people to plan on a little more time getting through the gates, having their backpacks checked, their coolers checked, those kind of things."
Congrats to Kyle Larson, who became the first graduate of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program to win on one of the upper-tier levels. Larson, 20, captured Sunday's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Rockingham (N.C.) Speedway.
"Well, [the program] helped with getting me exposure in NASCAR in a series like the K&N East Series, and also being able to race on tracks that I'll be running on this year," Larson said. "We got to go to Iowa, New Hampshire, Richmond, Dover and tracks like that. It helps us gain experience.
"It was my first year racing stock cars too, so it helped all around with driving and introducing me to all the media that I'll hopefully be having to do in my future. So it was good for me."