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NASCAR warns drivers of penalties for missing media obligations

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 - Qualifying

FORT WORTH, TX - MARCH 29: Kurt Busch, driver of the #1 GEARWRENCH Chevrolet, speaks with the media following qualifying for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on March 29, 2019 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

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BRISTOL, Tenn. – NASCAR has warned drivers that penalties could be forthcoming for failing to comply with this season’s new media availability policy.

In memos that were distributed to teams before practice Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway, NASCAR said it could penalize those who “fail to complete their media obligations or is verbally aggressive toward a NASCAR staff member or media member.”

As part of a new system in place for the Cup series this season, all drivers are required to go through a designated bullpen area for interviews after qualifying. The second through 10th-place finishers in all three national series also must attend a postrace bullpen for interviews.

Though NASCAR officials largely have been pleased with nearly all drivers’ participation in the new policy, the memo noted that “select drivers have intentionally missed media obligations or refused to give an interview during a bullpen session. We also have been made aware that some drivers have been verbally aggressive with media members. It goes without saying that is something we need to course correct in short order.”

The memo didn’t specify the penalty but said they were outlined in the rulebook, which stipulates a fine of $10,000 to $50,000 for failing to complete media obligations under its member conduct guidelines.

According to the 10.3.2.k of the 2019 rulebook, drivers must participate in media activities designed by NASCAR during an event. “These activities may include but are not limited to the following; pre-event media availabilities in the media center, post-final practice availability, post-qualifying availabilities postrace availabilities.

During his media availability Friday, Ryan Newman openly wondered if the penalties could include loss of pit selection or practice time.

“Let me start by saying I don’t want to offend anybody,” Newman, who shared the memo with reporters, said with a laugh. “If I don’t answer your question, it’s nothing personal.”