Brad Keselowski, one race from winning his first Sprint Cup championship, avoided Sunday's late-race wreck when Jeff Gordon took out Clint Bowyer (and Joey Lagano).
But Keselowski was unable to escape the long arm (or short hand) of NASCAR law as he was fined $25,000 and placed on probation until Dec. 31 for having a cell phone inside his car and using it to tweet during the red flag period caused by Gordon's wreck.
Keselowski began the NASCAR season and helped ignite the sport's push into social media this season by tweeting a photo of an exploded jet-fuel truck during the night telecast of the Daytona 500 in February, answering questions from fans during the delay. He has added more than 250,000 Twitter followers this season and often engages fans before, during and after race day.
Just last month, NASCAR senior vice president of operations Steve O'Donnell told Playbook that incident, for which Keselowski was not punished, was an important moment in formulating NASCAR’s overall social media strategy.
"I think a lot of it was seeing the reaction from race fans. He’s a champion of social media and one of the guys the fans have come to like and we like what he’s doing in that space," O'Donnell said. "Our ultimate goal is to bring people into the drivers’ seat during the event as possible -- show them what’s going on and give them access."
Keselowski broke no rules by having the phone in his car at Daytona. Since then, NASCAR has told drivers that electronic devices such as cell phones are not allowed in cars during races, and cited that rule (Sections 12-1 and 20-6.7A) when announcing Keselowski's fine and the penalties issued to Gordon and others Monday. Keselowski had tweeted from Victory Lane at Bristol, Tenn., and during a rain delay at Richmond, Va., earlier this season, escaping penalties on each occasion.
There was an added twist Sunday. After the race, Keselowski delivered a scathing and profanity-filled critique of his fellow drivers because he had been openly criticized for his aggressiveness toward Jimmie Johnson earlier in the Chase at Texas. He also criticized NASCAR for a crash on the final lap of the race, caused by oil on the track, because officials failed to post a caution:
"I'm offended at the double-standard that I spent a whole week being bashed by a half a dozen drivers about racing hard at Texas and how I'm out of control and have a death wish, and then I see [expletive] like that. That's [expletive]. That's all you can call that," he said. "These guys just tried to kill each other. You race hard and I get called an [expletive] for racing hard and called with a death wish, and I see [expletive] like that, and it just [expletive] me off."
Keselowski tweeted this apology Monday for his postrace outburst, but remained silent on his fine:
Appreciate all the comments and feedback after yesterdays Phoenix race.Sorry again about the post race rant, I got caught in the moment.
— Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) November 12, 2012
While Keselowski was silent about his fine, his sister Dawn Nicholas expressed disbelief:
“@jim_utter: Keselowski fined $25,000 for having cell phone in car.HUH?” I am speechless
— Dawn Nicholas (@dnicholas) November 12, 2012
"Bottom line, after Daytona-our competition folks communicated with every race team over the next couple of events that phones were not allowed in cars," O'Donnell told Playbook in an e-mail Tuesday after NASCAR announced its 2013 Nationwide Series schedule. "Drivers are allowed to tweet during a red flag if they are out of their cars. This was the first visual evidence we had of a driver with a phone in their car during the event. We have the most access available to our drivers - more so than any other sport. This has nothing to do with tweeting, rather the potential competitive advantage that could be gained based on today's technology."
Keselowski had found plenty of support on Twitter:
@desmondhoward love to have you buddy!
— Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) November 13, 2012
And he had no hard feelings for Gordon:
— Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) November 12, 2012
Amid the fallout of Sunday's outburst and Monday's fine, Keselowski found a vocal fan in unemployed former NFL wide receiver Chad Johnson:
— Chad Johnson (@ochocinco) November 13, 2012
Jimmie Johnson, who trails Keselowksi by 20 points, tried to avoid the fray and focus on a title:
— Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson) November 12, 2012
• A school district in Florida is investigating a football team that decided to disrupt a pregame band performance in a scene that was mildly reminiscent of the infamous Stanford band-Cal touchdown from 1982.
Players from host New Smyrna Beach High School, located south of Daytona Beach, ran through band members playing from Spruce Creek High School of Port Orange during their pregame routine.
WESH-TV in Orlando reported that Spruce Creek parents say players from New Smyrna Beach deliberately interfered with the band's performance, putting the band members in jeopardy.
Volusia County officials want "to see if something else should have been done, to make sure the students aren't in danger, to make sure everyone is playing appropriately," a spokesman said. New Smyrna Beach (9-0) won the game 41-14.
The Daytona Beach News-Journal said coach Lance Jenkins was scheduled to meet with school officials Tuesday. Meanwhile, principal Jim Tager called the incident “unfortunate" adding “nobody intended to hurt anybody. While what happened is regrettable, it's hard to go back and correct that past."
• New York Jets QB Tim Tebow was one of several athletes who received write-in votes during last week's presidential election in Stark County in Ohio, according to CantonRep.com. Among the others were: Richard Petty, Pro Football Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith and Browns kicker Phil Dawson.