Denny Hamlin Fine Shows There’s No Making Sense Of NASCAR Rulings These Days

Denny Hamlin could have got out of his car Sunday following the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Subway Fresh Fit 500 and told reporters on hand that the sky was blue and it would have been no different than what he actually said that day.

Denny Hamlin (Photo: Chris Graythen/NASCAR via Getty Images)

If he had said the sky was blue, those absorbing that comment would have likely shrugged it off with a reaction like, “Sure Denny, all we had to do was look and we could have seen that.”

Instead Hamlin criticized the racing that took place and the lack of passing produced by drivers competing in NASCAR’s much ballyhooed new Gen 6 cars.

Those absorbing to the comments he made could have easily shrugged them off with a reaction like: “Sure Denny, all we had to do was look and we could have seen that.”

Hamlin spoke the truth in his comments to reporters, and that’s what makes the $25,000 fine NASCAR announced it was slapping him with Thursday all the more strange.

He didn’t offer any sort of vial disparaging vitriol about the new car. He didn’t criticize the designers or call it a mistake or a dumb idea. He didn’t criticize NASCAR or its officials or anything like that. He simply said the car doesn’t produce a lot of passing and it still needs some work.

He described what he thought was wrong with the car and why there wasn’t a lot of passing on the track at Phoenix and how, even though he started the race from the back and finished third he didn’t pass a lot of cars under racing conditions.

It wasn’t with angry tones that he delivered the message, no fiery words meant to insult those behind the design of the car or NASCAR’s decisions to make changes.

It was an honest assessment. Anybody that watched the Daytona 500 on Feb. 23 or Sunday’s event from Phoenix could see with their own eyes, that the Gen 6 car is hardly producing dramatic racing.

And yet, for speaking the truth, a truth that fans could see right there for themselves, Hamlin was fined $25,000.

Hamlin was cited under NASCAR’s catch-all penalty “actions detrimental to stock car racing.”

“Following the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event last Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway, Denny Hamlin made some disparaging remarks about the on-track racing that had taken place that afternoon,” read the penalty statement from NASCAR. “While NASCAR gives its competitors ample leeway in voicing their opinions when it comes to a wide range of aspects about the sport, the sanctioning body will not tolerate publicly made comments by its drivers that denigrate the racing product.”

Before the Daytona 500 reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski offered some candid views about what he sees good and bad about the sport in a USA Today article. It earned him a visit with NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France and International Speedway Corporation chairman Lesa France Kennedy.

About the meeting, NASCAR spokesman Brett Jewkes told Yahoo Sports: “There are some things Brad’s not as informed on. He’s not aware of things that are being worked on or achieved. The message Brian wanted to send was you need to understand the issues you’re talking about a little deeper before you talk about them.”

Read into that how you may. It’s not hard to figure out that Keselowski was likely told to keep his opinions to himself if he wanted to keep what he had in his wallet.

And one can say NASCAR is setting a bad precedent, but unfortunately it seems there’s no such thing as a precedent any more from the sanctioning body.

In so many ways in the sport, what’s ruled on today seems to have no bearing on tomorrow. What is acceptable this week is unacceptable next week and might just be acceptable again in a few more weeks.

Example, NASCAR’s recent Battle at the Beach, where officials threw the rulebook out the window for three races and allowed for Enduro style competition despite not telling competitors that was exactly what was going to happen.

It’s a strange media center world NASCAR has cultivated. Hamlin and Keselowski, two of the bright young stars of the sport and two of it’s most well spoken competitors, seem to be squelched around every corner by the sanctioning body. Then you have three-time Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart who regularly uses his mandated media sessions like he’s a bully on the playground during third grade recess, belittling, berating and insulting reporters week after week in doing his best to avoid most questions asked of him.

The message NASCAR sends is, treat the media like gum on the bottom of a shoe and you’re fine, tell them the truth and we’re going to get you.

It begs the question, what does NASCAR want? Do they want personalities on display or do they want robotic clones reading from a script written by their own public relations staff?

NASCAR can say all they want that drivers are free to be themselves and express their opinions, though their actions seem to send an altogether different message. Free speech sure is expensive these days for Sprint Cup drivers.

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  1. Dave Borski says

    I saw your headline and though great, Hamlin got fined for passing below the yellow line on thevladt lap to finish third. But no, no problem there. It’s his opinion that passing was difficult. Apparently it’s difficult if you stay on the racing surface. Well played NASCAR, well played.

  2. Dave,
    There’s no yellow line rule at Phoenix, and guys have been racing on the apron there like Denny did on the last laps since the track was resurfaced last year. You seem to be inferring that he went “out of bounds” or something on the last lap, which was hardly the case.

  3. Don’t you dare say anything bad about NASCAR or you will be kicked out of the club. Would love to see that with the struggling number of cars attempting to make the race this year. How many Sprint cup cars did not make the race last week? Hmmmm.

  4. Steve St.Jean says

    Denny just needs to drink a little more Nascar KoolAid and go for the official lobotomy of Nascar and then he’ll come around, you’ll see.

  5. NASCAR just assures me with these decisions that I should continue to stay away from their Sprint Cup events. I have learned over the last two years that Super Late Model racing around the country is much more entertaining than the Sprint Cup series, is less expensive to attend, the accommodations are not booked up, and the traffic around them don’t suck.


  7. Brian France is single handedly ruining NASCAR.

  8. What does it mean when comment and send and it says “your comment is awaiting moderation”?

  9. It means it’s in a queue waiting to be reviewed and approved. Unfortunately we’ve had some issues of late with people who can’t seem to leave a comment without using F-bombs and other such words throughout. Not going to let the comments section degenerate into that here.

  10. A little surprised about this article as Shawn has been around long enough to know that this is the nascar way. I knew as soon as the words came out of his mouth that Denny was going to get fined. I amazes me that you are even remotely surprised by this. Nascar only wants it their way and that is it. That is why they have destroyed the Modified division and continue to alienate the fans owners and competitors of the mods and you Shawn should know this better than anyone. I agree with you Shawn about most of this article just can’t believe you didn’t see this coming.

  11. New to this site…Have been followwing it closely for the past month…….This particular article was well written and I particularly like the stance on the writers last comment…Keep up the good work…. your perspective on our sport is refreshing compared to the lunch meat that NASCAR regularly serves up……

    P.S.: I hope Hamlin holds firm on not paying the fine……….Watch and see NASCAR blink on this one…They’ll use some lame excuse later in the season to drop the fine….

  12. Shawn,
    Your comments are right on the mark. Jimmy Johnson is now quoted as saying “I probably need to keep my mouth shut”. Tony Stewart’s quote on the Gen6 car performance thusfar is “You literally have to figure it out as you go. It’s impossible to give you an answer”. Dale Jr’s quoted as saying “Things are only going to get better from here as we learn more and more about tires”. Based on Jimmy’s quote, I know have doubts that Tony and Dale Jr were answering honestly. As a writer, its got to be frustrating wondering if you will be getting an honest answer or the “company line
    out of drivers.

  13. I thought that good ole boys supported freedom of speech. Isnt it illeagal for nascar to violate this ammendment?

  14. If they were not a bunch of phoney ass weenies, no one would care about their fines. (Maybe you should reprint the story about the France moron who got arrested for driving like a fool.)

  15. The next race after he got fined, he purposely spun out and wrecked ex-teammate Joey Logano for nothing. Having a chip on your shoulder and racing like an idiot will not serve to endear him to anyone. I guess you can say I”m not a Denny fan.

  16. J. Fascione says

    Denny gets fined for giving his opinion meanwhile chubby Tony Stewart can attack and punch another driver right there on tv and get no fine..way to go NA$CAR

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