NASCAR officials announced that driver Denny Hamlin was fined $25,000 “for comments he made following the March 3 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway.”
In a statement NASCAR said “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.
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.”
After Phoenix Hamlin, who drove his JGR Toyota to third place said “We learned a lot. I don't want to be the pessimist, but it did not race as good as our generation five cars. This is more like what the generation five was at the beginning. The teams hadn't figured out how to get the aero balance right. Right now, you just run single-file and you cannot get around the guy in front of you.”
NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton told journalists at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Thursday "we give them quite a bit of latitude," he said. "You can’t slam the racing. You can’t slam the product. That’s where it crosses the line.”
When generation five cars came out Tony Stewart called it a “flying brick.” Kyle Busch won the 2007 Bristol race and said that the CoT “I can't stand to drive them. They suck.” Neither driver was penalized for those derogatory statements.
Hamlin said that he would appeal the fine, and if he loses the appeal would not pay the fine.
"Ultimately, I’m not OK with it. This is the most upset and angry I’ve been in a really, really long time, about anything, anything that relates to NASCAR. You have strong opinions about a lot of things, whether it be Clements’ suspension, things like that. A lot of people hold their tongues, and some people don’t — like Brad (Keselowski).
Hamlin has ten days to file his appeal; in the meantime he may continue to compete in Sprint Cup races as NASCAR has not said how long he may have to pay it. After the driver files an appeal the penalties are held in abeyance until a decision is reach. The Appellate body has the ability to uphold the penalty, overturn the penalty or even increase the penalty.
“As far as I’m concerned, I’m not going to pay the fine,” he said. “If they suspend me, they suspend me. I don’t care at this point,” added Hamlin.
Kyle Petty, a former Sprint Cup driver, now commentator on SpeedTV, supports Hamlin.
“I’m going to stand behind Denny on this one. Just because its NASCAR’s ball and their ballpark and they make the rules doesn’t necessarily mean that there can be censorship, and there appears to be a lot of censorship in this fine. NASCAR wants drivers to have personalities and character and to express themselves but only if they say positive and not negative things. I don’t know anyone who can do that.”
Hamlin issued this statement on his Twitter account:
“The short of the long of it is I believe I was severely disrespected by NASCAR by getting fined. I believe that the simple fact of us not even having a conversation about this issue before I was hit with a fine has something to say about our relationship. What I said was 1 sentence taken completely out of context. Most drivers will tell you that we constantly have our AND NASCAR's best interest in mind when speaking. On the other hand I am a person that worked very hard from the BOTTOM to get where I am today and someone telling me that I can give my 100 percent honest opinion really bothers me."
"Since being fined in 2010 I have been a lot more careful about what I say to media and I felt this past weekend felt completely in my rights to give a assessment of the question asked. I feel as if today NASCAR lost one of its biggest supporters vocally of where our sport is headed. So in the end there are no winners. I said today I would not pay the fine. I stand by that and will go through the process of appealing. Trust me, this is not about the money.. It's much deeper. I will now shift my focus on giving FedEx and my team what they deserve this weekend, a win.”