Denny Hamlin says he won’t pay NASCAR’s fine

March 8, 2013

Denny Hamlin at Daytona last month. (John Raoux / AP)

Denny Hamlin is good and angry about being fined $25,000 by NASCAR for making wht it said were “disparaging remarks” about the new Sprint Cup Gen-6 car on Sunday.

“Ultimately, I’m not okay with it,” Hamlin said of the punishment at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. “This is the most upset and angry I’ve been in a really, really long time about anything … anything that relates to NASCAR. The truth is what the truth is. I don’t believe in this. I’m never going to believe in it. As far as I’m concerned, I’m not going to pay the fine. If they suspend me, they suspend me. I don’t care at this point.”

NASCAR could do just that, which would hurt Hamlin, who drives for Joe Gibbs Racing, in the Sprint Cup standings. Or NASCAR could deduct the money from his next race weekend. Or it could just drop the whole matter and admit it made a mistake. (Not that sports organizations ever do that … ) In a statement on Twitter, Hamlin indicated he would appeal and added that the statement was crafted without public-relations assistance:

“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 nascars 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.”

In announcing the fine, NASCAR said the remarks violated Section 12-1 of the rulebook that includes all actions detrimental to stock car racing. Just what did Hamlin say that was so “detrimental?”

“I don’t want to be the pessimist, but it did not race as good as our Gen-5 cars,” Hamlin said in Phoenix on Sunday. “This is more like what the Generation 5 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. You would have placed me in 20th place with 30 [laps] to go, I would have stayed there — I wouldn’t have moved up. It’s just one of those things where track position is everything.”

Shortly after the fine was announced, fans were tweeting support with #StandWithDenny.

Hamlin finished third at Phoenix and is fourth in points. He has never missed the Chase and was concerned about the impact that a suspension could have on his season.

“It’s an opinion,” Hamlin said in exasperation of his comment. “It’s not even a bad one. I have to be careful. I don’t want to make things worse than they already are. And this is something that was absolutely nothing, and it got blown into something. It’s just going to be worse for them. Let them deal with it.”

Follow @CindyBoren on Twitter and on Facebook.

After spending most of her career in traditional print sports journalism, Cindy began blogging and tweeting, first as NFL/Redskins editor, and, since August 2010, at The Early Lead. She also is the social media editor for Sports.
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Cindy Boren · March 8, 2013