The Las Vegas Motor Speedway media center was a buzz with the news one week ago. Denny Hamlin was fined $25,000 for actions detrimental to stock car racing. He talked down about the new Gen 6 car after the race at Phoenix the week before and NASCAR was not going to tolerate it.
Immediately Hamlin refused to pay the fine, lashing out on being hurt that it came to that. NASCAR said he had the right to appeal. This weekend Hamlin opted not to appeal, but he also did not pay the fine.
NASCAR released a statement that the matter was closed, presumably they will take the fine out of Hamlin’s winnings over the next couple of races. Hamlin met with the media at the Bristol Motor Speedway and expressed a desire to just move on from the situation.
“The biggest thing is I think that we won in the judge of the people and their opinion I think some of the peers of mine — at least the ones that have a backbone had the nerve to stick up for what they know is right and wrong — agreed. But what was the point in going another week or so. We’ve got bigger fish to fry than to argue over what I said just for $25,000 and it’s better just to move on and let NASCAR get its credibility back and they’re going to do that and I’m going to move on and just focus on a championship,” said Hamlin.
Hamlin did take the time to talk directly to NASCAR CEO Brian France, which was probably the first place he should have started.
“I had some conversations with Brian France and we had a lot of the same ideas. And I think that in hindsight I really believe they (NASCAR) overreacted and I believe that they think they overreacted once they thought about it a little bit, but now we’re at a point that we’re good with each other and we’re just going to move on from here,” Hamlin explained.
The overreaction by NASCAR was most likely prompted by their experience with the Car Of Tomorrow. Once that new car was brought out, drivers ripped into it, fans bought in, and opinion of the car never changed. NASCAR wanted to nip the same thing from happening ASAP.
The problem with this is that Hamlin and NASCAR might have an understanding, but that might just be that Hamlin filters how he responds to questions. Hamlin had previously been fined in 2010 for ripping NASCAR on Twitter about a debris caution that cost him a race. His response to that was not using Twitter as after as he once had.
“Everyone wants to stay on NASCAR’s good side and so that ultimately plays a lot of what you hear in interviews — 90 percent of what you hear on a weekly basis is just guys that are trying to stay on NASCAR’s good side. There’s very few that really give the honest and true truth,” said Hamlin.
Hamlin isn’t quite going to quiet himself down when it comes to talking to the media. He just will be more cautious about what he says and revert to a two word answer if push comes to shove.
“I think as long as I can give 100 percent honest answer and not get in trouble then I will answer the question. If I know my answer could have repercussions, I will just refer to no comment,” Hamlin explained.
It’s a shame in a “Boys Have At It” day and age that drivers can’t speak their opinions honestly during interviews. I understand NASCAR’s position of defending the brand, but we all saw how the racing was at Phoenix, Hamlin didn’t tell us anything new. Luckily a fantastic race the next weekend at Las Vegas seems to indicate that the new car is on the right path, but only time will tell.