- Driver Denny Hamlin vows he will not pay a NASCAR-imposed fine for his comments about the new Gen 6 racecar.
- Hamlin was fined $25,000 on Thursday after he made disparaging remarks about the car and the racing last weekend at Phoenix International Raceway.
- The new cars are the result of a long effort by NASCAR and participating manufacturers to improve brand identification and quality of racing.
LAS VEGAS — Sprint Cup Series driver Denny Hamlin has vowed not to pay a $25,000 fine imposed by NASCAR because of remarks he made after last week's Subway Fresh Fit 500k at Phoenix International Raceway.
Hamlin, who drives a Toyota Camry fielded by Joe Gibbs Racing, finished 3rd in the race. Carl Edwards won the race.
Hamlin tweeted late Thursday that he would go through the appeals process.
"I believe I was severely disrespected by NASCAR by getting fined," Hamlin tweeted. "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."
He added: "I said today I would not pay the fine. I stand by that and will go through the process of appealing."
NASCAR has a provision for drivers to appeal fines, so no suspension is likely before Sunday's race.
The race was the second for the new Gen 6 cars and the first on a smaller track, after the debut at the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway. Phoenix is a one-mile, slightly banked, triangular-shaped oval.
The new cars, which include the Chevrolet SS, were created with considerable input from manufacturers participating in the sport to make them more closely resemble their production counterparts — and to improve the quality of racing.
All the cars in the Sprint Cup Series in 2013 are Gen 6. They have bodies that are very specifically designed to feature individual, manufacturer-specific components, in contrast to the Gen 5 car which had a common ("spec") body with only a few styling tweaks (such as shape of side windows) and decals that were supposed to resemble the grille, headlamps and taillamps of the models for which they were named. All four manufacturers (including Dodge, before it abruptly announced at midseason its withdrawal at the end of 2012) were actively involved in NASCAR in creating the new cars.
NASCAR's involvement was to ensure that all the safety enhancements of the Gen 5 car were incorporated into the new one, and that there would be a basic competitive balance among the three makes — that is, that nobody had a clear advantage in aerodynamics.
Last Sunday, Hamlin raced from the back of the 43-car field and briefly took 2nd place away from Jimmie Johnson on the final lap, but Johnson came back on the outside and edged Hamlin for the runner-up spot by inches.
On Thursday, NASCAR issued a statement that read, "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."
Specifically, what Hamlin said was this:
"We learned a lot. I don't want to be the pessimist, but it did not race as good as our Generation 5 cars. 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."
The fine left some of Hamlin's peers baffled about what they are permitted to say. Jeff Burton suggested the fine was "a little bit of an overreaction on NASCAR's part," but acknowledged the sensitivity of the question of fan acceptance of the new cars.
"NASCAR has got to be careful not to be too strict on the drivers," Burton told the Associated Press. "I want to be able to be who we are."
Edmunds says: Maybe NASCAR is being heavy-handed here. But let's get one thing straight — Hamlin comes from 43rd to finish 3rd, and he complains that it was hard to pass? What a fine mess for Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing.