Denny Hamlin has said thanks, but no thanks to the $25,000 fine he was assessed by NASCAR for speaking ill of the new Generation 6 cars.
ESPN's David Newton reported the news and passed along this quote from Hamlin as the driver addressed the media:
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.
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.
I think it is safe to call that an aggressive refusal. Hamlin has really drawn a line in the sand here, and it will be interesting to see how things progress from this point.
Hamlin is one of the Sprint series' best drivers. He is coming off a strong season and is currently fourth in this year's points race.
He was boosted to fourth after a strong third-place finish in last Sunday's race in Phoenix, which is where he made the remarks that earned him this fine.
Following that race, Hamlin had this to say (via Newton) about their new cars:
I don't want to be the pessimist, but it did not race as good as our Gen-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. 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.
Hamlin was simply stating what many fans were thinking, as that race, and much of Daytona as well, largely transpired with cars running in single file.
NASCAR is not blind to the problems. As Newton also points out, NASCAR and Goodyear are working on tires that they hope will improve the cars' performance.
Still, whether they realize there is work to be done on these cars or not, NASCAR does not want its drivers bashing their new rides.
Newton also passed along this quote from NASCAR Vice President for Competition Robin Pemberton: "Constructive criticism is one thing, but there's different statements that people made that are damaging. That's where we won't tolerate those types of things."
Hamlin has the option of appealing this decision. If he went that route, he would not have to pay and could continue racing until a decision on the appeal was made.
It is worth noting that Hamlin didn't even mention this possibility. It would seem that he has ruled on his own appeal and is just not going to pay the fine.
Was NASCAR right to assess this fine?
However, it wouldn't be a shock for him to reconsider. He has to consider his Joe Gibbs Racing team and sponsors when making this decision.
There is another possibility. Newton points out that the NASCAR rulebook allows for unpaid fines to be collected from a team's race earnings.
Hamlin is no stranger to creating controversy with his comments. In 2010, as Newton reminds us, Hamlin was fined $50,000 for comments he made on Twitter.
As for Hamlin's stance now, he likely won't earn any more fines this season. Newton passed along that Hamlin told the press he wasn't going to comment on "competition" for the rest of the year.
This would be a loss for fans, NASCAR and Hamlin's sponsors. He has always been good with the press, and his acumen in this area has helped raise his, and his sport's, profile.