It would be easy to say that NASCAR lost its mind in fining Denny Hamlin simply for saying the Gen-6 car, which took two years to develop, would take more than two races to figure out.
I guess that’s because NASCAR, indeed, lost its mind in fining Denny Hamlin simply for saying the Gen-6 car, which took two years to develop, would take more than two races to figure out.
The difficulty is figuring out where this ranks in the history of bogus NASCAR fines because we don’t, for the most part, know anything about which guys have been fined for speaking out of turn in the past. Only at the beginning of last season did NASCAR decree that there would no longer be unannounced fines.
Prior to that, NASCAR could fine someone privately, and the driver could in turn let people know or keep it to himself. So, we don’t know for sure if Kyle Busch was fined for saying the Gen-5 car (formerly COT) cars “suck” in Victory Lane after winning their debut race at Bristol in 2007.
Earlier that year at Phoenix, Hamlin received an early pit road speeding penalty after looking dominant early in the race. After driving through the field like he stole the blessed car to finish third, he questioned the speeding penalty, which included the swipe, “I was tonight’s entertainment I guess.”
in 2010 Hamlin admitted he was secretly fined for a Twitter conversation he had with a reporter, inferring that NASCAR would “tighten up” a late race with an unneeded caution flag to create a more exciting finish for the fans.
It’s one thing to publicly ponder whether NASCAR would artificially create a more exciting finish. But inferring that NASCAR would unjustly penalize one driver just to make sure he wouldn’t stink up the show is quite another.
Friday I contacted a Hamlin spokesperson, who said he wasn’t sure whether Hamlin was secretly fined for the 2007 comments.
If he wasn’t, then Thursday’s announcement is even more of a head-scratcher. How do you get fined for what he said last week at Phoenix and get away with what he said six years ago at Phoenix?
While there’s no excuse for Hamlin’s most recent fine, I realize what NASCAR’s motivation is. NASCAR has survived and thrived despite a lot of issues, both economical and social. Now, Danica Patrick has opened up a whole new audience, Darrell Wallace Jr. has a real chance to become NASCAR’s first breakout black star, and the new cars have the ability to bring the “car guy” back to NASCAR after years of homogenization.
NASCAR sees another glory era at its fingertips and doesn’t want anything getting in the way. After the Jeremy Clements incident, NASCAR was already hypersensitive, and Hamlin paid the price.
I actually agree that NASCAR has a lot of things going for it in the next couple of years. That makes it all the more troubling to see it act as its own worst enemy.
Follow Josh Stewart on Twitter @JoshNASCARWWE