(AP) Hamlin fined $25k by NASCAR for criticizing car
By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer
Denny Hamlin was fined $25,000 by NASCAR on Thursday for criticizing the new Gen-6 race car after last week’s race at Phoenix, and the furious driver said he won’t pay.
Hamlin compared the new race car unfavorably to last year’s car after his third-place finish, angering NASCAR officials who are concerned about the Gen-6 car’s public perception. Although Hamlin’s brief comments were barely noticed last weekend, NASCAR leveled a significant fine against him before Thursday’s open test of the new car at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Hamlin might not have a choice: According to NASCAR rules, unpaid fines may be deducted from a driver’s purse or point fund earnings.
Hamlin ran well last Sunday in the second race for NASCAR’s new Gen-6 race car. He was asked on pit road after how he liked the car, and said: “I don’t want to be the pessimist, but it did not race as good as our generation five cars. This is more like what the generation five was at the beginning.”
NASCAR deemed Hamlin’s remarks as detrimental to stock car racing, saying that while drivers get “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.”
The Gen-6 car was developed by NASCAR last year with heavy input from the manufacturers to improve the on-track product. Drivers have been asked to be careful in how they publicly discuss the car, and NASCAR has put together a tremendous marketing effort in an attempt to avoid the poor reception the previous model received.
Fans never warmed up to the “Car of Tomorrow” in part because drivers panned it from the very beginning. Kyle Busch won the debut race in the “Car of Tomorrow” and blasted it in Victory Lane, and the car never stood a chance after that. Hamlin’s comments came after the second race of this season.
It’s not the first time Hamlin has been fined for voicing his opinion. NASCAR privately fined him in 2010 for posts he made on Twitter about cautions.
At the time, NASCAR was secretly fining drivers for making disparaging comments about the racing product, and Hamlin’s fine eventually became public as part of a push for the sanctioning body to be more transparent.