Sprint Cup Series driver Denny Hamlin stated on Thursday that he will appeal the $25,000 fine that NASCAR has handed down to the #11 FedEx Toyota driver due to comments he made following last Sunday’s Subway Fitness 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.
Hamlin, who finished third in last week’s race, was not exactly complementary when it came to the new Generation 6 cars, saying “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.”
Hamlin went on to say that “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.”
NASCAR officials have said that the reason for the fine was because Hamlin’s comments damaged the product that the Cup Series currently boasts, which obviously did not sit well with the former Rookie of the Year. Obviously irate over the situation that had unfolded, Hamlin chose to respond to NASCAR handing down the fine, saying “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.”
The reaction by NASCAR to fine one of its drivers due to his decision to voice his opinion can be highly debated, but in retrospect it can be compared to the NBA fining players or coaches for voicing their displeasure over officiating or any other controversial topic that the league would rather not have lead the storylines the following day. NASCAR is in what is honestly the beginning of another major transitional stage in the sport, which means that there will be a fair share of bumps along the way into smoothing out the type of racing that is seen week in and week out. It may not be a popular decision to hand down a fine to a popular driver, but in the long run NASCAR is more interested in protecting its image, which is justifiable because that is their job.