Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin was furious on Thursday after being handed a $25,000 fine for comments he made that were deemed to be critical of the new NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Generation 6 model stock car.
"This is the most upset and angry I've been in a long, long time about anything that relates to NASCAR," said a visibly fuming Hamlin on Thursday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, saying that people were always going to have strong opinions and should be allowed to voice them.
"A lot of people hold their tongue, and some people don't, like Brad," he said, referring to candid comments Brad Keselowski has recently made to USA Today
which had earned the reigning cup champion an invitation to the NASCAR hauler for a chat, but no fine. "But the truth is what the truth is, and I don't believe in this. Never going to believe in it.
“It's an opinion. It's not even a bad one,” Hamlin added. “I don't want to make things worse than they already are, and this is something that was absolutely nothing that got blown into something, and it's just going to be worse for them, so just let them deal with it."
But he ended on a defiant note: "As far as I'm concerned, I'm not going to pay the fine," he stated. "If they suspend me, they suspend me. I don't care at this point."
NASCAR levied the fine citing a violation of section 12-1 of the 2013 NASCAR Rule Book relating to actions detrimental to stock car racing. Under NASCAR rules, Hamlin can appeal the fine, but if he refuses to pay then NASCAR can simply deduct it from any prize money he is paid from upcoming races.
“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," said NASCAR in the official statement announcing the fine. "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."
After finishing in third place last Sunday, Hamlin credited his JGR pit crew for the positions he'd made up during the race, explaining that there was little he could do about overtaking on track.
"I don't want to be the pessimist, but it did not race as good as our Generation 5 cars," he said after the race, referring to the much-disliked Car of Tomorrow models. "This is more like what the Generation 5 was at the beginning."