Hamlin gives in over penalty fine appeal
15 March 2013
Denny Hamlin has opted to back down in the row over the $25,000 penalty fine that the Joe Gibbs Racing driver received for comments perceived as critical of the new Generation-6 Sprint Cup stock car.
"After a lot of thought I have decided not to appeal the fine NASCAR has issued," said Hamlin in a team statement. "Dragging myself, my team and NASCAR through the mud for the next 2 weeks would not be good for anyone."
But that didn't mean he was admitting to having been in the wrong, of conceding that the penalty has been justified - just that there was little chance of winning an appeal over a fine issued on such subjective grounds.
"I firmly believe I am in the right on this issue and will stand behind my decision not to pay. I understand NASCAR will do what they feel is necessary based on my decision. Thanks to all of my fans and peers who have supported me in this decision. I look forward to putting it to rest."
Although Hamlin said that he would not pay the fine, NASCAR responded with a statement implying - if not saying outright - that they would simply take the money from future prize money owed to him.
"NASCAR announced today that the $25,000 fine assessed to driver Denny Hamlin on March 7 will be settled per Section 12-3 of the 2013 NASCAR rule book," the sanctioning body said in a statement after learning Hamlin would not appeal. "Hamlin was fined after the sanctioning body determined he had violated Section 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing). NASCAR considers this matter closed."
Hamlin received the fine for comments he made following the Cup race at Phoenix two week ago. "I don't want to be the pessimist, but it did not race as good as our Gen-5 cars," Hamlin had told the media. "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."
Speaking on Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway after a meeting with NASCAR chairman Brian France, Hamlin explained why being slapped with the fine had incensed him to the degree that it had.
"What I was most frustrated with is it's not even the opinion I have. I like the car. I think the car is better. That's me giving you 100 per cent honest truth," he said.
“In hindsight, I really believe they overreacted, and I believe they think they overreacted once they thought about it a little bit," Hamlin added. "Just to slap the fine on me and not tell me anything is what really, really bugged me a lot.
"That felt like I had not earned my place in this sport, and I've grinded it out here for eight years, and I really feel like I've done what it takes to earn the respect of both my peers and NASCAR, and I felt like if I had been somebody else the outcome may have been different," he continued, his seething frustration over the situation still clearly evident.
But in the end, Hamlin didn't want the row hanging over his 2013 season and distracting him and his team from their championship campaign.
"What was the point in going another week or so?” Hamlin shrugged. “We've got bigger to fish to fry than to argue over what I said just for $25,000. It's better to move on and let NASCAR get its credibility back. They're going to do that, and I'm going to move on."
Clements back after suspension
NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Jeremy Clements will be back on the starting grid this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway, after being suspended over using a racial epithet in an interview with a reporter at Daytona International Speedway.
Clements had to complete a session of racial insensitivity counselling with Dr. Richard Lapchick, the director of the University of Central Florida's Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, before being eligible for reinstatement.
"We're pleased that Jeremy has taken these important steps and will return to racing starting this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway," said NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations Steve O'Donnell.
Clements was suspended under NASCAR rules prohibiting any 'public statement' that criticises, ridicules or otherwise disparages another person based on race, colour, creed, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, religion, age or handicapping condition.
“I want to start out by saying I made a remark that has no place in our society, kidding or not," said Clements on Friday. "I want to apologise to NASCAR, the reporter, my team, my family, my sponsors and of course all the fans out there. I didn't mean to offend anybody at all. I'm sorry I let you all down.
"It has been a challenging time for me," he added. "I want to grow from it and help other people from it. Any time a race car driver gets sat out any amount of time it is the worst thing that can happen to anybody. I don't want to watch anybody drive your car when you are supposed to be in it driving."
Clements did lose one sponsor from the family-owner #51 car as a result of the controversy and suspension.
"Most of them have been behind me," he said when asked about his sponsors. "I've had one pull out on us, but we have a lot of support. We have our car filled up this weekend and just very grateful for guys like Jim Sealy of US Petroleum for helping us and sticking through it with us."