Appeals panel keeps Hamlin’s penalty, details

Make it make sense. A second day and another penalty ruling. On Thursday, the National Motorsports Appeals Panel ruled to uphold the penalties issued to Denny Hamlin for his incident with Ross Chastain during the NASCAR Cup Series race at Phoenix Raceway.

As a result, his $50k fine and 25 points loss in the standings stands.

The penalty was due to contact between Hamlin and Ross Chastain late in the race at the Phoenix Raceway back in March 12. At the time, NASCAR felt like this was a racing incident and took no action. However, on his podcast, “Actions Detrimental,” Hamlin admitted that the contact between the two was intentional on his behalf.

NASCAR heard this and later took action. They said that he violated Sections 4.4 in the NASCAR Member Code of Conduct, which cover – attempting to manipulate the outcome of the race or championship; wrecking or spinning another vehicle, whether or not that vehicle is removed from competition as a result; and actions detrimental to stock car racing or NASCAR. We knew this could potentially be coming as well.

Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, was on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio the Tuesday morning after the incident and said that without a doubt that it was on NASCAR’s radar regarding Hamlin’s comments. They did indeed take action.

“It wasn’t a mistake. No, it wasn’t a mistake,” Hamlin said on his Podcast then. “I let the wheel go, and I said he’s coming with me. It’s been interesting because I hear people say this is for last year or this year. I got wrecked at the Clash. I don’t know that Ross sees it that way. I think he’s still curious about what I thought about the Clash. I don’t know why he wonders what I thought about the Clash.

“I said for awhile you’ve got to do something to get these guys’ attention, whatever. I’ve said it. I think that Ross doesn’t like it when I speak his name in the media and when I have this microphone. I told him I have a microphone and I’m going to call it like I see it. Until you get a microphone, you can then say whatever you want about me. The fact is while I’m sitting here talking, I’m going to call things the way I see it.

“Sometimes I’m going to have to call myself out. I’m the (expletive) that lost as many spots as he did. At the time I said I’m going to finish (expletive) anyway, I’m just going to make sure he finishes (expletive) right with me.

“It’s difficult because at times people want me to react right away. I don’t want to involve any more cars. I told you guys privately, my friends, it’s difficult to be in a position where you get back at a person and not involve an innocent bystander. It’s really hard to do. Then you’ve got other people pissed at you because you’re doing something that affected their race when they had nothing to do with it. I never wanted to do that. Pocono, unfortunately, someone got caught up in that when Ross bounced back off the wall.

“Here, I saw that we were the only people up top, so I said I’m going to send him into the fence and door him. My dumb (expletive) got caught up in it because when I got pinned, he was between me and the wall, so I got all screwed up and I lost a bunch of positions for my team, which was stupid. At the time, I’m like I’m going to finish in the mid-teens anyway because my car is just plowing here, I’m about to get ate up by all these new tires. I just was like if I’m going to give this guy a hard time, it’s just going to be then.

“So he bounced off the wall. My ideal situation was I was just going to knock him in the fence a little bit and keep going.”

Should this admission get him penalized? It certainly did. But, I don’t necessarily agree with it though. NASCAR’s stance is that they initially viewed the on track spat as a “racing” deal and nothing necessarily egregious. However, once they got wind of Hamlin’s comments on his podcast, they felt like they had to take action for a couple of reasons.

The first being manipulating a result of a race by purposely taking someone out. The next being the fact that they knew this situation has been going on for too long now and felt like it needed some intervention. The final thought process was that this sends a wrong message to the younger drivers coming through the ranks with a driver saying a lot over the last year that he was going to take another driver out and he finally did. He feels like it’s not the standards that NASCAR needs to set forth.

In saying that, I am genuinely curious on how you fine and give a driver a points penalty for something that they admitted well after the fact. Granted, his podcasts’ title is a perfect name for this type of circumstance, but do you really want to start penalizing drivers for being honest and forthcoming in a podcast? This is what we want.

NASCAR went vanilla for several years and it hurt the sport greatly. By having a driver not afraid to speak his mind and not afraid to start a conflict, you kind of what that, right? It’s better for the sport. But, if they penalize Hamlin for this, then doesn’t it kind of muzzle him in the future?

I mean, you’re essentially making a statement on a driver for getting payback. If he made it look less egregious and didn’t speak about it, then he’d have not been penalized or fined. That’s why I don’t think this penalty one bit.

With his points already reduced, Hamlin remains 12th in driver standings, 75 points behind series leader Alex Bowman. The baffling part of this is, Daniel Suarez purposely ran into Bowman’s car on pit lane at COTA and received a $50k fine but no points penalty. He did so in front of an official too. Hamlin got into Chastain on track but receives both a fine and points penalty.

Hunter Nickell, Dale Pinilis and Lyn St. James were on the panel.

Hamlin has the right to appeal the ruling to the National Motorsports Final Appeals Officer in accordance with the NASCAR Rule Book.

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