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Just what did Denny Hamlin say that drew that secret $50,000 NASCAR fine?

  Denny Hamlin, in victory at Michigan (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   POCONO, Pa.
   So just what got Denny Hamlin in such trouble the past few weeks that NASCAR executives felt they needed to dish out a $50,000 'secret' fine?
   No one is officially laying out the facts in all this, but as best as can be determined these are four of the points that NASCAR apparently decided were too much for them to handle:

    First – Michigan, the June 13th race. Hamlin won. But a late caution for debris, on lap 183 of the 200-lapper, wiped out Hamlin's 10-second lead, in a race he had dominated. It was Hamlin's fifth win over a 10-race span.
   In his post-race interviews Hamlin said this, in response to the question if he himself saw any debris:
   "Well, I mean, it's tough, because I was literally thinking inside the car I'm all for some of these cautions....(but) Now if I don't win the race because maybe I get a bad restart or something, then probably I'm angry because I feel like NASCAR changed the outcome of the race.
    "But...it was still on me to do my job to win the race. I feel like I got a good restart, got clear of those guys.
    "I understand this is show business.
    "No, I didn't see any debris, if that's what you're asking. I mean, we typically get them every single week. I'm not going to say it's accepted, but what can you do?"
    Questionable cautions have long been part of the sport, and NASCAR typically errs on the side of safety, except at the end of a race, where (Daytona 2007 for classic example) officials try to let the drivers fight it out for the win.
   Second – At Sonoma, Calif., the following week Hamlin amped up his complaints:
   "There is always debris around the track. You can call anything debris. You could say that anything is debris and that it is a legitimate safety hazard....but I just think it's the timing: 'OK, there it is. Let's pick it up and regroup.'
    "For the sake of show, that's okay. But for the sake of competition, it's not always the right thing.
    "But if we weren't talking about that last week, if NASCAR had let it go, people were going to be talking about 'a boring race,' and that's something we don't want, either.
    "But I think that sometimes they just don't throw the caution. There is always debris that they could throw a legitimate caution for, but I think that sometimes they just kind of let it go, when maybe things are getting mixed up (good, tight racing)...and other times when things are spread out 'Let's tighten it back up.'" Meaning by bringing out a caution.
    In response to Hamlin's complaints at Sonoma, Jeff Gordon that same day took exception to Hamlin calling out NASCAR on the issue so publicly: "What we've learned the past couple years is that I think they (NASCAR) are totally okay with that being brought up -- but not necessarily in the public.
    "Have that discussion, but don't use the media to get that recognized.
    "Ever since I've been driving a stock car, the 'phantom debris' has always been an issue. It's not just recently, it's always been out there.
     "Until you go up (to the race control) and you're sitting next to them while they're calling a race, you don't really know what all it truly entails to call a race, and how challenging and difficult it is, and what a great job they do."

    Denny Hamlin (11, involved here in a Daytona crash) has been up and down this season...and right now he's down....and out $50,000 to NASCAR (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

    Third – Enter NASCAR's TwitterPolice: At Chicago July 9th and 10th, Hamlin engaged in a series of Twitters over the issue, at one point that Friday asking his Twitter follows for their opinions on debris cautions: "I'm listening to your comments.. Ok if ur fav driver is out of contention and leader is on his way to winning with 10 to go. Would u like to see nascar tighten it up or let the best car win? Please reply."
    Then later Hamlin responded on Twitter: "ok too many reply's to give a true count but its about 80% let it go 20% tighten it up.. thanks for the info. i was courious what u thought"
    Fourth – Hamlin, also at Chicago, in a press conference, made several comments about possible NASCAR changes in the championship race for 2011. (One of those potential changes is apparently a last-race, winner-take-all championship rule.)

    "I hate the constant change. Nothing ever stays the same," Hamlin told the media.
    "Our sport was originally designed to crown the champion after 36 weeks, and that is because this is a sport where if somebody else makes a mistake, it can cost you. No other sport, if another team makes a mistake, you're the one who benefits. In this sport, a competitor can make a mistake and cost you.
    "That's why I think we originally chased this out into 36 weeks, to make sure you brought it out into a long enough season to where the true champion was crowned every single year.
    "The more you narrow that up and keep resetting points, keep adding guys, the more you're making this a sport by chance, and luck is going to be a factor.
    "I don't see any fair way you can reset points and maybe have a two-week shootout or something. It makes the first of the season even more irrelevant than it already is.
    "If they're looking for 15 million people to watch the final race, they're going to worry because they're only going to have a million watching the regular season that doesn't even matter.
    "I think we need to step back and think about it.
    "We've had the right champion every single year. But the more they keep making it to where mediocre drivers can have a shot over and over, the more you are going to end up having the chance of a fluke winner of a champion, and I don't think we need that in our sport.
   "We've already added more guys, and I'm not sure why, to make it to where more guys had a chance. Truly there's no reason a guy who's 12th in points or 15th in points should have a right to race for a championship, where the first 26 races he ran horrible or mediocre. How is that fair that he gets a chance to win a championship just in the last 10?
    "I'm not a fan of racing by chance. And the more they tweak it, the more they make it to reset the points over and over, it's nothing but about luck.
    "That's part of what all these rules changes are doing -- making us more like a circus show than it is about true competition and having the best man win.
    "So that's what I don't want to see in this sport.
    "I want to see the drivers get the respect that they deserve – the best drivers get the respect that they deserve.
     "Because, I mean, it gets so mixed-up nowadays. The whole field separated by two-tenths because one manufacturer has an advantage and also NASCAR pulls the reins and puts a restrictor plate on them (Toyota, in Nationwide).
    "That's not what it's about. It's about who works the hardest. It's about the best talent.
    "Back in the day, no one had a problem when there were (only) five cars on the lead lap, because there was constant passing.
    "The more you make these cars equal, the less passing you will have.
    "I think the fans are in love with the passing and overtaking more so than the racing; nowadays it's just single file."

    Notable: Since that Michigan win, Hamlin's luck has soured. He has logged finishes of 34th, 14th, 24th, 8th and 15th (going into Sunday's 500 here).

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    Denny Hamlin (11 here) started running out of luck at Sonoma (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

I agree

I agree with a lot of the comments that Denny Hamlin is making and making him shut up and not have a right to give his opinion is not the way to make this sport any better. I agree that maybe he should have said something to NASCAR and to any kind of competition board that may be in place. I like that Denny is enlisting his fans because not enough of this is being done in any professional sports anymore. Let's face it, we are the ones who keep sports like this going.

It's like I was told when I was working on my Motorsports Management Certification. Many teams and NASCAR don't like to hire fans of the sport. Why???? That just doesn't make any sense! Don't you want people who are passionate about their job????? NEWS FLASH!!!! That is who will work the hardest!!!

I have problems with this

I have problems with this 'secret penalties for things drivers say that NASCAR doesn't like' on several levels:

principally, NASCAR -- ask Jim Hunter, the veteran NASCAR executive who is on the record about this -- has made it a point, a strong point in fact for years and years, that the sanctioning body wants drivers to feel free to speak their mind, without fear of a NASCAR backlash. NASCAR has made this philosophy clear on many occasions, that drivers can speak their peace...even that NASCAR indeed wants its drivers to speak their peace.
So now for NASCAR to abruptly change that policy, and without telling anyone, and with trying to enforce it secretly, is blatantly 'in your face' to the fans.
Not only that, but, heck, it's just unAmerican.
why did nascar try to keep this secret? because it didnt want fans to find out that drivers are indeed now being censored by NASCAR for what they say.
If NASCAR wants to establish a policy that drivers have to keep zipped about certain topics, fine. It's NASCAR's show. But to try to keep that secret is flat wrong...and it damages the integrity of the sport.

Let Hamlin make all the rules

Let Hamlin make all NASCAR rules, since apparently he is the expert (in his own mind anyway )

These phantom cautions like Gordon said are nothing new.

Hamlin is...well, it's amusing to even listen to him.

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