LAS VEGAS — NASCAR fined Sprint Cup Series driver Denny Hamlin $25,000 on Thursday for what it called “disparaging remarks” concerning the quality of racing in last Sunday’s race at Phoenix.
Then Hamlin vowed not to pay.
The question now: Will Hamlin be racing in Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway?
NASCAR has not suspended Hamlin — yet — after he staked out his position during a break in testing on Thursday.
“As far as I’m concerned, I’m not going to pay the fine,” Hamlin said. “If they suspend me, they suspend me. I don’t care at this point. It’s an opinion, and it’s not even a bad one.
“I’ve got to be careful, because I don’t want to make things worse than they already are, and this is something that was absolutely nothing that got blown into to something, and it’s just going to be worse for them. So let them deal with it.”
After the race, in which Hamlin rallied from the back of the field to finish third, he talked about the difficulty of passing.
“We learned a lot. I don’t want to be the pessimist, but it did not race as good as our Generation 5 cars. This is more like what the Generation 5 was at the beginning,” Hamlin said then. “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.”
NASCAR has a lot invested in its new 2013 model Cup car, which features greater manufacturer identity. NASCAR officials have also touted the new car as likely to improve the on-track product, but there were dissenting opinions on that after Sunday’s race.
The 1.5-mile Las Vegas track, where the series races Sunday, is considered the car’s biggest test, since most complaints about the quality of racing have come at that size track.
In the announcement of the penalty, NASCAR issued the following statement:
“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. 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.”
NASCAR rules state fines must be paid in a timely fashion or the driver risks suspension.
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