|Hamlin: Back to work.|
That’s a win-win deal, for both sides.
“Dragging myself, my team and NASCAR through the mud for the next two weeks would not be good for anyone,” wrote Hamlin Thursday, and on that count, he is most certainly correct. As contenders for the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship, he and his Joe Gibbs Racing/Fed Ex Toyota team must have one focus, and only one. Anything that distracts from their on-track performance must come off the table immediately, and stay off.
Defending series champion Brad Keselowski lives and breathes stock car racing, 24 hours a day. Five-time titlist Jimmie Johnson is also fully focused on the job at hand, and is seldom – if ever –swept up in off-track distractions. They will not be defeated by a team embroiled in controversy and off-track tumult, and Hamlin knows it.
NASCAR also has nothing to gain by extending this debate. Already judged thin-skinned and over-reactive in the court of public opinion, the sanctioning body is best-served by putting this debate behind them and continuing to develop their new race car. Hamlin’s negative comments may have damaged that effort, but NASCAR’s reaction compounded the damage exponentially.
The 2013 Sprint Cup Series rulebook allows NASCAR to suspend Hamlin pending payment of the fine; a move that would eliminate a perennial contender from the title race before the season is a month old. The sanctioning body wisely passed on that option, choosing instead to invoke Section 12-3 of the Sprint Cup Series rule book, which allows them to deduct unpaid penalties from the driver’s purse or point fund earnings.
Hamlin saves face and remains true to his vow not to pay the fine, per se.
NASCAR sends the desired message that trash-talking its new race car will not be tolerated, without having to park one of its brightest stars.
Mission accomplished, for all parties.
Photo: LAT Photographic/York