Thursday, March 07, 2013

COMMENTARY: Two Wrongs Don't Make A Right

NASCAR fined driver Denny Hamlin $25,000 today for comments made following the March 3 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway, compounding a serious mistake with a mistake of their own. 

NASCAR ruled that Hamlin violated Section 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing) of the 2013 NASCAR Rule Book with comments made immediately following a hard fought, third-place finish at PIR; comments that equated the new, Gen-6 race car to the much-maligned Car Of Tomorrow, criticized what he said was an overly hard left-side tire mandated by Goodyear and predicted that teams had “a lot of work to do” before the new machines become raceable.
In a written statement today, the sanctioning body said, “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.”
There is no question that Hamlin’s comments were – to quote an overused phrase – detrimental to stock car racing. He and his Sprint Cup Series brethren are absolutely the finest stock car drivers on the planet, but they are often exceedingly poor salesmen for the sport that has made them famous. 
“The food in our restaurant tastes horrible,” they say with regularity. “But be sure to come in for Sunday dinner!”

Hamlin’s comparison of the Gen-6 car to the COT did a disservice to the sport Sunday. His assertion that it was difficult – if not impossible – to pass was unnecessarily negative, a fact proven by his own 43rd-to-third performance and the spellbinding, three-wide pass of both Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson he executed on the final lap.
Drivers who finish second (or worse) on Sunday afternoon frequently take a negative view of the world. That’s a fact of life in professional sports, and sanctioning bodies like NASCAR must understand that, and cut their competitors some slack. NASCAR failed to do so today, as is their right. Today’s sanction, however, may do as much damage than the comments that provoked it.
In the aftermath of today’s fine, drivers are unlikely to voice negative thoughts on NASCAR, its new car, or the weekly level of competition, ever again. Regardless of what happens on the race track from week to week, they will now feeling compelled – under the threat of monetary fine – to climb from their racers and quote the company line, telling the world that all is well and the racing has never been better.
From this day forward, fans will now have cause to distrust any positive comments made by their favorite driver. Effective immediately, any complimentary words uttered on behalf the Gen-6 car will be discounted, since there is no way to determine whether those thoughts were sincere, or made under duress.
Like Kyle Busch’s “this car sucks and it always will” diatribe following the first COT race a few years ago, Hamlin’s comments were misguided, premature and unnecessary. By Friday, they would likely have been relegated to the scrap heap of history, had NASCAR simply let things be.


  1. Anonymous3:08 PM

    Well said Dave. I wish i could articulate my feelings as well as you do.

  2. Dwayne in Memphis3:28 PM

    To be honest, I was more appalled at dive to the bottom then crazy slide back up onto the track than anything he said on the track. I think he heard Danica's advice about treating it like a video game. That's the kind of move I pull when wrecking costs nothing but a quick game reset if I screw it up...not when it's a real race with real 3,400 pound race cars.

    BUT it's the same old NASCAR. Laud the sport for driver accessiblity, but fine them if they say anything wrong on camera after losing a race. Maybe Denny should have just said that it's really hard to pass in HIS car. Because apparently NASCAR has no issue with drivers trashing their own teams...when they get out of the car and talk about how they "chased a tight race car all day, and never could get any grip in the corners, and basically unloaded this brick from the truck and never could do anything with it."

    Fines like this are equivalent to baseball refusing to allow instant replay...what are you afraid of? Just call Denny to the NASCAR hauler, tell him to shut up about the car on camera and move along. Nope, now the story is how NASCAR fined him to shut him up.

    1. Anonymous7:14 AM

      X2 well said!! I liked his kamikaze move though. Balzy.

  3. Two pretty ridiculous reactions. Hamlin saying what he did just made himself look bad. He came off as a crybaby and a sore loser.

    NASCAR, not wanting to be upstaged, took it up a peg or two. Now they are coming off as much bigger crybabies.

    The funny thing about Hamlin's declaration, and how similar it was to Kyle Busch at Bristol, is that Hamlin came out a couple years ago and slammed Kyle Busch for being immature for the way he said things to the media, and how he behaved. He summed up that Kyle would never win a championship until he matured.

    Just saying...

  4. g55rumpy3:59 PM

    so much for "telling it like it is"

  5. Anonymous4:10 PM

    Yes I might be inclined to avoid a resturant if the cook says the food is bad.

    But, I'll also avoid a resturant where I know the owner is an ass too!

    Someone, anyone please tell the folks that run the show to relax! The Gen 6 does have some issues as the result of being a new car but in time, with more actual races under it, the teams will figure things out and it should be pretty good. The CoT wasn't great when it debuted but with time and work it wasn't too bad by the end.

  6. Guess because KYLE didn't blow a fuse ,NASCAR felt they had to wack Denny! COMMENT WASN'T THAT BAD IT's BS

  7. Chris6:10 PM

    I took what Denny said after the race with a grain of salt. It by no means made me second guess my enjoyment of NASCAR racing. However, NASCAR fining Denny has made me second guess my enjoyment of NASCAR racing. It's obviously their court, their rules and they can do what they feel is necessary, but this leaves a real bad taste in my mouth.

  8. My thought when I heard Hamlin's comment was that he was a whiner and should have kept his yap shut, but I forgot all about his and everyone else's comments within a couple hours of the race.
    I won't, however, forget NASCAR's reaction. Someone ought to explain to Pemberton {or whoever made the decision to fine Hamlin} that the racing is about the racing, not about them. It's no different than an umpire throwing out a ball player for some small infraction. They sometimes forget that the players or drivers are the stars and should have our attention instead of the umpire or sanctioning body.
    Everyone wants their little slice of fame, I guess.
    Stupid decision, I hope they recind it.

  9. Susan147:38 PM

    I would avoid a restaurant if the cook says the food is bad - but I wouldn't avoid the same restaurant if the cook says that the new oven is terrible.
    NASCAR over-reacted in this case. A visit from Mike Helton could have discreetly gotten Denny's attention. Instead, NASCAR has heaped loads of negative attention on themselves.

    1. Anonymous2:17 PM

      Susan- I really like your analogy!

  10. Nascar is showing how desperate they are for money and fans.If they put all their eggs in the gen6 basket and it did not do well in the 500 single file boring racing thats what I heard on the drivers radio the whole race.They just played their only hand the Danica card shoved down everybodys throat to get ratings.I don't want drivers that are robots.I have raced and been a fan for 32 years and Nascar has me so POed right now I DVR the race so I can Fast FWD all the BS that goes on and just see racing

  11. Dipship9:12 PM

    Ok, First , I'm am not in anyways a Hamlin fan, With that said... since i read what he said I'm gonna completely stop any and all of my NASCAR viewing...NOT ! No I ain't and no one else is gonna stop watching NASCAR because of what Denny said either, sheez! Whats so "detrimental" about a little honest critique? If NASCAR really thinks some person who's never viewed or heard of NASCAR was to somehow stumble across the sport, then stumble across what Denny said, then that person said... "self, now there's now way I'm watching NASCAR because what driver 11 said" Please.... We all need to put on our grownup pants and start acting like grownups instead of looking for ways to get offended or upset! By the way... anybody recall a recer named Tony Stewart? He spewed garbage about NASCAR, Goodyear, drivers, active and retired, on a weekly basis!
    Grownup pants !

  12. "The better part of valour is discretion; in the which better part I have saved my life."

    Falstaff in Henry IV

    NASCAR needs to lighten up.

  13. Anonymous7:20 AM

    Yeah hearing the drivers step out of the car and sing nothing but limp praises and beating the nascar drum is already near. Not as near as chocolate meyers type of drum beating of course;)

  14. All we hear is that NASCAR is listening and meeting the demands of the fans. I personally thyink most fans want honest feelings from the drivers. What Denny, and I personally am not a Hamlin fan, gave was an honest assessment of how he felt about the car. Darn near every driver in the series has been sayin the same thing ever since NASCAR got into the race car design business. And don't hand me this stuff that the manufacturers designed this race car. They did the bodies, not the chassis. There's far more to a race car then the fron facia. As far as Denny's march to the front was it made passing cars or was a large chunk of those spots gained in the pits?

    I can well understand that comments questioning the calls made by officials during a race, phanton cautions, speeding on pit road etc., as being detrimental to the sport because the integrity of the offiials is placed in doubt and that should be dealt with by NASCAR. Denny did this before and paid up. And NASCAR was correct on that one. This one they are out in left field on.

    How many years have we heard the term "it's a work in progree" from the lips of NASCAR brass. Well the epense to attend races can be prohibitly high. To ask fans to keep attending and spending while they attempt to get it right is just plain wrong.

    Sometimes I think the decisions made by NASCAR's higher ups are more "detrimental to stock car racing" then anything else.

  15. Anonymous7:52 AM

    (actions detrimental to stock car racing ) also known as tellig the TRUTH !

    Theres a lot more WRONG with NASCAR than hearing the NEW car is not up to PAR after 2 races.

  16. Anonymous7:53 AM

    What is so totally ludicrous about this entire matter is that it actually BECAME an "entire matter"! I heard Denny's big deal, never gave them a single thought, never lost an ounce of sleep over what he said! Now NASCAR in it's ever mind blowing intelligence has chosen to degrade themselves..their new Gen 6 miracle car...and their pointing out the shortcomings of their new baby...and doing it to the tune of $25,000! Ridiculous! Truly...did anyone (besides NASCAR) take offense to Denny's comments? Well now NASCAR has made it all but impossible for us out here in fanland to just enjoy the racing...we'll all be paying intense attention to how the Gen6 cars handle...and NASCAR has no one but their selves to blame! I say NASCAR should be fined $250,000 for "actions detrimental to the fans"...and shooting themselves in the foot! Sometimes NASCAR needs to learn when to keep their own mouths shut!

  17. Anonymous8:14 AM

    I don't believe that Denny said anything that could be considered more or less "detrimental" to the sport than what was said by Edwards, Johnson or any other driver during or after the race. More than one driver stated that the Gen 6 needed work as did Hamlin. The fine is a good way to get some interest going and people talking; just look at the number of articles on Jayski. If that's what NASCAR was looking for then they got it; if they really believe that Hamlin's remarks were detrimental, then they really need to start paying attention to the product. The race was great...for the last three laps.

  18. Anonymous10:20 AM

    NASCAR has once more caused itself more harm than good. Many fans, myself included, prefer to believe our own eyes when it comes to racing. Having seen this song and dance before with the COT and the Chase, if all I hear are "everything is sweetness and light" about things coming from the drivers, but what I see on TV or when I'm at the track doesn't match up to that. Well, I believe my own perspective before I believe someone who can be fined for any "detrimental" comments.

    I'd think this was a joke -- if it was funny. Supposed to be a really nice day on Sunday here on the east coast. I think I'll find something better to do with my time that watch NASCAR.

  19. Anonymous12:25 PM

    I thought Denny's comments were truthful and diplomatic. I understand a fine for a statement like "this car sucks" (Kyle in 2007) but all Denny did was point out the same conclusion those of us with eyes had already reached. He told the truth and tempered the negativity by admitting that a new car always takes time to optimize.

    I think every driver interviewed this week should pull a Tony Stewart and give obvious sarcastic praise to the new car, the tires, and NASCAR.

  20. Hamlin was simply saying what a lot of us have seen with our own eyes. NASCAR's IROC kick is much more detrimental to stock car racing than any truthful comments a driver might make.

    The number of cars finishing on the lead lap isn't an indication of good racing, it's simply an indication of a rules package that forces teams to run the exact same chassis with little area for changes or adjustment.

    Passing and lead changes are the true indications of good racing, things that will be lacking in the Cup series as long as teams are forced to work in such a small box.

    Spec car racing has never produced compelling racing and it never will.

  21. Except Denny never said anything as bad as you allege. He never said "horrible" or that there wouldn't be any passing. He said it was hard, and they had work to do. Something everyone with eyes could tell, because there's 2 races on the Gen6 vs 225+ on the COT. NASCAR's response to my eyes is that my eyes are mistaken & words spoken could've saved my eyes from their mistake.