The Joe Gibbs Racing driver said today that he will refuse to pay his recently announced fine for comments critical of NASCAR’s new Gen-6 race car last weekend at Phoenix International Raceway.
Hamlin insisted his comments were his own opinion, and “not even a bad one!" He stood fast behind those comments, and said he does not understand why he was fined.
"This is the most upset and angry I've been in a long, long time about anything that relates to NASCAR," said Hamlin. "I don't believe in this (and) I'm never going to believe in this. As far as I'm concerned, I'm not going to pay the fine. If they suspend me, they suspend me. I don't care at this point."
NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton said today that Hamlin has the right to appeal his penalty. If he chooses to do so, he will be allowed to compete until a hearing is held. If Hamlin does not file an official appeal, he will reportedly not be allowed to practice, qualify or race his Fed Ex Racing Toyota this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
"The fines are supposed to be paid as soon as possible, but we're not in any of those windows yet where it seems to be a problem," said Pemberton. “Constructive criticism is one thing, but there are different statements people make that are damaging. We won't tolerate those types of things."
While admittedly angry, Hamlin said he understands that challenging NASCAR could further inflame an already contentious situation. He also insisted that he has made his final comment – positive or negative—on the state of NASCAR racing.
"I'm not going to say anything for the rest of the year as long as it relates to competition," said Hamlin, calling himself, “a pretty good spokesman" for NASCAR. "You can ask how my daughter is and talk to me after wins, but as long as it relates to competition, I'm out.
"This was something that was absolutely nothing and got blown into something. (Now), it's just going to be worse for them," he said. "Let them deal with it."