Denny Hamlin fined $50,000 and loses 25 driver points
Denny Hamlin has been fined $50,000 and has been penalized 25 driver points after admitting that he intentionally wrecked Ross Chastain during last Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Phoenix Raceway.
NASCAR punished Hamlin for “behavioral” that includes attempting to manipulate the outcome of a race, wrecking another vehicle and actions “detrimental to stock car racing or NASCAR.”
The fines were announced as part of a big group of penalties revealed by NASCAR Wednesday.
Hamlin and Chastain crashed on the final lap of Sunday’s race, and Hamlin talked about the incident Monday night on his “Actions Detrimental” podcast. He said he intentionally forced Chastain into the wall as they raced for position behind the lead group.
Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, said that Hamlin’s comments on the podcast led to the penalty.
“When you look (the incident between Hamlin and Chastain) this past weekend, we would have viewed that as a racing incident, but then 24 hours later to have a competitor that has gone on a podcast ... (and) you start admitting that you have intentionally done something that would compromise the results of the end of the race, then that rises to the level that we’re going to get involved.
“There’s no other way to look at that. We’re going to get involved in those situations. We’ve been consistent in the past with that, and we will be consistent going forward.”
That there was a history between the drivers also mattered to NASCAR.
“We don’t want to be in the middle of it, but this one has gone on for a little while,” Sawyer said. “It went on last year. It felt like maybe we were in a good spot. Looked like it was rearing its head again. Then the comments that were made afterward put us in a position that we had no choice to react. That has been consistent if you look at prior cases, even last year, to how we reacted to this.”
After much consideration I’ve decided that I will appeal the decision by NASCAR to penalize me.— Denny Hamlin (@dennyhamlin) March 17, 2023
What happened on Sunday was common hard racing that happens each and every weekend. There was also no manipulation of the race nor actions detrimental to the sport.
During the frantic final round of pit stops at Phoenix, Chastain’s team changed four tires, while Hamlin’s went with two.
“My crew chief told me there were 18 cars on the lead lap,” Hamlin said on the podcast. “At that point, I said, ‘Alright, I’m probably running sixth or seventh, I’m about to get passed by everyone behind me on fresh tires. I’m about to finish in the mid-teens. I said, ‘You’re (in reference to Chastain) coming with me buddy.’ ”
Contact with Chastain wasn’t a mistake, Hamlin said.
“I let the wheel go, and I said he’s coming with me,” Hamlin said. “It’s been interesting because I hear people say this is for last year or this year. I got wrecked at the Clash. I don’t know that Ross sees it that way. I think he’s still curious about what I thought about the Clash. I don’t know why he wonders what I thought about the Clash.
“I said for awhile you’ve got to do something to get these guys’ attention, whatever. I’ve said it. I think that Ross doesn’t like it when I speak his name in the media and when I have this microphone. I told him I have a microphone and I’m going to call it like I see it. Until you get a microphone, you can then say whatever you want about me. The fact is while I’m sitting here talking, I’m going to call things the way I see it.
“Sometimes I’m going to have to call myself out. I’m the (expletive) that lost as many spots as he did. At the time I said I’m going to finish (expletive) anyway, I’m just going to make sure he finishes (expletive) right with me.
“It’s difficult because at times people want me to react right away. I don’t want to involve any more cars. I told you guys privately, my friends, it’s difficult to be in a position where you get back at a person and not involve an innocent bystander. It’s really hard to do. Then you’ve got other people pissed at you because you’re doing something that affected their race when they had nothing to do with it. I never wanted to do that. Pocono, unfortunately, someone got caught up in that when Ross bounced back off the wall.
“Here, I saw that we were the only people up top, so I said I’m going to send him into the fence and door him. My dumb (expletive) got caught up in it because when I got pinned, he was between me and the wall, so I got all screwed up and I lost a bunch of positions for my team, which was stupid. At the time, I’m like I’m going to finish in the mid-teens anyway because my car is just plowing here, I’m about to get ate up by all these new tires. I just was like if I’m going to give this guy a hard time, it’s just going to be then.
“So he bounced off the wall. My ideal situation was I was just going to knock him in the fence a little bit and keep going.”
The last time NASCAR penalized a driver for an intentional crash was Sept. 27 last year. William Byron turned Hamlin in a race at Texas Motor Speedway and admitted doing so after the race. NASCAR missed the incident when it occurred but penalized Byron a couple of days after the race.
NASCAR also penalized a driver days after an incident in 2019 when Bubba Wallace told NBC Sports that he had intentionally spun to create a caution period six days earlier at Texas Motor Speedway.
Hamlin and Chastain have a history of on-track problems.
Among the most notable was at World Wide Technology Raceway last June when Chastain’s contact wrecked Hamlin. Later in the race, Hamlin showed his displeasure by driving Chastain down onto the apron. Chastain’s contact wrecked Hamlin at Atlanta last July. Hamlin later impeded Chastain. Hamlin didn’t give Chastain any room at Pocono in taking the lead and Chastain hit the wall and wrecked. Chastain’s contact turned Hamlin in the Clash at the Coliseum in February.