LAS VEGAS -- NASCAR is not going to tolerate its drivers publicly criticizing the new Gen 6 cars.
The sanctioning body fined Denny Hamlin $25,000 on Thursday for comments he made on pit road following Sunday's Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway.
Hamlin said NASCAR's new cars did not race as good as the old cars and criticized the quality of the racing.
NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp said such talk goes beyond the limits of what drivers are permitted to say.
can voice your opinion about a lot of things about this sport -- and we
feel like we give our competitors a great deal of leeway when it comes
to that -- (but) denigrating the racing is an area we're going to have a
reaction to," Tharp told a small group of reporters at Las Vegas Motor
Hamlin finished third Sunday after starting at the rear
of the field but said he gained his positions via pit strategy and
others' mistakes, not by passing cars.
Though other drivers also
noted how difficult it was to pass at Phoenix, Tharp said Hamlin's
comments crossed the line and was viewed as an "attack" on NASCAR's
NASCAR publicly encourages its drivers to show
personality and be themselves, but has been quick to react with fines
when drivers go too far.
Hamlin was secretly fined $50,000 in 2010 for tweets suggesting NASCAR issues phantom cautions.
do believe we give our drivers a lot of flexibility when it comes to
that, whether it be about officiating or about how a race is called,"
Tharp said. "The main area of focus here we take exception to is the
product, the racing. That's our brand, that's the drivers' brand, that's
the sport's brand and that's an area we feel very strongly about."
After Phoenix, Hamlin said he didn't want to be a "Denny Downer" but said the Gen 6 car "did not race as good as our Generation 5 cars."
"This is more like what the Generation 5 was at the beginning," he said. "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. You would have placed me in 20th place with 30 (laps) to go, I would have stayed there -- I wouldn't have moved up. It's just one of those things where track position is everything."
Hamlin was fined under Section 12-1 of the NASCAR Rule Book (actions detrimental to stock car racing). Tharp said drivers are always invited to share their concerns privately with NASCAR officials.
Hamlin's No. 11 team is among those testing today at Las Vegas in an attempt to improve the Gen 6 car. He was 10th in the morning session so far.