Hamlin criticizes NASCAR again
Denny Hamlin who, after confirming he was one of those fined, stepped up to the plate at Pocono and addressed the muzzling fine they hit Hamlin with for rightfully criticizing NASCAR.
Hamlin said he told NASCAR officials he was raised to be honest. And he still was Friday, despite the fine and potential for more. His honesty was rewarded with 17 straight questions on the subject, to which he provided 17 honest answers, come NASCAR-hell or high water.
Hamlin wouldn't say how much his fine was, but "there's been illegal parts in the garage that have not gotten hit as bad as I did."
Hamlin said he thought his Tweeting was to blame for at least some of his fine. "It's more than likely the Twitter comments more than anything that kind of got me in trouble with them," he said. "They did give me a pretty good log book of all the negative things I've had to say over the last couple of months."
The other driver who was secretly fined, Ryan Newman, also confirmed that fact but said he was frustrated about the fine "because I didn't understand what it was or why it was," the Associated Press reported.
It was Hamlin alone, though, who braved the uncharted waters of NASCAR's freedom-of-speech boundaries by gently taking the sanctioning body to task for keeping his fine a secret.
"In just my opinion, and I'm not bashing anyone, but I think I would have for sure said, 'This person is getting penalized.' To keep it from happening again. If nobody knows, nobody is going to learn from the mistakes of others," Hamlin said.
"Without getting in word-for-word, what I asked was what the point of fining me was if you're not going to tell anyone. They said, 'Hopefully, it will keep anyone from bad-mouthing us.' Well, no one knows.
"Maybe (with) young guys coming up, if you say, 'Hey, you fined Denny Hamlin for X amount of dollars for saying this,' I think you'll have people in the future saying they need to stay away from those comments. I think in the future, all this coming out is a positive thing, it really is. It's going to turn into a good thing. Even though they might have wanted everyone to know, now that they do, I think it happened for a reason and it's going to make our sport better."
Hamlin said NASCAR officials had given him mixed signals about how much freedom of speech he should help himself to.
"Jim Hunter (NASCAR Vice President of Communications) said, 'Hey, voice your opinion through the media and it will get to us, it's always worked.' But (now) they said don't do that. It's kind of contradictory, but I understand there is a better way to do it now. Still, it's tough for me because I do feel like I want to make things better and I never really criticize anyone, I just want to voice my opinion and where I think we should go with the sport."
"I said, 'What if I don't agree with something? What do you want me to say? Do you want me to lie and tell something I don't really, truly believe in? Because I've never been brought up to do that.'"
-- Denny Hamlin said he still doesn't know what he is not allowed to say, and was somewhat surprised that the hammer came down on him when he's not the only outspoken driver.
"That's the thing that I noticed is that other people before me, not to name names -- Tony Stewart, have said way worse stuff than I have -- way worse. Direct hits at somebody and got away with it. But the difference is that this year (NASCAR) said in January, 'Listen, it's really taking its toll on peoples' outlook of the sport when you say something like that and it shows numbers of when they hear something negative, their interest level drops.' So they said, 'We're going to be more aggressive when you say something that's negative.' Of course, that's been six months and my memory is really short so I was just gladly awoken last week."
One reporter asked, "Are we going to lose the outspoken Denny Hamlin?"
"It's tough to say," Hamlin replied. "I don't want to lose any more money, but I just want to be myself. That's all I can say and that's what I've told them over and over. I said, 'What if I don't agree with something? What do you want me to say? Do you want me to lie and tell something I don't really, truly believe in? Because I've never been brought up to do that.' And they said no but there's different ways to do it. We got to talking about that. In the end, I did see that. I think you will still see it, but it'll be more toned-down fashion."
Newman, who was not one of those in the top 12 press conferences, refused to disclose to reporters on Friday the amount of his fine or what he said, but implied that it was for comments he made after he crashed at Talladega Superspeedway.
Most of the other drivers said they understood it was for the good of the sport and ultimately their own livelihood. As Kevin Harvick said, "The last I checked most of us wouldn't be near as lucky having the jobs that we have if we didn't have this sport."
Tony Stewart brought the media into the mix.
"What everyone has to remember is that NASCAR's done a good job of building this sport over 60 years, and between everyone in this room and in the garage we have all done our part to try to break this sport down over the last 4-5 years," Stewart said. "We're all to blame. As drivers, we're just as much to blame as anybody else.
"At the same time, I'm going to blame you guys (in the media) and you guys have to take some of the responsibility for it. When you finally tell someone that the racing is bad enough, long enough, you're going to convince people that it really is. The result of that is not having as many people in the grandstand because of that."