By fining Denny Hamlin, NASCAR created a real public perception problem The perception that its new Sprint Cup car is not yet as good as advertised, and that so far it hasn't quite lived up to the tremendous hype that preceded its debut. Now NASCAR has an even bigger problem.
A matter of trust. By stifling Hamlin and fining him for providing an honest assessment of the new car, NASCAR sent a message to fans that it doesn't want honest opinions or constructive criticism and that it will not allow its drivers to speak their minds, especially when it comes to evaluating the sacred cow that is the new Gen-6 car.
That message is a slap in the face to fans and creates a much bigger perception problem for NASCAR.
The public perception now is that NASCAR has gone back to its old ways of ruling with an iron fist and shuddering any debate or criticism that it doesn't deem positive and healthy for the sport.
Though it allows criticism on some fronts, the message Thursday was clear: It will control talk on the new car, and drivers and other competitors must follow suit, saying only what NASCAR officials want them to say — or else.
Now fans don't know what or whom to believe and likely will trust very little of what they hear from NASCAR and the drivers about the new car.
NASCAR rolled out the Gen-6 car to much fanfare this year. It looks more like a stock car than the previous model — a look that has received rave reviews from fans and the car manufacturers. The hope is that it races as well as it looks and erases all memories of the boxy, ugly Car of Tomorrow, or COT.
And apparently, NASCAR officials are determined to make sure the new car is never, ever compared to the old one — which is apparently the faux pas that Hamlin committed when he dared to make such an analogy. More at Sporting News