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Thursday, March 14, 2013
Denny Hamlin decides against appeal

By David Newton
ESPN.com

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Denny Hamlin has dropped his plans to appeal the $25,000 fine issued by NASCAR for what the governing body called "disparaging remarks'' about the new Sprint Cup car.

Hamlin was outraged last week after being notified of the fine, saying he would not pay for voicing his opinion about the performance of the Gen-6 car after the March 3 race at Phoenix International Raceway.

On Thursday, he announced on Twitter that he maintained his stance that the fine disrespected him, but he is willing to let the governing body deduct the money from his race winnings, as is allowed according to the rulebook.

Hamlin made the decision after discussions with NASCAR.

Hamlin After a lot of thought I have decided not to appeal the fine NASCAR has issued. Dragging myself, my team and NASCAR through the mud for the next 2 weeks would not be good for anyone. I firmly believe I am in the right on this issue and will stand behind my decision not to pay. I understand NASCAR will do what they feel is necessary based on my decision. Thanks to all of my fans and peers who have supported me in this decision. I look forward to putting it to rest.

-- Denny Hamlin

"There was dialogue between Denny and NASCAR during the week and this was the resolution that came about," NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp said.

NASCAR released a statement immediately after Hamlin's tweet, saying the matter is settled in accordance with the rulebook.

The move allows Hamlin, fourth in the Cup standings heading into Sunday's race at Bristol Motor Speedway, and NASCAR to move on without further distraction.

"After a lot of thought I have decided not to appeal the fine NASCAR has issued," Hamlin tweeted. "Dragging myself, my team and NASCAR through the mud for the next 2 weeks would not be good for anyone. I firmly believe I am in the right on this issue and will stand behind my decision not to pay. I understand NASCAR will do what they feel is necessary based on my decision. Thanks to all of my fans and peers who have supported me in this decision. I look forward to putting it to rest."

Hamlin wasn't willing to compromise after learning of the fine March 7.

"Ultimately, I'm not OK with it," he told reporters in Las Vegas last week. "This is the most upset and angry I've been in a really, really long time about anything ... anything that relates to NASCAR.

"The truth is what the truth is. I don't believe in this. I'm never going to believe in it. 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"

According to the NASCAR rulebook, failure to pay a fine may, but doesn't have to, result in suspension. The rulebook also says unpaid fines may be collected by deducting money earned from a race weekend.

Hamlin issued a statement on Twitter last week saying he planned to appeal the fine.

"The short of the long of it is I believe I was severely disrespected by NASCAR by getting fined" he tweeted last week. "I believe that the simple fact of us not even having a conversation about this issue before I was hit with a fine has something to say about our relationship. What I said was 1 sentence taken completely out of context. Most drivers will tell you that we constantly have our AND nascars best interest in mind when speaking.

"On the other hand I am a person that worked very hard from the BOTTOM to get where I am today and someone telling me that I can give my 100 percent honest opinion really bothers me. Since being fined in 2010 I have been a lot more careful about what I say to media and I felt this past weekend felt completely in my rights to give a assessment of the question asked. I feel as if today NASCAR lost one of its biggest supporters vocally of where our sport is headed.

"So in the end there are no winners. I said today I would not pay the fine. I stand by that and will go through the process of appealing. Trust me, this is not about the money. ... It's much deeper. I will now shift my focus on giving FedEx and my team what they deserve this weekend, a win."

Hamlin tweeted earlier that day that the statement came with no assistance from his public relations department or that of Joe Gibbs Racing, which released a statement saying it fully supported Hamlin in the appeals process.

NASCAR said Hamlin's comments violated Section 12-1 of the rulebook that includes all actions detrimental to stock car racing.

Tharp said the governing body draws the line on criticizing the new car that NASCAR has spent the past few months promoting.

"Following the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event last Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway, Denny Hamlin made some disparaging remarks about the on-track racing that had taken place that afternoon," NASCAR said last week. "While NASCAR gives its competitors ample leeway in voicing their opinions when it comes to a wide range of aspects about the sport, the sanctioning body will not tolerate publicly made comments by its drivers that denigrate the racing product."

Hamlin was critical of the Gen-6 car and single-file racing at Phoenix, a week after fans complained about the single-file racing in the Daytona 500.

"I don't want to be the pessimist, but it did not race as good as our Gen-5 cars," Hamlin told reporters after the Phoenix race. "This is more like what the Generation 5 was at the beginning. 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."

This isn't the first time Hamlin has been fined for voicing his opinion. He was docked $50,000 in 2010 for comments on phantom debris cautions made on Twitter following the Nationwide Series race at Chicagoland Speedway.

"I'll be honest, I'm not going to say anything the rest of the year ... as long as it relates to competition," Hamlin said last week. "You can ask me how my daughter is, and talk to me after wins about what have you. But as long as it relates to competition, I'm out from here on out.

"The bad part is I feel I've been a pretty good spokesman for [NASCAR] in being positive when things aren't always positive. They lost one small spokesman today, that's all."