Denny Hamlin has been fined $50,000 and docked points for intentionally fencing Ross Chastain on the last lap Sunday at Phoenix Raceway.
NASCAR penalized Hamlin under section 4.4 of the NASCAR rule book and member code of conduct. The penalty covers “attempting to manipulate the outcome of the race of championship” and “wrecking or spinning another vehicle, whether or not that vehicle is removed from the competition as a result.”
Ironically, part of the penalty also includes actions “detrimental to stock car racing or NASCAR,” and Hamlin admitted Monday his move was intentional on his “Actions Detrimental” podcast.
Hamlin has been docked 25 driver points. There was no owner points penalty.
“The way we look at these situations, they are all individual and unique to themselves,” NASCAR senior vice president of competition Elton Sawyer said. “When you look at this one this past weekend, we would have viewed that as a racing incident, but then 24 hours later have a competitor that has gone on a podcast — which I will say, we’re delighted Denny has a podcast. We think that’s great; he interacts with the fans.
“But when you start admitting you have intentionally done something that would comprise the result 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.”
Hamlin was on older tires as Sunday’s race went into overtime. Going into the restart, Hamlin, who was fifth, said he intended to get the best finish he could, but once the drivers on fresher tires started to charge forward, Hamlin knew he would finish outside the top 10 and decided to take Chastain with him.
“I’ve said for a while you’ve got to do something to get these guys’ attention,” said Hamlin. “Ross doesn’t like it when I speak his name in the media and when I have this microphone. But I told him, ‘Well, I have a microphone, and I’m going to call it like I see it, and until you get a microphone, you can then say whatever you want about me.’
“But the fact is, while I’m sitting here talking, I’m going to call things the way I see it, and sometimes I’m going to have to call myself out, which I’m the (expletive) who lost just as many spots as he did. But at the time, I said, well, I’m going to finish (expletive) anyway, and I’m just going to make sure he finishes (expletive) right here with me.”
Hamlin further went on to explain, “So, I said, ‘I’m going to send him in the fence and door him,’” said Hamlin. “Now, my dumb (expletive) got caught up in it because I got pinned. He was between me and the wall, and so I got all screwed up and lost a bunch of positions for my team, which was stupid as (expletive). But at the time, I said, I’m going to finish in the mid-teens anyway because my car is just plowing here. I’m about to get eaten up by all these new tires.
“I was just like, if I’m going to give this car a hard time, it’s going to be here.”
The two drivers have a history dating back to last season. Hamlin felt he still owed Chastain after Chastain spun him in Feb. in the Busch Light Clash at the L.A. Coliseum.
Hamlin and Chastain had a conversation on pit road after the race, and Hamlin said the two can now move forward with better respect between them.
Sawyer said the sanctioning body encourages drivers to settle incidents among themselves but viewed Hamlin and Chastain as a different situation.
“We want them to show their personalities. We want them to settle this. We don’t want to be in the middle of it,” Sawyer said. “But this one has gone on for a little while. It went on last year. We felt like maybe we were in a good spot, it looked like it was rearing its head again, and then the comments that were made afterward put us in a position that we had no choice but to react.”