Denny Hamlin wanted to provide a bit of transparency to the NASCAR appeals process after his hearing on Thursday, which is why he put out a bonus podcast thereafter.
“From my standpoint, I think it’s kind of simple to just say, ‘Well, you said this, but it obviously has to be that,’” said Hamlin. “But I thought I laid out what my argument was, and I made it (on the podcast) so that I could shed some light on what the process was, as well.
“I think when a lot of people hear the Kaulig Racing one, the Hendrick Motorsports one, and mine, a lot of people don’t know how it actually goes, and I tried to give some transparency to the people who don’t necessarily know. And I thought, as I stated, that it was a very fair process.”
Hamlin lost his appeal of the behavioral penalty NASCAR levied after his last-lap contact with Ross Chastain at Phoenix Raceway. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver was docked 25 driver points and fined $50,000.
In its penalty report, NASCAR cited attempting to manipulate a race, wrecking or spinning another vehicle, and actions detrimental to the sport. Hamlin admitted what he did to Chastain was intentional on his podcast, Actions Detrimental, the day after the Phoenix race, which is what caught NASCAR’s attention and promoted a review after they initially didn’t think much of the incident.
In his podcast episode after the appeal, Hamlin said he broke down exactly what transpired at Phoenix with data to back it up. Hamlin argued that what took place at Phoenix was hard racing between two competitors, and all he did was not cut Chastain a break.
According to Hamlin, during the appeal, NASCAR also admitted they penalized him for his words and not his actions. During his presentation, Hamlin said he presented multiple examples of what race manipulation is (one example being Chase Elliott holding up Kevin Harvick to allow teammate Kyle Larson to catch and pass him at Bristol in 2021) and presented examples of retaliatory incidents.
“It was online, and then we did our own research,” Hamlin said. “I think it was important for my case to (show) here’s what has gotten penalized in the past and where mine, interestingly enough, didn’t belong on the pages because mine included no innocent bystanders, had no caution, no significant damage to the vehicles, no egregious driver inputs that showed right rear hooking.
“It didn’t deserve to be on the page of 35 other incidents that did not receive any penalties. And all those 35 also included intent that was verbal acknowledgment of intent.
“Again, that rule was taken out (of the rulebook), so what I said on (the podcast that) Monday, how it even applied, I don’t know. But that’s really what (NASCAR) hung their case on was all these words, but there were no facts brought behind it.”
The three-person appeals panel that heard Hamlin’s appeal was Hunter Nickell, Dale Pinilis, and Lyn St. James. Nickell is a television executive while Pinilis is the promoter of Bowman Gray Stadium, and James a former open-wheel driver.
When it came to presenting SMT data to those who might be unfamiliar with it, Hamlin said he laid it out and walked everything through it as simply as possible.
“I made sure everyone understood,” said Hamlin. “It was black and white, in my mind, but it was not deemed credible by the source who gives it to us. I’m still scratching my head about that part is that this is proof, this is real proof, and they just did not deem it credible.”
Hamlin’s immediate reaction on the podcast to losing the appeal was shock.
“I still don’t understand the ruling considering all the precedent and all the examples and even the real data that I brought to the table,” Hamlin said. “It still doesn’t make sense, which is the disappointing part, especially NASCAR’s stance on it. But refuting real data was a tough pill to swallow.”
A justification for their ruling was not given by the appeals panel. Hamlin’s was the third appeal heard in the span of eight days. It was the only one completely upheld.
Following the three appeals – Hendrick, Kaulig, and Hamlin – NASCAR officials amended multiple parts of its rule book. Among the updates in language was the appeals panel having to give justification for their rulings, which NASCAR reserves the right to then publicize.
“We hope so,” Hamlin said of the changes being good for the process.
“I said the previous week on the podcast that I think that was something that needed to be done – more transparency to understand why rulings go the way they are.
“Certainly, with no propriety information with standardized parts, I think if everyone here has the opportunity to see maybe some parts that they deemed illegal or the team deems legal, let you guys draw your own conclusions, and that makes it more informed, I think, and certainly will stop with all the conspiracy theories.”