By Jenna Fryer | Associated Press
BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Denny Hamlin said Friday that he believes NASCAR was disrespectful by not contacting him before fining him $25,000 over critical comments about the new race car.
Hamlin said a bigger name would have at least gotten a courtesy call beforehand.
"That was the biggest complaint I had. If I was Jeff Gordon or Tony (Stewart), Dale (Earnhardt) Jr., or any Hendrick driver, they would have had a conversation before," Hamlin said. "Just to slap the fine on me and not tell me anything is what really, really bugged me. A lot. That felt like I had not earned my place in this sport, and I've grinded it out here for eight years and I really feel like I've done what it takes to earn the respect of both my peers and NASCAR. I feel like had I been somebody else, the outcome may have been different."
That's what played into Hamlin's anger last week when he stood firm in his refusal to pay the fine for criticizing the Gen-6 car following its second race of the season. He said he'd be suspended before he'd pay over a statement many considered mild made on pit road at Phoenix following a third-place run.
"I don't want to be the pessimist, but it did not race as good as our generation five cars. This is more like what the generation five was at the beginning," he said at Phoenix.
But NASCAR, which spent last year developing the car with heavy input from the manufacturers to improve the on-track product, has asked drivers to be careful in how they publicly talk about the car in an effort to build a strong public reception. The previous "Car of Tomorrow" was panned from the beginning, in part because the drivers picked it apart early.
Hamlin still believes he was right and NASCAR overreacted, and while not revealing the details of his conversation with chairman Brian France, he also believes NASCAR realizes it overreacted with the fine.