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Denny Hamlin case may be closed, but public comment period is still open

Friday, Mar. 15, 2013

The Denny Hamlin-NASCAR face off was supposed to be over but Hamlin gave it a nudge back into the spotlight on Friday.

Less than 24 hours after Hamlin announced he would drop his appeal of a $25,000 fine for what NASCAR called “disparaging remarks” about on the performance of the new Sprint Cup Series car, Hamlin refused to give any ground in his public relations battle with the sanctioning body.

Hamlin insisted Thursday he would not pay the fine and NASCAR indicated it would seek to recover the amount from his race winnings. In its statement Thursday, NASCAR stated it “considered the case closed.”

On Friday, Hamlin cracked the door open again.

“The biggest thing is I think that we won in the judge of the people and their opinion I think some of the peers of mine – at least the ones that have a backbone had the nerve to stick up for what they know is right and wrong – agreed,” Hamlin said.

“But what was the point in going another week or so. We’ve got bigger fish to fry than to argue over what I said just for $25,000 and it’s better just to move on and let NASCAR get its credibility back and they’re going to do that and I’m going to move on and just focus on a championship.”

Hamlin repeatedly said he believed NASCAR overreacted with its penalty and said he believed NASCAR knows it did as well.

NASCAR elected not to dive back into the debate on Friday.

“As was stated Thursday afternoon, NASCAR considers this matter closed,” spokesman Kerry Tharp said.

Hamlin, who won last summer’s Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway and will start third in Sunday’s race, said his biggest gripe was that he was not notified by NASCAR before it elected to punish him.

“That was the biggest complaint I had was that if I was Jeff Gordon, Tony (Stewart), Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. or any Hendrick (Motorsports) driver – let’s just say that – they would have had a conversation with me before,” he 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 and I felt like if I had been somebody else, the outcome may have been different.”

Hamlin said he elected to drop the appeal after speaking with NASCAR officials, including NASCAR Chairman Brian France, and Joe Gibbs, his team owner.

“I didn’t need to prove anyone wrong. It was just – it needed to end and just move on from this point,” he said.

“By me saying I was not going to hand them the check – and I was not going to give them anything – it was then in their court to decide what they wanted to do to ensure the fine (was paid).”

Utter: 704-358-5113; Twitter: @jim_utter
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