NASCAR dug their own hole with Denny Hamlin controversy

Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

NASCAR’s decision in response to Denny Hamlin’s Family Guy clip aimed at Kyle Larson is one that left many scratching their heads.

Denny Hamlin wasn’t too pleased with Kyle Larson following Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway. A move by Larson resulted in both Hamlin-owned 23XI Racing cars wrecking as they made their way to the checkered flag.

An ill-advised move — not the first we’ve seen from Larson this year — to the outside on the final lap sent the #45 Toyota of Kurt Busch into the wall, and it also collected the #23 Toyota of Bubba Wallace, leaving Wallace visibly shaken up afterward.

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We can’t neglect to mention the fact that Hamlin and Larson are good friends. So while the former publicized his displeasure, he did so in what he believed was a lighthearted way: by sharing a Family Guy clip to Twitter of a woman making a decision to “cut across eight lanes” with no signal. He adding the clip of Larson’s move to it.

In regard to the move itself, it made perfect sense. The two clips blended together perfectly. And it’s not the first time that Hamlin has taken to Twitter to joke about an incident with Larson in what he believed was a lighthearted manner.

Naturally, many appreciated the joke. But of course, others found it offensive.

Those who found it offensive justified their opinion by citing the clip’s use of an Asian woman, and they argued that using it in regard to Larson makes it worse because Larson happens to be of Asian descent.

Hamlin even initially responded to the video and defended it for multiple reasons. And most had no issue with it. But as the backlash increased, he then deleted both the video and his response before issuing an apology.

Based on Hamlin’s decision to apologize after initially defending the clip, coupled with the wording of his apology, it obviously wasn’t meant as a racist attack, but it was misconstrued by some as being offensive due to Larson’s ethnic background.

Interestingly, it was only after the Twitter outrage and after Hamlin’s apology that NASCAR got involved and made it a requirement that he take sensitivity training in order to get back behind the wheel of his #11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

Hamlin was able to avoid a suspension and stay on track to compete in Sunday’s race at Dover Motor Speedway because he started the process before yesterday.

But it makes you wonder: if the driver who made the move wasn’t Larson and Hamlin posted the same clip, is this racial discussion even being had?

It also really makes you wonder who the racially motivated ones are. But it’s not surprising, considering we live in a day and age where playing the victim card is considered by many to be “empowering”, especially in the often-toxic realm of social media.

It’s not enough to be offended anymore. We live in a day and age in which some are offended when not everybody else is offended.

And of course, taking to Twitter to express moral superiority and a “holier than thou” mentality that degrades everybody else is an absolute must when it comes to every single issue.

The concept of race clearly wasn’t Hamlin’s motivation to share it, or his apology would have come across much differently. Yet that is what those who claim to be offended choose to focus on. They are the ones who choose to see race above all else.

Let’s just conveniently ignore the fact that the clip perfectly resembled Larson’s move and Hamlin was posting about an actual racing incident.

Yet it seems that NASCAR caters to those very people, enforcing Hamlin’s sensitivity training requirement only after the criticism mounted.

Of course, some of their decision probably stems from keeping partners happy, and Hamlin being not only a driver but a team owner certainly compounds the issue.

But again, without the selective Twitter outrage, does anybody even notice?

It’s also quite interesting to see what issues NASCAR chooses to address. While we won’t go as far as calling NASCAR “soft” for choosing this to focus on, since they clearly have their reasons for doing so and the stereotype argument is one that can certainly be made, there is a common belief that this is the direction they are heading. Decisions like this only back that up.

Then on the flip side, take the situation of Alvin Kamara. Here we are nearly three months later, and NASCAR has yet to say a word about the arrest of their highly touted Growth and Engagement Advisor.

Surely his disturbing incident, which carries multiple legal ramifications, is worthy of more criticism than a meme taken the wrong way by a small percentage of the NASCAR community. Isn’t it?

Not one word.

As for Hamlin being labeled “racist”, that’s the biggest joke you’ll see all day. Who else is old enough to remember when he was accused of “racism” after his post-Daytona 500 feud with Bubba Wallace back in 2018?

The issue at hand, just like the issue on Sunday, was an on-track issue that had absolutely nothing to do with race. Yet some chose to look at race above all else, then had the gall to accuse others of racism.

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And those are the very fans NASCAR is satisfying by sending Hamlin to sensitivity training. Can you blame anyone from criticizing, or at the very least, questioning, their decision?