NASCAR driver makes honest admission, then gets penalized for it

Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) /

Denny Hamlin was penalized by NASCAR after admitting that he intentionally ruined Ross Chastain’s race at Phoenix Raceway.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin got into Trackhouse Racing Team’s Ross Chastain in overtime of Sunday afternoon’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Phoenix Raceway, sending Chastain’s No. 1 Chevrolet into the wall.

Both drivers were running in the top 10 at the time, but Hamlin was on older tires and figured that he was going to drop several spots following the late restart.

Hamlin and Chastain have a history of coming together, and Hamlin has stated on multiple occasions that some of the younger drivers need to “learn a lesson”.

He later admitted that he intentionally got into Chastain and sent him in the wall, figuring that it was an opportune time to do so since no “innocent bystanders” would end up being collected.

On Wednesday, it was announced that Hamlin had been penalized. He was docked 25 points and fined $50,000 for admitting to intentionally ruining Chastain’s race — and thus knocking him out of the lead of the point standings.

Because of the separate 100-point penalties issued to Hendrick Motorsports teammates Alex Bowman, William Byron, and Kyle Larson after the race because the team illegally modified the hood louvers of their Chevrolets, Hamlin would have been in fourth place in the standings instead of seventh.

But with his own 25-point penalty, he now sits in 12th place.

This continues a trend of NASCAR penalizing drivers for admitting intent, as opposed to actually penalizing them for the action to which they are admitting.

In 2019 at Texas Motor Speedway, Bubba Wallace intentionally spun out late to cause a caution since he had a tire going down, thereby manipulating the outcome of the race. He wasn’t penalized until admitting that he had done it intentionally the following week.

In 2021, Kyle Busch intentionally kept quiet after doing the same in a Truck Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. No penalty was issued. Then last year, Chase Elliott also never admitted anything after his late spin at Auto Club Speedway. He did not receive a penalty.

Under caution at Texas Motor Speedway last year, William Byron intentionally got back at Hamlin for an earlier incident. While Byron said that he didn’t mean to spin Hamlin out, he admitted that retaliation was his intent, and he was penalized.

That penalty only ended up being reversed because NASCAR somehow managed to miss the incident when it happened, and had it been officiated properly, the penalty Byron would have gotten would not have been severe as the one he was issued.

In recent history, there is really only one major example of NASCAR dropping the hammer on a driver despite the fact that the driver did not specifically admit intent, and that happened last October at Las Vegas Motor Speedway after Wallace intentionally wrecked Larson.

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Wallace didn’t admit anything and even accused a reporter of “fishing” when pressed about it, but because of the dangerous nature of the move and the obvious intent behind it, NASCAR suspended Wallace for a race, marking the first suspension issued for an on-track incident in the Cup Series since 2015.