Denny Hamlin throws not-so-subtle shade at NASCAR

Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images) /

Denny Hamlin responded to a quote from senior Vice President of competition of NASCAR, Elton Sawyer, regarding aggressive driving.

A few weeks ago, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin admitted on his Actions Detrimental podcast that he intentionally ruined the race of Trackhouse Racing Team’s Ross Chastain at Phoenix Raceway, sending him into the wall in overtime of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season’s fourth race.

Hamlin and Chastain have a history of on-track run-ins, and Hamlin figured that this was an opportune time to get revenge without affecting any “innocent bystanders”.

With his No. 11 Toyota plowing and with the knowledge that he was probably going to be passed by several drivers on newer tires in overtime anyway, Hamlin intentionally drove wide with Chastain’s No. 1 Chevrolet to his outside, forcing him into the wall.

The move cost Chastain the points lead, though he has since reclaimed it. He finished in 24th place while Hamlin was scored just ahead of him in 23rd.

Hamlin wasn’t penalized for the move, but after admitting that he did it intentionally, he was docked 25 points and fined $50,000. He did not initially plan to appeal the penalty, but he has since changed his mind.

After a chaotic race at Circuit of the Americas, one which saw many bold moves result in significant contact, Elton Sawyer, senior Vice President of competition of NASCAR, spoke to SiriusXM NASCAR.

He stated that “aggressive driving” has been a part of NASCAR’s “DNA for 74+ years”.

Hamlin, who would be in a third place tie instead of a 10th place tie in the standings if not for his penalty, took notice of the comment — and the irony of it.

Of course, some will argue that there is a difference between aggressive driving and intentionally ruining another competitor’s race, and it’s true that they aren’t always interchangeable.

But at the same time, it’s inherently hard to drive aggressively without some kind of intent behind it, as evidenced by all of the contact we saw in Sunday’s road course race. Many times, similar results are produced.

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So has Hamlin effectively made his appeal case to the public by questioning Sawyer’s remark about “aggressive driving” being a part of NASCAR’s “DNA”, or will he keep his penalty — and remain the only one penalized — simply because he admitted intent?