Denny Hamlin slams NASCAR for making up rules as they go

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 was livid about NASCAR making up the rules as they go amid a recent string of penalties issued to a number of drives and teams, including Hamlin himself.

Just over a week after an appeals panel eliminated the points portion of the penalties issued to the four Hendrick Motorsports teams and their three active full-time drivers, NASCAR docked teammates Alex Bowman and William Byron 60 points and five playoff points each for another violation.

After taking the No. 48 Chevrolet and the No. 24 Chevrolet were taken to the R&D Center after this past Sunday afternoon’s race at Richmond Raceway, they were both found to have committed a “greenhouse violation” — following an unusually long wait.

While nobody from NASCAR would go as far as saying that they were trying to prove a point by confiscating two Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolets, a common conclusion given the obvious anger from the sanctioning body over the fact that their hood louver points penalties were rescinded, there is a sense that NASCAR is on somewhat of a mission and trying to make an example out of the powerhouse organization.

But speculation aside, NASCAR even went a step further and changed the rule book to make sure that teams which appeal points penalties will not have their points penalties eliminated unless they are found to have committed no violation whatsoever.

For some context, the appeals panel that made the decision on the previous Hendrick Motorsports case found that a violation was, in fact, committed, but they came to the conclusion that the points penalties to the individual drivers and teams were too harsh and not reflective of the infraction itself, a fair conclusion given what the infraction was.

Denny Hamlin, who saw his 25-point penalty and $50,000 fine for admitting to intentionally walling Ross Chastain at Phoenix Raceway upheld upon appeal, did not take too kindly to the changes, calling out NASCAR for making up the rules as they go.

While it certainly does appear as though NASCAR is making up the rules as they go (and, let’s be honest, they essentially are), these rule changes only apply to future penalties that end up being appealed.

For example, these standards were not applied when determining to uphold Hamlin’s penalty, and they would not be applied if Hendrick Motorsports decide to appeal their latest penalties, since the penalties had already been issued before NASCAR changed the playing field.

So yes, there is still technically a chance that the latest points penalties issued to Bowman and Byron get completely rescinded if Hendrick Motorsports appeal and a panel decides to make another change.

It is also worth mentioning that Kaulig Racing recently appealed a penalty, also relating to hood louvers, and only had part of it rescinded, as Justin Haley got 25 of his 100 points back. Yet NASCAR went ahead and made this change after the team confirmed that they plan to take the results of their appeal to the final appeals officer, meaning that the change was effectively made during the appeal process.

The fact that NASCAR has effectively gone and given themselves more power, however, will not sit well with most, especially given the fact that they have been non-stop manipulating the point standings for the better part of the last several weeks, having now issued eight points penalties in the last month alone.

They have effectively taken away a key element of checks and balances from teams that feel they might have been wronged, and there is little reason to believe that they did so for any other reason than frustration over the fact that their previous points penalties to Hendrick Motorsports were not upheld (even though the entire penalty was not completely rescinded).

The fact that they chose two Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolets to take to the R&D Center just days later — and the fact that they found a violation that very few had ever heard of, after an uncharacteristically long wait — only furthers fuels that narrative.

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As for Hamlin, he will just have to stick to spinning people out — and saying absolutely nothing afterward. That seemed to have worked for him last week at Richmond Raceway, as no penalty came his way for the J.J. Yeley incident.