Hamlin: “I didn’t hardly say anything. They owe me a beer or two.”
On February 24, 2013, NASCAR introduced the Gen-6 race car to the fan base at Daytona International Speedway. It was the car that followed the Car of Tomorrow, a generation of race car that was hated by the fan base.
The new car was a highly anticipated new direction for NASCAR. More of a return to old than anything. The dreadful rear wing was removed and so were the rounded noses. The edge, personality and resemblance of the street car counterparts had somewhat returned.
The fans liked what they saw. The approval of the COT body shape sat at 49%. With the Gen-6, the approval rating jumped to 76%.
Off to week two with the new car… On March 3, 2013, Denny Hamlin started in the back of the field at Phoenix International Raceway. He then drove through the field to finish 3rd.
”I don’t want to be the pessimist, but it did not race as good as our generation five cars. This is more like what the generation five was at the beginning,” Hamlin stated after the race.
Denny Hamlin initially refused to pay the NASCAR fine
NASCAR issued a $25,000 fine to Hamlin for those comments. It was a fine that he initially refused to pay.
“The truth is what the truth is, and I don’t believe in this. I’m never going to believe in it. As far as I’m concerned, I’m not going to pay the fine. If they suspend me, they suspend me. I don’t care at this point,” Hamlin told Fox Sports back in 2013.
“It’s an opinion, and it’s not even a bad one. I’ve got to be careful, because I don’t want to make things worse than they already are, and this is something that was absolutely nothing that got blown into to something, and it’s just going to be worse for them. So let them deal with it.”
NASCAR’s reaction to Hamlin’s 2013 comments on the Generation 6 race car
This was a time before NASCAR loosened up on driver comments. Regularly, drivers would be fined for what they said to the media or on TV.
Here’s how NASCAR reacted to those 2013 comments…
NASCAR statement: “Following the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event last Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway, Denny Hamlin made some disparaging remarks about the on-track racing that had taken place that afternoon,” NASCAR said in a statement.
“While NASCAR gives its competitors ample leeway in voicing their opinions when it comes to a wide range of aspects about the sport, the sanctioning body will not tolerate publicly made comments by its drivers that denigrate the racing product.”
Robin Pemberton: “We give them quite a bit of latitude,” he said. “You can’t slam the racing. You can’t slam the product. That’s where it crosses the line,” NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton added later that week.
Kenny Tharp: “While NASCAR gives its competitors ample leeway in voicing their opinions when it comes to a wide range of aspects about the sport, the sanctioning body will not tolerate publicly made comments by its drivers that denigrate the racing product,” NASCAR’s Kenny Tharp stated.
NASCAR encourages drivers to show personality in 2019
NASCAR has changed and they now embrace personality. If a drivers can’t say how they feel, then their personality is censored.
The fans can read directly through that. They have no interest in an overly polished spokesperson as their driver. They want to see a reason to like or dislike someone.
It’s exactly the type of thing that made NASCAR boom in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s with Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon. Fans picked sides, they had a driver to hate and a driver to like. Personalities clashed and fans had a reason to tune in to see what will happen next.
Fines still exist, for infractions on the race track, which is the job of the sanctioning body. It’s not NASCAR’s job to be the ‘too much personality’ police. Today, NASCAR gets that 100% and the sport is in a good place on that front.
A large part of that specific change is due to the new leadership in the NASCAR marketing department. Jill Gregory, who completely gets it. She was also the fix for the god awful logo that NASCAR had previously, bringing the image of the sport into the new century.
NASCAR has seen a lot of changes in recent years both on and off the race track. But, of all those changes, Gill Gregory is my personal favorite change.
Denny Hamlin recalls the 2013 fine for knocking the Gen-6 car
He eventually paid that fine. And he’s still not happy about it. Hamlin would like a refund, or at least a free beer.
“If you go back and look at the comments I made, I should get my money back. That’s bs,” Hamlin stated ahead of the 2019 Daytona Speedweeks.
“I didn’t hardly say anything. Other than, ‘This car doesn’t drive like the other car.’ Anyway, they owe me a beer or two.”
The Generation 7 race car is on the way…
For 2021, there’s a new generation of race car on the way. The Generation 7 car will make it’s debut at Daytona International Speedway in two years time.
But, how do drivers communicate to NASCAR on critisism of a new race car?
“It is tough, I think they appreciate the one-on-one conversations if you do have something negative to say. They do not like it in the media,” Hamlin said.
“Ultimately, they think that anything we say, the bulk of fans will just agree with. Regardless of if it has any basis or not.”
“They feel like it puts us a little bit behind anytime you’re out there being openly negative about it. Instead, just let it shake out on the race track and let the fans decide for themselves.”
Denny Hamlin claimed the Daytona 500 win to start off the new NASCAR season.