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USA Today via Reuters

USA Today via Reuters

Denny Hamlin is perhaps one of the big voices of the NASCAR community. The three-time Daytona 500 champion is known to be vocal on pretty much all the major issues in NASCAR. During a recent interview, though, Denny Hamlin was tight-lipped on the issue of the $75K fine levied on Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

As you know, this fine was imposed on him after his altercation with Kyle Busch at North Wilkesboro Speedway. The fight was initiated by Stenhouse Jr punching Busch in the face. This tussle, and the following penalty, drew both positive and negative responses from the NASCAR fraternity.

Denny Hamlin’s thoughts on the subject show that he has an excellent sense of the sport’s culture and the challenges involved in handing down penalties.

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Hamlin’s take on the brawl and its aftermath

Denny Hamlin, who is otherwise very vocal, remains tight-lipped on this subject involving the fine. Talking to Peter Stratta ahead of the Coca-Cola 600, Hamlin said, “I don’t know if it’s appropriate or not, I’m not really sure,” began Hamlin, signifying his unclearness on whether the fine was fair. 

“Again, I don’t know all the histories of when we’ve had physical altercations in the past and what has been the precedent that they’ve set in the past.” This shows Hamlin knows the difficulty of the decision in finding the right penalty.

Considering the sport’s long history of rivalries and confrontations, Hamlin further expanded on the nature of the penalties. He felt that monetary fines are not a big deterrent for drivers. The reason is: in the heat of the moment, drivers are fueled by adrenaline. It’s a typical fight-or-flight response. After all, NASCAR is a true adrenaline sport and so are the drivers.

Money doesn’t mean anything in the heat of the moment, so you don’t really care. If anything, you care less about what’s going on, because the battle at hand is about making a point,” he explained. This perspective brings out the real motivation of the drivers in such altercations. The urge to leave an impression out there is always stronger than the possibility of losing some valuable cash.

Hamlin added, “I hear NASCAR gets a lot of flack about being inconsistent, but you also would say that, you know, they have been pretty consistent when things are heat of the moment; they typically let things go a little bit. When you’ve had time to premeditate, they come down a little more severely.” This observation points out some aspects of the sport that people never truly understand. Now this statement, in a way, justifies NASCAR’s decision.

As Hamlin wrapped up his thoughts on the fine, he acknowledged the challenges involved in imposing penalties. “I don’t know if it’s appropriate or not. I don’t know all the histories of physical altercations in the past and what has been the precedent, so I can’t really speak to whether it’s in line or out of line,” he said, leaving it to personal interpretation.

Though Hamlin was very subtle on this subject, he was pretty much vocal on other issues in the interview. He expressed his confidence in Larson’s double duty. Although we know how that turned out to be.

Denny Hamlin’s views on Larson’s ambitions

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Hamlin expressed his admiration for Larson’s versatility and determination, noting the significant challenges of running the Double Duty. “I’m interested just like all of you guys are. I’m a fan of his tomorrow until 6 p.m., and then I’ll switch and be his rival. We’re rooting for him because he’s representing us in NASCAR tomorrow,” Hamlin said, highlighting the camaraderie and support among NASCAR drivers despite their on-track rivalries.

Even Larson admitted, “Most people would probably look at my schedule and it would blow their mind. I don’t have much time to devote to anything else besides racing, and then my family.” This dedication mirrors Hamlin’s commitment to the sport, underscoring the sacrifices made by elite drivers.

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Sadly, due to the weather, the Indy 500 was delayed and Larson, who had been eager to try his hand at the open-wheel series for a long time, chose the 500-mile race over NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600. But then, lady luck didn’t seem to be on his side and fans didn’t let this poorly timed decision go.