BRISTOL, Tenn. - Denny Hamlin said Friday that he believes NASCAR was disrespectful by not contacting him before fining him $25,000 over critical comments about the new race car.
Hamlin said a bigger name would have at least gotten a courtesy call beforehand.
"That was the biggest complaint I had. If I was Jeff Gordon or Tony (Stewart), Dale (Earnhardt) Jr., or any Hendrick driver, they would have had a conversation before," Hamlin said. "Just to slap the fine on me and not tell me anything is what really, really bugged me. A lot. That felt like I had not earned my place in this sport, and I've grinded it out here for eight years and I really feel like I've done what it takes to earn the respect of both my peers and NASCAR. I feel like had I been somebody else, the outcome may have been different."
That's what played into Hamlin's anger last week when he stood firm in his refusal to pay the fine for criticizing the Gen-6 car following its second race of the season. He said he'd be suspended before he'd pay over a statement many considered mild made on pit road at Phoenix following a third-place run.
"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," he said at Phoenix.
But NASCAR, which spent last year developing the car with heavy input from the manufacturers to improve the on-track product, has asked drivers to be careful in how they publicly talk about the car in an effort to build a strong public reception. The previous "Car of Tomorrow" was panned from the beginning, in part because the drivers picked it apart early.
Hamlin said after being fined he'd appeal the penalty, but announced Thursday on Twitter he would not drag his Joe Gibbs Racing team through the process. Still, he had informed NASCAR officials he would not write a check to cover the fine and was prepared for whatever action the sanctioning body chose to take against him. NASCAR has indicated it will garnish the money from his race winnings.
"I was prepared either way. They are ultimately not going to want to suspend me, that was the last resort," Hamlin said. "But I let my sponsors and everyone know that it was a possibility. It needed to end at some point. I didn't need to prove anyone wrong. It needed to end and move on from this point. By me saying I was not going to hand them a check and not going to give them anything, it was then in their court to decide what they were going to do with the fine."
Hamlin still believes he was right and NASCAR overreacted, and while not revealing the details of his conversation with chairman Brian France, he also believes NASCAR realizes it overreacted with the fine.
"In hindsight I really believe they overreacted and I believe they think they overreacted once they thought about it a little bit," he said. "To go through an appeal, just to prove that I'm right, I don't need to prove it. They are very, very sensitive about this car. This is their baby."
Kyle Busch sets track record at Bristol: In Bristol, Tenn., Kyle Busch won his first career pole at Bristol Motor Speedway on Friday with a lap in his Toyota at 129.535 mph, breaking Ryan Newman's 10-year-old track record of 128.709.
"This new car, I like driving it because you can drive it like the older car we had years ago where you could just abuse it a little bit and drive it a little harder," Busch said. "The old car was all about being smooth and precise and this one here, you can make a little bit more speed by trying a little bit harder."
Busch tried hard enough Friday to shred the mark set by Newman, who had been the first driver to go under 15 seconds when he set the lap record. Busch was one of nine drivers to go under 15 seconds in qualifying and his time of 14.813 is the new record.
NASCAR-Sprint Cup-Food City 500 Lineup
Food City 500 Lineup
After Friday qualifying; race Sunday
At Bristol Motor Speedway
Lap Length: .533 miles
(Car number in parentheses)
Car maker abbreviations: C=Chevrolet, D=Dodge, F=Ford, T=Toyota
1. (18) Ky. Busch, T, 129.535.
2. (5) K. Kahne, C, 128.995.
3. (11) D. Hamlin, T, 128.96.
4. (55) B. Vickers, T, 128.528.
5. (27) P. Menard, C, 128.356.
6. (1) J. McMurray, C, 128.288.
7. (2) Bra. Keselowski, F, 128.211.
8. (14) T. Stewart, C, 128.005.
9. (56) M. Truex Jr., T, 127.946.
10. (22) J. Logano, F, 127.877.
11. (24) J. Gordon, C, 127.869.
12. (20) M. Kenseth, T, 127.852.
13. (48) J. Johnson, C, 127.835.
14. (38) D. Gilliland, F, 127.792.
15. (13) C. Mears, F, 127.588.
16. (31) J. Burton, C, 127.512.
17. (42) J. Pablo Montoya, C, 127.47.
18. (29) K. Harvick, C, 127.453.
19. (78) Ku. Busch, C, 127.393.
20. (43) A. Almirola, F, 127.377.
21. (99) C. Edwards, F, 127.36.
22. (9) M. Ambrose, F, 127.36.
23. (15) C. Bowyer, T, 127.3.
24. (16) G. Biffle, F, 127.258.
25. (83) D. Reutimann, T, 127.132.
26. (30) D. Stremme, T, 126.595.
27. (95) S. Speed, F, 126.578.
28. (17) R. Stenhouse Jr., F, 126.528.
29. (51) A J Allmendinger, C, 126.42.
30. (34) D. Ragan, F, 126.403.
31. (39) R. Newman, C, 126.237.
32. (88) D. Earnhardt Jr., C, 125.947.
33. (7) D. Blaney, C, 125.848.
34. (98) M. McDowell, F, 125.74.
35. (36) J. Yeley, C, 125.732.
36. (19) M. Bliss, T, 125.708.
37. (93) T. Kvapil, T, Owner Points.
38. (87) J. Nemechek, T, Owner Points.
39. (47) B. Labonte, T, Owner Points.
40. (35) J. Wise, F, Owner Points.
41. (10) D. Patrick, C, Owner Points.
42. (33) L. Cassill, C, Owner Points.
43. (32) T. Labonte, F, Owner Points.
Failed to qualify
44. (44) S. Riggs, F, 124.452.
NASCAR SPRINT CUP
Food City 500
Noon Sunday Bristol, Tenn.