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NASCAR Slaps Denny Hamlin With Fine, Penalty for Fencing Ross Chastain

The punishment comes after Denny Hamlin admitted to intentionally going after the Watermelon Man in Phoenix.      

By Andrew Woodin
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, waits on the grid during practice for the NASCAR Cup Series Pennzoil 400

Take heed, Cup Series drivers: NASCAR is not messing around.

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After Denny Hamlin publicly admitted on his Actions Detrimental podcast that he intentionally walled Ross Chastain during the final restart of the United Rentals Work United 500 in Phoenix, NASCAR came down upon him with the wrath of Thor’s mighty hammer Mjölnir. While Hamlin will live to race another day in the No. 11 Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR’s fine of $50,000 and 25 driver points still packs quite the punch for the Cup Series veteran. NASCAR’s ruling comes on the heels of an already penalty-filled week as the league also hit Hendrick Motorsports with L2-level infractions for each of its four teams, a fine of $100,000 for each crew chief and a four-race suspension for each crew chief.

What did Denny Hamlin say on his Actions Detrimental podcast?

On his podcast, Hamlin didn’t hold back as to why he went after Chastain, saying, “It wasn’t a mistake.”

“I let the wheel go, and I said, ‘He’s coming with me,’” Hamlin revealed. “I saw that we were the only people up top, so I said I’m gonna send him in the fence and door him. Now my dumb ass got caught up in it because I got pinned. He was between me and the wall, and then so I got all screwed up, and then I lost a bunch of positions for my team, which was stupid as [expletive].”

RELATED: Revenge Mode: Denny Hamlin Reveals Why Contact With Ross Chastain 'Wasn't A Mistake'

“But at the time, I’m like, ‘I’m gonna finish in the mid-teens anyway because my car’s just plowing here, and I’m about to get ate up by all these [other drivers on] new tires.’ I just was like, ‘If I’m gonna give this guy a hard time, this is going to be then.’”

Do Denny Hamlin and Ross Chastain have a history of conflict?

Do they ever. Dating back to the Gateway last summer, the two wheelmen have had more clashes play out onscreen than an episode of the Real Housewives of Atlanta. The bad blood continued to spill over, with incidents erupting at Atlanta Motor Speedway, followed by Pocono Raceway. The Watermelon Man’s radical video game-esque wall ride maneuver at Martinsville left Hamlin particularly salty as it eliminated him from the playoffs while propelling Chastain into the Championship Four.

What rules did Denny Hamlin break when he went after Ross Chastain?

As one can imagine, NASCAR’s not exactly thrilled about letting ongoing driver feuds fester, so, for the league, the revenge game is bad business, and the way the rule back is constructed supports that. Outlined clearly on, NASCAR’s sanctioning body cited two specific sections in how it arrived at its penalties for Hamlin. Under Section 4.4: NASCAR Member Code of Conduct, the following points were pivotal in the league’s assessment:

  • B. Attempting to manipulate the outcome of the Race or championship
    Wrecking or spinning another vehicle, whether or not that vehicle is removed from Competition as a result
  • D. Actions by a NASCAR Member that NASCAR finds to be detrimental to stock car racing or NASCAR

How did NASCAR reach its verdict on penalizing Denny Hamlin for fencing Ross Chastain?

NASCAR’s senior vice president of competition Elton Sawyer stated that the late-race contact between Hamlin and Chastain would’ve been assessed as a “racing incident” had that been the end of the story.

"But then, 24 hours later, to have a competitor that has gone on a podcast – which we're delighted Denny has a podcast,” Sawyer continued. “We think that's great to interact with the fans, but when you start admitting that you have intentionally done something that would compromise the results of the end of the race, then that rises to a level that we're going to get involved.”

"There's no other way to look at that,” he added. “We were going to get involved in that situation. We've been consistent in the past with that, and we will be consistent going forward."

How has Denny Hamlin responded to NASCAR’s penalties?

Hamlin, who co-owns 23XI Racing with NBA legend Michael Jordan, responded to NASCAR penalizing him via Twitter.

“I won’t be making an appeal to NASCAR,” wrote Hamlin. “However, I will be making an appeal to the people. I’ll see you next Monday. #ADDH

While fans are divided over drivers intentionally going after each other on the track, the way in which NASCAR arrived at its ruling is a bit perplexing for most fans as it sends the message that the actual act of wrecking Chastain was not what put Hamlin in hot water: it was his full admission of his intent. Several drivers, such as Bubba Wallace, Chase Elliott and Kyle Busch, have manipulated the outcomes of races in the recent past with intentional spin outs or retaliatory altercations, but none have ever been so brazen to openly brag about the endeavors.

Whether or not the severity of NASCAR’s penalties are enough to squash the beef between the two drivers – two of the Cup Series’ most talented and  fearless wheelmen – is yet to be seen, but if there is another episode, hopefully the guilty party will think twice about gushing publicly about it.

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