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DAYTONA BEACH — My fiancee and I are at a critical stage in my daughter’s life in which we are trying to teach her the values of honesty.
Like most kids, if faced with a grounding, she can become a bit of a fibber.
I won’t be telling her what happened to Denny Hamlin this week.
Because Hamlin was honest. And strictly and only for that reason, he was punished.
We all know if Hamlin doesn’t get on his podcast Monday and admit that he purposefully — and I might even argue, carefully — guided Ross Chastain into the fence in the closing laps of Sunday’s race at Phoenix, he isn’t fined $50,000 and he isn’t docked 25 points on Wednesday.
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Even though, when watching the replay, it’s obvious that — unless Hamlin’s gas pedal stuck and his steering wheel fell off simultaneously, or unless someone chucked a banana peel from the stands onto the track — something fishy was going on.
And that doesn’t even consider the checkered past between the two, and I ain’t talking flags. Unless you mean a couple resulting yellows.
Yet, Sunday’s contact wasn’t even enough to warrant a caution. Shoot, both cars kept going and finished the race, even with a couple of brake checks and a bit more contact along the way.
And to be fair I get it. NASCAR can’t have guys out there purposefully crashing each other, the safety implications are just way too high. Had Chastain been injured or, God forbid, even worse, the ramifications would have been unimaginable. But come on, I had bicycle wrecks in the fourth grade that were much more violent than that.
This wasn’t Bubba Wallace hooking Kyle Larson head-on into the fence at Las Vegas last year, rightfully resulting in a one-race suspension for Wallace. Sunday, Hamlin and Chastain were in a corner at a short track likely going under 100 miles per hour. It’s not like Hamlin T-boned Chastain, it was more of a gentle nudging. And best of all, it didn’t affect a single other racecar.
To me, that’s how it should be done. Hamlin went on to say the two spoke after the race and as far as he was concerned, a truce had finally been reached. Next you’ll tell me Eminem and Machine Gun Kelly are courtside at a Pistons game together.
While I wasn’t there to hear the exchange and though Chastain hasn’t to my knowledge given a statement on the matter, it’s hard for me to believe Hamlin would lie about the conversation. He certainly wasn’t lying about anything else. And we’ll find out soon.
The next time Chastain pokes his head outside to see if it’s raining, he’s inevitably going to be met by 20 microphones. Shoot, Jamie Little and Regan Smith may be sleeping in tents in his watermelon patch at this point.
But there’s some inconsistency here. What about last year at Darlington when, in the closing laps, Joey Logano pounded the back of William Byron’s car, sending the 24 into the fence and sending the 22 to Victory Lane? The two had a slight dust-up earlier in the race in which Logano believed Byron ran him into the wall.
Was it intentional? You be the judge.
“I got fenced,” Logano told reporters after the race. “I got fenced, I retaliated. I won the race. Like I said last week, that’s kind of how it works. I won’t get pushed around.”
Read that again.
“I got fenced, I retaliated.”
I’m no lawyer, but that sure sounds like an admission of guilt to me. Logano received no fine or penalty.
How about Ty Gibbs winning an Xfinity race at Martinsville last year by rear-ending teammate Brandon Jones in the closing laps. The contact was so severe, it spun Jones’ car around.
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Gibbs after the race?
“It was definitely not a clean move, for sure,” he said. “I definitely didn’t want to wreck him, but I definitely wanted to move him out of the groove so I could go win.”
Gibbs was not penalized by NASCAR.
So, help me out, if the contact was intentional but the resulting crash wasn’t, it’s OK? If the admitted aggressive driving is for the lead and not for a place in the back of the top 10, then we’re fine with no fine?
And what about the fracases we see breaking out on pit road a few times a year when pit crews charge together like pitchers sprinting in from the outfield bullpen for some postrace fisticuffs. These are big, athletic dudes and there are smaller drivers and even reporters down there that get gobbled up in the mosh pit.
I would argue that was much more dangerous than the wall scrape Hamlin forced Chastain into on Sunday.
Yeah I know, ultimately, what’s 50 grand to Denny Hamlin? Probably not much. Will 25 points really matter? Probably not, but ask Martin Truex how much he’d have liked 25 more points last year. It’s likely Hamlin will get a win this year and be A-OK, but it’s certainly not guaranteed.
And I know, Hamlin is never going to get much in the form of sympathy in the court of public opinion. That’s what you get for messing with Mr. Popular.
On Wednesday night, he took to Twitter to say he wouldn’t be appealing the decision.
But I hope this appeals to your common sense.
Because this punishment didn’t fit the crime. If there was even a crime committed at all.