Denny Hamlin says he would be for NASCAR issuing harsher penalties

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RICHMOND, Va. — Denny Hamlin knows the image looks odd.

The most recent driver to have a win encumbered after his car failed inspection is advocating for harsher penalties in NASCAR.

“As long as it’s the same for everyone, I think that’s key,’’ Hamlin said Friday at Richmond Raceway. “Make sure that when someone else is in there with the same violation, it gets the same penalty and treatment even if it’s in the playoffs. Obviously, it’s negative publicity for everyone involved, so I just hope that it’s the same. I’m fine with taking wins away. Nothing wrong with that.”

Hamlin won the Xfinity and Cup races last weekend at Darlington Raceway only to find out a few days later that both cars failed inspection at the NASCAR R&D Center. The runner-up car in the Xfinity race also failed inspection. 

The result of the Darlington Cup infraction is that Hamlin is in Richmond without crew chief Mike Wheeler (suspended two races) and fans have clamored on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio for series officials to do more with such penalties.

NASCAR is considering stripping wins next year, NBC Sports’ Nate Ryan reported on NASCAR America this week.

Hamlin said the issue was discussed by the Drivers Council before.

“I think we brought something up maybe in the off-season … taking away points that you’ve already earned for the playoffs above and beyond not getting the points for that particular race,’’ Hamlin said.

“I’m all for harsher penalties for parole violators, you know what I mean? If you do it on a constant basis, you definitely should be penalized for it. As far as whether you should take away wins, black or white, be subjective, it’s tough because this particular part of the car, I don’t know if it’s really black and white. There’s been others that have been very gray, and they’ve said, ‘Okay, that’s good.’ Then ours is not good.

“I don’t know what the line is, where you take wins away. I think there should be parts of the car maybe that they distinguish – your motor, your tires, maybe rear suspension, stuff like that, major items that  maybe wins get taken away, or aero advantages that probably should be taken away as well.”

As for Hamlin’s penalty, he said it wasn’t intentional.

“We didn’t start the race with an illegal car,’’ he said. “It worked its way that way. When I say, ‘It worked its way,’ it was so close, but so close doesn’t matter. It was still over the line.

If it can be that close, why take the risk?

“The reason people work in those areas is because there’s speed there,’’ Hamlin said. “That’s why we always fight for every inch and every quarter and every thousandth of an inch on every part of the car, whether it be under the car or above it. So it’s a tough game and you got to be willing to take the consequences when you pass over that line that gets drawn in the sand.”

For those who say such action is cheating, what is Hamlin’s response?

“How many wins does Richard Petty have?’’ Hamlin said rhetorically. “200? One of those was with a big block (engine), so does he really have 199? I mean, listen, my advice to those who say this or that is all the old school fans have been watching NASCAR forever, your driver cheated at some point in their career and they got away with it. The difference is it was inches, not thousandths. They didn’t measure that stuff back then. It’s just a tighter box that we live in today.’’

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