Trying to figure why one driver’s actions result in a certain penalty while another’s do not under similar circumstances can be frustrating.
That frustration arises again in the case of a $25,000 fine levied on Denny Hamlin this week for what NASCAR called “disparaging remarks” about the on-track competition in last Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix.
The fine, though, isn't the most troubling issue.
Hamlin's comments – he said it was hard to pass in the new model Cup series car – were innocuous at best. NASCAR’s own telemetry showed there were 40 percent fewer green-flag passes for the lead in the Phoenix race than a year ago.
The message from NASCAR was clearer: The governing body will not tolerate any negative comments about its new Cup car, which it refers to as “Generation 6.”
Repeatedly since late last fall, NASCAR has trotted out members of its competition department at various tests of the new car to talk about the car’s progress. Repeatedly, drivers at those tests were brought into media centers to talk about the new car.
The reviews were uniformly glowing. And NASCAR penalizing Hamlin suggests none of them can be trusted.
If no one is allowed to speak negatively about the car, who can reasonably believe any answer is genuine?
The answer is you can’t.
But I have the solution.
- NASCAR should stop trotting in officials at tests or during race weekends to tell us how the car is progressing. We know what they'll say.
- Drivers should stop answering questions about the new car. We know what they'll say.
- And the media (myself included) should stop asking questions about the competitiveness of the new car. We already know the answer.
In other words, if you can only say something nice, whether it's
true or not, just say nothing at all.