Denny Hamlin felt disrespected by NASCAR




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.”

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.

CLEMENTS RETURN: Jeremy Clements was back at the track Friday at Bristol after a two-week suspension for using a racial slur, hopeful his lapse hasn’t caused irreparable harm to his career.

“I think everybody deserves a second chance,” he said. “I think you’ve got to look at the person’s history. I have never been in trouble with NASCAR. I always try to do the right thing and just stay here and be able to race. I always try to get new fans coming and do anything NASCAR wants. I hope it doesn’t hurt. I don’t know.”

Clements was a little-
known driver from Spartan­burg, S.C., driving for his family-owned team before the suspension. He finished 15th in the Nationwide Series standings in 2011, and was 14th last year.

Clements was 33rd in the season-opening race at Daytona before he was suspended. He said he’s lost only one sponsor because of the incident, and was at Bristol on Friday with St. Jude’s Hospital on his firesuit. Clements made the remark to a blogger for MTV News during an interview at Daytona while helping the reporter locate another driver he was looking for. NASCAR learned of the comment from a witness and suspended Clements indefinitely.

He was reinstated this week after seeing sports diversity expert Dr. Richard Lapchick and the staff at the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports at the University of Central Florida. Although a sponsor offered to pay for the course, Clements said he paid the $2,500 out of his own pocket.

The 28-year-old Nationwide Series driver blamed his actions on making a stupid remark in describing drivers who race too aggressive, and opened his remarks at Bristol Motor Speedway by reading a lengthy apology handwritten on a piece of white loose-leaf paper.