A short note on Denny Hamlin’s comments on the Gen-6 car and subsequent fine.
I’ve talked to a lot of the people in the trenches involved in designing and creating the Gen-6 car. That includes people from manufacturers and teams. All of them have said that the development of the Gen-6 car is a major sea change for NASCAR. This is the most collaborative that NASCAR has been with introducing a new car in some time. Manufacturers and teams were consulted and they all feel that their opinions mattered and were taken into consideration. This was a very, very different process than the COT introduction, which was designed by NASCAR and plans delivered to teams.
So when a driver talks trash about the Gen-6 car, they aren’t just talking trash about NASCAR – they’re insulting the people on their own team and their manufacturer, all of whom have been working collaboratively to make the best car possible. NASCAR deserves some major accolades for opening up the process. One team principal even declared it “a new business model where we are partners with NASCAR”.
Is the car perfect?
But when did you ever do something and get it perfect the first time out? I’ve said already that we’re going to have revisions throughout the year as we learn more about the car. No one expected it would come out and be exactly right the first couple of weeks.
If drivers want to help with the tweaking, then they need to make constructive specific comments (like where and under what conditions they’re having problems passing) rather than blanket condemnation of the car and the process.
Having said that, I also disagree with NASCAR fining Hamlin. I can see their point of view. Changing corporate culture is a very, very hard thing to do. NASCAR met the teams more than halfway. They did a lot of the things people behind the scenes have been asking them to do for some time. And then a driver comes out and slams the car in the most general, broad way possible.
I suspect it’s like parents who tell their kid he can come in a 9pm instead of 8pm and then the kid stays out till 10 pm. For heavens’ sake — they were trying to do something nice and they got slapped in the face. NASCAR is rightfully aggravated.
But I think most fans listened to his comments and thought the same thing as one caller to SiriusXM Speedway, who said
“Of course he’s complaining about the car. He lost!”
We know drivers are frustrated when they get out of the car and often for some time afterward. We know they say things that are not always tactful and are sometimes rather wrong-headed. You don’t have to fine a driver to let us know that you think he or she was out of line. Hamlin’s fine shifted the focus from racing to public relations. And that’s not why most of us watch.