POCONO, Pa. -- During a press conference Friday in front of the No. 11 hauler, Denny Hamlin admitted he was one of the drivers fined in secret by NASCAR over the past few months. While not directly admitting the incident or that the amount was $50,000, as has been reported, he inferred the fine revolved around a Twitter conversation he'd had with someone after the Nationwide Series race at Chicagoland.
"More than likely, it was the Twitter comments that kind of got me in trouble with them," he said. "Chicago weekend, talking about some of the Nationwide stuff, but most of those conversations were all direct messages to one person."
"Anybody that follows me on Twitter knows I'm opinionated, and that's what people follow me for, is just for the quotes here or there."
SI.com has since confirmed the context of that Twitter conversation, a suggestion the racing "was fixed," is what got Denny Hamlin fined. It was a public exchange between Hamlin and SB Nation's Jeff Gluck, a blogger, reprinted below: (Twitter names are @dennyhamlin and @jeff_gluck, respectively)
@dennyhamlin (to his fans): Truthfully I don't think It matters to the fans who wins the race as long as its a good "show". Even if it comes as the expense of competition
@dennyhamlin: I'm listening to your comments.. Ok if ur fav driver is out of contention and leader is on his way to winning with 10 to go. Would u like to see nascar tighten it up or let the best car win? Please reply.
@dennyhamlin: ok too many reply's to give a true count but its about 80% let it go 20% tighten it up.. thanks for the info. i was courious what u thought
@jeff_gluck: Personally I don't think they're not all being honest w/you or themselves. When the leader is running away fans BEG for caution
@dennyhamlin: big difference in legit and not.. im not saying dont throw a caution when a guy is in the way.. come on dude..
@jeff_gluck: And btw, I say "Tighten it up." I want to see an exciting finish...if cars get torn up, it just adds drama.
@dennyhamlin: i mean when a guy is in the wall.. and of course people wanna see a caution. Not a fake one tho.
@dennyhamlin: AND. fyi that debris caution caused over 500k in damage to 10 wrecked racecars at the end of that race. no big deal huh?
NASCAR officials refused to confirm or acknowledge the Hamlin penalty and surrounding circumstances. A Joe Gibbs Racing official would not acknowledge the context of the conversation beyond saying "the guy Hamlin had multiple Tweets with Chicagoland weekend." Jeff Gluck is the only man who fits that description.
In speaking with Gluck, he expressed regret at helping influence another driver's NASCAR fine -- but doesn't regret talking with Hamlin.
"You feel bad if you cost someone $50K," he said. "But the whole concept of Twitter is how you can have interaction, debates. You debate with drivers on Twitter all the time. It's not unusual."
"I don't see where they're coming from. It's really bizarre to me."
When the conversation happened, Gluck felt it was so benign he actually posted the transcript with his thoughts
"They say drivers want to express personalities and show how they feel," he said. "I worry about that now. I thought it was a legitimate debate... that's what's alarming. Denny speaks up, I speak up about something, and instead of NASCAR taking a look at what could be changed, they shoot the messenger."
That's left Hamlin lighter in the wallet, joking, "I better play the lotto" to make up for lost cash. But despite the scrutiny, Hamlin maintains he'll still be using Twitter in the future -- albeit being a bit more careful about what he says.
"When I started this whole Twitter thing a long time ago, I said, 'I was never going to sell out.'" he explained. "I was going to always say what I wanted to say, this, that, and the other thing ... but the more followers you get, the more people -- especially up in that tower that start following you and seeing what you're saying. It goes out to a lot of people, and a lot of race fans. Out of 35,000 or so that follow me, 30 of them are true race fans that watch the sport week in and week out. So they are the heartbeat of our sport, and I guess they don't need me influencing them and saying that we need to work on a lot of things."
When asked whether it was important fans could feel like he could be himself in that forum, he said, "I think that's one of the places that you can be. But this is a place -- I'm in a position where I'm always, no matter what I say, on or off the record, it's always on the record. So you've got to continue to be a role model for the sport, be positive, because honestly it does affect everyone out there."
The AP has previously reported that Hamlin and Ryan Newman were fined up to $50,000.