Denny Hamlin told to rein in comments
DOVER, Del. -- Joe Gibbs Racing officials don't want Denny Hamlin to change his personality. But they would like him to tone down what might be perceived as attacks against other teams.
Hamlin said Friday that it was known for months that Clint Bowyer's No. 33 car, which was docked 150 points after its win at New Hampshire for surpassing NASCAR tolerances, was bending the rules. He said Richard Childress Racing's claim that the 60/1000ths of an inch the car was off did not help performance was a "crock."
Bowyer's teammate, Kevin Harvick, retaliated by ramming Hamlin's car twice and then sideswiping it during Saturday's first practice at Dover International Speedway. The two then had a profanity-laced, face-to-face confrontation in the garage before meeting with a NASCAR official.
He just said too much. We just told him to start saying less.” -- J.D. Gibbs,
on Denny Hamlin's comments
JGR president J.D. Gibbs addressed the situation with Hamlin before Sunday's race.
"Clint said some stuff about the 48 and 11 were off,'' said Gibbs, referring to Bowyer saying Jimmie Johnson and Hamlin's cars went through post-race height inspection twice at New Hampshire before passing. "Denny was trying to come back and say no that's not true and try to stick up for us and NASCAR a little bit.
"He just said too much. We just told him to start saying less.''
Crew chief, Mike Ford was less diplomatic after Sunday's race in which his driver finished ninth to see his points lead shrink to 35 over four-time defending Sprint Cup champion Johnson.
"It's completely none of our business," Ford said. "It's not our fight. ... It brings a negative light and a steeper hill for us to climb. We can't have these liabilities.
"To put your own team in a hole? That's just stupid. Whether those guys are guilty or not, that's not our battle. ... There are a lot of things I'd want to say throughout the year, but you don't see me flapping my gums, do you?"
Hamlin hopes the issue is behind him and everyone at RCR.
"There's too much to lose within this Chase for anyone to really do anything that's out of the ordinary or make a dumb move,'' he said. "It's just not worth it.''
The talk with Hamlin came after Hamlin challenged the integrity of JGR versus RCR and didn't back down from his initial comments.
"Something I've always done is speak my mind,'' Hamlin said. "It's not always in my best interest to do that. When somebody asks me a question I'm always going to give my 100 percent honest answer. That's the best I can do.''
Gibbs is satisfied that NASCAR handled Saturday's situation correctly in not penalizing Harvick for the practice incident, which damaged the right rear corner panel of Hamlin's car and the left front end of Harvick's car.
Gibbs doesn't expect any further action from the governing body and doesn't expect any more retaliation for the remainder of the Chase.
"Our goal is to win a championship and races,'' Gibbs said. "That's our foundation. Don't give us distractions in that.''
Gibbs said neither Hamlin nor JGR had any inside information suggesting they knew Bowyer's team was pushing the rules before NASCAR warned them after Richmond two weeks ago. NASCAR officials denied they had warned the No. 33 team before Richmond, as Hamlin said they had.
"We're moving on,'' Gibbs said. "We've had this conversation with Denny, tried to sit down and say, 'Hey, in the future we don't want you to be a different person, say what you want to say, just use good judgment.' ''
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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