The driver of the No. 11 FedEx Toyota Camry has made his feelings well known ahead of the NASCAR Cup Series season finale at Phoenix Raceway. He expressed the opinion that there is a lack of respect among drivers, especially including the two men who spun him in pivotal races.
Hamlin made the comments during the championship four media availability on Thursday, November 4. He reflected on the contact from Alex Bowman at Martinsville Speedway that sent him into the wall with fewer than 10 laps remaining and put his championship race appearance in doubt. He also took time to discuss the contact from rookie Chase Briscoe that sent him spinning late at the Indianapolis road course race.
“At no point do I feel like he said ‘I’m going to go in there and wreck him,'” Hamlin told reporters on November 4. “I think he went in there and said ‘I’m going to run into him and whatever the result is the result is.’ To me, it’s just a lack of respect thinking that that spot means more to you than it means to me.
“I am [mad at him] because it’s a lack of situational awareness. And if the roles were reversed, there would be no question that those teams would be just as pissed off as I was. That their season was nearly taken away because of someone’s irresponsibility.”
The Approach Is Very Important When Fighting for the Lead
A key point that Hamlin made during the session is that he earned the right to lead during the race. He said that it was “his spot” at the front of the pack and that it was up to Bowman to take it from him. Though Hamlin clarified that his fellow drivers need to be more respectful while fighting for the lead.
“I’m more of a purist that — it’s not necessarily right or wrong — I’m more of a purist in believing that you earned your spot up there, it’s up for them to take it from you in a respectful way,” Hamlin said during the session. “That’s your spot. It was my spot. I was in the lead. We weren’t side by side. It was my spot, so it’s up to you to take it from me however you see fit. If you see fit one way, and I see fit the other, I’m probably going to be upset with that.”
Hamlin continued during the media availability and referenced another high-profile incident between former Cup Series champions. He spoke about the issues between Kevin Harvick and Chase Elliott — without naming them directly — that took place at Bristol Motor Speedway and the Charlotte Roval.
“There was controversy a few weeks ago, right, and eventually one of the drivers said ‘I’ve had enough. I’m done taking your s***. I’m going to crash you,'” Hamlin said in a video captured by FOX Sports. “And I think that needs to probably happen a bit more often to get some of that respect back.”
NASCAR President Steve Phelps Addressed Hamlin’s Comments in Phoenix
While Hamlin sparked the conversation with his comments during the media session, he did not have the final word. Phelps also weighed in during his hour-long media availability on Friday, November 5. He explained during the session that Bowman and Hamlin went close to the line but that they did not go over.
Phelps continued and said that drivers are “racing hard” with each other during the 2021 season and that it is “good” for the sport. The NASCAR President then compared the current incidents on the track to those that took place decades earlier.
“I think that Alex has had some fun with it. It’s a great opportunity for the sport to have guys that are racing hard each and every single week,” Phelps said during his media session. “If Denny disagrees that guys that are sailing it in there, are not being respectful of each other, it’s not just good, hard passing, I would suggest that a portion of that certainly is in our DNA. Did anyone ever say to Dale Earnhardt that he’s disrespectful when he’s taking guys out, which he did a lot. That’s good, hard racing. At least it was.”
Phelps indicated during his media session that the hard hits at Martinsville would not be a factor during the championship races at Phoenix due to the short track having “more leeway.” Though Phelps added that none of the drivers — including Hamlin — know what they will do until they are in the moment.