Denny Hamlin agrees NASCAR should take wins away

Some drivers, like Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano, don’t think NASCAR should take wins away from cars found to be illegal. As NASCAR officials themselves have said for years, Logano said “fans came to the race to watch the race and they should see a winner after the race.”

“I don’t think (the penalty) needs to be more severe,” said Logano, whose encumbered victory at Richmond may cost him a playoff berth if he doesn’t win Saturday night.

But Denny Hamlin, who had both wins in his Darlington sweep encumbered after penalties this week, disagreed.

“We can talk about taking wins away in the future,” Hamlin said Friday. “I think it’s definitely a possibility. As long as it’s the same for everyone. I think that’s key: Make sure when someone else is in there with the same violation, it gets the same penalty and treatment — even if it’s in the playoffs.”

Hamlin said what makes him nervous is whether NASCAR would have the same enforcement during the playoffs — particularly since there are eliminations and even a championship race. Would NASCAR dare change the outcome several days after the fact? That would be a major controversy.

“Obviously, it’s negative publicity for everyone involved, so I just hope that it’s the same (in the playoffs),” Hamlim said. “I’m fine with taking wins away. Nothing wrong with that.”

Hamlin, of course, came up through the short track ranks — where cars frequently get disqualified for running afoul of the rules. So the concept might be more familiar to him, which makes it easier to endorse.

One idea Hamlin said that could further discourage teams from breaking the rules is to lose playoff points they already have.

“I’m all for harsher penalties for parole violators, you know what I mean?” he said. “If you do it on a constant basis, you definitely should be penalized for it.”

The biggest problem Hamlin sees is deciding what warrants a stripped win. Messing with engine, tires, fuel? Obviously. Rear suspension? Probably. But what about aero advantages?

NASCAR would have to make those determinations and make sure it was the same for everyone. That doesn’t mean the rule-breaking will stop, though, because all teams need to work right up to the line without crossing it.

“We fight for every inch because there’s speed there,” Hamlin said. “So it’s a tough game and you’ve got to be willing to take the consequences when you pass over that line that gets drawn in the sand.”

News Analysis: Denny Hamlin’s Darlington sweep ruled encumbered

What happened: Both of Denny Hamlin’s wins last weekend at Darlington Raceway came while his team was breaking the rules. After further investigation at its R&D Center, NASCAR found Hamlin had two encumbered victories at Darlington — for similar violations in the rear suspension. On the Cup side, Hamlin lost 25 points (meaningless) and the five playoff points he got for the win while crew chief Mike Wheeler received a two-race suspension and a $50,000 fine. To make matters worse, the runner-up driver in the Xfinity race — Joey Logano — also had an encumbered finish.

What it means: NASCAR penalties are not tough enough. Encumbered finishes by race winners are becoming more frequent, which means teams must not fear the consequences like they should. Even though he loses the playoff points, Hamlin gets to keep both of his wins despite his team basically cheating. That looks terrible, but this will never change until NASCAR starts to take the win away — which should have been the policy for a long time now. It’s also ridiculous to think Cup drivers not only made the Xfinity race a bore-fest (until the last lap), but they were whooping the Xfinity regulars by driving cheated-up cars the whole time. What a joke!

News value (scale of 1-10): Six. It should be a lot higher, but this is sadly becoming more commonplace. For example: Hamlin has two Xfinity wins this year and both were encumbered finishes. After you get beyond the headlines, these penalties are relatively hollow.

Three questions: When will NASCAR start taking the win away from illegal cars? When will NASCAR start taking the win away from illegal cars? When will NASCAR start taking the win away from illegal cars?