Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch Suggest NASCAR Could Easily Shut Down Lack of Respect in the Cup Series Garage With What Some View as a Radical Solution

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Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch at Daytona

Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch were teammates at Joe Gibbs Racing for 15 years together. They’ve seen the sport go through a considerable transformation in that time. 

Last week before Atlanta, the now-Richard Childress Racing driver talked about a more notable change: the development of a general lack of respect in the Cup Series garage. Drivers just don’t care about others on the track. He offered what some consider a radical solution. 

This week on his podcast, which ironically started the whole discussion, Hamlin agreed. 

Denny Hamlin podcast remarks start discussion on lack of respect

When Denny Hamlin admitted on his podcast last week that he intentionally wrecked Ross Chastain at Phoenix, it was unquestionably going to generate a reaction. Oh, did it ever.

NASCAR reacted by fining the three-time Daytona 500 winner $50,000 and docking him 25 driver points. Multiple drivers responded, including his former JGR teammate Kyle Busch, who bluntly told reporters before Atlanta that Hamlin should have kept his mouth shut. 

Interestingly, that media session went in a different direction when a reporter mentioned how the driver had raced in an era when drivers showed more respect.    

“That’s the key part. Now you’re going down the right path because we have completely lost any sense of respect in the garage area between drivers at all,” Busch said. “That’s where the problem lies is nobody gives two s**** about anybody else, and it’s just a problem where everybody takes advantage of everybody as much as they can. We’re all selfish, granted. 

“But there was an etiquette that once did live here. Mark (Martin) started it. I think Tony (Stewart) really lived by it. I think Jeff (Gordon) lived by it. Bobby Labonte. Rusty (Wallace) for the most part. Dale Jarrett for sure. It did exist. That’s gone.”

Hamlin offers opinion on reason for increased lack of respect

This week on his Actions Detrimental podcast, Hamlin revisited the chaotic week that was, briefly discussing his penalty but not going into too much detail because of his pending appeal. He also addressed Busch’s remarks about the lack of respect.

“I agree with him,” Hamlin said. “It certainly is lost, and things have changed, but I have an opinion of why it’s changed. It’s harder to pass now than ever. And that’s a fact. 

“My opinion is there is less give and take because you cannot get that spot back. Back in the day of Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Mark Martin, those guys, I remember the first three to five years of my career; I would let people pass on restarts to save my tires to then blow their doors off after 25 laps of green-flag racing. You could do it. Passing. It was easier. 

“If your car was significantly better than someone, then you could take it easy at the beginning and step on their throats in the long run and then just demolish the field. But as tire falloff and lap time variation has changed in our sport, lap time falloff is maybe less than half of what it used to be at all tracks just because of reduced power, tires are getting harder, made differently, surfaces, things like that. 

“It just all equals tougher passing so people don’t feel like they can give a spot get a spot. We used to say give and take. That s***’s long gone. It’s just different now because passing is more difficult. Track position is more important than it’s ever been.”

Both drivers suggest NASCAR has an easy solution available

Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch at Daytona
Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch stand on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series 62nd Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 09, 2020. | Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

While Hamlin’s theory makes sense, it doesn’t solve the problem. During his comments in Atlanta, Busch offered a solution when asked about his son Brexton and any advice he’s given him about aggressive driving.

“He already knows that he can’t run somebody over because he gets sent to the back. I think that’s something else – there’s no repercussions for running somebody over,” Busch said of NASCAR’s situation.

“If we want to do that, you get sent to the back, you get held a lap, like something. But if you spin somebody out — and I’m guilty of it, I’ve spun somebody out for the lead or win before, something like that on accident, racing – but if it happens, you get sent to the back. A caution comes out, you go to the back. There’s no repercussions for that right now. That’s the old short-track adage and how these kids learn when they’re growing up. Maybe we need to implement that here.”

Hamlin addressed Busch’s remarks about his son and mentioned it was similar to what he had to say after the Clash at the Coliseum

“All it takes is for NASCAR to black flag one person for going out and obviously sending someone into a corner and spinning them out on purpose for them to reel back what we’re seeing on the weekends and maybe it fixes some of this, what Kyle’s talking about,” Hamlin said. “But I don’t think we’re ever going to see it.”

He then, understandably, acknowledged how he doesn’t want NASCAR getting involved in any more “balls and strikes calls.” 

In other words — the lack of respect will continue and he’s willing to accept it.

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