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NASCAR drops hammer on Denny Hamlin for intentional contact with Chastain at Phoenix

NASCAR officials said Hamlin admitting to intentionally putting Chastain in the wall at Phoenix was the "tipping point" for penalizing the veteran driver.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Denny Hamlin was fined $50,000 and docked 25 driver points for intentionally crashing Ross Chastain during Sunday's NASCAR Cup Series race at Phoenix Raceway. 

Hamlin drove up the track on a late restart and forced Chastain into the wall. Hamlin and Chastain finished the race 23rd and 24th, respectively. Both drivers spent the majority of the race in the top 10 before making contact. 

Hamlin later admitted that hitting Chastain "wasn't a mistake" on his podcast, "Actions Detrimental." Ironically, Hamlin was penalized for actions detrimental to stock car racing. Hamlin explained that he knew he was in trouble after a pit strategy call put him in front of drivers with fresh tires. When his car wouldn't turn, Hamlin said he realized Chastain was beside him and said, "you're coming with me, buddy." 

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Hamlin's penalty specifically fell under Sections 4.4: NASCAR Member Code of Conduct under the subsection that deal with "attempting to manipulate the outcome of the race or championship and wrecking or spinning another vehicle." 

Elton Sawyer, NASCAR's senior vice president of competition, told reports Wednesday that Hamlin's admission to putting Chastain in the wall was the tipping point for taking action. 

"When you look at this one this past weekend, we would have viewed that as a racing incident, but then it's 24 hours later and you have a competitor that has gone on a podcast, which I will say, we're delighted that Denny has a podcast," Sawyer said. "We think that's great, but when you start admitting that you have intentionally done something that would compromise the results of the end of the race, then that rises to a level that we're going to get involved." 

Hamlin's penalty was among several handed out by NASCAR Wednesday. Hendrick Motorsports was hit with four penalties for unapproved parts modifications for each of its four Cup Series teams, as was Kaulig Racing's No. 31 team. All five teams had hood louvers confiscated during inspection at Phoenix, leading to heavy penalties. 

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