When NASCAR announced that it would enter an experimental stock car in conjunction with Hendrick Motorsports and others at next year's 24 Hours of Le Mans, it marked a bold next step for NASCAR: trying to expand their footprint in international motorsports. But not everyone is pleased with how NASCAR is going about it.
Denny Hamlin, one of NASCAR's most-outspoken drivers and now arguably its most-outspoken team owner, made his grievances over NASCAR's planned Le Mans entry public while speaking to reporters earlier in March at Circuit of the Americas. Speaking as co-owner of 23XI Racing, Hamlin took issue with NASCAR not informing its race teams of its Le Mans plans prior to their announcement.
He also touched on the perceived advantage to be gained by Hendrick Motorsports in setting up and fielding the planned modified Next Gen car.
"Finding out through a press conference is not OK," Hamlin said in a report by Daniel McFadin of Speed Sport. "We have too many people in place, NASCAR has too many executives for that to have slipped through the cracks. Not that it slipped through the cracks, but like, where's the transparency of it?"
Beyond the other teams in NASCAR not finding out about the Le Mans program ahead of time, Hamlin's secondary grievance in the perceived Hendrick advantage was addressed by NASCAR brass during their press conference announcing the program. While NASCAR president Steve Phelps stated that "having one team have some type of advantage over another is not something we'd be interested in having," Hamlin argued that he saw no possible way that the Le Mans program would not provide an advantage for Hendrick.
Hamlin suggested that a universal body would have been a better and fairer way to go about the program. Instead, Hamlin's impression is that NASCAR opted to make a decision and then figure out the details later.
"This is kind of them doing their thing and what they want to do, and I understand their reasoning to want to do it," Hamlin said. "I just thought (from) a team owner standpoint, I'm concerned about how is it not an advantage? You cannot convince me right now that it won't be."
It's east to see where Hamlin's concerns are coming from, as Hendrick Motorsports has already boasted one of the best road course racing programs in all of NASCAR. Hendrick has won nine out of the last 12 road course races dating back to 2019, which has added to a recent record of dominance that includes the last two Cup championships and 20 wins in 42 races since the start of 2021.