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Denny Hamlin: Revenue sharing tensions influenced Twitter spat with Marcus Smith

NASCAR, tracks and teams have yet to reach a new financial model for 2025

NASCAR: Cup Practice & Qualifying
Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Denny Hamlin says he let some underlying frustrations about the economic state of NASCAR get the best of him on Thursday night and Friday morning in how personal his social media back-and-forth got with Speedway Motorsports CEO Marcus Smith.

Oddly enough, Hamlin said he was messaging with Smith in real time, even as they traded barbs back and forth in an argument stemming from recently repaved Sonoma Raceway coming apart during a sports car event this week.

Hamlin took jabs at the mixed history of repaves and reconfigurations at tracks owned by Speedway Motorsports while Smith responded with commentary about how often the veteran driver has come short of winning a Cup Series championship.

Hamlin said his frustrations with the current state of negotiations between NASCAR, the tracks and race teams over how broadcast rights revenue will be distributed moving forward influenced his tone. The three parties are currently working towards, very slowly and contentiously, a new model that teams hope will pay them at least half of the revenue TV brings in.

Currently, teams get 25 percent of broadcast revenue, tracks get 65 percent and NASCAR gets 10 percent. It’s more complicated and dynamic than that but Hamlin feels like Speedway Motorsports continually takes a cheaper path when it comes to repaves despite the amount of revenue it receives.

He also has a deeply held conviction that the company never consults drivers before making unpopular competition based decisions as well.

“Certainly, there were some underlying frustration from my standpoint that I let get the better of me,” Hamlin said on Saturday at Martinsville Speedway. “No doubt about it.

“Certainly, it didn’t need to get personal but it kind of took a turn for that pretty quick. Regrettable from my standpoint but … between the tracks and NASCAR, there’s nearly a half a billion dollars in profit and I hate to see (that teams) are struggling to swim upstream and that’s how they spend their profits.

“It’s tough because we’re in a fight, right? It’s not pretty. It’s not going to be pretty. There’s some underlying frustration that I let get out in the wrong way.”

The fight references, amongst other things, the teams hiring one of the top sports antitrust lawyers in the country in their efforts to get a greater split of NASCAR revenue sources over the life of the next broadcast deal that starts in 2025.

Hamlin said based on the test last month at newly repaved North Wilkesboro Speedway, that Joe Gibbs Racing reported some preliminary issues with the new surface.

“We had a car at the test that had some issues, yeah,” Hamlin said.

“I’ll focus more on the positives and that’s every (NASCAR owned) track that has been paved in the last six years has had no patches on it whatsoever. They’ve done a really good job in investing their profits back into the race tracks really well and lets just kind of learn from this and move on.”

Brad Keselowski, who co-owns RFK Racing, also addressed the current state of the negotiations with NASCAR earlier in the week.

“I think ultimately, we’ll get to Daytona next year, and this thing will be resolved by then,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be resolved until then. Naturally, everyone wants to come to a deal of whatever they think is fair. Fair, in this case, is probably going to be where both sides are unhappy, we haven’t reached that yet.”

Matt Weaver is a Motorsports Insider for Sportsnaut. Follow him on Twitter.

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