Denny Hamlin Dehad a week that he would likely rather forget.
It started on Tuesday when NASCAR announced that they were fining the driver $25,000 for his rather tame comments about the racing last week at Phoenix International Raceway. Hamlin publicly responded by announcing that he would not pay the fine and would go through the NASCAR appeals process instead.
Looking for a positive finish at Las Vegas on Sunday to put the fine behind him, Hamlin was forced to take a more aggressive approach to his strategy after a too fast entering pit road penalty trapped him one lap down.
Hamlin fought his way back to the lead lap with 100 laps to go but remained on a different pit strategy than the leaders, hoping that a caution would fall at a time that would cycle him towards the front. The timely caution never materialized and Hamlin finished 15th.
And yet Hamlin found himself satisfied with his effort, calling Sunday's run the best he's ever had at Las Vegas. In seven career starts, Hamlin has just four top-10s and an average finish of 13th at the 1.5-mile speedway. He thinks today could have been even better if not for the pit road penalty - a mistake that he took full blame for.
"That was the best we've run at this track, really, since I can remember," Hamlin told The Sporting News on Sunday. "(I) just made a critical error there coming into the pits and just cost us. The cautions never dropped when we really needed them, and we were in that lucky dog (spot) for such a long time.
"I was happy we got that, but just couldn't overcome the mistake I made on pit road."
No appeal date has been set but Hamlin said he's pleased with the support fans and media have offered him since NASCAR announced the fine. Hamlin released a statement on Thursday that said he felt disrespected by NASCAR and that the sanctioning body lost one of its biggest supporters.
Joe Gibbs Racing team owners Joe and JD Gibbs have publicly released statements saying that they would support their driver throughout the appeals process.
"It's been overwhelming," Hamlin said. "I just can't even put it into words how happy it makes me that the fans are behind you and everything.
"Really, it's good to see even people that aren't fans of mine support my decision."