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Denny Hamlin Cites Charter Negotiations, Lack of SMI Reinvestment as Source of Feud with Marcus Smith

Denny Hamlin Marcus Smith Charter Agreement TV revenue

Denny Hamlin went in depth about what triggered his public feud on X last week with Marcus Smith on this week’s episode of Actions Detrimental. Hamlin, as he did after the initial spat, apologized for some of the things he said on X in regards to Smith, but says that a lot of the frustration with SMI and Smith stems from the current Charter agreement negotiations with NASCAR.

“I said during media this weekend, some of the things I said were probably regrettable, for sure. It didn’t need to get as personal as it did. And yes, I do admit the frustrations certainly stem from, a lot of it stems from the negotiations or the lack of negotiations going on right now between NASCAR and the teams,” Hamlin explained.

RELATED: Denny Hamlin, Marcus Smith Engage in Late-Night Fight on X

The reason that Hamlin went open season on Smith and SMI when he saw the photos of the Sonoma Raceway’s recently paved track surface ripping up before an actual race took place on it is that he feels SMI has not been investing the substantial piece of the TV revenue that they receive into their track’s facilities and repaves. The lack of reinvestment from SMI becomes glaringly clear to Hamlin when you see what the NASCAR-owned tracks have done in recent years.

“Our fans just definitely expect more from the fan experience than what they used to,” Hamlin said. “To ask your fans to just sit in aluminum bleachers for four hours is a very, very tough ask. But [NASCAR-owned Tracks have] got enough going on around the racetrack to keep you entertained. So, hats off to them. They’ve done a great job.”

Hamlin continued, “On the flip side of it, I separate the frustrations with SMI because I don’t feel like that investment has really been made on their part. Surely, you can combat that with well, they did the Roval. Okay, I think the ROVAL has been played out now for a few years. I think everyone in the industry, and probably fans would rather have us back on the oval at this point. [The ROVAL was created] because the oval racing was so stagnant.

“You could say they brought back North Wilkesboro. Well, COVID brought back North Wilkesboro. They used COVID funds, so they got a lot of money from the government to do that. They’ve always owned North Wilkesboro, but they finally put the investment back in it. That was good to see. I’m sure there’s more to the story for sure.”

Hamlin also is just overall frustrated by the repaves that have taken place at SMI facilities as opposed to NASCAR-owned tracks.

“I look at these tracks, and I say, let’s look at the last three to four paving jobs that SMI has done, and they’ve had to put patches on them before we’ve had our race cars on it,” Hamlin stated.

Hamlin says that when he spoke with Smith directly following the social media fight, that Smith cited different paving contractors as the reasoning for Sonoma’s pavement issues. But Hamlin says there have already been issues with North Wilkesboro repaves as well.

“Marcus said this, ‘Well, we’ve got different pavers at Sonoma than we did at North Wilkesboro, I didn’t even know that North Wilkesboro had problem.’ I’m like, that might be your problem,” Hamlin recalled. “You don’t have any communication with your people. Yes, it did have problems, and it probably will in the future.”

At the end of the day, Hamlin feels if the tracks are going to receive a larger portion of the television revenue than the race teams, then they need to properly invest that money back into their product, which is the race tracks themselves, and he doesn’t believe SMI has done that.

“Whenever we go to an SMI track, they’re taking a bulk of the money from the TV revenue, and I know personally, how much that I’ve invested in 23XI, and I would venture to guarantee you that 23XI has invested more into this sport than SMI has invested in the last 10 years,” Hamlin said. “And we’ve done it in four years. Just one team has invested more in this sport. There’s a problem there, especially when we get roughly half of what they get on any given weekend.”

While Hamlin guesses that his race team has invested more than SMI has over the last 10 years, he has no actual physical data to back that up as SMI and NASCAR have not been required to be transparent about where the television money goes.

“No. They do not reveal it. It’s a secret,” Hamlin explained. “We, again, this goes back to my frustration, but to be a little more transparent with you and everyone listening, NASCAR asked us to open up our books once we were doing our contract negotiations with them, and the RTA is probably going to cringe right now listening, but we opened up our books and said, ‘Here is what our costs are. This is what we need to survive. You need to give us back what it costs for us to do this. That is a fair ask for you to cover our costs to put on this show for you,’ and they won’t do that, they refuse to do that. And so that makes it very, very hard for the race teams. And it’s why these race teams swim upstream, and its why you’ve seen a championship team a few years ago go out of business.”

Hamlin, a driver and team owner, is an important stakeholder in the sport, and at the end of the day his frustrations are just because he doesn’t feel like the revenue from the sport’s media rights agreements are being distributed correctly. Will that change? That remains to be seen as NASCAR and the teams are still locked tight in negotiations about the Charter Agreement for the 2025 season and beyond.

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