One day after NASCAR fined Denny Hamlin $25,000 for "disparaging remarks" he made concerning the Generation 6 car, drivers expressed their support for him Friday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
While choosing his words carefully, Jeff Gordon questioned whether NASCAR had brought more attention to the issues surrounding the competitiveness of the Gen-6 car by slapping Hamlin with a fine for comments that had escaped the attention of many.
"Maybe it's just me, but certainly this thing has blown up after yesterday and has drawn a lot more attention to it than I think had there not been a fine," Gordon said Friday at Las Vegas. "I don't know if that really justified a fine in my opinion.
"It probably needed to be handled in some way. I just feel like I wouldn't be getting asked these questions had they went and just talked to him about it."
Gordon's opinion echoes that of Jeff Burton, who on Thursday called the penalty an "overreaction" by NASCAR. Burton's concern is that drivers will no longer have a voice and be allowed to express their feelings without fear of censorship. And it is his opinion that an open dialogue between drivers and the sanctioning body can lead to positive things for all involved.
"It is important to note that when there is a criticism, if done constructively, then maybe it can be a good thing," he said.
But Burton also acknowledged that it's understandable why NASCAR responded the way it did considering how much of a marketing push has been put into promoting the brand-specific car, which is supposed to create better racing and in turn boost attendance and increase television ratings.
"I do understand there's been a tremendous amount of effort that's gone into building this car and making racing more exciting to do and watch," Burton said. "In my eyes, this is the most work that's ever been done to create a car for the fans.
"I'm sure that has something to do with the decision for the penalty."
No stranger to controversy, defending Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski feels Hamlin's remarks and NASCAR's subsequent fine is a distraction and said there is "no winner." He even went as far to equate the circumstances to a "soap opera or a train wreck."
"The conversation we need to have right now is what we can do to provide the best on track racing for fans and our stake holders," Keselowski said. "When we are talking about things like that, we are not talking about the real discussions and how we are going to accomplish those other things."
As for how the current situation will be resolved, Gordon sees one inevitable outcome: Hamlin will eventually issue a mea culpa and both he and NASCAR will exchange pleasantries about doing what's right for the sport.
But no matter the resolution, don't expect Gordon to speak out in the same manner as Hamlin and challenge NASCAR's authority anytime soon. It's simply not his style; he believes its best to air you grievances behind closed doors.
Besides, when everything is said and done he knows who ultimately holds the power.
"At the end of the day I know whose sand box I'm playing in," Gordon said. "I like the sandbox. I like to play in it and I want to have the best opportunity to have the most fun in that sandbox. Sometimes while you don't always like it you have to bite your tongue and just go out there and race."