Dale Earnhardt Jr. has never been shy about voicing his opinion. But in light of the $25,000 fine incurred by Denny Hamlin, it's easy to wonder if Earnhardt Jr. will start to be a little more mindful of his words.
NASCAR's most popular driver says there is no need to be concerned, as he is aware of what he can and can't say publicly.
"I think we were told a couple years ago to just sort of watch all the negative comments and tones," Earnhardt Jr. said Friday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. "I thought it was clear to all of us to be careful how we said what was on our mind."
If that lesson wasn't clear before Hamlin's fine, it is something the garage is certainly aware of now.
But as Earnhardt Jr. sees it, that doesn't mean NASCAR is unwilling to listen to what drivers have to say -- good or bad. It just means that there is a way to go about expressing those opinions while the cameras and tape recorders aren't recording.
"I don't think (NASCAR) mind you coming up in the hauler and talking about what you think about the racing and how you think things could improve or what might improve things," he said. "I think that they're open to listening to that kind of stuff. We always want to get better and always want to strive to be better as a sport."
One way for drivers and series officials to exchange opinions and to offer feedback is the town hall type meeting. These meetings are usually held away from the race track and out of the glare of the media spotlight and, according to Earnhardt Jr., have been a source of many of the newer ideas that have made their way into the sport.
"I think that those meetings are very productive," Earnhardt Jr. said. "It's a great way to get a lot of good ideas moving across the table and I think that a lot of the innovation that you've seen in the sport in the last probably five or six years has come from those discussions."
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