Four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon believes drivers have to know when and how to voice criticisms after Denny Hamlin was fined for comments about the new Gen 6 car.
Hamlin is appealing against the $25,000 fine levied when he suggested that the quality of Sprint Cup racing had declined this year during a post-race interview at Phoenix last week. Gordon argued that drivers had a responsibility for the sport's presentation.
"I think that we have to understand that we all play a role in growing this sport," he said. "When we say and do things that could negatively affect the sport, sometimes it doesn't need to be said because other people are paying attention to what is happening and making their own opinions."
He also believes drivers must respect NASCAR's right to take action against criticism.
"I think it's been an interesting story for somebody to challenge that authority," Gordon said. "That is fine, but at the end of the day I know whose sandbox I'm playing in. 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."
Still, Gordon did admit that he had been surprised by the severity of Hamlin's punishment.
"Maybe it's just me, but certainly this thing has blown up and has drawn a lot more attention than I think [it would have] had there not been a fine," said Gordon. "I don't know if that really justified a fine in my opinion. I don't think it was right the things that Denny said and how he went about it.
"It probably needed to be handled in some way. I just feel like I wouldn't be getting asked these questions had they gone and just talked to him about it."