Jeff Gordon: Drivers need discretion

LAS VEGAS -- Four-time Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon said he doesn't expect Denny Hamlin to follow through with his threat to let NASCAR suspend him rather than pay the $25,000 fine for criticizing the Gen-6 race car last weekend.

"Well, we're in Vegas, so we all can take bets on when [Hamlin's] apology is coming," Gordon said Friday. "Your guess is as good as mine.

"It's been interesting to see someone challenge [NASCAR's] authority. But at the end of the day, we all know whose sandbox we're playing in. I like that sandbox and I like playing in it."

Gordon said all drivers must be careful of comments they make about NASCAR and its product. But he also thought Hamlin's fine was questionable.

"I think we brought more light to the situation by the fine, and I question that," Gordon said. "We have two races in this car. That's too early to gauge where we're at.

"But we are all in this together to grow this sport. We have to understand we all play a role in that. Sometimes you have to bite your tongue and go out and race."

Gordon said he understands Hamlin's frustration and wanting to stand his ground on the fine.

"Listen, I've been there before, when I wanted to challenge [NASCAR]," Gordon said. "That's his prerogative, but sometimes the bigger picture is the way to look at it.

"There are times when I feel it's my place to speak my mind, but sometimes I choose to do it a little less harshly. I'm going to do it the way I always do. Before saying anything negative, I try to think what effect it will have on the sport, my sponsors, myself and my team, and if it's worth it."

Five-time champion Jimmie Johnson said he will think twice now before making a statement that NASCAR might find offensive.

"I think we're all watching and learning as this unfolds," Johnson said. "We all know NASCAR is sensitive to some things, and that line is becoming more defined now on what criticism is allowed and what is not.

"The old phrase 'actions detrimental to stock car racing,' that's something I will keep at the top of my mind. If it's something that's going to hurt our sport, I probably need to keep my mouth shut."