Dale Earnhardt Jr., other drivers haven't talked national anthem protocol prior to Sunday race

DOVER, Del. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. and other NASCAR drivers said they have not talked with their teams about protocol when the national anthem is played prior to the race Sunday at Dover International Speedway.

After team owners Richard Childress and Richard Petty had said Sunday they would fire personnel who protested during the national anthem, Earnhardt tweeted Monday morning that he supported the right to peaceful protest.

That view was echoed by some other drivers, such as seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, Earnhardt's Hendrick Motorsports teammate, when asked in the last few days after a weekend of protests around the NFL.

Earnhardt indicated that his tweet didn't generate much discussion among his peers nor at Hendrick.

"I haven't had any discussion with any other drivers or crew members," Earnhardt said. "There's always open dialogue with Hendrick Motorpsorts as my employer and my bossman Rick [Hendrick], but we haven't really had much conversation about it, to be honest with you."

RCR driver Ryan Newman, when asked if there were any discussions at RCR about protocol in light of the comments by Childress that anyone who protested the anthem would end up on a Greyhound bus, quipped: ""I was doing some deer hunting this week. I drove up to Maryland, and I passed a Greyhound bus and I didn't see a single employee of RCR or [engine shop] ECR on it, so I think everything is fine."

Danica Patrick also said she had no discussions at Stewart-Haas Racing about what to do during the anthem. NASCAR has no rule on whether drivers or crew should stand during the anthem, but often asks them to do so.

"The whole respects Richard Petty and Richard Childress for what they accomplished and what they've done, but they speak for themselves and they don't speak for the entire sport, I believe," Earnhardt said.

"I think everybody would handle those situations differently, and I can't speak for every owner in how they would handle that situation."

Earnhardt does not have any plans to protest.

"I've always stood for the anthem and always will, but I'm not quick to rush to judgment if somebody wants to do something different," Earnhardt said.

Furniture Row Racing driver Martin Truex Jr. and Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin added that they have not had discussions within their organizations on potential anthem protests.

"I don't think there is [a need for a team meeting]," Hamlin said. "In general, the NASCAR community has always put the military at the forefront and it's always been a very, very big deal to honor the flag.

"That's something you always see at NASCAR races, and it is something you probably will continue to see."

In another item that apparently hasn't been brought up for discussion, Johnson's team has not received an invitation to visit The White House from its 2016 NASCAR Cup title. That can happen in some years, especially when administrations change. Johnson isn't thinking about whether he gets an invitation from President Donald Trump or not.

"I've been so focused on trying to win races and get back in this championship battle, it hasn't crossed my mind," Johnson said Wednesday. "Those things do take a long time to plan. With a handful of weeks left, I'm not sure what will shake out. I'm just going to stay focused on trying to win the championship."