- Associated Press - Friday, May 10, 2013

DARLINGTON, S.C. (AP) - Jimmie Johnson doesn’t believe the threat of NASCAR fines will stop drivers from speaking out.

This week, NASCAR chose not to fine Ryan Newman for comments he made after a scary crash at Talladega. He said while the organization had made several safety advances it still couldn’t figure out how to keep cars on the track. He used a vulgarity in his interview.

NASCAR fined Denny Hamlin $25,000 in March for saying he didn’t think the Gen-6 car raced as well as the old car.

Johnson, the Sprint Cup leader and defending Southern 500 champion, said he thinks drivers will say what they want when something’s on their mind. It’s not a style that works for everyone, though; Johnson said he prefers to keep critical remarks private and take them directly to NASCAR.

“That works for some, doesn’t work for others,” he said Friday. “Works on some topics and not other topics. It’s not an easy thing to navigate through.”

Johnson said each driver should weigh the point they hope to make with how it could affect the sport. “Some can call it a cop out, they can call it whatever they want,” Johnson said. “But at the end of the day we need to protect our sport and grow our sport.”

Not fining Newman is consistent with NASCAR chairman Brian France’s decision to give drivers’ permission to criticize anything but the cars and the on-track product.

Johnson says there are some in the garage who can handle their emotions in even the most frustrating conditions.

“Some guys may have the composure to navigate what they say when the camera comes out, when they are good and mad in those moments. I applaud them for that,” Johnson said. “I would say the majority of us don’t have that filter.”

Johnson is seeking his fourth victory at Darlington Raceway on Saturday night. He’s had 10 career top 10s at the track “Too Tough To Tame.”

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