Johnson Careful When Speaking

Jimmie Johnson

Although Johnson can be very candid in his opinions, the five-time Sprint Cup Series champion rarely pushes the envelope as far as Newman did at Talladega. (Photo: Getty Images)

Jimmie Johnson believes drivers are responsible for the comments they make and any subsequent punishment that NASCAR hands out.

The defending Bojangles Southern 500 race winner said in the wake of Ryan Newman’s emotional outburst on national television last week in Talladega, drivers more than ever need to understand the boundaries of their words.

“It’s not an easy thing to navigate through, but as a representative of our sport, especially when you become a champion of our sport, you’ve got to think about things,” Johnson said Friday at Darlington. “You’ve got understand when the microphone is on, I’m I helping grow our sport. That is the question I ask myself."

Although Johnson can be very candid in his opinions, the five-time Sprint Cup Series champion rarely pushes the envelope as far as Newman did at Talladega. NASCAR did not fine Newman for his remarks and Johnson respects the Stewart-Haas Racing driver’s right to express himself.

"I think drivers are going to say what they want regardless of the fine,” said Johnson. “It’s a chance to sound off. 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. I would say the majority of us don’t have that filter. There are certainly some that come to mind quickly that don’t have that filter.

“We do have a format to speak our mind. I think the question at the end of the day really is in the responsibility falls on the driver’s shoulders. Is this going to help our sport?

It’s Johnson’s belief to act as more an ambassador of the sport rather than putting himself in a potentially compromising situation with NASCAR for critical comments.

“Me taking this microphone right now and saying what is one my mind, is it going to help our sport,?” he asked. “Some can call it a cop out, they can call it whatever they want, but at the end of the day we need to protect our sport and grow our sport.

“If there is something that is on the fence that you are going to say, at least in my eyes, I would rather not say it into the microphone and walk into the transporter and speak my mind. That works for some, doesn’t work for others, works on some topics and not other topics.”

Johnson is hoping Saturday night’s topic will be a second straight Bojangles Southern 500 victory. His win last year was Rick Hendrick’s 200th career Sprint Cup Series victory.

As he shoots for his third trip to Darlington’s Victory Lane, Johnson credits his pre-NASCAR experience in ASA stock cars and off road racing as beneficial to running well at the “Track too Tough to Tame.”

“I think that running at Salem (Speedway) helped and then also my off road background and how abrasive the track was and rough and different,” said Johnson. “That is one of the things driving on the dirt; you have to adjust all the time. Your car or truck in my case is never perfect. Grip level is always changing and I think that experience helped me come here and get a feel for this place quicker than some others."

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