- David Newton, ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. isn't convinced that NASCAR really wants Sprint Cup drivers to loosen up and show their personalities more.
"I don't believe them," NASCAR's most popular driver said during media day on Thursday. "I don't think anybody does. What does that mean? Are we supposed to walk the line and see where we step over it and where are we going to get fined when we go too far? What are they saying?"
NASCAR chairman Brian France said last month that the governing body wants to get back to the days when drivers were able to be themselves without the fear of a big fine.
It was part of his back-to-the-basics mandate, an attempt to win back the traditional fan that he believes may have been lost with all the changes the sport has undergone since 2004.
"NASCAR is focused on the best side-by-side racing in the world," NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston said.
But again, Earnhardt isn't convinced.
"I think honestly they're playing to you guys, not talking to the drivers," he said to a crowd of reporters in a tent outside of Daytona International Speedway. "Basically, they're trying to appear to be looser.
"Their [intentions] have not been relayed to the driver as to what's been changed. Just a press release went out to the press, 'Hey, we're going to do this. How about that? You guys like that, right?' So what have they told us? I don't know what that means."
Earnhardt, who was once fined at Talladega for cursing in Victory Lane while on national television, made France's comments sound more like a publicity stunt.
"That was just a card game between you two and it has really nothing to do with the drivers," he said. "I don't feel like I've been holding back. There's words I don't use that I've used in the past that I shouldn't use on national television.
"For me, I get to be the same because I don't think I've had to reserve myself too much."
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. isn't convinced that NASCAR really wants Sprint Cup drivers to loosen up and show their personalities more.