Exclusive: Sprint Cup Drivers Council supports Tony Stewart, will help pay his fine

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The Sprint Cup Drivers Council released a statement Thursday night on Tony Stewart’s punishment from NASCAR, supporting the three-time champion and announcing it would pay his $35,000 fine.

The statement was released exclusively to NBC Sports through Drivers Council member Denny Hamlin.

The statement reads:

           “We as drivers believe Tony has the right to speak his opinion on topics that pertain to a sport that he has spent nearly two decades helping build as both a driver and an owner. While we do not condone drivers lashing out freely at NASCAR, we do feel Tony was in his rights to state his opinion. We as a Council support him and do not agree with the fine. Therefore, we fellow council members have agreed to contribute equally to paying his fine.”

The Drivers Council was formed last year and meets periodically with NASCAR to discuss various issues from competition to safety. It added Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch this year to a group that included returning members Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Stewart, Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano.