Gordon avoids censure

Jeff Gordon will not be punished for celebrating his Brickyard 400 Nextel Cup win at Indianapolis outside of victory lane, according to NASCAR, after the Hendrick Motorsports star apologised for doing so

Gordon avoids censure

In avoiding the official celebration, Gordon was not photographed with a bottle of NASCAR's soft drink victory lane sponsor Powerade, owned by Coca Cola, which conflicts with his own endorsement deals. This follows NASCAR's recent request for drivers and teams to "be polite and respectful" to promotional paraphernalia.

After winning Sunday's race, Gordon stopped his car at the finish line and called to his crew to celebrate in front of the grandstand. Under accepted procedure, the winner drives to the victory platform and begins the usual television and sponsor obligations.

Gordon's Pepsi-sponsored Hendrick Motorsports team-mate Jimmie Johnson was fined US$10,000 for attempting to conceal a Powerade prop after winning the race at Pocono. At Indy, Gordon, who also has a Pepsi endorsement, did not enter victory lane at all, instead celebrating with his crew on the track. Gordon and crew later went to victory lane for the obligations.

Gordon at the time sidestepped questions about his actions at the finish, saying he was caught up in the emotion of winning his fourth Brickyard and that he wanted, for once, to celebrate without the customary annoyances.

"We appreciate the apologies offered today by Jeff Gordon and Rick Hendrick," said NASCAR president Mike Helton. "We recognise the elation and spontaneity that a win like Sunday's can produce, and we do not want to hinder the emotions of the moment. We want our drivers and teams to show their emotions.

"We know how important it is for our competitors to celebrate their victories and share their happiness with the fans. But we also want our competitors to be mindful of the importance of protocol involving victory lane, which is as much a part of racing as taking the chequered flag.

"This situation is now behind us. Moving forward, we are confident all our teams will respect and respond appropriately to time-honoured post-race protocol during their celebrations."

NASCAR has not publicly stated the details of the "protocol", other than to warn competitors to attempt to accommodate all the requirements of victory lane.

Hendrick's statement referred to his father, Joe Hendrick, who died two weeks ago. "Sunday's Brickyard victory was one of the most special moments I've ever experienced in this sport," said Hendrick. "I really wanted to win that race and kiss the bricks to honour my father. It was an unbelievable feeling for all of us.

"Nonetheless, I owe an explanation to the George family, along with everyone at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The celebration was emotional, and it was fun to acknowledge the fans like that, but it became obvious that we had unintentionally disrupted the Speedway's programme by not driving to victory lane after the chequered flag."

Gordon added: "I can't adequately describe how emotional Sunday was. When I got out of the car, it was my intention to get back in and drive to victory lane after waving to everyone in the stands. Our team certainly would not disrespect any procedures on purpose, and I truly apologise to everyone at the Speedway for any problems we may have caused. It was a classic case of being caught up in the moment. I plan to support NASCAR's victory lane protocol going forward."

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