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NASCAR upset with no-shows by some stars

12/6/2005

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- NASCAR officials are "extremely
disappointed" in Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and other drivers
who failed to attend the season-ending awards ceremonies.

"It was very disappointing to NASCAR and the entire industry
that drivers did not show up for various awards," spokesman Jim
Hunter said Tuesday. "It shows a lack of respect for the history
and tradition of the sport."

NASCAR president Mike Helton plans to speak with the drivers who
failed to attend last week's ceremonies in New York, Hunter said.
The sanctioning body also is considering ways to ensure future
attendance.

NASCAR has held its season-ending ceremonies in New York the
past 25 years, handing out numerous awards during a weeklong
celebration capped by a black-tie banquet in the grand ballroom of
the Waldorf Astoria.

Gordon, who finished 11th in the standings, skipped the banquet
because he was in Paris preparing to compete in the Race of
Champions all-star event. Actor Will Ferrell, pretending to be
Gordon, accepted the $1,075,386 payout -- which included a $250,000
bonus for finishing 11th -- on Gordon's behalf.

Gordon's absence was glaring because under NASCAR's new points
system the 11th-place driver is awarded a spot at the banquet as a
reward for being the highest finishing driver outside of the Chase
for the championship.

Earnhardt, selected as NASCAR's most popular driver for the
third straight season, didn't travel to New York to pick up his
award. Also absent were Elliott Sadler and Kasey Kahne, who earned
a combined $175,000 in secondary awards.

"The banquet is not just for the championship and the top 10
drivers," Hunter said. "It's for everyone that put NASCAR on the
map, for all contingency awards and for all the sponsors who
support this sport.

"Dale Earnhardt went to New York every year whether he won the
championship or not. It meant a lot to him to represent the sport
and we expect that from all our competitors."

It's not clear what NASCAR can do to force drivers to attend the
ceremonies. Among the things being considered is revoking the
contingency awards that Kahne and Sadler received and giving the
money to the runner-ups.