Sports Briefs

Posted: Sunday, July 04, 2004

Gordon sips victory at wet, wild Pepsi 400

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. Jeff Gordon and Hendrick Motorsports are the new kings of NASCAR plate racing.

Gordon proved Saturday night his victory at Talladega in April was no fluke, leaving the favored Dale Earnhardt Inc. duo of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Michael Waltrip and everyone else behind in the Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway.

''Wow! Wow! Wow!'' Gordon said. ''This is a big one. What an awesome show by Hendrick Motorsports.''

It was Gordon's second victory in a row, fourth of the season and 68th of his career. He also became the first driver to win this race from the pole since Cale Yarborough in 1981.

The four-time series champion, already the leader among active Nextel Cup drivers in victories at Daytona and Talladega, the tracks where NASCAR requires horsepower-robbing carburetor restrictor plates to keep the cars under 200 mph, came up with his eighth plate victory and second in a row.

At Talladega, Earnhardt, considered by many the guy to beat at every plate race, was mounting a late challenge to Gordon when a caution flag with three laps remaining gave Gordon the victory, bringing a wave of beer cans and seat cushions raining down on the track from unhappy Earnhardt fans.

With Johnson giving him a solid push, Gordon's No. 24 Chevrolet took the lead for the final time on the 154th of 160 laps on the 2 1/2-mile oval, passing Tony Stewart and pulling away.

Foulke says he'll stop wearing flag on hat

NEW YORK The flag flap is over for Keith Foulke.

After a personal letter from commissioner Bud Selig, plus talks between the players' union and baseball management as the Fourth of July approached, Foulke reluctantly packed away his Boston cap that featured a patch of the American flag.

''I still think I should be able to wear it,'' the Red Sox reliever said this week at Yankee Stadium. ''But I don't want to do anything that would cost the team.''

Foulke was the only player in the majors with his own such hat. The son of a U.S. Air Force man, he wore it most of the season to show his support for the American troops in Iraq.

''I'm a patriotic person, and it's just a personal thing I wanted to do. It was only about an inch square, on the left side, and a lot of people didn't even notice it,'' he said.

But the commissioner's office saw it. Soon after, Foulke said, he began getting letters from Bob Watson, vice president of on-field operations, saying the cap violated baseball's standard uniform code.

According to the sport's labor agreement, players cannot make individual changes to hats, jerseys and anything else they wear. The issue came up during the 2002 NL playoffs when San Francisco pitcher Jason Christiansen was told he could not continue writing Darryl Kile's number ''57'' on his cap in tribute to his late former teammate.

And in this case, the rule made Foulke's cap illegal.

On June 24 in a game against Minnesota at Fenway Park, Foulke wore his special hat one last time. He doesn't plan to put it on again, not wanting to risk raising any problems for the Red Sox.

This Sunday, though, Foulke will have an American flag on his cap so will all major leaguers as part of baseball's Fourth of July celebration.

''I think it's great that we do it on opening day and July Fourth and 9-11,'' Foulke said. ''But soldiers are fighting and dying every day, and I think I should be allowed to honor them by wearing that hat.''

The Associated Press

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