AVONDALE, Ariz. - Jimmie Johnson considers Jeff Gordon one of his best friends. But even he didn't know the four-time racing champion planned to get married last week in Mexico.
Gordon and Ingrid Vandebosch were married last Tuesday in a private ceremony that was so secret, he didn't even tell his best friends.
"I saw it on Regis and Kelly of all things," Johnson said. "And then when Jeff got back in town (Thursday) night, I got a phone call from him saying you probably heard, but I'm a married man."
Gordon's divorce three years ago became front-page fodder for all the gossip magazines and entertainment shows. He learned then his personal life always will be in the public.
"Well, I'm certainly no Tom Cruise or like any guy in the entertainment business that has a very difficult time," Gordon said while preparing for today's Checker Auto Parts 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. "But I feel like the type of celebrity we have in this sport is the best kind. You get to live your life for the most part, but yet that's changing constantly. The sport is getting bigger and more popular, and you do have to be somewhat guarded sometimes to maintain that privacy."
Gordon announced his engagement at Infineon Raceway last June. Later that day he won the race.
Almost immediately, he started getting offers from magazines for exclusive rights to photograph and report on his wedding. He picked US Weekly because it offered to make a donation to the Jeff Gordon Foundation. The story is due out next week, so Gordon refused to disclose any details.
"You'll have to wait until next week," he said.
"I'm blown away all the time with this sport and how it's grown. I'm very fortunate to have had success in this sport. I just never dreamed as a kid growing up that even if I ever made it to this level that it would be anything like it is.
"And then once I got here, to see how things have changed over the last 14 years and the growth outside of just pure racing and how the drivers and fans have this relationship and the attention that the personalities get beyond racing is pretty incredible."
Johnson got married last year in the Caribbean. Although he tried to keep that secret, pictures of him walking out of the church appeared in The National Inquirer.
"It's crazy to see the attention that NASCAR is getting," Johnson said.
"Jeff Gordon, being a four-time champion and all the things surrounding that, if he did it in the United States or if anybody really knew about it, it wouldn't be as intimate or be the ceremony they wanted. So I understand the situation he's in. It shows again how big our sport is."
GUILTY BY ASSOCIATION: Kyle Busch said his brother Kurt's reputation, and Kyle's association with car owner Rick Hendrick, are reasons why some fans don't like him.
Hendrick pleaded guilty to federal charges in 1986 of aiding and abetting interstate travel in aid of racketeering while trying to win favors from American Honda Co.
A judge ordered him to house arrest while he fought leukemia, and President Clinton gave Hendrick a pardon on his final day in office in 2000.
"A lot of people understand and know that I came into this deal already on the downside," Kyle Busch said. "I already came in guilty by association through Kurt and then being associated with Hendrick Motorsports. There are still people out there that still accuse Rick of being a fraud from his Honda deal. It's pretty insane for people who don't know the whole truth and everything and all the facts.
"You're associated with Kurt and with Hendrick and then Jeff Gordon," he added. "People don't like him for various reasons or Jimmie (Johnson) for various reasons.
"A lot of people don't like Brian (Vickers) now for various reasons and I've just never really been liked. I don't have a problem with it. People who are around me and know me like me."
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