It was one of the silliest things NASCAR has ever done, a mysterious thing called “Victory Lane Gate,” and it all started at Kansas Speedway.
Victory Lane Gate was established in the 2001 season and when Jeff Gordon won the 2001 Protection One 400. What was Victory Lane Gate? It was a device made with PVC pipes that prevented drivers from climbing on the top of their racecars. Two NASCAR officials would hold up a gate like device when the driver climbed out of the car.
You see back in 2000 and 2001 NASCAR was having a lot of issues with drivers winning a race and being so excited that they would climb on top of their racecars and celebrate their victory. When the drivers did that, it would not give NASCAR an accurate reading on the minimum height on a racecar.
It got so bad that when Jeremy Mayfield won his first career race in the 2000 season at California when his crew chief Peter Sospenzo was fined for having his car too low. Both Mayfield and Sospenzo claimed it was because Mayfield had jumped on the roof of his car after the victory.
To prevent that NASCAR created the gate to not have the drivers climb on the car. It was silly. Victory Lane Gate, as it’s called by many who remember, made the victory lane celebrations lackluster.
Nothing was worse than when Ricky Craven won a very emotional race at Martinsville Speedway when Craven held off a hard charging Dale Jarrett. Craven got his first win in his Cup career after a long battle back from being released from injuries. One would think the victory lane celebration would have been one for the ages. Yet Craven’s celebration was as little as a fist pump. He would get emotional but the celebration was nothing.
The gate made drivers feel like they were trapped and they couldn’t celebrate their wins.
The gate got much criticism after that win and the idea was scrapped before the next weekend at Talladega, never to be heard from again.
Now NASCAR just simply tells drivers to stay off their roofs, and that doesn’t seem to be a problem. Yet in 2001, NASCAR thought it would be and created a device that will live in infamy forever.