Clinton pardons NASCAR's Hendrick

President Clinton granted a pardon Friday to Rick Hendrick, the NASCAR team owner who was banished from the sport for a year after pleading guilty to mail fraud.

Hendrick, a Charlotte automobile dealer and head of Hendrick Motorsports, was sentenced in 1997 for his role in the American Honda Motor Co. bribery and kickback scandal.

Hendrick acknowledged giving hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, BMWs and houses to Honda executives, but claims he received nothing in return.

He was fined $250,000, ordered to stay in his Charlotte home, and avoid the car business and his race team for a year.

On Friday, Hendrick was one of 59 people to receive Christmastime pardons from Clinton.

At the time he was sentenced in December 1997, Hendrick, who fields the cars driven by Jeff Gordon, was battling leukemia.

Hendrick was diagnosed in November 1996 with chronic myelogenous leukemia, a rare form of the disease that, according to some medical experts, claims up to 95 per cent of its victims.

Doctors said two years later that Hendrick no longer needed chemotherapy and the disease was in full remission.