Throughout much of the 1990s, NASCAR was fueled by the rivalry between Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Jeff Gordon. During this time, Earnhardt Sr. pushed many of Gordon’s buttons off the track. One of those instances came with a situation involving the No. 24 car driver’s personal life.
Dale Earnhardt Sr. fostered a long rivalry with Jeff Gordon
Jeff Gordon entered the NASCAR scene in the early 1990s as the next rising star in the sport.
It didn’t exactly rub Dale Earnhardt Sr. the right way through a competitive perspective. Beyond the tough and gritty driving between Gordon and Earnhardt Sr., some verbal jabs were thrown from the latter off the track.
One of those came quite early in Gordon’s NASCAR career that didn’t involve anything on the race track.
Dale Earnhardt Sr. questioned Jeff Gordon’s sexuality
With Jeff Gordon experiencing success early in his career, it put him in direct competition with Dale Earnhardt Sr.
Despite his youth, Earnhardt Sr. saw Gordon as a formidable challenge among his peers in the early 90s. Given those circumstances, the eldest Earnhardt elected to take a personal jab at the rising star driver’s dating life. According to an article in a Sports Illustrated issue in 2015, after it was publicly revealed that Gordon was dating NASCAR model Brooke Sealey in 1993, Earnhardt joked about his competitor’s sexuality.
When they made it public after the season, Earnhardt quipped, “Some of us were beginning to wonder if you liked girls.” That gave ammo to the Fans Against Gordon army, a not-so-enlightened gang that delighted in bearing signs and stickers with Gordon’s picture and the group’s acronym.
During this time, Earnhardt Sr. often took verbal shots at Gordon due to his brightly color painted cars and bubbling personality. All that didn’t make it surprising to hear that the chatter was that he fueled rumors around the No. 24 car driver that he was gay.
Gordon didn’t feed into the chatter and went about his business on the track and continued to put together a highly successful career. Despite all that dialogue, he still holds massive respect toward his former peer.
Tremendous respect remains
Although there was tremendous competitiveness on the track between Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Sr., it didn’t bleed over into hatred.
Over the years, Gordon has received his fair share of disdain tossed his way due to his non-typical personality for a NASCAR driver and continued success. Through it all, he holds great respect for Earnhardt Sr. and what he accomplished on the track.
There may have been some mean spirited actions that Dale Sr. directed at Gordon, but it didn’t overlook the two’s competitive rivalry. They brought the best out of each other on the track, which led to tremendous success for each driver.
During an interview with Fox Sports before the 2019 Daytona 500, Gordon voiced his appreciation toward Earnhardt Sr.
“I didn’t realize how important rivals were,” Gordon said. “I wish I had his confidence to play into it to build it up even more. You could easily say that’s what launched my career.
“As much as he messed with me, somehow on the inside, I always thought it was a sign of respect. He wouldn’t have said anything at all if he didn’t care. I respected the heck out of this guy. I loved racing with him. I hated it at times, but overall my experience was incredible. I miss him. I know a lot of people do.”
Gordon is quite aware of the impact and influence that Earnhardt Sr. had on shaping his illustrious professional racing career.