Jeff Gordon constructed a Hall of Fame NASCAR career with many impressive moments. Gordon’s time on the track came with some controversial instances that drew ire. One of those situations led to fans pelting beer cans at him following a controversial win over Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Jeff Gordon’s rivalry with Dale Earnhardt
Jeff Gordon’s rise to stardom in the mid-1990s saw him quickly garner tremendous recognition behind his success.
His ascension also saw him become immediate rivals with Dale Earnhardt Sr. as they competed for championships. The entire situation led to the No. 24 car driver receiving much lasting hatred due to the instances he had the upper hand against Earnhardt.
Several years into his career, Gordon was also on the receiving end of some disgraceful behavior after a controversial win over Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Jeff Gordon pelted by beers cans after controversial win over Dale Earnhardt Jr.
A few years before the two drivers became teammates, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were involved in a controversial situation on the race track.
The incident took place during the 2004 Aaron’s 499 spring race at Talladega Superspeedway. The conflict arose due to the finish as a caution flag came out in the final four laps, with Gordon holding a half a car length lead ahead of Earnhardt Jr.
Many fans thought there would be one lap of caution preceded by a pair of laps with the green flag. Instead, NASCAR announced that the race would end under the yellow flag and the field frozen.
As Gordon celebrated the win in his car on the track, many angry fans expressed their feelings about the decision by throwing beer cans at the No. 24 car. Much of this hatred stemmed toward Gordon due to not only defeating Earnhardt Jr., but he also passed his father on the all-time wins list on what would have been his 56th birthday.
Following the race, Gordon voiced that he knew he had a massive uphill battle ahead at the place where Earnhardt Sr. won 10 times, according to ESPN.
“It’s tough,” Gordon said. “I knew three-quarters of these fans were against me. I didn’t want to start a riot today, but I wanted to break that record. I really didn’t think it would come here. It’s just an unbelievable day.”
The entire situation poured another level of hatred toward Gordon from Earnhardt fans that steamed throughout much of his career.
A fond memory in his book
The entire situation painted an ugly picture as one of NASCAR’s most popular drivers received that type of disgraceful treatment.
However, Gordon still fully embraces the fans’ reaction as he recollected the incident on Dale Jr. Download podcast in December 2018 by calling it “the greatest day of my life.”
“This is the greatest day of my life,” Gordon said. “You have to understand I came through in 1995 people were cheering me in the beginning of the year and booing me by the end of the year. Beginning I was winning races and they were like ‘who is this new guy? He’s winning races and off to a good start.’
“Then it was me and [Earnhardt Sr.] going through and we were winning a lot of races, but we were winning more. Then we were ahead in the points. Once we were ahead in the points, it was ‘nu uh.’ They may have cheered for me before but they weren’t then. I went through a lot of years trying to figure why fans booed me or cheered against me.”
All that gave Gordon the clear understanding that those fans that pelted him with beer cans were hardcore Earnhardt fans. Instead, he interpreted the boos and beer cans as sense of recognition of what he accomplished that day.