Drunken NASCAR ’Bubbas’ pelt cars with beer cans
Talladega is considered Earnhardt country. The fans here loved the late Dale Earnhardt, who won at the Alabama track 10 times, and they adore Dale Earnhardt Jr., the living legacy of his father and a five-time winner here. Right, The race isn’t even over yet and already you can see the beer cars hitting the track thrown by the classless drunken 'Bubba' NASCAR fans.
When Junior drove into the lead late in the race, the roar from the 140,000 throats was louder than the engines on the track. The disappointment was palpable when Earnhardt faded from contention and wound up finishing fifth.
Then the race finished under caution and the hated Jeff Gordon – the anti-Earnhardt, as far as many fans here are concerned – was declared the winner. It was his 77th career victory, breaking a tie for sixth on the career win list with the elder Earnhardt – which also didn’t sit well with some in the big crowd.
Even before the field drove slowly around the 2.66-mile oval for the final lap under the yellow flag, beer cans were raining down on the track.
It was reminiscent of the race here in the spring of 2004 when Gordon also won a caution-shortened race and, worse for the Talladega mob, it was Earnhardt Jr. he beat that day. Beer cans, seat cushions and garbage rained onto the track in a shameful display.
In a lot of ways, though, Sunday’s bombardment was worse because, this time, it was not just Gordon’s No. 24 Chevrolet they were pelting.
People seemed to have no care what or whom they hit. Beer cans were slamming into the cars and the ground and exploding all around the helpless NASCAR officials checking rear spoilers of the cars at the entrance to pit road, as they do at the end of every Cup race.
“I’m not sure they were more upset that the race finished under caution or at Jeff because, as was pointed out, they didn’t just throw (the cans) at Jeff,” said Jimmie Johnson, Gordon’s teammate and the race runner-up. “I don’t see what would possess people to throw a beer can out on a racetrack or at people or at race cars. I really don’t know the logic behind it, I just hope it goes away.”
Gordon acknowledged a lack of judgment when he chose to stop and do a brief burnout in front of the main grandstand, all but daring the fans to throw more missiles – which they gladly did.
“It was probably a bad decision, I’ll admit, looking back on it, the safety for the fans,” he said. “I can’t get past remembering when I won this race in the battle with Junior and having the picture of the car being showered with cans and things. But it was a bad decision and it did sort of egg people on.
“But I have my fans out there, too. And my fans want to see me celebrate.”
Maybe. But the next time he wins at Talladega, maybe Gordon should wear a suit of armor. ThatsRacing.com