How many beer cans will a Southern race fan throw if you end a race under caution? Well, NASCAR heard the punch line Sunday; backlit by a drone of tens of thousands of boos. Followed by a delightful cacophony of hundreds of beer cans bouncing off...
How many beer cans will a Southern race fan throw if you end a race under caution? Well, NASCAR heard the punch line Sunday; backlit by a drone of tens of thousands of boos. Followed by a delightful cacophony of hundreds of beer cans bouncing off the No. 24 Chevy of Jeff Gordon.
You've got to love Alabama.
The controversy bubbled with four laps to go, as Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Jeff Gordon battled for the lead. Rookie Brian Vickers lost control of his No. 25 Chevy and spun bringing out the day's final yellow. Fans, drivers, and media expected one lap of caution, followed by a two-lap shoot out for the win.
NASCAR had something else in mind. They froze the field at the moment of caution, and ended the race under yellow conditions. The fans, which had been sitting in the stifling heat all day consuming adult beverages, were not amused.
Almost on cue, as the cars came down for the white flag lap, irate race fans began showing their disgust by pitching beer cans on the track, primarily aiming for Jeff Gordon's Chevy.
Gordon, however, took the show of disgust in stride, "I took a lot of satisfaction out of a lot of things from that moment. And that was one of them. Anytime Junior doesn't win here and he has a shot at, I think it's controversial. There are so many people pulling for him. He has a huge fan base. It was controversial because of that and because we didn't go back to racing. I think they wanted to see him have a shot at it. But we've had this Dupont/Pepsi car for a few years not and never gotten it into victory lane. So that was very gratifying."
The beer can debacle wasn't the only controversy brewing at Talladega on Sunday afternoon. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. believes that he was in the lead of the race when the caution came out, and was robbed of a victory.
"I thought they said the No. 8 car was ahead right off the bat," said Earnhardt. "They said No. 8 and No. 24. About a lap later, they said No. 24 and No. 8. Apparently they were looking at their tapes. They were pretty much staying with that story."
Earnhardt's frustrations with the sanctioning body, prompted him to also understand the reaction of fans that paid high-ticket prices to see an exciting finish. But left feeling like they had been robbed.
"It's just that people have been here all day long having a good time," continued Earnhardt. "A lot of times you do things you regret or shouldn't do. In a way, I look at it as a pure form of expression which I really rare in this sport. It's really the only outlet left of telling it like it is. A side of me really likes to see the reaction whether it was pro Earnhardt or anti-Earnhardt. I've seen a lot of people holding up No. 24 banners and hats that were happy Gordon won the race. A lot of people may have been disappointed just because they didn't go back to green.
"But we can only speculate. But each little beer can out there has a little message on it. What that message is, we don't all really know for sure. I don't think they really trashed the place. They were expressing themselves in the only manner they saw fit. You see one beer can go on the track and you can expect to see more following it."