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Dale Jr. Download: Jeff Gordon recalls 2004 Aaron’s 499 at Talladega

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“Oh, I remember that one.”

It would be hard for Jeff Gordon to forget the 2004 Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway.

It was the race where Gordon celebrated a win under a torrential shower … of Budweiser.

“Well, I don’t remember a whole heck of a lot about the race itself, I do remember the finish,” Gordon recalled on this week’s episode of the Dale Jr. Download.. “That was one of those days were I so glad we didn’t have to race back to the line. That they froze the field.”

Beer-filled cans and cups rained down on Gordon, thrown by angry Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans in the grandstands upset that NASCAR had declared Gordon the winner in a controversial finish.

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Minutes before, Earnhardt had crossed the finish line ahead of Gordon to a happy roar from the fans who thought he was in first.

Earnhardt had passed Gordon on the outside out of Turn 4 as they came to four laps to go in a nine-lap shootout to end the race.

But the shootout effectively ended when Brian Vickers wrecked in Turn 3, the caution came out and the field was frozen by NASCAR.

“I was sitting there going, ‘I think I was ahead, I think I was ahead!’” Gordon said. “When they told me I was, I was like ‘Yeeeees!’

“Then all of sudden I realized, ‘Uh oh, there’s going to be a lot of pissed off people in the grandstands.'”

MORE: The time Dale Jr. got Jeff Gordon out of a speeding ticket

MORE:  Rick Hendrick wants Jeff Gordon “in my place” when he steps away

Four laps later, Gordon took the checkered flag. The beer storm began during Gordon’s cool down lap.

“You (Earnhardt) always had an incredible following, but I look back at those days and where the sport was and the enthusiasm and the trendiness of NASCAR and how it was just blowing up and you were such a huge part of that,” Gordon said. “I played my role in it as well. But to have me and you kind of going head-to-head like that and for it to come down to a controversial finish, it was one of those times where I was like, ‘I don’t know if I want to win this race or not.’ I also wanted to get out of here alive.”

What was going through Gordon’s mind as his car was peppered with beer-filled objects?

“This is the greatest day of my life,” Gordon said on the podcast.

The moment reminded Gordon of the early days of his Cup career, when he and Dale Earnhardt Sr. enjoyed their own rivalry in the mid-90s.

“You have to understand, in 1995, people were cheering me at the beginning of the year and booing me by the end of the year,” Gordon said. “Because at the beginning of the year I was just starting to win more races and it was, ‘Ok, who’s this new guy? He’s on the circuit and he’s off to a good start.’

“Then it was me and your dad, right? We’re going for some of those wins and we were both winning a lot of races. But we were winning more. Then we were ahead in points. So once we were ahead in points, it was ‘Uh uh.’ They may have cheered for me the year before or earlier that year. They weren’t cheering for me then.”

The 1995 season saw Gordon win seven races and his first of four Cup titles as Earnhardt Sr. won five times and finished second in the standings.

“I went through a lot of figuring out why fans booed me or cheered against me or whatever,” Gordon said. “At first I didn’t get it or understand, but then I was like, ‘Ok. Their guy is Dale Earnhardt. I’m the opposite of that in competition at the same time.’ So, I got it, I started getting it. Leading into this moment at Talladega, I was like, ‘There’s no way I’m going to win this battle with the fans because they want (Earnhardt Jr.) to win.’ But I was still damn happy that I won the race.

“So when they started throwing stuff at me … I started realizing the boos were like recognition of what I had accomplished. When they started throwing (expletive), I was like, ‘Yes, this is awesome.’ Not that I encourage people to throw things out on the track, but that is the essence of NASCAR in those days. You wish you had moments today, that they cared that much for what is happening.”

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How Dale Earnhardt Jr. helped Jeff Gordon avoid speeding ticket

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The Earnhardt name carries a lot of weight and no one knows that more than Jeff Gordon.

The four-time Cup champion was a guest on Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s podcast on Tuesday and during a Q&A session held on YouTube, Gordon was asked about a run-in with a police officer and Earnhardt being on the Gordon’s phone at the right time.

The incident took place in 2007, very close to when Earnhardt was officially announced as joining Hendrick Motorsports in 2008.

Here’s how Gordon remembers the story:

“Maybe it was the day before it was official, but Rick (Hendrick) told me. … So I was driving to dinner and I (thought), ‘I’m going to call him.’ I didn’t have the hands free setup in the car so I just called him. I’m driving along, on the phone, we’re talking and I’m congratulating you and welcoming you to the team. … All of a sudden I’ve got blue lights in my rear window. I’m like, ‘Uh oh, I’m getting pulled over.’ I wasn’t sure if I should stay on the phone with Dale or not. But I said, ‘No, no. Stay on here, I may need you.’

“Luckily I did, because first the guy says to me, ‘You know you’re not supposed to be on your cell phone?’ Then second, ‘You know you were speeding?’ Then I just said, and I never do this, but I said this is the moment where I got to pull this off. I said, ‘I know and I’m sorry. You don’t happen to be a Dale Earnhardt Jr. fan, are you?’

“He said, ‘Yeah, why? What does that have to do with anything?’ I said, ‘I’ve got him on the phone, I was congratulating him on something.’ He goes, ‘What?’ and I just handed him the phone off and you spoke to him for just two seconds and got me out of it!”

Said Earnhardt, “I was just trying to make a great impression with my new teammate.”

“He made the greatest impression on me!” said Gordon.

Watch the above video for the full Q&A session with Gordon.

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Dale Jr. Download: A look behind the curtain at JR Motorsports

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On this week’s Dale Jr. Download podcast, the eponymous owner of JR Motorsports provided some insight into how the organization is run.

“People would be surprised at how strictly … to the budge we run our company,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said. “And how compromising everyone is: the crew chiefs, car chiefs – those guys want the latest and greatest. The parts and pieces. They want to spend money to make speed, but they have to understand if you’ve got five things that will make the car fast, you got to pick two. You don’t get all five.”

At the helm is Earnhardt’s sister, Kelley Earnhardt Miller.

“It’s a maze to navigate, and Kelley is deep, deep, deep within that maze with these guys,” Earnhardt continued. “Boots on the ground, working every day.”

In the Miami media center following Tyler Reddick‘s Xfinity championship, Kelley Earnhardt Miller explained the difference between JR Motorsports and Team Penske or Richard Childress Racing.

JR Motorsports is a separate entity from Hendrick Motorsports and that distinction is important to the team. As a customer of the larger organization, the team doesn’t have the same access to the development and engineering of the parts and pieces. It buys what is necessary.

Earnhardt Jr. compared his organization to a minor-league farm team in baseball – operating separately but connected to the Cup program.

For a more detailed look at the working of this organization, watch the video above.

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Dale Jr. Download: Addressing repaves, rules packages and penalties

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Recorded on Monday after a Texas Cup race filled with controversy but not filled with a lot of on-track action, Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s weekly Dale Jr. Download podcast addressed the state of the sport, improvements already made and potential enhancements that are in the works.

Texas Repave and Reconfiguration (begins at about the 1:30 mark)

After the race, Chase Elliott complained about the repaving and reconfiguration of Texas Motor Speedway, saying: “I don’t know what genius decided to pave this place or take the banking out of (Turns) 1 and 2. Not a good move for the entertainment factor, in my opinion.”

Earnhardt notes that the repaving was a necessity. Texas was forced to reschedule an IndyCar race in 2016 because the track surface was unable to control weepers. His opinion about the reconfiguration was mixed.

“The reconfiguration, though; not sure that I would have done that,” Earnhardt opined. “With that said, I think the less banking in (Turns) 1 and 2 is maybe the only thing that created passing in the race. Guys going down in there and getting moved up the racetrack.”

2019 Rules package and beyond (4:20)

A new rules package for 2019 has drivers and teams already debating its efficacy. In a tweet after Sunday’s race, Denny Hamlin addressed the pending rules, saying it is naïve to think the new package will solve one-groove racing.

“One of the most important things to the racetrack is what connects (the car) to the road,” Earnhardt said. “The tire is the most important component to all of this. … That’s why Goodyear’s job is the toughest job in the sport. Tougher than the governing body. Goodyear is the key to all of our answers.”

Moreover, a new engine package needs to be created specifically with the new aerodynamic rules and tires in mind.

“There is a new engine package coming in a couple of years that is going to be an open engine with 550 or whatever horsepower,” Earnhardt said. “Until then, we’ve got this stopgap restricted engine … and that’s okay too. It helps us understand where we’re headed and what we need to do to fix it.”

Stop Listening to All the Drivers and Fans (5:45)

Earnhardt believes it is time for NASCAR to become more selective about who they listen to. Conflicting agendas make it impossible to get a clear picture of the path that needs to be taken, so the sanctioning body should find a few drivers they respect without feeling the need for an all-inclusive Drivers’ Council.

“NASCAR doesn’t need to listen to the drivers. NASCAR needs to listen to some drivers,” he said. “NASCAR doesn’t need to listen to every single fan when they have opinions. They need to listen to some fans.”

Make Penalties Fearsome (9:50)

“I’m a believer in a stern, strict system … that has penalties and deterrents that are incredibly severe that would make you never want to fail tech,” Earnhardt said.

Addressing the controversial mistake by NASCAR to send Jimmie Johnson to the back of the field after failing pre-race inspection twice, Earnhardt was in agreement with Tony Stewart’s comments earlier this week about ways to simplify the tech process. He believes fewer rules and zero tolerance is desirable.

“We need less rules – like tech shouldn’t be such a giant process – but the rules that we do keep, those are rules, and if you break those rules that should be it.”

On Wednesday, after the Dale Jr. Download podcast aired, NASCAR levied an L1 penalty against Kevin Harvick for an illegal spoiler. Later in the day, NASCAR’s senior vice president of competition Scott Miller suggested harsher penalties might be coming in 2019 for similar infractions.

Dale Jr. Download: Did Roger Penske change opinion on last-lap contact?

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It was the shot heard around the racing world Sunday at Martinsville Speedway, where Joey Logano moved Martin Truex Jr. on the final lap for the win.

And it reminded Dale Earnhardt Jr. of another last-lap shot three years earlier at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Regan Smith, driving for JR Motorsports, bumped Alex Tagliani of Team Penske out of the lead for the Xfinity Series win in the Aug. 15, 2015 race.

“Really what (Smith) did, he just pushed (Tagliani) off the road; there was no question what happened,” team owner Roger Penske told Claire B. Lang on SiriusXM after the race. “I guess if that’s the way these guys want to play, we’ll remember that. There will be another time.

“That, in my mind, didn’t give me the reason I’d hire a guy like Regan Smith, because he pushed a guy off on the last lap,” Penske added. “He should have raced him clean.”

During his weekly Dale Jr. Download podcast (video above starting around the 5:00 mark), Earnhardt was struck by how Penske’s opinion seemed markedly different when Team Penske’s Logano moved Truex in a fashion that wasn’t entirely dissimilar, causing Truex to brand it a “cheap shot.”

“(Truex is) a racer and should know better than to say that,” Logano’s car owner Roger Penske retorted after Logano’s victory advanced him to championship race in Miami. “That was as clean a shot as you can have in a race like this.”

Earnhardt was amused by the differing views.

“Roger said, ‘Well, Martin knows better, being a race car driver. That was probably the nicest shot he could have expected to get at a race like this,’ ” Earnhardt said. “(Penske was) saying Martin should be ashamed of saying (it was a cheap shot) being the race car driver he is … that he got handled with kid gloves.

“But! Do you remember Mid-Ohio? Pushing (Tagliani) out of the way in the last corner? You know what Roger said about that? I will never hire a driver that will win a race that way. So all right, think about that. It depends on who’s doing it. If it’s your favorite driver, boy, you’re all for it. If it’s your favorite driver getting bumped out of the way, it’s (expletive). Even if you’re Roger Fricking Penske.”

Whether Logano’s move was clean or dirty seemingly depended entirely on one’s perspective.

“He just ran in the back of me and knocked me out of the way,” Truex said on NBCSN after the race. “Short track racing, but what comes around, goes around. He just took a cheap shot at the end there.”

After Martinsville’s race, Denny Hamlin may have summed it up best: “It depends on who is doing it. If it’s your favorite driver, you love it. If (it’s not), it’s dirty.”

Some of the times that haunt a driver most are when he’s too nice, according to Earnhardt.

“I’ve been a nice guy,” Earnhardt said. “There’s a lot of those moments in my career that I certainly regret. … You relive every race that you didn’t win. What you could have done differently. What you should have done. There’s moments when I know… if I’d been more aggressive. Or I could have run over the guy. So when I see Martin doing that I’m like ‘Argh, Martin come on, don’t do this again. ‘ ”

In the video above, Earnhardt also described a battle between himself and Kevin Harvick in the April 3, 2011 race at Martinisville when he unsuccessfully tried to move Harvick in the closing laps after yielding the lead.

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