No. 12: Harvick gives son Keelan Harvick a ride to Michigan’s victory lane.
No. 11: NASCAR reveals a version of the new rules package in the All-Star race at Charlotte. Harvick won.
No. 10: Clint Bowyer snaps a 190-race winless streak at Martinsville in the spring.
No. 9: Hailie Deegan gets a historic win as the first female in a major NASCAR series at Meridian (ID) Speedway.
No. 8: “Sliced bread” Joey Logano becomes the toast of NASCAR with his championship win. Mark Martin gave Logano his nickname before he ever entered the Cup series.
No. 7: Ross Chastain shoulders the pressure and gets his first Xfinity win at Las Vegas. “I’m just a watermelon farmer from Florida,” he said at the start-finish line.
No. 6: Logano bumps Truex out of the lead in Turn 4 at Martinsville in the fall to win and clinch his spot in the Championship 4.
No. 5: The Kyle and Kyle show gets physical on the last lap at Chicagoland. Kyle Larson knocks Kyle Busch out of the lead. Busch returns the favor. Dale Earnhardt Jr gets a catch phrase with “Slide Job!”
No. 4: Austin Dillon kicks the season off in style by spinning Aric Almirola out of the lead on the last lap of the Daytona 500 and become the first driver to secure a spot in the 2018 playoffs.
No. 3: The end of an era. Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus part ways after 17 years together.
No. 2: Chaos on the Charlotte Roval including one the wildest last laps of the season. Ryan Blaney wins after Truex and Johnson crash in the final chicane.
No. 1: The beginning of the future. Chase Elliott wins at Watkins Glen after finishing second eight times. His Hall of Fame father Bill Elliott scored his first win on the road course of Riverside International Raceway after finishing second eight times.
Dale Jr. Download: Jeff Gordon recalls 2004 Aaron’s 499 at Talladega
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.
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.'”
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.”
“I would not be an owner if it weren’t for Rick Hendrick and being there for such a long time and the contract that I signed that helped me be an equity owner,” Gordon said. “I want to be partners with Rick in the business. I certainly would never want to go out and do this on my own. Nor would I even be capable of (it).”
Gordon has a history of ownership outside Hendrick. He and his former crew chief, Ray Evernham, co-owned Gordon-Evernham Motorsports, an Xfinity Series team they fielded from 1999-2000.
Gordon went on to explain what keeps him from being more involved in Hendrick Motorsports: the state of the NASCAR business model.
“I’m always so interested in what’s happening from the business aspect,” Gordon said. “I’ve got to say, (Interim CEO and Chairman) Jim France and the France family and the involvement they have right now, (President) Steve Phelps. I’m seeing some momentum of some thing things, what’s happening with the (Race Team Alliance). There’s just some cool things that are happening and it all got started I think talking about Comcast coming in and buying NASCAR.
“Whether that was ever a reality or whatever was going to happen, what it’s generated is concerted efforts where people are coming together to try and take the sport to the next level from a business viability standpoint. That’s what I’m excited about. If it could do that, you would see me far more involved. But right now, if you look at the business model on paper, no, it doesn’t make sense. We’re lucky to have racing as more of a hobby and do it the level we do it because of our partners.”
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.