TALLADEGA, Ala. - Jeff Foxworthy has made a very good living by defining, for laughs, what makes someone a redneck.
Foxworthy was the Grand Marshall for Sunday’s NASCAR Nextel Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway and he said he felt right in his element.
“If I spent two days at this place, I’d never have to do any more research,” Foxworthy told the big Talladega crowd before the start of the Aaron’s 499.
The line drew a big laugh and nods of agreement from many in the crowd and it came just moments after track president Grant Lynch made a plea that the fans refrain from throwing anything onto the track in respect for the drivers and their fellow spectators.
Lynch also threatened that anyone caught throwing objects from the stands would be arrested.
The fan reaction at the finish proved there was probably some truth to the comedian’s joking reference and that few paid any attention to Lynch’s words.
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.
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 seventh.
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.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter called the postrace uproar “very unfortunate” and added, “A few unruly fans can ruin things for a lot of people. The track put a lot of effort into preventing this type of behavior.
“Our fans are passionate, but this type of behavior doesn’t represent the majority of our fans.”
Lynch said additional security had been brought in for this race and added, “As promised, we enforced our policies and took the appropriate actions on individuals that we were able to accurately identify.”
A track spokesman said 10 spectators were “detained” during the beer can barrage.
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.
Video: Motor sports coverage
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