It’s no secret that the most popular driver of this generation is Dale Earnhardt Jr., and it’s not really because of his name anymore.
His contributions to the sport as a NASCAR Xfinity Series team owner have led to some real championship-caliber drivers. His work as a broadcaster has allowed for some iconic calls.
Not to mention he has his media company, Dirty Mo Media, that produces Door Bumper Clear, Actions Detrimental (hosted by Denny Hamlin) and the Dale Jr. Download (hosted by Earnhardt himself) and other podcasts that have given fans entertainment in different ways.
On DJD, Earnhardt brings on past and present NASCAR drivers, crew and personnel to discuss old stories, gain further insight into certain pieces of ambiguous NASCAR history and even clear the air between Earnhardt and a former rival.
On Actions Detrimental, Hamlin discusses his previous race, and with all the controversy he has been involved in this season, his podcast has quickly become a topic of interest in what a driver can say when he isn’t at the racetrack (Hamlin was fined earlier in the season for admitting on his podcast to intentionally wrecking Ross Chastain at Phoenix Raceway).
Earnhardt was also crucial to the revival of North Wilkesboro Speedway, as the revival started as a mere clean-up project headed up by Earnhardt in order to get the track scanned for use by iRacing.
The two-time Xfinity champion and 15-time NASCAR Cup Series Most Popular Driver was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2022.
But despite his accomplishments and general admiration from fans, there was one incident where Earnhardt was inexplicably booed — after winning a race, no less.
Earnhardt still had his rivals throughout his time in Xfinity and Cup despite his generally well-mannered attitude, but there was never an instance where he and another driver came together and the other driver wasn’t booed. The exception came during an Xfinity (then Busch Series) race in 2006 at Michigan International Speedway.
Running a limited schedule in the series along with his full-time Cup Series stint, Earnhardt found himself running third after a late caution behind Robby Gordon (who was, coincidentally, driving a JR Motorsports entry) and Carl Edwards.
On the restart, Earnhardt jumped to the outside of Gordon and found himself on the rear bumper of Edwards off of turn 2. However, Earnhardt had more momentum than Edwards and turned the latter across Gordon’s nose and into the inside wall on the backstretch as the caution came out.
Who’s at fault is up for debate. Edwards got loose off the corner and was a sitting duck, as both Earnhardt and Gordon had runs. Had Earnhardt not turned him, Gordon would have passed him into turn 3. However, it looked like Earnhardt didn’t even give Edwards a chance to save his car and ran through him. All in all, it stemmed down to three drivers racing for the win.
Overtime beyond one attempt was not established yet, so the race concluded under yellow, with Earnhardt taking the checkered flag. Edwards was not happy with the call, asking if Earnhardt could be black-flagged for the maneuver.
Just after the checkered flag flew, Edwards ran down Earnhardt and sideswiped him under caution. Earnhardt had his hand out the window (as most drivers do while under yellow) at the time and had to quickly retract it when Edwards came along.
“I had my hand out the window after the race, and he could have took my hand off,” Earnhardt said in victory lane. “Luckily, he didn’t. Pretty stupid. I’ve seen him do it before. I should have known.”
When Earnhardt initially stepped out of his car in victory lane to celebrate, he was unexpectedly showered in boos from the Michigan grandstands. Earnhardt fully heard it and acknowledged it in his post-race interview.
“You know, we got a great core of fans, but that definitely is going to divide them right down the middle,” he said.
Edwards was more calm in his post-race interview than he was on the radio, saying he was wrecked off of turn 2 and all he wanted to do was make sure Earnhardt knew Edwards was upset.
When told he got loose off of turn 2, Edwards humorously said, “We broke something, I think it was traction.”
Despite the incident, Earnhardt still maintained his massive fan base all the way through his retirement from full-time racing in 2017 and beyond. Neither Edwards nor Earnhardt had any major issues with each other after that race either.
It’s hard to fathom Earnhardt being booed for literally anything, but that day in 2006, fans felt like voicing their displeasure at a questionable move, as they always do. Even the most popular driver isn’t safe from the vocal wrath of the fans.
About the author
Anthony Damcott joined Frontstretch in March 2022. He co-authors Only Yesterday (Wednesdays) and Fire on Fridays (Fridays); he is also the site's primary Truck Series reporter and writer, and contributes to SRX coverage, too. A proud West Virginia Wesleyan College alum from Akron, Ohio, Anthony is currently pursuing his master of journalism at Temple University. He is a theatre actor and fight choreographer-in-training outside of Frontstretch. He is a loyal fan of the Cincinnati Reds and Carolina Panthers, still hopeful for a championship at some point in his lifetime.
You can keep up with Anthony by following @AnthonyDamcott on Twitter.
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