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MONDAY, APRIL 30, 2007
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Jeff Gordon celebrates career victory No. 77 after his win at Talladega Superspeedway.
AP photo by Rob Carr
Jeff Gordon celebrates career victory No. 77 after his win at Talladega Superspeedway.

An unpopular champion
After Gordon wins, fans
trash the track - again

By Jenna Fryer
Associated Press Writer

TALLADEGA — At the track where Dale Earnhardt dominated, and on the day he would have turned 56, Jeff Gordon scored career victory No. 77.

It was the fitting venue, the perfect day, for Gordon to move past Earnhardt on NASCAR's wins list. And, as expected, it was wildly unpopular.

Fans littered the track with debris Sunday as Gordon crossed the finish line under caution at Talladega Superspeedway to move into sixth place on the win list.

"I never caused a riot before for winning — well, maybe once or twice," Gordon laughed.

It was the same reaction he received last week in Phoenix when he tied Earnhardt's mark and flew a No. 3 flag on his victory lap. That gesture didn't sit well with Earnhardt fans, even though Dale Earnhardt Jr. called the tribute classy and urged his "Red Army" of supporters to stop throwing beer cans out of safety concerns.

"I thought Junior had more power," Gordon said. "I thought they'd throw toilet paper, which is what he asked them to throw. I saw maybe one roll."

But Talladega is Earnhardt country. The Intimidator won 10 times here, and his legion of fans adopted his son following Earnhardt's 2001 death. The fans turn the grandstands into a sea of red, and when Junior charges to the front the roar is deafening.

It's what made this the perfect place for Gordon to surpass the seven-time champion. Although their fans mix like oil and water, Earnhardt and Gordon were pals. They shared a competitive rivalry on the track and a healthy friendship away from it.

Earnhardt would have been proud, and Gordon was conflicted about it.

"On one side I just want to jump up and down and be fired up about getting 77 here at Talladega where three-quarters of the grandstands were pulling against us," Gordon said. "And then on the other side, I respected Dale so much, learned so much from him, today being his birthday and knowing how many of those people up there wanted to see Dale Earnhardt Jr. win today — it's tough.

This weekend found a lot of boaters having fun on Wheeler Lake, including people who own personal watercraft. With so many people, the waterway was extremely dangerous. Be extra careful this time of year when people are getting on the water for the first time.

Wheeler Lake: Look for bedding largemouth bass to invade the shallows. Some of the largemouths are already on the bed, while it appears that others are getting ready. Since the waters of Wheeler stay fairly dinged at times, targeting spawning females maybe difficult. Throwing plastic lizards in the shallows might pick up a big female bass or two.

Anglers are catching bluegill around gravel beds early in the day, especially when there are rock bluffs nearby. Live redworms are the bait of choice.

Anglers are catching catfish around the clock. The best catches are from around rock and concrete structure in depths of 10 feet or better.

Wilson Lake: Anglers are having a good time catching hybrids and stripers in the creeks. It will take a lot more than medium tackle to get in some of the bigger brutes, which weigh more than 10 pounds. Live shad and live minnows work well on specific, rounded baithooks.

The catfish bite is still good in the tailrace with many of the cats feeding on rooster livers and shad guts.

Pickwick Lake: White bass and hybrid stripe are feeding aggressively around causeway bridges when current is flowing. You should not expect to find a lot of surface action, so throwing chrome-colored crankbaits and white-colored swimming grubs is a good technique to use.

Smallmouth bass are still feeding early in the morning in sloughs just off the main river channel.

If you find a slough with a gravel bottom, throw topwater baits for some hard-hitting action.

Lake Guntersville: The largemouth bass bite is good one day and fair the next. A few of the best methods to try is jerkbaits just out from weedbeds, Texas-rigged plastic lizards near shoreline grassbeds and lipless crankbaits close to grass on cloudy days.

- Paul Stackhouse

Nextel Cup standings

1. Jeff Gordon 1,521

2. Jeff Burton 1,318

3.Matt Kenseth 1,292

4. Jimmie Johnson 1,290

5. Denny Hamlin 1,189

6. Tony Stewart 1,078

7. Jamie McMurray 1,059

8. Kyle Busch 1,054

9. Kyle Harvick 1,052

10. Kurt Busch 1,038

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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