TALLADEGA, Ala. - As beer cans bounced around his car, Jeff Gordon crossed the finish line yesterday for win No. 77 - breaking a tie with the late Dale Earnhardt on NASCAR's career victory list.

Jimmie Johnson, Gordon's teammate, finished second as Hendrick Motorsports cars continued their season-long domination. Hendrick drivers have won six of the first nine races.

Kurt Busch was third, David Gilliland fourth and Jamie McMurray finished fifth.

It was only fitting that Gordon's victory happened at Talladega Superspeedway, where Earnhardt - who would have been 56 yesterday - won 10 times in his Cup career.

But it was anticlimactic and confusing, ending under caution to leave Gordon unsure if he'd actually won and taken over sixth place on the wins list.

"Is it over?" he radioed his crew. "Is it over? Is it official?"

Nobody knew after two separate accidents on the first lap of a two-lap shoot-out to the finish froze the field and had NASCAR scrambling to make sense of the finish.

It was a stark difference to last week, when Gordon won in Phoenix to tie Earnhardt's mark and flew a No. 3 flag on his victory lap as a tribute to the seven-time champion. The gesture was poorly received, though, as fans threw debris at him even though Dale Earnhardt Jr. immediately - and publicly - praised the tribute.

Junior condemned fans for throwing beer cans during the week, imploring his "Red Army" of supporters to instead toss toilet paper out of safety concerns.

Track officials did their part, warning during the pre-race ceremony that any fan caught throwing debris onto the track would be arrested. They made good on it, too, hauling fans away in handcuffs as officers stationed in the stands fruitlessly tried to stop it.

Gordon's crew, meanwhile, frantically called for security help to get the team spotter out of the stands.

"It don't look like it's something you can control," Earnhardt Jr. sighed.

As the beer cans rained down on his car, Gordon cut short his on-track celebration and drove to Victory Lane.

"I never caused a riot before for winning - well, maybe once or twice," Gordon said. "I thought Junior had more power. I thought they'd throw toilet paper, which is what he asked them to throw. I saw maybe one roll."


KANSAS CITY, Kan. - Dan Wheldon, a close runner-up in his two previous races at Kansas Speedway, made this one a rare yawner.

Wheldon was 10 seconds ahead of Dario Franchitti late in the Kansas Lottery Indy 300, won under caution when Ed Carpenter crashed with two laps to go.

It was Wheldon's second victory in four races this year, along with the season opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and the 13th of his career. The win gave him a shot of momentum for the race that matters most to him - the Indianapolis 500.

"We're ready to go for the big one now," said Wheldon, who won at Indy in 2005 on his way to the IndyCar Series points title.

Dario Franchitti was second, followed by Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon, Tomas Scheckter, Sam Hornish Jr., Danica Patrick, Vitor Meira, A.J. Foyt IV and Jeff Simmons.