Brian Vickers spun in the third turn four laps from the finish and Gordon was just a few feet ahead of Earnhardt. With the field frozen, Gordon was ruled the leader and, with the final four laps run under caution, won Sunday's NASCAR Aaron's 499.
With many of the 200,000 spectators cheering for Earnhardt, the decision to end the race was not popular.
Gordon's victory broke a streak of five victories by DEI cars at the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway. Earnhardt had won four straight with his teammate Michael Waltrip winning here last October.