Dale Earnhardt, Jr. may be one of the biggest stars in NASCAR racing, but after spending a few minutes with him you realize that he's just a regular guy. There is no glitz, no glamour. Ask a question, get an answer. He's not interested in witty banter and false compliments; in fact it always seems as if he's ready to bolt at any second during an interview.
His lilting Southern accent somehow adds to an "aw shucks ma'am" attitude, that just works. It's easy to see why he is beloved by millions of fans, and revered as the sacred son of stock car racing.
Do you feel like one of the last Southerners, with all these people coming into the series from diverse backgrounds?
I've made good friends with guys like Jimmie Johnson from out West. It's awesome to be able to race with these kinds of people with different backgrounds. When we go and race on the West Coast I go and hang out with them and we are in their back yard so that is kind of cool.
Can you go out at all anymore in Charlotte without being besieged by fans?
Charlotte is probably the easiest town to navigate around without having problems. Everybody knows you live there, and people kind of expect to see a race car driver once and awhile so it's no big deal. So it doesn't really matter as much, it's no big deal.
You recently moved away from the house across from DEI, was it just too much?
I bought 130 acres on the other side of town. I just had to get out of there, not because people were bothering me, but because I was just too close. Too close to the company, I needed a place where I could get away from it.
You're running the Rolex 24 with Tony Stewart, are you looking forward to that?
I like the race, the race is fun. It's just a real relaxed event for me.
You know, young guys getting into good race cars and running up front (shrugs). It's just a different deal now. If I was a sponsor I would want somebody that I could build a relationship, something that could last a long time.
Are you ever curious to try out a different kind of racing?
Yeah, I would love the opportunity to hop in and try an IRL car, but not necessarily in competition. I would love to end my career, with an Indy 500 under my belt. That would be awesome, but the possibility of that isn't very promising.
Would you ever consider doing the Charlotte/Indianapolis double?
Well. That's probably why I wouldn't do it. It be too damn hard.
Do you find that when you come to New York you are pretty much left alone and go about as you please?
Oh yeah, you can go wherever you want to go and people don't really know who you are.
You ever consider getting an apartment here like Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson?
No. I am not real comfortable here. It's sort of like the concrete jungle. It is so different from home it takes awhile to adjust to it.
Hey, we have a few trees here!
Really? I haven't seen them - well, I guess just a few.