Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III ended up as the pace car driver for tonight's NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Richmond because of a series of tweets instigated by Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Richmond, Va. – NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt Jr. is known to be a huge Washington Redskins fan, and through Twitter, he has become friends with Washington Redskins quarterback and emerging star Robert Griffin III, affectionately known to National Football League fans as RGIII. And the power of social media among celebrities emerged once again this weekend in Richmond.
With the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competing at the Richmond International Raceway, some 100 miles south of Washington, D. C., and given it is the football’s off-season, Earnhardt thought the timing was right to invite the football star to join him for the race and to drive the pace car prior to the start of the Toyota Owners 400 on Saturday evening.
Even though the two sports stars agreed to the arrangement, they needed the permission of RIR president Dennis Bickmeier to make it happen. When he readily agreed, the deal was done and Griffin arrived early to complete mandatory pace-car training.
Thereafter, Griffin met with the media, hung out with Earnhardt and toured the Sprint Cup garage area with retired Washington Redskins coach and NASCAR car owner Joe Gibbs.
His presence created a significant buzz among the racing community and even more so among the local fans as the Redskins moved their pre-season training camp to the Richmond area a year ago.
“I feel blessed and honored to have this opportunity and since Dale Jr. is a good friend and a huge Redskins fan as well, so the power of social media is definitely showing itself today,” the quarterback said, who admitted he has never been to a race.
“This is day one for me, and it is my first NASCAR experience, but I will have a guy in the car with 39 years of experience and he will take care of me.”
The pace car speed is done at a snail’s pace of 41 miles per hour, and Griffin seemed content with going slow, stating he will enjoy watching the professionals go fast. “The training session went well, although my wife got a little scared when we got to some higher miles per hour, but we will be real safe. When the bright lights are on, you have to perform at your best.”
Asked whether he thought race drivers were athletes, Griffin said, “Dale Jr. and I have talked about this. It takes a lot to be a football player and a lot to be a NASCAR driver. What we do is hard to do, and I am pretty sure I couldn’t jump into a car and do what Dale Jr. does. We definitely respect him, and that’s why I wanted to come out here to check it out.”
Griffin (@RGIII) and Earnhardt (@DaleJr) bonded through social media as soon as the former was drafted by the Redskins. “It started off because I was the quarterback for his favorite team and since then, it has developed into a good friendship,” Griffin commented.
“We kind of bounce ideas off each other, but we have the type of friendship that we understand where each of us is coming from. I am only 24, and I have a lot to learn and the more guys you can link up with to talk about your up’s and down’s and your high’s and low’s is a true benefit to anybody.”
Often, celebrity pace car drivers do their thing and leave early, but Griffin said he plans to stay for the whole race, enjoying the experience from Earnhardt’s pit box.
“This is my first NASCAR experience, and I think there will be many more after today,” Griffin said.