The Exhaust Circuit - Boston Globe (blog)

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Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

Dale Earnhardt Jr. signed a five-year contract extension to remain behind the wheel of the No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew car at Hendrick Motorsports through 2017.

Cue: Theme from ABC's ``Wide World of Sports"

Spanning the garage area at New Hampshire Motor Speedway to bring you the very best NASCAR has to offer, we bring you the latest installment of ... The Exhaust Circuit.

We caught up with Dale Earnhardt Jr. Friday relaxing in the lounge of the No. 88 team's hauler at NHMS, where he sat with his Diet Mountain Dew driver's suit was unzipped down to his torso and the sleeves tied off around his waist like a belt.

It was then we learned a not-so-well kept secret about Junior that we'll share with you now:

He's a huge fantasy football player. Check that. He's a HUGE fantasy football player.

A fan of the Washington Redskins, Earnhardt has got NFL fantasy football fever pretty bad.

Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

Junior prepares to mount up in the No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew car at NHMS.

How bad? He's involved in no less than five -- count 'em, five -- fantasy football leagues.

When we caught up to him, we asked who were the quarterbacks on his roster(s).

``I've got two Vickies, and three Breeses,'' Earnhardt said, referring to Michael Vick of the Philadelphia Eagles and Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints.

Tom Brady, he said, was not on the draft board when it was time to make his selections.

When he was asked if he considered Matt Ryan, the former Boston College quarterback who is now starting for the Atlanta Falcons, Earnhardt was incredulous.

``MATT RYAN?'' he shot back. ``What's HE ever done?''

Well, Earnhardt was told, Ryan did help the Falcons defeat the Philadelphia Eagles last week in a game in which Vick was concussed (by his own guy, by the way).

Earnhardt shrugged as if to say, ``Whatever.''

Here's some excerpted comments that were left from our one-on-one interview with Earnhardt for the story that appeared in today's sports section of the Boston Sunday Globe on the five-year contract extension Earnhardt received this month from car owner Rick Hendrick to remain at Hendrick Motorsports through 2017.

On whether he was concerned about moving forward with Hendrick at HMS after winning just one race in his first 108 starts with the team:

"I would've been fine with whatever he wanted to do. I have a good enough relationship with him that I could ask him, `Hey, I want to ask you this question and I know that you're going to tell me the truth,' and he'd be honest with how he feels.

If he thought that he was unsure about doing another deal, he would've said so, and we would've been fine. I would've made arrangements going forward to do whatever I needed to do.

That's the kind of relationship we got, I guess, where I feel comfortable enough to say, `You're not going to hurt my feelings one way or another, but I want to stay. Let's be up front, if you want to do a deal, let's start working on it now.' ''

On keeping the negotiations low key to avoid a media circus that Carl Edwards was subjected to this summer during his negotiations with Roush Fenway Racing:

"Yeah, that's what we were trying to avoid. It's not a lot of fun, because you get asked about it and there's nothing to talk about or you don't have all the answers that the media wants.

It's just kind of frustrating because you don't know, you know? If he was completely sure he wanted to do another deal, we just wanted to get it out of the way and get 'er done."

On his reaction to Hendrick's joking comment that he would retire as a car owner if Earnhardt ever won a championship:

"He's getting pretty old, though. [Chuckling]. He's got to think about those things. I don't know, he jokes around but I'd love to be able to ... They've got a wall at HMS where they've got a little logo for every win they've ever had, where it was, the date and all that stuff. I want to put my name up there a few more times.

I just want to put my name up there more than that one I've got up there now."

On his relationship with Rick Hendrick:

"He's a good friend and I know that we're happy to be a part of each other's lives and stuff. But I know one thing for sure, he's made me a smarter person and what he teaches me today will help me make good decisions in my future.

I'll make smarter, clearer decisions because of my time being able to spend around him and being able to learn from him. That's a good thing to have.

You got to have those kind of people in your life. I'll be thankful for a long time coming later on down the road for having being able to learn from him like I have and watch him how he treats people and how he makes his decisions and how he pulls the trigger on some things.''

On why it's good to be Dale Earnhardt Jr:

"I'm pretty fortunate, and lucky, to have had the opportunity to race and do what I wanted to do for a livin'.

I grew up in the same house as one of the drivers who's the best that's ever been in a stock car and got to experience that. I got to drive for arguably one of the best owners the sport has ever seen. I share a shop with arguably one of the other greatest drivers who's ever been in the sport, with Jimmie [Johnson], and I just sort of kind of beared witness to all of it.

It's been a lot of fun.''

On why it's tough to be Dale Earnhardt Jr.

"It's not really that hard to be me. Not a lot of tough stuff to deal with.

You put a lot of pressure on yourself because you want to live up to and you want to be able to match and achieve the things you saw your father achieve and other people you've seen achieve that you feel you're as good as, so you put pressure on yourself to go out there and stay competitive and stay motivated and stay driven.

That's not hard. Every driver goes through that. I got it about the same as the other guys.

[But nobody has to walk in his shoes, though]

I think everybody would love to have the opportunity to do it for couple of days. But I'd rather be in my shoes than anyone else's.''

26 Sep, 2011

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