When he's not
racing almost 40 weekends a year--or meeting his obligations to fans and
sponsors as NASCAR's most popular driver-- Dale Earnhardt Jr. is happy just
hanging out at his three-bedroom modular home on 140 acres outside Mooresville,
N.C. It is both playland (as you'll read below) and sanctuary (as SI found out)
for the 32-year-old bachelor, who relishes his privacy away from the track.
Though around the garage Junior is typically accommodating to the media, he
doesn't allow them to dig deep into his personal life even there. But late last
season, at Phoenix International Raceway, the son of stock car racing's
most-revered figure gave SI an exclusive one-hour interview, even agreeing to
the magazine's one condition: that there be no conditions on what topics were
open for discussion. Junior did not disappoint.
SI: What's your
favorite thing to do away from racing?
Earnhardt: I like
to mess with computers. Tear 'em apart and put 'em back together. You gotta
have the latest and greatest of everything. I've probably got 10 systems just
sitting in my office. You know, every once in a while something will be screwed
up on one, and you got to dig into an old system and borrow a part. It's a lot
SI: Do you play
computer racing games? Earnhardt: I do. Aside from just straight goofing off,
that's my Number 1 hobby. You know, around my house we build all this crap to
have fun with. We built a five-hole par-3 golf course. It's compacted in a
tight little area, but the greens and tees are real nice. So we can go out
there and chip away and drink beer. We've got a 4,000-square-foot saloon that
we can goof off in. It's a couple hundred yards from the house. We also got a
go-kart track with a fake old 76 gas station. It's full scale. We park the
go-karts out there and drink and carry on.
SI: Do you hang
out with guys you grew up with?
of my friends are younger than me by about four or five years. [Growing up] I
never really had a group of friends that I hung out with. I had three or four
buddies that I saw every day in high school, and we hung out a little bit
afterward, but for the most part I went home. You see, I was kind of sheltered.
My daddy didn't let me go out much. I couldn't go out with my buddies to the
mall. I couldn't skip school. My dad wouldn't put up with that crap. So I
graduated from college [a degree in automotives from Mitchell Community
College, in Statesville, N.C.] and got a job [as a mechanic at his father's
Chevrolet dealership] and met a couple friends, and we all have been buddies
SI: You cook?
Earnhardt: I'm a
hell of a cook. I love making cheeseburgers. I learned to cook French toast
when I was little. I can cook anything. Ain't nothing but trial and error.
SI: What's your
favorite dish to cook?
don't like Hamburger Helper? Yeahhhhhhh.