RICHMOND, Va. — NASCAR driver and avid Washington Redskins fan Dale Earnhardt Jr. treated quarterback Kirk Cousins and four other players from the team to ride-arounds at Richmond Raceway on Tuesday before heading to the team's practice complex to watch their afternoon workout.
Earnhardt started by giving Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney a ride in a two-seat NASCAR racer, with Stoney exclaiming "I survived" after climbing from the car.
The race car then had mechanical issues, and Earnhardt took Redskins Will Compton, Cousins, Ryan Kerrigan and Morgan Moses for rides in a brand new Chevrolet Camaro. Earnhardt said he reached about 115 mph heading into one of the turns with Compton in the car.
By the time Josh Norman, the last player to take a ride, was ready, the race car had been repaired. Norman rode with Earnhardt in the race car, then in the Camaro.
Cousins poked a little fun at his contract situation after his ride. The third-year starter is in his second season with the Redskins' franchise tag because he and the team have not been able to agree to a long-term deal. He will make $23.94 million as the first player in NFL history to have the franchise tag in consecutive seasons.
"One more franchise tag and I may have to buy some American-made sports car and get going fast," he said.
Going over 100 mph that close to the wall, he said, is "unbelievable."
Earnhardt said none of the players appeared frightened.
"I think that they, being adrenaline junkies themselves playing football, understand why that's exciting," he said.
Following Redskins practice, Earnhardt squared off against Norman in a one-on-one drill, catching a short slant over the middle and an out pattern. On his third and final play, Earnhardt ran a stop-and-go past a politely plodding Norman, but Cousins slightly overthrew him and told the Earnhardt, "I didn't want it to get intercepted."
Earnhardt, NASCAR's most popular driver for the past 14 years, is retiring after this season and has just four races remaining to qualify for the 10-race NASCAR playoffs. With drivers' schedules typically packed with appearances and other obligations, spending a day with the Redskins was "a dream come true," he said.
It also was a nice break from the pressure of focusing on having just four opportunities remaining to keep his championship hopes alive.
"It makes you forget about it a little bit, being able to come out here," Earnhardt said.
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Hank Kurz Jr., The Associated Press