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Earnhardt Undergoing Some New Bodywork

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, April 23 2009
The world wants to know about Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his new diet. (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR)  

The world wants to know about Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his new diet. (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

NASCAR superstar Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s quest to return to Victory Lane now officially extends beyond the care-and-feeding of his race car.

Dale Jr. has taken a grown-up look at his own bad self in conjunction with an exercise program designed to amp-up his physical conditioning, and perhaps not coincidentally, his self-esteem.

“I would argue with (team-owner) Rick (Hendrick) or anybody all day long that my physical shape was affecting me on Sunday,” Junior said at Phoenix International Raceway, site of the aptly named Subway Fresh Fit 500. “But I was getting a little bit of a gut and that just wasn’t giving a damn whether I did or not. I want to be physically fit and I guess you can’t wait until your 40 or 45-years-old to start worrying about that because it’s too late.”

An admitted junk-food junkie, Junior said he has begun watching his diet on a daily basis – a difficult chore given the inordinate amount of time spent on the road in the Sprint Cup Series.

“Me and my family got together and they sort of help me on my grocery shopping a little bit,” said Junior, 34. “So I just got everybody that was responsible for doing any of the grocery shopping around the house or anything like that or for the bus (his Cup motor home) or whatever and we just totally changed exactly what we were going to eat. We got away from all the chips and Doritos and those type of things and just got rid of all the things that are laying there for you to snack on. There’s a lot of things that are healthy for you that I enjoy eating.”

Junior’s favorite “healthy” snack food? It ain’t cottage cheese on a celery stick, but close.  

“I like lemon pepper tuna and Triscuit crackers –  that’s really good,” Junior said of the popular Nabisco product. “My mom turned me on to both of those actually. I always liked tuna, but I can eat a can of that for dinner and some Triscuits and I’m good to go. I still eat a steak and rice on the weekends. You’ve got to have protein and stuff like that. But just cutting out a lot of the nonsense like the ice creams and chips and stuff, which I feel a lot better and I’ve actually seen a little difference on the scale so I’m excited about that.

“I used to weigh about 172 and I would like to get around 165. So I would like to lose about seven pounds and I would be happy.”

To that end, Junior said he has started a modest running program of undisclosed distance and duration. “I’m not running as much as I probably should, but I’m running,” Junior said. “The biggest part for me was just changing my diet; it was really whatever I wanted it to be. I got into more of a responsible, concerted effort of paying attention to what I’m doing there and it’s definitely made a difference, I think. 

“I feel more confident and more positive and feel better energy-wise. I was just eating strictly a junk food diet ever since I was 18 – as soon as I got out of the house. There’s a lot of good food out there I guess that tastes pretty good – I was just too lazy to go buy it. We really had to put our heads down and find a lot of stuff that tastes good  that I enjoy and we got creative and I found a good little package that I can go through during the week that I enjoy.

“We actually are working with a company, Tasteful Solution, I think, is the name of it. They make meals.  They’re not really health food nuts, but it’s better than four or five pizzas and Bojangles every day.”

For the record, A Tasteful Solution is a food, beverage and catering company located in Mooresville, N.C., the heart of NASCAR Nation in the Southeast.

Junior is mired in a 29-race Cup winless streak dating to June 15 at Michigan International Speedway. With his victory at PIR, Mark Martin joined Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson as race-winners in the season’s first eight events. Junior, meanwhile, finished 31st at PIR and fell from 16th to 19th in the championship standings.

Junior did lead twice for 63 laps on the 1-mile layout in Avondale, Ariz., where he is a two-time winner. But his race went awry when contact with former HMS driver Casey Mears sent Junior’s No. 88 National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet Impala SS spinning into the Turn 4 wall, driver’s side door first, on Lap 301 of 312.

Junior, crew chief/cousin Tony Eury Jr. and the reshuffled No. 88 pit crew all have been targets of criticism this season. Junior’s finish at PIR marked the fifth time in those eight Cup starts this season that he has finished last-in-class among the four HMS stablemates.

On the up-side, next on the schedule is Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway, where Junior scored five of his 18 career Cup victories during what now passes for his heyday at Dale Earnhardt Inc.

Since cleaning up his caloric intake, Junior said he has noticed “an overall difference” in the way he feels – and certainly on race day. Down the long and winding road of his own bad life, he admittedly doesn’t want to end up looking like the Pillsbury Dough Boy.

Or, Smoke Johnson.

“You don’t want to go to your doctor one day and get your physical and they tell you that your cholesterol is too high,” Junior said. “That’s not the kind of wake-up call that you want to have to start taking better care of yourself. I just wanted to be proactive.”

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, April 23 2009
2 Comments

2 Comments »

  • Lance says:

    Nice article. Only, he’s not in a 37 race losing streak. It hasn’t been a year yet and there are only 36 races in a year…so……look again. He’s also won a race since Kevin Harvick, Ryan Newman, Denny Hamlin, and Clint Bowyer has and they don’t get half the flack Dale does.

    • John Sturbin says:

      Lance: Good catch. Went back and rechecked NASCAR’s Update Book and the losing streak is at 29 heading into Talladega. And true, Junior, because he is who he is, generally is scrutinized harder than anyone else in the series.