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Numbers, numbers, what's in a number? For Dale Jr., more than most


Dale Jr.'s number this weekend: One?
(Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern


   For Dale Earnhardt Jr. right now it's all about numbers.
   Yes, Earnhardt Jr. is right proud about Whiskey River making it to that first anniversary.
    "That whole deal in the Epicenter (in downtown Charlotte) is really growing, and it's fun to be in there with everybody that's having success right now and the way the economy is going," he says.
     But at the moment he'd like to get his own little part of the Hendrick Motorsports economy going a little better.
    Teammate Jimmie Johnson, who is going for his fourth straight win here, says a driver has to hustle the car here.  "This track gets greasy, and there's some speed out there, and a little bit of extra time, if you can hustle the car," Earnhardt explains. "You have to really challenge the brakes every corner. There's no real pace that you can back-up to and run comfortably and take care of your equipment."
    And Earnhardt insists he's now started taking better care of his body: "It's daily – totally. Me and my family got together, and they help me on my grocery shopping.
    "We just totally changed what we were going to eat. We got away from all the chips and Doritos.
    "And I'm running a little bit. Not as much as I probably should, but I'm running.
     "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.
     "It's better than four or five pizzas and Bojangles every day.
    "I just notice an overall difference every day, and on Sunday for sure. 
    "I would argue with Rick all day long that my physical shape was (not) affecting me on Sunday…but I was getting a little bit of a gut, and 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 you're 40 or 45 to start worrying about that, because it's too late.
    "I just wanted to be proactive.
    "There's a lot of things that are healthy for you that I enjoy eating."
    "Lemon-pepper tuna and Triscut crackers – that's really good.  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 Triscuts, and I'm good to go. 
     "I still eat a steak and rice on the weekends.  You've got to have protein.
    "But just cutting out a lot of the nonsense, like the ice creams and chips…. and I feel a lot better. 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."

    Of course the big number here this week is eight. Because there is no No. 8 in the field.
    "I'm pretty sad," the man who ran it for so many years says. "But I don't think it will be gone for long. 
     "I read a lot of who you guys had all week, and got the temperature of what the press was thinking, and what the fans were thinking."
     But he insists he's not that mad over Teresa Earnhardt's decision not to let him take that number with him.
    "If I was in her shoes, I probably would have done the exact same thing," Earnhardt says.
     "I really wasn't as upset about it as a lot of people probably thought.
     "The eight will be back, and someone else will add to it, and do something great with it."

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