Hendrick Motorsports held a function for sponsors Tuesday night, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the only driver who showed up with his shirt hanging out, and the only driver who wore jeans.
But when Junior met the media Wednesday his white Rick Hendrick Motorsports shirt was tucked into his dark pants, his hair carefully gelled and his black shoes shined.
"I got a boss just like you," Junior says. "Me and Rick are keeping score and it’s tied up right now."
Junior likes to wear T-shirts and jeans and a baseball cap. Does it matter? Although there are occasions in which we have to take one for the team – Wednesday was one of them for Earnhardt – clothes shouldn’t matter to anybody but the people that wear them. You reach a certain age and you get to pick out your own clothes all by yourself no matter how you make your living.
It’s 2008 in NASCAR, too.
It will be interesting to watch the Hendrick drivers interact. Who defers? Who takes over? Jimmie Johnson is a star and Jeff Gordon is a star and the new guy, Junior, is a star.
"Working around here, doing things around here, I just try to keep my mouth shut," Junior says Wednesday. "I don’t want to give them the impression I’m trying to steal the limelight when those guys are well-deserving of it."
He says Johnson’s run for a third straight title is the story the media should latch onto. He says that’s a much bigger story than he is. He just wants to fit.
"I want them to be glad I’m here," Junior says. "I want them to be happy to have me as a teammate."
Of course they’re happy. It means there are fewer reporters hovering around them.
Each of the four Hendrick drivers spoke at the same time at the Hendricks complex Tuesday.
At 2:20 p.m., there were six members of the media around Casey Mears, 20 around Johnson, 29 around Gordon and 46 around Junior.
Fifteen minutes later, the numbers were Mears three, Gordon 11, Johnson 16 and Junior 37.