Standing in a hooded blue sweatshirt, jeans and tennis shoes, Dale Earnhardt Jr. might have passed for a student Thursday at Piper High School.
That is if he hadn't been holding the rapt attention of 500 teenagers in the gymnasium like a dashing quarterback at a pep rally. Sprinkling self-effacing humor into his folksy diction, Earnhardt faced probing questions for nearly 30 minutes.
How do you unwind from going 150 mph? ("I watch the late NFL game.") Do you really like Wrangler jeans? ("Yeah, they don't wear too bad.") What's your most embarrassing moment?
"Using the bathroom in the (race)car," he said, drawing guffaws from the crowd. "You just go. There ain't nothing else you can do. I had to go up to (a crewmember) after the race, and say, 'Look man, when you wash it out there, don't stick your head in there.'"
It might not have been a Toastmasters moment, but it was telling in showing how a once-shy star has gotten comfortable with being himself this season, whether it's dining in public or playing in a recreational softball league.