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Burgundy and gold goes checkered flag: Dale Earnhardt Jr. takes Redskins for a spin

From left. Kirk Cousins, Ryan Kerrigan, Morgan Moses and Will Compton are all smiles during their trip to Richmond Raceway. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

RICHMOND – The Washington Redskins did their best Ricky Bobby impression Tuesday afternoon, spending a little more than an hour at Richmond Raceway with NASCAR legend and die-hard Redskins fan, Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Hitting the oval-shaped racetrack, five Washington players – Kirk Cousins, Will Compton, Morgan Moses, Josh Norman and Ryan Kerrigan – each took a spin around track with Earnhardt, who is set to retire after the 2017 NASCAR season.

Cousins and Compton were the first to arrive at the track, spewing “Talladega Nights” references as they approached Earnhardt and the two-seat No. 88 car.

“Shake and bake,” Compton told Cousins. “Just default to shake and bake when you don’t know what to say.”

“I don’t know what to do with my hands right now,” Cousins replied.

“Just one, big, hairy, winning machine,” Compton said.

When Redskins’ practices end, Josh Norman keeps going. And going. And going.

Earnhardt, who looked on with a huge smile, looked to be having as much fun as the players who donned the blue NASCAR racing suits.

“If there is anybody that I can get star struck or geek out about, it’s anybody playing for the Redskins,” Earnhardt said.

Earnhardt was there promoting the NASCAR Cup Series race at Richmond Raceway on Sept. 9, and invited a handful of Redskins out to show them around. Earnhardt gassed the car almost up to race speed with the football players in tow. A worker at the track said Earnhardt was going almost 140 mph down the straightaway with Norman in the passenger seat.

“It was a privilege to me to be able to do that,” Earnhardt said. “Being a fan, it’s great to be able to meet the individual players and get a chance to chat with them and you never think you are going to be able to take them around the racetrack in the racecar so it’s pretty incredible for me.”

Compton got to ride first, but only in the black Camaro instead of the two-seat No. 88 car because of mechanical issues. But the troubles didn’t put a downer on the experience, with Compton taking a selfie with Earnhardt Jr. before the ride.

Compton said when he glanced over at the speedometer it was showing 114 mph — and that was just around a corner. Being so close to the walls is what made Compton the wariest, but he knew he was in good hands with “the best driver in NASCAR.”

“You are cruising into the wall and you are like ‘Okay we are about to crash,’ and he just pulls over,” said Moses, who shared Compton’s fear. “The exciting thing about it is now I can’t wait to get in my car and drive because now I feel like I’m in my rookie year in NASCAR, you see. I look the part, you see it? Hands on the hips. That’s the way it goes. Only one rule about racing. You have to go fast or you go home.”

Cousins rode next, then Kerrigan, Moses and, finally, Norman. The quarterback wasn’t nervous headed into the car with Earnhardt and said the two were just having normal conversations — at 110 mph.

“I do want to go fast, just like Ricky Bobby,” Cousins said. “And I don’t know, maybe if one more franchise tag I may have to go buy some American-made sports car and get going fast.”

The top three takeaways from Tuesday’s Redskins training camp practice

Kerrigan had the deepest connection to Earnhardt, who he grew up watching NASCAR with his dad. The linebacker said he been star-struck by Earnhardt since he was little. So for Earnhardt to be impressed when meeting Kerrigan was “surreal” for the Redskins star.

“He’s a legend,” Kerrigan said. “My dad is super jealous of me right now because he is a huge NASCAR fan. I am a NASCAR fan, as well. But it’s a once-in-a-lifetime type of thing and to be able to go around the track with Dale is awesome.”

Norman, who was the only player to get a ride in the No. 88 car said the ride was “wild.”

“I’m jacked up now, baby,” Norman yelled out after climbing out of the car. “That was wicked, man.”

But the fun didn’t end there. The players returned the favor to Earnhardt later in the day, when he came to practice. At training camp, Earnhardt was given a Redskins jersey as he took the field and watched practice from the sidelines. There, he talked with childhood heroes Doug Williams and Joe Jacoby. At the very end of practice, Earnhardt participated in the day’s only one-on-one session: Him against Norman with Cousins as the quarterback.

“For a Redskins fan it is a dream come true to go to training camp and be around the players and the team as they prepare for the season at a really critical time for them,” Earnhardt said. “I understand and appreciate the opportunity being around them.”

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