Dale Jr. is quite the fan of barbecue

ROANOKE, Texas — There’s no doubt Dale Earnhardt Jr. takes his Sprint Cup career seriously.

But there’s something that may be almost as near and dear to the sport’s most popular driver – barbecue.

It’s not just a fad either.

Earnhardt didn’t mind starting his day in Kansas for testing and ending it at a promotional event for the November Sprint Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway. The reasons were simple. Testing in Kansas is close to Oklahoma Joe’s, a must-stop barbecue spot in Kansas City, Kan. And the TMS promotional event was at Hard Eight BBQ, where the aspiring smoker got some tips from the restaurant’s owner and got to participate in a grilling demonstration.

“There can be worse places to do appearances at,” Earnhardt joked.

Earnhardt is serious about his barbecue. He knows what he likes – the ribs at Memphis’ famed Rendezvous  – and what he’s not a big fan of – the Carolina-style barbecue even though he lives in North Carolina. His rib preference is wet but he likes the dry ribs Rendezvous.

Earnhardt, who said he’s not much of a cook, has picked up a flair for barbecuing.

“I’ve enjoyed trial and error for sure,” he said. “There have been some good results and bad results. You have an idea of what works and what doesn’t work. The results will tell you the truth. I’ve enjoyed it.”

Earnhardt said he’s already been asked to cook a brisket for Thanksgiving. He said he enjoys cooking and finds it rewarding when he’s praised for cooking.

He said the entire process reminds him of racing.

“It’s kind of similar to preparing a car during the week,” he said. “You get the trailer ready, you get everything on the truck. You get the car ready and grease the bearings. You put the motor and tranny in. It’s all real similar to the process you make it work. I enjoy that process. I enjoy the mechanical process of doing something like that. You can do it with your friends and it reminds me of when we used to go Late Model racing down at Myrtle Beach and it was all volunteers, friends.”

Earnhardt said he takes notes when he’s cooking so he knows what is and isn’t working for him.

Earnhardt said his girlfriend got him hooked watching cooking shows on television. He likes “Man vs. Food”, “Diners Drive-Ins and Dives” and “Restaurant Impossible.” He’s also made an appearance on “BBQ Pitmasters.”