March 10, 2017

LAS VEGAS (AP) Dale Earnhardt Jr. was ticked off with his ill-handling car early in Friday's first NASCAR Cup practice. From a road rage incident while riding his bike to exasperation over his Washington Redskins, Junior is going through a rough patch.

Of course, nothing compares to the real struggles Earnhardt endured as he missed the final half of the 2016 season because of lingering effects of a concussion. The events of the past week are more of the irritating quality for NASCAR's most popular driver.

First, Junior decided to join the newest driver fad and go cycling last week at Atlanta. He even donned biker shorts as he set off with teammates Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne and other Hendrick Motorsports employees.

The 16.7-mile ride had some hiccups. The cycling novice said on his podcast that he was on the other end of a driver's obscene gesture.

''Jimmie and them are like six inches from the shoulder and I'm like, `I can't ride that close to the shoulder,''' Earnhardt said. ''I'm all over the place. I'm wobbling all over the damn road, and this guy goes by and flips me off.''

Earnhardt, though, stressed that he enjoyed it and plans to make cycling part of his training regimen if he can clear a hurdle.

''Still not quite over the self-consciousness of wearing the spandex,'' he said.

Earnhardt has far less patience for his favorite football team. He took to Twitter to voice his displeasure after the Redskins fired general manager Scot McCloughan on Thursday amid reports quarterback Kirk Cousins was disgruntled with the club.

''GM who reportedly is a football mind and players GM, gone,'' Earnhardt tweeted. ''The franchise record breaking QB 2Xs over wants a trade. It's only March.''

Ribbed by a Twitter follower that he should become a Cowboys fan, Earnhardt tweeted back, ''No chance. I'm betting on outliving this (expletive) carousel.''

Earnhardt's mood lightened Friday when Cousins' agent said his client had signed his exclusive franchise tag for about $24 million, locking him up for the 2017 season.

And by the time the midday practice ended, Earnhardt was happier with his car ahead of Sunday's race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

''I think the field kind of comes to us the more laps we get on our tires,'' Earnhardt said. ''What a great race track, what a fun place to drive. The race car is really fun to drive and looking forward to Sunday.''


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