RICHMOND, Va. -- It was difficult to tell who was enjoying Robert Griffin III's first visit to a NASCAR race more -- the fans and drivers or Griffin himself.
At the Twitter invitation of good friend Dale Earnhardt Jr., the Washington Redskins star quarterback Griffin attended his first NASCAR event Saturday, the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway.
Fans flocked around him taking photos and drivers came out of their team haulers to shake his hand. Former Redskins coach and current NASCAR team owner Joe Gibbs gave Griffin a behind the scenes tour of the Richmond, Va. track's garage area.
"The power of social media is definitely showing itself today,'' Griffin joked, of the way the whole experience came together.
"It'll be great for me to see this first-hand,'' he continued, noting he absolutely believes NASCAR drivers are athletes. "Dale Jr. and I have talked a bunch about this. It takes a lot to be a football player but it also takes a lot to be a NASCAR driver. What we do is pretty hard to do and I'm pretty sure I couldn't just jump in a car today and do what Dale Jr. does. We definitely respect them and that's why I wanted to come out here. Just to check it out and see how it goes."
Griffin got a high-def look at what goes on Saturday morning as he took a tutorial for his race duty: driving the pace car to start the race. After a few laps, he conceded that he was definitely not ready to imagine racing door-to-door at 100 mph hour.
"I'll let the professionals do the driving and I'll stay at 41 mph and then get off the track,'' he joked.
"My wife was in the back [seat] and I think she got a little scared when we got to 100 mph.
"But it's going to be real safe so (Redskins General Manager) Bruce Allen, (team owner) Dan Synder, Coach J (Jay Gruden) you don't have anything to worry about.''
Griffin said he planned to stay for the whole race "soaking up that whole experience." And how could he repay the VIP favor for Earnhardt?
"There's some things he could experience, but no pace car-like things in football,'' Griffin said smiling. "So we'd have to suit him up full pads and put him in at quarterback and let (defensive end) Jason Hatcher tackle him.
"That's probably not an experience he would want. But we could figure out some things."
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