CONCORD, N.C. -- As Dale Earnhardt Jr. began his time with the media on stage Wednesday morning, it was clear something was on his mind.
Certainly, he was excited to be back to work and noted that the season "can't get here fast enough."
But there was something else: Jimmie Johnson's beard.
"If I’d known he was going to come so strong I would have worked on mine a little more," Earnhardt said. "I certainly do envy what Jimmie’s got going on.”
Johnson, who is spending his offseason in Aspen, Colorado, has cultivated quite the beard since winning his record-tying seventh NASCAR Cup Series championship.
He joked that there's a big difference between sporting the beard on the slopes in Colorado and walking the streets of Charlotte.
"I feel very normal in Aspen with a beard like this," he said. "I came home and quickly had sticker shock or some kind of insecurity issues going with it, mainly because everybody is like, 'Well, who is that?'"
As for Earnhardt, jealous as he may be, he hopes Johnson keeps the facial hair as long as possible.
"He sent me a picture of him skiing and he said he was getting ready to knock this beard off and I said, ‘You better have that in Daytona because you get more drafting help,’" he said, drawing laughter from the crowd. "I would keep it if I were him. He’s hung onto it; I don’t know if he’s taken my advice or what.
"I’m certainly pro-beard."
Of course, even Johnson can find himself envious of a superior beard, as he found out when Zac Brown Band helped celebrate Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick's induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.