Sometimes being a couch potato does pay off.

Just a couple of years ago, T.J. Majors spent his days in his parent¿s New York home playing online video games. His favorite was a racing simulation game, one he quickly mastered. His only competition came from another video game fan in North Carolina.

Majors and his online rival became fast friends, exchanging e-mails and engaging in hard-fought online racing battles.

It wasn¿t long before Majors learned the identity of his new friend. Imagine his surprise when he found out it was NASCAR Winston Cup superstar Dale Earnhardt Jr.

"If you ask me, I beat Dale Jr. 80 percent of the time, but Dale would say it was around 50-50," Majors said. "I was pretty good at changing setups and making adjustments to the car, so I would try to help Dale on those things. Those simulated games are so realistic now and it really carries over to the track. Things just progressed from there with Dale and I."

Now Majors is putting what he learned online to use on the track. He is leading the rookie of the year standings in the NASCAR Goody¿s Dash Series and will try to cement that award during his first trip to Atlanta Motor Speedway next weekend in the Oct. 24 Brawny 150 Presented by Pork The Other White Meat. The Goody¿s Dash cars will put on a 150-lap shootout on the tight quarter-mile frontstretch track at Atlanta.

It will be a far cry from the couch he used to race on. But for Majors, just about everything in his life has changed recently.

Majors moved out of his parent¿s house and now lives less than 100 yards from Earnhardt¿s front door, and about the same distance from the Dale Earnhardt, Inc. race shop.

"I live in a house that Dale owns, and I see him about every day," Majors said. "There are five or six of us that are pretty good friends."

The 23-year-old had never been in an actual race car until Earnhardt guided him into three-quarter scale stock cars several years ago. He advanced to the NASCAR Goody's Dash Series this year.

The Goody¿s Dash Series Series originated as a part of the NASCAR ladder system, designed to help promote and develop driver¿s skills. Originally called "Baby Grands," Goody¿s Dash cars resemble scaled-down Winston Cup cars, and each is equipped with a V6 engine. Series alumni include Michael Waltrip, Davey Allison and Robert Pressley.

Majors had long dreamed of being a real-life racer, but he couldn¿t afford to buy a car. Out for speed, he reverted to racing games instead.

"I went from living with my parents in New York to living next door to Dale Earnhardt Jr. in North Carolina," Majors said. "Playing that game changed my whole life. I¿m getting chances I never would have gotten without his help."

The Goody¿s Dash Series Brawny 150 Presented by Pork The Other White Meat will be run under the lights on Oct. 24, 2003, as part of the NASCAR Winston Cup Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500 weekend.

Always one of the most action-packed events of the weekend, the Goody¿s Dash Series race promises fans short-track racing at its best. Sparks will fly and brakes will flare as the cars duke it out on the quarter-mile track.

Tickets include admission to both Busch and Winston Cup Series qualifying sessions and can be purchased for $20 by calling the Atlanta Motor Speedway ticket office at (770) 946-4211. Tickets for the rest of the Oct. 24-26 Bass Pro Shops weekend are also available, with weekend packages starting at $69.