J. Cole surprised fans with the announcement of his 2014 Forest Hills Drive album late last year, and he surprised us once again when he achieved the biggest first week sales in hip hop for the year. He did all of this without conventional promotional strategies, but it doesn't mean he'll turn down a magazine cover if it's offered to him.

Cole stars alongside Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the cover of ESPN's music issue, and while the connection between the rapper and the NASCAR driver isn't immediately clear, the two were actually paired due to a shoutout Cole gave the racer on his album. Read a quote from Cole's reasoning for the nod below.

It all started when I missed the deadline for the physical CD album credits, so I decided to put them on a song and basically shout out everybody who had something to do with the album. I’d been working on the album for a year, and I was in such an ecstatic mood — I felt like I won. So while I’m shouting out everybody, I was like, “I may as well pretend a shoutout, somebody I have no idea who they are, just as a joke.”

Dale was selected entirely at random, as Cole explained that he saw an interview with the driver where he shared his love of "Power Trip". You can read the full story here, and view the cover in the gallery above.