Nascars Playboy

For a few days now, many within the racin' world have been eagerly awaiting the new Playboy. Not for the usual reasons, of course, but because with this week's unveiling of Hef's glossy magazine, NASCAR takes its latest step in the direction of mainstream.

Fact is, the boys of NASCAR plowed through mainstream sometime back in the mid- or late 1990s, with the final unlocked door being that multi-billion-dollar TV deal. Now, with Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s appearance as the monthly interview subject in Playboy, they've left mainstream in the dust and landed smack-dab in the middle of Pop Culture, right alongside Hollywood, MTV and that chick from Survivor who graces this month's cover.

Duty being what it is, I paid my $5.95 Sunday to pick up this month's Playboy ($5.95? Yikes! The models aren't the only things that have been inflated).

Here are the basics:

  • Ambitions: To be successful in commercials.
  • Turn-ons: Nice smile, good sense of humor.
  • Turn-offs: Cocky attitude and a hairy chest.

    But enough about Miss September.

    As for Junior Earnhardt, I learned a little more than I already knew, and perhaps a little more than I needed. Upon reading the interview, you learn that this past February's 24 Hours of Daytona wasn't his only brush with endurance tests, and that his first lessons in "safety equipment" were taught by his famous dad, when the boy was 12 years old.

    He talks about his dad ignoring certain safeguards when he was a young man, and how half-brother Kerry did the same thing. The track, it seems, isn't the only place where Junior learns fast.

    "I don't want a kid running around right now, because he wouldn't turn out right," Junior says. "He would be spoiled and ruined. He'd be a troublemaker."

    Overall, Junior comes off in the interview about like we've come to know him - fun-loving, bright, insightful and honest almost to a fault. (Hey, it's one thing to talk about certain things with the boys in the shop, but just because it's Playboy doesn't mean you have to talk about your history and current prowess).

    But you can't help but wonder how many cringes this interview is causing in the NASCAR front offices. For many years, NASCAR and its partners have done everything to convince you theirs is a wholesome family sport. Mainly, they do this by TELLING you theirs is a wholesome family sport.

    They've gone so far as to disallow certain sponsors from appearing on race cars. Here at Daytona, a couple of those pre-race rock bands have had to undergo a temporary identity change because someone felt their stage name might offend grandma and the reverend in Row 12 -- the band Big Unit, for instance, had to change its name. Go figure.

    And now, along comes Junior in Playboy, discussing such things as safety equipment and his prowess in the groove -- and no, Mr. France, we ain't talking racin'.

    You gotta believe if his name were Dale Smith Jr., the boys in NASCAR's biggest offices might have a problem with all this. But Junior, because of his own accomplishments and certain tragic circumstances, has become one of the sport's top meal tickets, so all will look the other way and hope the rest of us just keep looking at the pictures and ignoring the articles.

    Me, I'm just hoping the accountant finds a way to deduct that $5.95 as a business expense. Research, after all, is research.

    Miss September, by the way, is also big on tan skin and down on bad hygiene.

    I reckon no one thought to ask her about the new Goodyears or the change in Dodge's front air dam.
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