I was born 19 days before “The Intimidator.” We were born in the same hospital, my mama knew his mama and we attended rival high schools, though he dropped out to begin his racing career. However, my earliest memory of NASCAR is when my daddy would spend Memorial Day weekend cussing because the traffic from the World 600 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway would back all the way up to our little town 9 miles away.
That speedway is now called the Lowe's Motor Speedway and the Memorial Day weekend race is called the Coca Cola 600. I'm sure if my daddy were still alive, he'd still be cussing the snarled traffic.
Harlequin signed a deal with NASCAR last year to publish racing-related romance novels (I’ll be giving away some copies of NASCAR HOLIDAY today to new commenters on this blog) and I’ve been curious about why they picked NASCAR to pair up with romance. What’s romantic about motor oil and fiery crashes?
Fellow Heart of Dixie author Debra Webb, whose novella Unbreakable appears in NASCAR HOLIDAY, told me the draw of racing is the excitement: the speed, the sound and the energy of the crowd. She said the drivers are a different kind of draw because a man capable of handling the raw power of a race car is a real turn-on. Debra said while writing Unbreakable she learned just how skilled a driver is, and he must have an unbreakable focus to stay in the race. Mix in some danger and you have a winning combination, not unlike the gladiators of old who fought to the death before cheering crowds. “Bottom line, a man who can handle a car like that, especially one who can triumph over danger and his competitors and win, can surely handle his woman with the same expert focus and attention to detail.”
But he drives a car for heaven’s sake. I drive a car. My seventy-nine-year-old mother drives a car. What makes this hero more special than a CEO, a cowboy or a bad boy biker? According to Abby Gaines, whose book BACK ON THE TRACKS will be out in May 2007, the NASCAR hero embodies the qualities of all the above: the aura of wealth and power, sharp intellect, courage that’s rough around the edges, and a thrill-seeking, individualist mentality that makes him irresistible to women. Plus, he wears a “uniform” so that sticks him up there with cops and firefighter heroes in some readers’ minds.
“A NASCAR hero has reached the top ranks in an incredibly tough sport through grit and determination. By the time he’s racing the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, he’s proven he’s a winner. He’s a team player, but when he’s in that car out on the track, it’s mainly down to him whether he wins or loses – he’s got to have the confidence (and the ego) to handle that week after week. There’s huge pressure involved in earning that multi-million dollar paycheck, but at the same time there’s the thrill of setting a race strategy, picking off the competition one by one and, of course, driving at incredible speeds that most of us would be too scared to attempt. All that is pretty sexy.”
Okay… unbreakable focus, aura of wealth, courage, thrill-seeker, uniform. But all they do is drive around and around and around. I heard a surprising response to that from an acquaintance whose son is autistic. He loves NASCAR and can spout off statistics like a seasoned television sportscaster. According to his mom, watching the race allows him to give into his need to watch things go round and round, but in a socially acceptable manner.
According to a press release from Harlequin and NASCAR, women are drawn to the family-friendly atmosphere of racing and to the charisma of the drivers. Some immerse themselves in the culture and follow a driver or team. NASCAR estimates that 40% of its fans are women, more than the NFL and Major League Baseball. And in 2006 they predict women will buy $250 MILLION in NASCAR-licensed merchandise. Now they have romance novels to accompany the t-shirts, coffee mugs and ball caps. One friend told me “if he’s that fast on the track, what moves could he make in bed?”
And then there’s the whole NASCAR racing lingo thing. What romance author could resist writing about revving engines, hot-lapping, handling and that ever-desirable pole position? However, if you’re looking for racy writing, no pun intended, look elsewhere. Because of that concern for the family-friendly atmosphere, any book with the NASCAR logo on it won’t have sex, violence, cursing or cheating. But they’re still packed with racing action and romance and they deliver the promised happy-ever-after ending.
I suppose it’s all about what cranks your tractor. Or your stockcar engine as the case may be.
So… are you a NASCAR fan? How did you get into racing? Where have you traveled to watch your driver chase the checkered flag?P.S. Three lucky NEW commenters (tell us who referred you!) today will receive a copy of NASCAR HOLIDAY by Kimberly Raye, Roxanne St. Claire and Debra Webb. And three people who referred them will receive a copy of KILLER CURVES by Roxanne St. Claire or A COLBY CHRISTMAS by Debra Webb plus some racing-related goodies.
Ladies and gentlemen… start your engines!
P.P.S. Kimberly's winner from yesterday is Rachael. Please send your snail mail address to Problem Child to arrange for your prize.