Unconventional Wisdom | Vroom meets vavoom

Harlequin romances with NASCAR themes: Reading public, get your greasy bosoms heaving.

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Next stop the pages of Harle- quin Romances? NASCAR drivers (from rear) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Ricky Rudd, Kevin Harvick and David Ragan at Sunday's Daytona 500.

While Dark Age-ists are fretting about gay unions in Jersey, a truly dank and unholy alliance has cropped up virtually unnoticed: NASCAR racing and Harlequin romance.

The people who run the lame but popular stock-car circuit are teaming up with the publishers of lame but popular romance novels, thus conjoining two important elements of American junk culture.

What's planned is a series of 16 Harlequin paperbacks with NASCAR themes. Be still, my racing engine.

Enjoy this sample, from Pamela Britton's In the Groove: " . . . it was a kiss that instantly proved the two of them were like high-octane fuel. . . . Lance felt the purely caveman urge to pick her up and carry her to bed."

The heroine of the piece, by the way, is named Sarah Tingle.

Nutritionally, this is like augmenting your usual Count Chocula breakfast with beef jerky. Still, can there be any doubt that this will succeed?

NASCAR has been called the most popular "sport" in the United States, while romances represent 55 percent of all popular, mass-market fiction sold in this country annually, the New York Times reports.

In one of the new NASCAR romances, an accomplished professional woman eschews her actuary-of-the-year award to sit like a half-naked hood ornament next to a car-jockey as he rolls around town.

As the father of a young girl, I worry about the ever-devolving depiction of the American woman, parking her brains and abandoning her career to whiff the diesel-scented sweat of a manly man.

As a guy who will have to pay for his kid's college education, however, I could see myself selling out my principles and penning my own NASCAR romance novel.

Here are a few ripe passages I've been noodling with:

. . . When Molly first eyed NASCAR driver Piston McBuck, she yearned to rip him from his five-point safety harness and whisk him back to his suite at the Motel 6. If only, Molly mused to herself, he wouldn't talk. . . .

. . . A Wharton business-school grad with a law degree and a Ph.D. in philosophy, Molly usually went for men who did not have to have the menu at Red Lobster read to them.

Still, Piston had that tattoo of Condi Rice playing piano on his upper back, which Molly thought must indicate an interest in world affairs. Later, she would learn Piston merely believed Condi was "hotter than Daytona asphalt." One day, the still-working part of Molly's brain piped up, I might have to kill this guy. But not today. . . .

. . . Never having dated a functioning idiot before, Molly was refreshed by Piston's uncomplicated manner, informed by the 17 days of high school Piston had accrued. On their first date, he laid out his life philosophy:

"I believe in God and Porter Wagoner, comfortable underwear and Valvoline," he said. "The rest is just noise at the speedway." Life without Piston, Molly thought then and there, would be a bayonet to the belly.

Anyway, that's as far as I've gotten. It's harder than you'd think to write a romance.

And, shoot, I suppose I could learn a thing or two from a man like Piston. Don't be afraid to crash, or to pour racing fuel on love's enveloping flame.

Women appreciate that kind of talk. Just ask Ms. Tingle.


Contact columnist Alfred Lubrano at 215-854-4969 or alubrano@phillynews.com.