The Ben Evans Column: NASCAR Nookie

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Faced with an empty Sunday morning and the motivation to do even less I found myself browsing Amazon to see if there were any new motor sport books or DVD’s.

Aside from the usual Christopher Hilton rent-a-bio’s my attention was grabbed by a series of novels endorsed by NASCAR.

This is a terrifying proposition to begin with – but steel yourself – these are in fact Mills & Boon-style trashy romance fluff set in the ‘fast paced’ world of NASCAR.

The collection includes, ?????ǣHearts under Caution??????, ?????ǣSpeed Dating??????, ?????ǣDanger Zone?????? and ?????ǣThunderstruck??????.

As anyone who has seen a photo of an average NASCAR driver will attest the prospect of them featuring in romantic novels is as appealling as Merchant Ivory setting a film in the world of professional darts.

Helena Bonham Carter in ‘An Oche With A View’, perchance?

But judging by the huge number of books available, it appears there is a market for people to fantasise about being swept off their (no doubt hefty) feet by a Ricky-Lee Terry or Billy-Bob Travis.

Astonishingly “Speed Dating” even features a ‘driver cameo’ from real-life racing driver Carl Edwards. This sounds like a fine new business venture for Ralf Schumacher to explore.

Even if you agree that motor racing is a ‘romantic’ sport I could think of 50 forms of motor sport better suited to romance novel than NASCAR – including Autograss, Road Rallying and Arrive & Drive Karting in Thurrock.

Sadly no one in either film or literature has ever nailed the link between motor sport and romance – which, lets face it, is obvious.

Where else would you find stunningly good looking drivers (keep an eye out for the no. 8 Formula Vee driver this year) bursting with testosterone, and gorgeous grid girls bulging out of Lycra?

Yet, every attempt at romance, or indeed fiction set in the world of motor sport has failed spectacularly.

I’m talking Debbie Does Donington here. Think instead of the wretched romantic subplot of the emetic piece of insufferable crap that was Driven.

Come to think of it, the romantic stories in both Grand Prix and Le Mans stretch credulity in two otherwise fine films.

In the world of paperbacks the crimes against credible story telling mount. Bob Judd’s Formula One is fairly good and, by the standards of what was to follow almost credible. Although too many drivers got killed off, and some of the mid-race plot twists defied conventional physics.

The same cannot be said for his series of books named for racing tracks. Monza’s story of the mob, forbidden love and scarcely believable race action was like a film adaptation of Wacky Racers.

As for Silverstone, Indianapolis and Phoenix words cannot convey how weak the plots are. And, in keeping with the theme that love stories are poorly written, as arousing as Bernard Manning and as likely as me marrying Natalie Portman.

There is lots that motor sport is good for – creating great cars, interesting drivers and fantastic races. But in trying to bridge to the world of romantic fiction I fell it has overstretched itself. These books will never in a million years appeal to its core audience.

Hopefully somebody, somewhere will one day write a novel that does motor sport justice, in the meantime I think it unlikely that NASCAR Nookie novels are going to do the trick.

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Ben Evans
Motorsport commentator Ben is RaceFans' resident bookworm. Look out for his verdict on the latest motor racing publications on Sundays....

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One comment on “The Ben Evans Column: NASCAR Nookie”

  1. I quite liked ‘Monza’ although I was 13 when I read it.

    Mills and Boon goes NASCAR? Proof that the world is not only stranger than we know, but stranger than we could know….

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