Fast and furious

When I climb aboard the StepMill at my gym, armed with a chilled water bottle, a fresh copy of US Weekly and two towels that don't have a clue what's about to hit them, I know precisely what to expect: a 45-minute sweat-soaked, stress-busting cardio session. And when I prop up that US Weekly, I usually know exactly what I'll find: The latest on the Kardashian sisters' exploits, a shirtless Robert Pattinson vampire pictorial or a snippet about how Posh Spice lost her baby weight ... one night after giving birth!

What I didn't expect to read about? NASCAR racer Jeff Gordon. And yet somehow I now know that last year his wife gave birth to a 7-pound, 2-ounce baby boy named Leo. And I know that Leo joined big sis Ella. And I know that their mom is a former model named Ingrid Vandebosch.

Of all the useless celeb trivia floating around my brain, this puzzles me the most. What is Jeff Gordon doing in US Weekly? NASCAR is totally fringe, isn't it?

Then I think about the many ways racing has infiltrated pop culture and I realize how wrong I am: Sex bomb racecar driver Danica Patrick, who recently announced her move from the IndyCar Series to full-time NASCAR in 2012, is more commonly recognized as "The GoDaddy Girl." Three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves won "Dancing With the Stars" in 2007. Viewers flocked to see Will Ferrell play a NASCAR driver in "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby." In 2001, a skintight racing suit-clad Britney Spears kicked off the Pepsi 400 in Daytona Beach, purring, "Gentlemen ... start your engines!"

Americans flat-out love NASCAR. Five years ago, it was the second-most-watched sport after the NFL. I'm guessing fans are drawn to the speed, the noise and the danger. I get my fill of those vices watching Snooki get bombed on "Jersey Shore," but to each her own.

One thing I have always taken offense to: Those inane ads. I understand sex sells, but I see zero possible link between a racing phenom like Patrick and a Web site that sells domain names. And yet, there she is, staring into the camera as she slowly unzips her uniform, wind blowing in her hair. Or topless and getting rubbed down by a female masseuse who rips open her own top to reveal a tight GoDaddy tank. Maybe GoDaddy has forgotten women need domain names, too. When it was time for me to register my new blog name, I specifically did not call GoDaddy for this exact reason.

But maybe that's what NASCAR has to do to keep American men interested. In recent years, the sport has lost one out of four TV viewers. According to Nielsen, the median age of NASCAR fans has risen to 51.6, compared with 46 for the NFL and 39.3 for the NBA. I'm guessing the fact Gordon's newest sponsor is the AARP's Drive to End Hunger Campaign might have something to do with it.

As for me, I'll continue to gloss over US Weekly's NASCAR gossip in favor of learning about Suri Cruise's latest shade of lipstick. Now that's life in the fast lane, my friends.

espnW columnist Leslie Goldman is a die-hard workout junkie who covers health and fitness for many popular women's magazines and is the author of "Locker Room Diaries: The Naked Truth About Women, Body Image and Re-imagining the 'Perfect' Body." Full disclosure: Her high school athletic experience was limited to sophomore-year color guard.

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