Commentary

The Bubbas could be NASCAR's version of the Oscars, don't you think?

Red carpet divas will be absent from Sunday's Auto Club 500 at the track formerly known as California Speedway. That doesn't mean Fontana will be lacking in star power, writes David Newton.

Updated: February 23, 2008, 10:52 PM ET
By David Newton | ESPN.com

FONTANA, Calif. -- There'll be no red carpet walk on Sunday at the track formerly known as California Speedway as there will be in Hollywood some 60 miles away. Drivers' wives won't be in evening gowns -- dresses aren't allowed at the track (see Ashley Judd) -- with Ryan Seacrest telling us why Krissie Newman belongs on the A-list and Delana Harvick does not.

There'll be no paparazzi hiding behind gas cans on pit road hoping to catch Dale Earnhardt Jr. in an awkward moment getting in or out of his car.
[+] EnlargeCalifornia Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jeff Gordon
AP Photo/Reed SaxonWho would play Jeff Gordon on the silver screen? Well, it probably wouldn't be Arnold Schwarzenegger.

OK, maybe there will be that.

The Sprint Cup Series is a long way from the glitz and glamour of the Academy Awards that will take place shortly after the Auto Club 500. Some question why NASCAR's premier series would want to compete on the same day when Cate Blanchett and George Clooney go for another piece of hardware at the Kodak Theater.

Get real.

Does anybody believe the same people who attend races go to the Oscars? Or even watch them? This isn't a wine and cheese crowd at the track. It's Bud and burgers.

But the drivers still are considered stars, and Hollywood has made a few bucks out of the sport with movies such as "Talladega Nights," "Days of Thunder" and "Stroker Ace."

Some of the drivers even have Hollywood aspirations. Jimmie Johnson recently hired an agency to help put him in the same limelight as his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Jeff Gordon, who is as apt to appear on "Live with Regis and Kelly" as he is on SPEED.

And one of Johnson's best friends is Nick Lachey.

Earnhardt has appeared in "Rolling Stone" and Sheryl Crow's "Steve McQueen" music video.

Jamie McMurray has been in an episode of "West Wing" and Carl Edwards made a cameo appearance on "The Guiding Light."

Robby Gordon appeared to be auditioning for best actor in a role with no support on Friday when he challenged NASCAR's decision to penalize his team 100 points for having an illegal nose cover at Daytona.

So, yes, NASCAR can coexist in the land of the stars even though struggling attendance here suggests it shouldn't.

The envelope please.

Several drivers were asked to pick a star to play their role should Hollywood come knocking. Because they spend more time behind the wheel than they do in front of a television, most struggled to answer.

Bobby Labonte admitted he spends more time watching the Weather Channel, appropriate on this weekend when it's done nothing but rain in Southern California.

Pushed for an answer, he suggested Clooney or Mel Gibson.

Obviously, the 2000 Cup champion has a high opinion of his looks, picking two actors who routinely appear on the list of Hollywood's most beautiful people.

"No, no, no, no," Labonte said. "I didn't say that. I meant personality-wise. When you watch a movie I look at personalities."

Elliott Sadler apparently spends more time in front of the TV -- when he's not killing furry animals, that is. He didn't hesitate to go with Jim Carrey, perhaps the only actor on the planet who could duplicate that distinct Virginia drawl.

"I just like his attitude," Sadler said. "He's funny in all of his movies. My favorite saying in one of his movies is 'Bumble Bee Tuna, hello' from 'Ace Ventura [Pet Detective].' That's' one of the funniest things you could say to somebody when you walk up to him."

Johnson hasn't given this subject much thought, but apparently his wife has.

"My wife says I look like Colin Ferrell because we both have eyebrows that are on different points," he said with a laugh. "So I'll go with him."

It was suggested that Tom Cruise play Mark Martin.

"He's way too cool to play me," said Martin, who will make his 700th start on Sunday. "It's hard for me to think of the right person. Maybe the guy who played Napoleon Dynamite."

Hmmm. Martin is 5-foot-5 at best. John Heder, who played Napoleon Dynamite, is 6-1.

"I don't see that," said Sadler, who looks more like Heder than Martin.

Earnhardt, NASCAR's most popular driver five years in a row, suggested his fans pick somebody before coming up with an alternative.

"I don't think it would be a tough job," he said. "Why couldn't I play myself?"

Well, he would make more money that way.

"Yeah!" Earnhardt said.

Tony Stewart, who looks more and more like porn star Ron Jeremy as his black hair reaches shoulder length, apparently isn't ready for the big screen.

"Hopefully, they're not dumb enough to make a movie about me in the first place," the two-time Cup champion said.

But Stewart would like to pick up a piece of hardware on Sunday just as badly as Clooney would for "Michael Clayton." Every driver would.

Some would be willing to knock a fellow competitor out of the way to get it, something you won't see on the red carpet walk.

Only one thing is missing from this show: a nickname.

How about the Bubbas?

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com.

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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