NASCAR’s Experiment With Romance Novels Remains a Bizarre Chapter in the Sport’s History

Sports leagues, including NASCAR, are always trying to make an extra buck or three when such a thing is possible.

Whether it is video games or league-owned networks, these corporations want all of the money that they can get. That even means reaching out to demographics who may not normally have cared about the sport in question.

NASCAR’s attempt at reaching out to women in the 2000s came in the form of romance novels. Yes, you read that right.

NASCAR and Harlequin partnered in the mid-2000s

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The 2000s and the 2010s were a popular time for romance novels, as anyone who wants to forget the Twilight and 50 Shades of Gray trends will tell you.

There would be no vampires in NASCAR’s partnership with Harlequin Enterprises, however. Beginning in 2006, Harlequin — a Canada-based company — published novels that tied together romance and NASCAR.

One such book was Speed Dating, a story about an actuary and a fictional NASCAR driver who found love. It probably wouldn’t have been a safe play to have the actuary date Dale Earnhardt Jr., after all.

Also omitted from the books were sexual intercourse, drugs and alcohol, and NASCAR crashes. Instead of sex, the books featured emotional kissing.

The partnership generated mixed reviews and feedback

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Harlequin and NASCAR each wanted to make the romance novels work and sell to audiences who otherwise may not have cared about the Daytona 500.

Still, the partnership was a strange one. In a 2007 interview with The New York Times, Kate Duffy — the editorial director of Kensington Publishing Group — shared her skepticism about the idea working.

“Certain things are hard to translate into romance fiction. Music and dancing, for example. What I’m concerned about is I don’t know a whole lot of romance readers who love NASCAR the way they love ‘American Idol,’ say. Sports is just not something we talk about at our big romance conferences.”

Mark Dyer, the vice president of licensing for NASCAR, said that surveys found that 72% of female fans enjoyed reading and were more likely to purchase the books than non-fans. listed the most recent NASCAR romance book, Hard and Fast, as being released in 2010.

Where can you find the NASCAR romance books?

The NASCAR logo before a race in 2014.
The NASCAR logo in 2014. | Jerry Markland/Getty Images

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If you’re interested in reading one of the NASCAR romance novels, you’re in luck.

Several of the books, from Dangerous Curves to Total Control, are still available on Amazon. Prices range on the books, but most are fairly cheap.

As for that Speed Dating book, Amazon was kind enough to include a summary of what potential readers should expect.

“Don’t tell me you’ve never heard of Dylan Hargreave. Celebrity NASCAR driver? People magazine’s Sexiest Man of the Year? Those eyes. That smile… Forget sensible! I’ve assessed the risk…and I’m taking it! I usually keep the brakes on, but as of now I’m taking a vacation. From me.”

The top review, one written by Amazon user Meerkat, asks, “Where is the story?” So if you intend to spend a weekend reading Speed Dating in candlelight, you’ve been warned about the potential lack of a story. 

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