News that pop star Britney Spears will be making a movie set in the world of Winston Cup racing came as a surprise to many in Hollywood last week, but NASCAR insiders say the project has been in the works for almost a year. The singer first met with NASCAR officials in July 2001, when she served as the grand marshal at the Pepsi 400. "It was her first Winston Cup event," says Paul Brooks, NASCAR's VP of broadcasting. "She was blown away by the spectacle of it—the sounds, the crowds, the drivers." At the meeting Spears, her manager Larry Rudolph and producer Ann Carli, who produced the singer's first feature, Crossroads, pitched NASCAR brass on a story about the daughter of a successful stock car team owner and how the young woman (played by Spears) inspires a former driver to return to the sport. Though intrigued, NASCAR officials wanted to make sure the film would be faithful to the Winston Cup experience. "We're very protective of our sport," says Brooks. "We wanted assurances that if we got involved, we'd be represented appropriately." In short, says Brooks, they wanted to make sure they didn't get another Days of Thunder, the much-reviled (at least in racing circles) 1990 Tom Cruise film, which featured, among other cinematic inventions, scenes of Robert Duvall as a good-ol'-boy team owner who assembles stock cars in a barn. For the Spears project, film crews will set up at several Winston Cup events, including Daytona, and a number of NASCAR drivers will appear in the movie.
? Rockies manager Clint Hurdle is a quote master. That's not to say he's especially scintillating in media interviews—rather, every day before a game Hurdle posts an inspirational message in the Rockies' locker room. It's a practice he began as a manager in the Mets' minor league system in the early '90s and one he continued after being named the Rockies' hitting coach in '97. "I would just find something to throw up on [the sheet listing groups for batting practice] just to see who was paying attention," says Hurdle, who digs up the quotes from reference books he keeps in his office. For Opening Day the message was "Every journey begins with a first step." After being named the Rockies' manager on April 26, he went to the words of Marcus Aurelius: "Let every action aim solely at the common good." The message last Friday, after the team had completed a 2-4 week: "Only the mediocre are always at their best." Says Rockies first baseman Todd Helton, "It lets us know how he's feeling about things. And a lot of times they provide a lot of insight as to where the game ranks in life."
?Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup—known to preadolescent females (and their long-suffering parents) as The Powerpuff Girls—are joining the WNBA. From June 21 through July 11, episodes of the Cartoon Network series will be shown before games, posters will be given out to fans, and the Girls themselves—well, costumed actors at least—will make appearances. The idea is to lure Powerpuff fans into the seats in the hopes that once there they'll get hooked on the high-flying stunts of real-life Girl Power heroes such as Chamique Holdsclaw, Lisa Leslie and Sue Bird. Of course, it might help to throw an evil monkey into the backcourt.