People are often sarcastic about the brutality of my job: hang out with celebrities and write about them. It’s usually not that simple, but yesterday was an exception. I was invited out to Willow Springs Raceway, about 80 miles from Los Angele,s to watch a bunch of celebs race Dodge’s new version of the Challenger (older versions of it have been made famous in 1971’s Vanishing Point and Taratino’s Death Proof). It was an odd bunch of car junkies — Luke Wilson, Rob Lowe, David Spade, Chace Crawford (pictured), Michelle Trachtenberg, Audrina Partridge, Brad Paisley, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Carmen Electra and Snoop Dogg — which is why it was totally worth the drive. (Of course, the celebs were helicoptered in and driven the entire 100 yards from the makeshift helipad to the track’s headquarters.)

Audrina and Trachtenberg emerged from an SUV together, the former blinding us with her grill of teeth. Trachtenberg, meanwhile, was sporting four(ish)-inch peep toe heels. This girl is no wannabe race car driver, I thought. After some handlers hooked her up with some sneakers, she hopped into an orange Challenger with racing stripes and kicked some Snoop Dogg booty. She whooped Audrina too. So I take it back. Michelle Trachtenberg is a badass behind the wheel. (Michelle and Snoop said they’d guest blog about their experience. Alas, we wait.)

addCredit(“Chace Crawford: Vanessa Juarez”)

Erstwhile Tommy Boy co-stars David Spade and Rob Lowe werefriendly competitors. Just before the race, a Dodge rep prepped thestars and let them know that there would be a camera and a microphonein the car so that their “girl screams” would be documented for therecord. To which David Spade called out, “Rob! You’re such a girl forbeing on that Brothers & Sisters show.” Then Lowe jumpedover the table and tackled Spade, and Spade broke the rules of, er,engagement by countering with a karate chop to the throat. Actually,none of that happened — but wouldn’t have that been fun. But no joke,Spade did call out “Rob!” as if he’d be the one person in the room tolet out a wimpy squeal during the race. After the first round, Loweclimbed out of his car elated that he’d “murdered” Spade on the track.

I later asked Wilson and Spade whether they considered themselvesgearheads, which prompted a mild sneer. “Um, not really,” Wilsonrebuffed. “I like cars a lot.” Spade stressed he was more of achowderhead than a gearhead, but he’s fibbing of course. “I have an ’87Grand National,” he said. “She’s a real sweetie. I got a 2000 ElDorado. That’s just a pimp sleigh, just to cruise around. I have a ’94Land Cruiser. I got that with the old Tommy Boy money. So I don’t have any new nice cars, that’s why I’m out here.”

I, too, got behind the wheel of this beautiful machine, a cop magnetwith a 5.7-liter HEMI V8 engine. For you non-car aficionados, thatmeans it goes really fast. (I got up to 110-120 mph on the windytrack.) Though I had really been itching for a journalist v. actor dragrace, it didn’t happen, and members of the media could only race eachother. I even asked Luke Wilson if he’d be up for it. He copped outsaying, “I think they just want it to be actor-on-actor.” Frankly, Ithink he was scared, especially after I beat Entertainment Tonight(boo-ya!) on the eighth-mile stretch by almost an entire second. It was an afternoon filled with trash talk, adrenaline,smiles, sunburns, and jonesing to get back in the car for another twirl.Yes, it is a hard-knock life for us.

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