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Baby talk fertile topic in NASCAR

I suppose this is what happens when NASCAR has ExtenZe, rather than a condom company, sponsoring a car.

Those family values of racing just come rushing back in droves and diapers.

"It makes me kind of proud," Mark Martin said. "We went a long time without any new little ones coming around. Now, there is a steady stream of them.

"It’s the best experience of anyone’s life, bar none. I don’t think any of the (new parents) need my advice. They’re really not that young and are having kids at a great time, when they’ve had a chance to mature a good bit themselves."

Martin is 51 and probably finished in the baby business.

But given what is happening around the tracks, you never know.

"If it gets a little more out of control, we might have to do something and start passing (condoms) out," Jeff Gordon joked Friday afternoon. "Rain delays. … Was there a rain delay Homestead week?"

It is a sport born from coupes and hardtops and convertibles at Daytona Beach and yet built on family. If you are at Las Vegas Motor Speedway the next few days for either the Nationwide or Sprint Cup races, glance down as the national anthem is being sung and notice all the wives standing next to the drivers.

Somewhere, the children are near. Those who have arrived and those on the way.

Babies have hit NASCAR like the Danica Patrick public relations wave. Elliott Sadler and his wife welcomed a son two weeks ago. Carl Edwards and his wife did the same to a daughter Wednesday. Jimmie Johnson and Gordon have wives who are expecting.

Kevin Conway doesn’t have children, but drives the No. 37 Ford Fusion of ExtenZe, so, well, you know.

It’s impossible to be too focused as a race-car driver; there’s no such thing. It’s a theory Edwards tested the past few weeks as he and wife Kate saw the due date for their first child pass. The baby, Annie, offered perfect timing of a midweek arrival.

I’m guessing the proud father would take a little of that good fortune here this week.

He hasn’t had much in Cup for a while, but leads the Nationwide Series in points through two races this year.

"When I left (Missouri for Las Vegas), I looked back when driving my truck and thought, ‘Wow. I have a family,’ " he said. "That’s pretty interesting, so it’s definitely a different emotion than I’ve ever had. One of my buddies told me that I’m really going to love racing now, especially when she’s crying a lot.

"I don’t feel guilty having to leave. We all have jobs, and everybody has to go do their job, and, to put it in perspective, one of Kate’s best friends has a baby and her husband is serving over in Afghanistan and he didn’t see their baby until she was 3 months old. And he was only home for two weeks and had to leave again for six months.

"So, I’ve got a great situation relative to a lot of folks who are out there doing very important jobs."

Edwards needs a strong start this season, a way to erase a winless Cup schedule in 2009, when expectations were far heavier than the machine he directs around a track. He is proving to be one of the most talented all-or-nothing drivers, from memorable and successful seasons in 2005 and 2008 to forgettable ones in 2006 and 2009.

Whether the balance that comes with fatherhood will help him is unknown.

"I haven’t been in the car yet (since the birth) and everything that happens is new," he said. "I just called to check, and (the baby) was eating something and was kind of choking on it a little bit. I thought something was wrong. I about had heart failure on that. That tore me up.

"So it’s all new to me, but I feel a lot more calm now. There is a lot less anxiety because everything did go well and we’re not waiting. Waiting is the hardest part."

No. The hardest part is watching Jimmy Johnson the football coach, the coach who delivered your favorite NFL team two Super Bowl rings, stand next to a NASCAR driver in a commercial for ExtenZe and say the following:

"I know something about taking things from good to great, and that’s what ExtenZe can do for guys."

Back to the Baby Boom talk.

Please.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618.

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