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As a boy growing up in Laurel, Miss., Ed Hinton would lie in bed
on Saturday nights and hear a horrific noise emanating from
somewhere beyond the backyard trees. Hinton now refers to the
heart-pumping, ear-piercing sound as "my siren song," but when
he asked his parents, James and Alice, about the noise, they
made it seem more like the imprecations of the devil. "They'd
say it was from the stock car racing at the fairgrounds and that
I could never, ever go there," Hinton recalls. "They said old
sorry people went there. Looking back, I suppose it was that
taste-of-sin thing that attracted me to car racing."

Our introduction this month of INSIDE MOTOR SPORTS, written by
Hinton, now an SI senior writer, focuses on stock car, as well
as Indy Car and Formula One, racing. The column, which appears
this week and will be published 11 more times over the next
eight months, provides motor sports fans with the lowdown on
drivers and owners, dirt from the pits and perspective on, well,
some of the sorry developments on the various racing circuits.

In 1957, as a nine-year-old member of Cub Scout Pack 38, Ed
finally made it to the Laurel Fairgrounds Speedway. "My parents
figured if the Scouts were going, it was probably O.K.," he
says. There he witnessed an onslaught of colors, sounds, smells
and personalities that, to this day, remains vivid, and he was
hooked on car racing. Hinton, who graduated from Southern
Mississippi in '70, saw his first NASCAR event at Daytona in '74
and began covering motor sports for The Orlando Sentinel that
year. He moved on to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The
National before joining SI six years ago. Today he's regarded as
one of America's foremost experts on the subject. "I've been
waiting a long time for this," says Hinton, who lists son Tyler,
9, as his personal motor sports reference source. (For
Halloween, Tyler is dressing up as driver Mark Martin.) "Getting
SI up to speed with motor sports is a great thing."

Senior editor Steve Madden, 34, who oversees our motor sports
coverage, is as fascinated by auto racing as Hinton is, but his
infatuation with the sport isn't as deeply rooted. "I came to
racing later in life," says Madden, who grew up in Boston and
never attended a race as a kid. "But I did learn to drive in
Boston, which in and of itself makes you a fan of trading
paint." Still, he cared little for the sport until eight years
ago, when M magazine assigned him to write a profile on driver
Emerson Fittipaldi, of whom Madden knew nothing. "I tried hard
to get out of doing that story," Madden says, "but after I'd
been at the track for 10 minutes, I thought auto racing was the
coolest thing I'd ever seen. I was flat-out sold."

Madden went on to cover the auto industry for Fortune and then
took the wheel at SI in 1996. He points to NASCAR's single-day
crowds this year--300,000 at the Brickyard 400 and 150,000 at
Daytona, to cite two examples--as proof that, more than ever,
INSIDE MOTOR SPORTS has an audience. "When I was a kid, SI
always had those motor sports covers," he says. "It's nice to go
back to those roots."

Who knows? Maybe even Ed's parents would have agreed.

Bill Colson

COLOR PHOTO: GREG FOSTER Ed, the author of our new Inside Motor Sports column, heard racing's call at son Tyler's age. [Tyler Hinton and Ed Hinton]