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THE NEED FOR SPEED

While his buddies worshiped baseball players, Jay Leno grew up watching auto racing.

"Drivers were heroes to me, just like Dodgers pitcher Sandy Koufax to other kids," Leno says in Sunday's issue of USA Weekend magazine.

The host of NBC's ""The Tonight Show"" owns dozens of classic and antique cars, but he also loves NASCAR, which begins its Winston Cup season this weekend in Daytona Beach, Fla.

"You can't drive anything that resembles a Formula One car down to the Dairy Queen," Leno says. "But you can take a Chevy, give it loud mufflers, put a NASCAR sponsor decal on it and - presto - you're making like a driver at Talladega."

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