No, that wasn't a comely new mechanic turning heads in the pit at
the Southern 500 in Darlington, S.C., on Sunday. That was Jersey
girl Michelle Rodriguez (left), the star of S.W.A.T. and The Fast
and the Furious, who was invited by a sponsor to be an honorary
pit crew member for Matt Kenseth. Says Rodriguez, "They said,
'Why don't you come down to the races,' and I was like, 'What?
I'll be there in a minute.' I'm a big fan. I've never been to a
race in my life, other than street racing." Before the race
Rodriguez helped set up the team's pit stall and experienced the
thrill of gluing lug nuts to wheels. Then she watched from the
pits as Kenseth drove to a 14th-place finish.

--He's sweet to watch on the basketball court, but Cavaliers
rookie LeBron James, 18, provided some painfully awkward moments
at the MTV Video Music Awards. While copresenting the award for
best hip-hop video with Ashanti, the 6'8" James, clad in a Bob
Marley T-shirt, jeans and hiking boots, stumbled through some
badly scripted flirtations with the diminutive diva. "Maybe we
could go one-on-one," he said. Ashanti, 22, giggled, and the
crowd at Radio City Music Hall shifted awkwardly. The winner, by
the way, was Missy (Misdemeanor) Elliott's Work It. The loser was
whoever told James to take this gig.

--Minnie Driver has made a career of playing the supportive
girlfriend (Good Will Hunting, Grosse Pointe Blank, Sleepers,
Hard Rain), so perhaps it's not surprising that the 33-year-old
actress stands staunchly behind her real-life boyfriend,
20-year-old up-and-coming American tennis player Robby Ginepri.
Driver, who met Ginepri in June at the Stella Artois
Championships at the Queens Club in London, was at the U.S. Open
last Saturday to watch Ginepri, who lost in the third round to
Todd Martin. She also took John McEnroe to task for what she
perceives as his overhyping of Andy Roddick. "All that stuff that
McEnroe says about the passing of the torch and how Roddick is
the only one of the young American men to be able to hold it is
just rubbish," said Driver, as she worked on a New York Times
crossword puzzle in the players' lounge.

--Laughter heals. That's the thinking behind Bill Cosby's decision
to stage a free stand-up show on Sept. 4 on the Baylor campus
after a tumultuous summer that included the murder of player
Patrick Dennehy, the arrest of his teammate Carlton Dotson and
the resignations of its basketball coach Dave Bliss and athletic
director Tom Stanton. Cosby says, "I want to come do this rally
to lift the spirits of the Baylor and Central Texas communities."
... See the new Got Milk? ad featuring Chris Evert (18 Grand Slam
titles) and Monica Seles (nine). The third woman with the white
moustache is ... Mary Jo Fernandez (zero). What's that about?
Evert says the ad makers for the American Dairy Farmers first
asked Martina Navratilova to pose, but she said no because she
only drinks soy milk. "If they offered Martina $500,000, she
would say no," says Evert. When we tracked down Navratilova, the
winner of 18 Grand Slams, at the U.S. Open last week, she agreed.
"Why would I do it?" she said. "I don't drink milk. It's bad for
me, it's bad for the cows." ... Samuel L. Jackson is in
negotiations to star in the tentatively titled Coach
Carter--about Richmond (N.C.) High boys' basketball coach Ken
Carter. In 1999 Carter benched his entire 13-0 team for a week
because some players were neglecting their studies. Directing is
Thomas Carter (Save the Last Dance)--who is no relation to the
coach but who played Hayward on the CBS series The White Shadow
in the early '80s.

COLOR PHOTO: AUTOSTOCK IMAGES (RODRIGUEZ) Michelle, pit belle COLOR PHOTO: THOMAS KIENZLE/AP (FELIX) PICTURE THIS There was something in the hair in Saint-Denis, France, as Allyson Felix, 17, flipped her 'do before the quarterfinals of the 200 meters at the world championships. After finishing sixth, Felix--who in May ran the 200 in 22.11, the world's best time this year--announced she won't compete at USC, where she's a freshman, but will turn pro. Surprisingly, Don King is not expected to be her manager. COLOR PHOTO: J.D. POOLEY/AP (MICKELSON)


A cable network is installing talking ads for its college
football programming in the urinals at 500 bars.



PGA golfer, on fellow pro Phil Mickelson (left), who failed in
his tryout as a pitcher with the Triple A Toledo Mud Hens: "The
last time I batted was in Little League, and that's the speed he
was throwing."