Hot shots, Miss Sprint contract collide
Thursday, Jul. 07, 2011
A Miss Sprint Cup from Lancaster, S.C., has been stripped of her title after racy photos of her emerged online.
In January, NASCAR announced that Paige Duke, a 24-year-old Clemson University graduate, would return for a second season as one of three Miss Sprint Cup representatives.
The job involves making appearances at racing and charity events, and mingling with NASCAR fans. The attractive young women in racing-style fire suits are often seen smiling behind drivers as they celebrate in Victory Lane.
But about two weeks ago, Duke got a call from a Clemson classmate who said he'd received an email that contained what looked to be nude photos of her. He forwarded her the email.
"I just burst out into tears," Duke told the Observer. "I couldn't believe this was coming back from six years ago."
She said she was an 18-year-old college freshman when she sent the photos to her then-boyfriend.
"I never intended for anyone to see them but my ex-boyfriend," she said. "I was in love with him. I was naïve and young."
She soon learned that the photos had been circulating for years by email, and they had recently been posted to an online forum.
It wasn't long before she got a call from Sprint, she said, and she was fired.
Duke said her contract included a "morality clause" that prohibits Miss Sprint Cups from dating drivers or harming Sprint's image.
"I understood," she said. "I was expecting it to happen."
Sprint declined to comment Thursday on Duke's termination but wished her well.
"We wish Ms. Duke the best of luck in her future endeavors," said a statement from Sprint.
Duke said her attorneys worked to remove the photos from the website, and they're investigating how the photos were released, but she's devastated.
"I was fired from a job I love," she said. "This job was perfect for me."
Loyal supporters and racing fans have set up Facebook groups including "Bring Paige Duke Back to Miss Sprint Cup" or "Paige Duke support club" to defend her.
"The nude pictures were not taken while you were working for Sprint," wrote one person. "Sprint overreacted, and should (have) never fired you without explanation from your side."
For now, Duke is returning to work as a veterinary technician and looking for new opportunities.
She said she hopes something positive can come out of the situation.
"I can teach young girls that they need to learn a lesson from me, and hopefully, I can save some other girls from going through this someday."
"Anything you think is private probably won't be private one day."