The Sprint Cup Girls: Paige Duke is on the right.

Miss Hearst Golden Shifter: Linda Vaughn

Paige Duke, a 24-year-old beauty served — until this past week — as one of three “Sprint Cup Girls” for the National Association of Stock Car Racing (NASCAR) racing series.

The Sprint Cup girls aren’t chosen for their knowledge of racing, their intellectual prowess or their educational credentials. They get picked because they’re young, beautiful and look good in form-fitting racing suits.

But a decision by Duke six years ago to shed her clothes for some pictures to send her boyfriend landed her in hot water with NASCAR — for violating the “morals clause” of her contract.

The photos of Duke — then an 18-year-old freshman at Clemson — surfaced on an Internet site that mixes racing news with “hottie of the week” photos. She didn’t give them the photos and hasn’t seen the boyfriend in years. Her lawyers moved quickly to force the web site to remove the photos but it wasn’t quick enough for NASCAR. They fired her over the phone.

NASCAR’s move is hypocritical at best. They parade young women around as part of their show because they look sexy in tight costumes but send one of them packing because something they did as a private thing six years ago is immoral?

Strange behavior for a “sport” that grew out of the moonshining days.

NASCAR has always been an outfit that pushes “family value” and “morality” with a naughty blink of the eye. Have they forgotten the glory days of sexpots like the legendary Linda Vaughn — Miss Hearst Golden Shifter — of the sordid history of a past Miss Winston Cup who violated her contract by secretly dating young driver Jeff Gordon before marrying him and then hauling him into divorce court to take half of his millions?

You can’t push sex as part of the side show and then act shocked when sex becomes more than they bargained for.

Yes, what Paige Duke did as an 18-year-old was stupid but most of us did stupid things when we were young. Hell, some of us still do stupid things as so-called “adults.”

NASCAR expects drivers to prostitute themselves to sponsors. The sport sold out long ago.

Firing Paige Duke is a holier-than-thou move that proves just how out-of-touch NASCAR has become.

Paige Duke: Too hot for NASCAR?

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