April 23, 2001 12:00 PM

Zooming past such speed demons as William Shatner and Olympic swimmer Dara Torres, actor Josh Brolin came within 1.1 seconds of a first-place finish at April 7’s annual Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race in Long Beach, Calif. Still, he wore the smile of a chap who had taken the checkered flag as he sought out his steady of more than two years, actress Minnie Driver. “When he got out of his car, he made a beeline for her, and they kissed,” says an acquaintance. “They looked so happy together.”

That ring she was sporting might have had something to do with it. Brolin, 33, and Driver, 31, are betrothed, their publicists confirmed last week. No wedding date is set, but that leaves lots of time for Brolin’s stepmom, Barbra Streisand, to sort out a guest list. Friends predict a blissful match. “They practically read each other’s minds,” says one observer.

The London-born Driver, whose past romances include Matt Damon and John Cusack, fell for Brolin, who is divorced from actress Deborah Adair, when they filmed Slow Burn in 1998. “I love Josh because he’s a real cowboy. He’s so down-to-earth,” Driver told The Calgary Sun. She’s already chummy with Brolin’s kids Trevor, 12, and Eden, 8, as well as his dad, actor James Brolin. (Josh’s mother, Brolin’s first wife, Jane, died in 1995.) And she may soon heed that practice of many happy marriages: Share a hobby with your hubby. Says Brolin’s driving teacher Danny McKeever: “She told me that she wants to race next year.”

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