Monday, August 15, 2011

Why I Love NASCAR: Movies

When not watching NASCAR during the season, I still long to watch, learn about, and revel in the world of NASCAR.  Over the years Hollywood has flung out some interesting, serious, laughable, and forgettable movies set against the backdrop of NASCAR. Good or bad, realistic or farfetched, NASCAR movies are a fun part of fandom!

The Last American Hero – A film about NASCAR legend and Hall of Fame member Junior Johnson in his early years.  With the tagline, “It took him 20 years to find out who he was and 2 laps to let the world know,” this movie personified the American dream. Starring Jeff Bridges as Junior Johnson and with locations that lent authentication to the piece, The Last American Hero is a slice of NASCAR history brought to life in an artful and refreshing way.

Greased Lightning – Loosely depicting the life of black NASCAR driver Wendell Scott, the film shows the history of post World War II atmosphere that led to Scott’s evolution from taxi cab driver to moonshine runner in Virginia to stock car champion. Richard Pryor stared in this serious film role that showcased his fine acting chops. Beau Bridges co-starred.

Stroker Ace- Fictitious Stroker Ace, played by the incomparable Burt Reynolds, has little respect for the business side of NASCAR preferring to leave it all out on the racetrack. When a string of events leads to Stroker losing his sponsor, he and his team need to hustle up a new one. A hilarious and raucous storyline continues. Most notable are the actual NASCAR cameos featured in the film as well as race tracks for location shots. If watched simply for mindless fun and for spotting NASCAR faces like Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty, Tim Richmond and scores more, Stroker Ace is a good choice.

Six PackKenny Rogers, pre-face lift and during his enormously popular singing career, took a turn as a struggling NASCAR driver who, due to circumstances, winds up with a van full of kids in his charge. Not a bright spot for NASCAR films, but to see Kenny Rogers and Diane Lane it’s worth a couple  of mindless hours.

Days of ThunderTom Cruise starring as Tom Cruise, I mean starring as Cole Trickle. 1980s flash, Robert Duvall’s crustiness and Randy Quaid as the antithesis of the character he made famous in the Vacation movies, tried to make this one a winner, but the crazy schedule for NASCAR and the preposterous storyline are so bad it’s like watching drivel. Of course, it’s Tom Cruise and NASCAR so as bad as it is it is still so watchable!

Pixar’s Cars Movie An animated story with heart, lush scenery, well-developed plot, and a host of stars makes this modern flick an instant classic. Not necessary to see just with the kids, this film is the best of all. Don’t walk, run to put this on your “must own” list of NASCAR movies.

Hollywood hasn’t done a bang up job on offering high caliber NASCAR-based movies. But the fact that NASCAR movies exist at all, are a part of film history, and even include real NASCAR personalities from different eras is another reason why I love NASCAR.

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