Five times NASCAR made it to into the movies

When something attracts significant attention it doesn’t take Hollywood long to feature it in film and the world of sport is no exception; American Football has The Blind Side, Boxing has Rocky (all eight of them) and even Ice Skating has a hit movie made in its honor in the form of Blades of Glory. So, what films fly the flag for NASCAR I hear you ask – let’s find out.


American Muscle

This 1983 film was ridiculed at the time as a complete and utter failure but, over time, the loveable lead Burt Reynolds has helped transform it into a cult hit. It’s far from an accurate depiction of NASCAR but it does have a few laughs. Stroker, the driver played by Reynolds, is an experienced hand at the wheel and he pens a sponsorship deal with a takeaway chicken company, but the contract is littered with clauses that make a mockery of the three-time champ.

The finale of the movie sees Reynolds battling between clinching a fourth title in his Ford Thunderbird – and therefore triggering an extension to his contract – or losing out on glory, at the expense of his ego, but with freedom in sight. What does he choose?


Greased Lightning is a movie based – almightily loosely – on NASCAR Hall of Famer Wendell Scott. The movie sends Richard Pryor, who plays Scott, on through a journey that covers him as a child, a soldier and into the big wide world as a taxi driver. Scott’s life takes an unexpected turn into crime but he’s offered a way out through professional racing and, against all odds, he takes it to become the first ever African-American to appear in NASCAR.


Disney launched the animated movie Cars in 2006 with Hollywood funny man Owen Wilson in the main role – Lightning McQueen – and surrounded him with some of NASCARs biggest names such as Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt and it grossed nearly $500m before triggering a series of sequels and spin offs. The film follows McQueen who is an ambitious but cock sure rookie that is aiming to make it into the big time.

An unexpected detour though sees McQueen find himself stranded but rather than journey on to victory, McQueen instead discovers himself with the help of love and a legendary old-time champion.


Is it a racing film, is it an action film? The answer is both and Tom Cruise stars as a hot shot young driver who, despite struggling on his first moves into the elite, eventually finds his place at the top. Cole Trickle – Cruise’s character – faces a tough time from the more experienced driver, Rowdy Burns, but the relationship between the pair blossoms into a bromance with a new rival emerging under the guidance of Trickle’s former boss. The film comes to a head at the Daytona 500 with Trickle effectively racing for his best friends future but can he get over the line in first place?


Well it’s not the highest grossing film on our list but this fast-paced comedy that is named after the famous NASCAR circuit is rightfully in first place. Will Ferrell is the standout name and the movie follows his – well Ricky Bobby’s – adventure from birth in the back of a car through to success at the very top. Bobby and his number two driver – played by John C Reilly, who also has a role in Days of Thunder – dominate until the emergence of fresh talent threatens to derail Bobby’s legacy.

Bobby steps away from the track but his passion is rekindled through comical and unorthodox means and he returns to NASCAR only to learn that winning isn’t everything.

The film proved such a hit that the current crop of pros – and some Formula One betting experts – have even been known to reference it in quotes or through artwork on their cars.

There you have it, five times NASCAR has been put on the big screen and, as always, it puts a smile on the faces.

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