NASCAR is said to be the second largest spectator sport in the U.S., behind only the NFL in TV ratings. But it might be the largest anti-spectator sport.
Its roots are in the South—a 2001 article about NASCAR in Southern Cultures is titled "The Most Southern Sport on Earth"—and though it has long since spread nationwide (and then some), it is still far less understood in most places than football, basketball, or baseball. Such ignorance led to the making of the documentary Racing Dreams.
Director Marshall Curry was intrigued by a story he read about the World Karting Association (WKA) Championships—an unofficial Little League for NASCAR. So Curry, whose 2005 documentary (and feature-length debut) Street Fight was nominated for an Oscar, decided to educate himself by making a film. The end result is a thrilling look into this racing sub-culture, but even more, it is a poignant look at the transition from childhood to adulthood.
Racing Dreams follows three kids who are competing in the year-long WKA National Series. Brandon is 13 years old, has been raised by his grandparents since he was four, and has problems keeping his cool. Josh, 12, is a model student and perfectionist who emulates the pros in every way he can. Annabeth, 11, is the least experienced driver and must contend as a girl surrounded by guys, but is also competitive, confident, and spunky.
The film alternates between home and the track. At the races, we are inducted into a competition of maddeningly precise angles, these kids scooting along at 70 mph with no suspension systems and their rear ends only an inch off the ground. Speaking as someone typically benumbed by watching cars make laps, I was transfixed. The editing moves things along, but ...1
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