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Race Country USA Popular Location For Hollywood
Dec 22, 2008

Often referred to as Race Country USA, the Charlotte area has provided the stage for many motorsports themed movies dating back to the sixties.

By Ray Everett

There are a number of reasons for Race Country USA's popularity among Hollywood movie producers.

With Lowe's Motor Speedway being the centerpiece, Race Country USA has a lot to offer film makers in the way of race shops, minor league short tracks, motorsports personalities, beautiful scenery and mild year round temperatures. The area is also home to a treasure chest of motorsports history complete with a wealth of story lines.

Some of the movies filmed on location in Race Country USA include:

"Speedway" starring Elvis Presley with Nancy Sinatra and Bill Bixby. This movie was filmed primarily at Lowe's Motor Speedway and the immediate area in June 1967. Elvis portrays Steve Grayson, a stock car champion with a generous heart.

"43: The Petty Story" starring Richard Petty as himself. This movie was Hollywood's first attempt at creating a real NASCAR movie with most of it being filmed on location in North Carolina in 1972.

"The Last American Hero" starring Jeff Bridges is based on the life of NASCAR legend Junior Johnson. Filming for this popular movie took place in late 1972 and early 1973 and tells the story of Johnson starting out as a moonshine runner.

"Stroker Ace" starring Burt Reynolds with Ned Beatty, Jim Nabors, Loni Anderson and Parker Stevenson. This 1982 action comedy was directed by former NASCAR car owner Hal Needham and also included appearances by Cale Yarborough and Benny Parsons. Lowe's Motor Speedway served as the location for this crazy story of a driver who obtains sponsorship from a fried chicken entrepreneur.

"Days of Thunder" starring Tom Cruise with Nicole Kidman and Robert Duvall. "Days of Thunder," probably one of the most popular films to be shot in Race Country USA, featured many in-car shots that were filmed in actual NASCAR competition. The movie offered Bobby Hamilton the opportunity to make his Cup Series debut in 1989 at Phoenix driving one of the movie cars. Rusty Wallace, Neil Bonnett and Harry Gant all appeared in "Days of Thunder" along with noted commentator Dr. Jerry Punch. The movie is based loosely on the lives of Tim Richmond and crew chief Harry Hyde during their successful mid-eighties campaign in a Rick Hendrick owned Chevrolet.

"Steel Chariots" was a one hundred-twenty minute television movie produced in 1997 by Fox Broadcasting Company and aired on September 23, 1997. The movie stars John Beck with Kathleen Nolan and includes Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin, Rusty Wallace, Ned Jarrett and Benny Parsons as themselves. Many of the scenes were shot within five miles of the Lowe's Motor Speedway.

"3: The Earnhardt Story" was another made for television movie shot on location in Race Country USA. Produced in 2004 by ESPN and aired on December 11, 2004, the movie takes an in-depth look at the life of Dale Earnhardt. Starring Barry Pepper with Elizabeth Mitchell, Andrea Powell and part time Cup Series driver Chad McCumbee as Dale Earnhardt, Jr., "3: The Earnhardt Story" focuses on the seven-time champion's beginnings and struggles to find success on the NASCAR circuit. Many of the scenes were shot in Kannapolis, Lake Norman and Mount Pleasant, North Carolina with the on track filming taking place at the Rockingham Speedway.

"DALE" is a great movie that uses actual footage taken during an interview with the man himself while fishing on his property near Mooresville, North Carolina. Released in early 2007 and narrated by the late Paul Newman, this movie is about as close to the Earnhardt family as you can get. "I was amazed, blown away," Dale Earnhardt Jr. said after seeing it for the first time. "Couldn't believe how good it turned out. It's to the point. It's perfect."

"Talladega Nights" starring Will Ferrell with John C. Reilly, David Koechner and Sacha Baron Cohen is a comedy film shot primarily in the Charlotte area in early 2006. Ferrell appears as a national racing hero who will do what it takes to win at any cost.

With the holidays upon us, it is the perfect time to get out those old movies or to possibly purchase one as a gift for the hardcore race fan in your life. Most of the titles are available on DVD.

Many hardcore race fans will be interested to know that the folks in Hollywood are planning several more motorsports films in the future with Earnhardt, Petty and Junior Johnson being the leading candidates for such upcoming projects. Stay tuned to for further developments.

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