|NASCAR: THE RIDE OF THEIR LIVES|
Written by David Hillyer
February 6, 2009
I am not a NASCAR fan. Probably not the best way to start a review of a DVD about NASCAR, I know, but I thought I should let you know where I'm coming from outright. I have seen quite a few races but I cannot tell you the last time I watched a race. When I was a youngster I was into racing. I built the models and had a membership to a fan club or two. My Dad used to work for Goodyear in the race tire department, so he traveled to a lot of races and usually I got some free stuff out of it. Once in awhile the rest of the family traveled with him. I have pictures of Daryl Waltrip babysitting me while my Dad was doing something else up pit road.
Back then I had dreams of being a race car driver. At the time there were only a handful of racers with corporate sponsors so being a race driver seemed to be within reach of everyone. For some reason I took a liking to drag racing a lot more than circle track. I even helped out on some pit crews. It was great fun and I got lots of free stuff. Eventually I grew up and reality set in. Dad left Goodyear and I started playing soccer and running track... and the big sponsors came in and suddenly driving a race car was not within reach.
Occasionally I watch a movie about racing and it brings back all the memories. The IMAX movies “Super Speedway” and “NASCAR” are probably my two favorites... and of course Pixar's “Cars” is great. Others never seemed to really capture the fun and certainly never gave me the feeling of being in the drivers seat.
So along comes a new CMT movie called “The Ride of Their Lives”. I read the box and it talks about the history of NASCAR. I've seen a few of those shows. Usually a bunch of talking heads reminiscing about the old days with very little to draw the viewer into the stories.
I was highly skeptical of a 93 minute movie being able to tell any kind of decades long history in such a short time but The Ride of Their Loves isn't so much about the history of stock car racing as it is about the people involved... from life to sometimes tragic death. Narrated by Kevin Costner, the first half of the film revolves around the Petty family, then the Allisons, Earnhardts, and into present day. The cast of characters includes Waltrip and Gordon with a list of others just touched on. Brief side stories of the first black driver, and “Hollywood” Tim Richmond's life of excess round out the stories.
The Ride of Their Lives certainly doesn't go in depth on any particular season, but it goes to the heart of the people and they are all people with whom we can connect... and that is the strength of this film. To see virtually every racing father have to talk about the death of a son or grandson is heart wrenching but it is the reality of the risks of racing.
In all, the extras are very good. However I would have really liked to hear more about some of the other stars such as Cale Yarborough, AJ Foyt, Bill Elliot, Dave Person, and even someone like Dave Marcus who basically was testing cars for Earnhardt and others while racing but never saw the limelight himself. I guess there are other documentaries that would cover their stories.