Sure, there are 36 points races in the season (plus the Bud Shootout, the Gatorade Duel, the All-Star Challenge, 35 Busch events and 25 truck races), but that still leaves a few empty hours in the year. For fans looking to pump some excitement into those quiet times, here's a look at some new NASCAR-themed entertainment.
HIGH, WIDE AND HANDSOME
Will Ferrell at 200 mph. That's the formula that Columbia Pictures hopes will lead to a checkered flag at the box office come summer. Ferrell (left, in white) plays no-holds-barred NASCAR star Ricky Bobby, a Dale Earnhardt Sr.--inspired racer who is beloved for his win-at-any-cost attitude. Ferrell's character is aided on the track by childhood friend and teammate Cal Naughton Jr. (John C. Reilly, far left), who often finishes second behind Bobby and is half of the sport's "Thunder and Lightning" duo. Their supremacy is threatened when French Formula One driver Jean Girard ( Sacha Baron Cohen, better known as Ali G) joins the circuit and starts winning races. Filming began in North Carolina in September and continued the next month during the UAW-Ford 500 weekend at Alabama's Talladega Superspeedway, where Ferrell's character had his own garage stall (between those of real drivers Martin Truex Jr. and Scott Riggs) adorned with a RICKY BOBBY sign. (Among the sponsors on Bobby's white number 62 Ford: Julio's Thongs for Men; Tanya Rashard's Homemade Weaves & Extensions! The Best in Fake Hair; and Hullmont High School Ski Club).
" Ricky Bobby is a little reckless," Ferrell says. "He doesn't buy into the whole points championship. Where other drivers will lay back and be happy with a top five or top 10 finish because they get points, Ricky will go for the win even if it means a foolish move that knocks his car out. His father instilled him with the belief that if you ain't first, you are last. But later in life, when he asks his father, 'Do you remember when you told me that when I was little?' his dad replies, 'I don't remember. I must have been drunk.' Bobby's a guy who suffers from way too much hubris and kind of recognizes his faults at the end."
Asked if this film will make people forget Days of Thunder, the overwrought Tom Cruise vehicle of 1990, Ferrell is philosophical. "It will probably make people forget Days of Thunder but remind them of Top Gun," he says. "It's still going to bring them back to Tom Cruise no matter how you slice it."
I goes racing. Bad grammar? No, just noting that NASCAR fans have a growing menu of programming available via podcasting. There's Motor Music (via iTunes) to get you in the mood, and sites such as Nothin' But NASCAR on MySportsRadio.com offer race previews and recaps. NASCAR is also developing visual content. So plug in and buckle up.
MIRACLE: BOBBY ALLISON AND THE SAGA OF THE ALABAMA GANG
by Peter Golenback ( St. Martin's Press, $24.95)
The prolific Golenback, whose previous NASCAR titles include American Zoom, NASCAR Confidential and The Stock Car Racing Encyclopedia (written with Greg Fielden), returns to racing with this examination of one of the most successful and compelling families in the history of the sport. The book, which will be released in April at the International Motor Sports Hall of Fame induction dinner at Talladega, includes an in-depth look at Bobby's harrowing recovery from his 1988 crash at Pocono.
A WEEK IN THE LIFE OF NASCAR: A VIEW FROM WITHIN
by the Publishers of NASCAR Scene ($29.95)
Released in September, the 168-page book offers a behind-the-scenes look at one race week (in this case, the week leading up to the Aaron's 499 at Talladega on May 1, 2005). The editors and photographers of the weekly magazine NASCAR Scene were granted unlimited access to three top teams-- Hendrick Motorsports, Haas CNC Racing and MB2/MBV Motorsports--and captured rarely seen moments, from meetings on team planes to postrace inspection.
EA SPORTS' NASCAR 06: TOTAL TEAM CONTROL
( PlayStation 2 and Xbox) $49.95
Now you can wear the same hat as Jack Roush, figuratively speaking. With its "squad-based racing" concept, NASCAR 06 allows you to build multicar teams and control the action of your racing teammates (in case you need someone to draft with) and off-track personnel. (You can communicate with your crew chief through the controller or a microphone headset.) Every current Cup driver is represented, with personality and performance characteristics built in. You can also create your own driver, start at the lowest levels of the sport and earn your way to the Nextel Cup circuit.