New York Times Wheels Blog
Nascar Hopefuls Live Out Dreams on Film
By Richard S. Chang
The three young stars of “Racing Dreams,” a documentary on go-kart racing, were in Manhattan on Saturday for the movie’s premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival.
For Annabeth Barnes of Hiddenite, N.C., Joshua Hobson of Birch Run, Mich. and Brandon Warren of Creedmore, N.C., it was their first visit to New York City. Annabeth is 14, Joshua is 15 and Brandon is 16. During their whirlwind trip, they visited Central Park and stayed up late. They also spent part of their Saturday in a public relations office above Times Square doing a press junket for the film festival — another first.
“Racing Dreams” follows the three young drivers — each aspires to reach Nascar — for a year as they raced for the 2006 World Karting Association National Championship. The press release for “Racing Dreams,” calls go-karting “racing’s version of Little League.” But I think that sells the sport short. I’ve tried go-karts and had my butt handed to me on a platter by kids barely tall enough to ride a roller coaster.
“I wanted in good racers,” said Marshall Curry, the film’s director, who joined the three youngsters for the junket. “But we were more interested in their personalities.”
And their personalities couldn’t be more distinct. Annabeth is quietly enthusiastic, only answering questions directed at her. Joshua has dark, neatly cropped hair and chooses his words carefully, as if he were already a Nascar driver on camera. Brandon is charismatic and full of energy and eager to talk.
Before making the movie, Mr. Curry didn’t know anything about karting or Nascar. The idea came to him when he read an article on the World Karting Association. “I thought that sounded pretty amazing, and one of the things I love about making documentaries is it lets me spend a year or two learning about things I don’t know about,” he was quoted in the movie’s press kit. “So I went to a race to scout it out, and it was better than I imagined.”
Brandon remembers the first time he saw the director. “It was at a kart test, and there’s this guy with shaggy hair behind me,” Brandon said. Mr. Curry approached Brandon, who was with his grandfather, about appearing in the movie. “My grandpa jumps right on it.” Brandon had no idea it was going to take a year of filming. At first he wasn’t comfortable with the camera crew on him all the time. “But it gave me an edge,” he said.
Annabeth laughed at the mention of her first race on camera. It was also her first race on pavement; she grew up racing on dirt tracks. “The first race I sucked,” she said. Joshua was in that race. In fact, he lapped her. “I was so upset,” she said, burying her face in her hands.
The story was told by both parties — Annabeth and Joshua — who were sitting on opposite sides of the conference table. And the story wasn’t over.
“It was Champ Karts,” Annabeth said. She had noticed the film crew following Joshua, who has since moved onto driving stock cars in the ASA Late Model series. “If I beat him,” she recalled saying to herself, “then I’m the bomb.”
Joshua took over telling the story. “In the first race I lapped her,” he said. “But in the last race of the day, I was leading going into the last lap, and she passed me at the finish line.”
Mr. Curry, who had been sitting quietly at the far end of the table, content to let his young stars do the talking, chimed in at that point. “That’s not in the movie,” he said to Annabeth’s feigned disappointment.
“Racing Dreams” is showing on Wednesday, April 29, at AMC Village VII 7 at 7:15 p.m. and Saturday, May 2 at Tribeca Cinemas Theater at 11:30 p.m. Check the Tribeca Film Festival site for tickets.
April 29, 2009, 8:34 AM