Orlando Sentinel

Movie Review: Racing Dreams

by Roger Moore

Racing Dreams is about kids training, in their ‘tween years, to be NASCAR drivers, racing high-speed go-carts in NASCAR’s sanctioned championship Kart racing series. And Marshall Curry’s documentary about them may be the best intro-to-NASCAR ever put on film. He follows a smooth, sportsmanlike 12-year-old from Michigan named Josh Hobson, a future Jeff Gordon. He’s all smarmy charm, sound bites and good sportsmanship, following the path his idol took to the top.

There’s Annabeth Barnes, 11, the next Danica Patrick, an accomplished racer who is all into cars and whose dad is living vicariously through her. “Being a NASACAR driver is the coolest job you could ever have!” But is Daddy noticing who is blossoming into teenagerhood and starting to notice that her competitors are boys — cute boys? We’ll see.

And the next Earnhardt/Tony Stewart hothead? That would be Brandon Warren, then 13, the pride of Creedmoor, N.C. He’ll be a star if he ever learns to control his temper on the track. Then again, Tony Stewart never had to master his testy side.

Through a long season of races — 20 laps, at speeds up to 70 miles per hour, around small oval tracks in various locales — these kids compete in their divisions for the chance to win NASCAR’s and potential sponsor’s eyes.

The kids and their parents try to decide if they have the skills and the desire to take it to the next level. Races at that level aren’t so much about the car, the tires, the track (they’re all close to identical) or the weather. It’s about the very young driver who has the discipline to get into his or her “line,” knowing when to pass, and how to keep others behind you. It’s racing at its most basic. Annabeth deals with her distractions, Brandon struggles with family issues and personal problems.

And the young Jeff Gordon learns how to thank every sponsor every time he hits the winner’s circle, just like the adult version. Through Josh, you start to appreciate why so many NASCAR fans can’t stand the grown-up Gordon. When you’re this “on message,” this far removed from losing your temper or losing focus, you just don’t seem human.

For casual race fans, Racing Dreams is a real eye-opener. And it’s a darned entertaining way to get a handle on a sport that can seem like a bunch of cars doing circles for a crowd that seems most interested in seeing that next epic wreck. See for yourself.