Race Weekend Central

Reel Racing: The Lowest-Grossing Films Featured on NASCAR Paint Schemes

Insert “Ah s**t, here we go again” meme here. …

We’re taking a look at the far more interesting side of the highest/lowest-grossing films to ever grace NASCAR paint schemes through the years.

If you missed last week’s article, read that one first. But as a quick refresher: 106 films have been (or tangentially been) on NASCAR liveries through the years, 105 of them were theatrically released to some extent or another, and I researched the box-office numbers through Wikipedia and/or Box Office Mojo.

See also
Reel Racing: The Highest-Grossing Films Featured on NASCAR Paint Schemes

All caught up? Awesome. Low-grossing movies ahead.

A couple interesting entries that just missed the cut include Brian De Palma’s Mission to Mars ($111m) and Ridley Scott’s The Counselor. The latter was directed by the guy that, you know, only ever did Alien, Blade Runner, The Martian and, more recently, The Last Duel (a movie that should’ve been nominated for like 10 Oscars), starred an A-list ensemble … and still only made $71 million.

I’m also disqualifying The Wizard of Oz, which appeared on the cars of Brendan Gaughan, Scott Riggs, Jeff Gordon and Elliott Sadler at Kansas Speedway. That was presumably for its 65th anniversary and possibly a re-release of some sort, but the original 1939 debut and subsequent theatrical runs make it difficult to have a true box-office number.

Doubt it’s a coincidence, too, that two of these schemes featuring low-grossing films failed to qualify for their respective races.

Like last week, let’s kick this off with some dishonorable mentions, though I guess they’d be “honorable” since they made more than those in the bottom 10:

  • Mile 22 (2018), $66.3 million (Bubba Wallace, NASCAR Cup Series) (as a quick note, a very disappointing entry in the Peter Berg – Mark Wahlberg team-ups that featured excellent movies in Deepwater Horizon and Patriots Day)
  • The Benchwarmers (2006), $65 million (Kenny Wallace, NASCAR Xfinity Series) (failed to qualify at Atlanta Motor Speedway)
  • The Punisher (2004), $54.7 million (Brendan Gaughan, Cup Series); not sure if they’d get away with pseudo-blood on schemes nowadays.
  • No Escape (2015), $54.4 million (Brett Moffitt, Cup Series)
  • Jesus Revolution (2023), $53.3 million (Jeffrey Earnhardt, Xfinity Series)

10. Spirit Untamed, $42.7 million

The third-most-recent movie to back a paint scheme kicks us off after Spirit Untamed backed Quin Houff and StarCom Racing’s No. 00 at Circuit of the Americas, Nashville Superspeedway and the Pocono Raceway doubleheader.

This movie-car combo came about as a result of sponsor Mane ‘n Tail, and Spirit Untamed also had one hell of a voice cast for an animated film, too.

Jake Gyllenhaal is easily the biggest name on the veteran cast (and he still should’ve been nominated — and won — for his role in Nightcrawler), and he’s joined by Eiza Gonzalez (Baby Driver, Ambulance), Julianne Moore (an Oscar winner herself) and Walton Goggins (The Hateful Eight), plus younger stars Isabela Merced (Sicario: Day of the Soldado) and McKenna Grace (The Haunting of Hill House).

Spirit Untamed did make over budget despite being released near franchise staples like Cruella, A Quiet Place Part II and The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, but certainly suffered from COVID-19 — as did every movie that year.

9. The Bad News Bears, $34.3 million

Jeremy Mayfield drove a car with one of the highest-grossing films to ever be on a paint scheme, and by god he was backed by one of the lowest-grossing, too.

Everyone knows the original version of The Bad News Bears is a classic baseball film with the ever-grumpy Walter Matthau. It spawned the 2005 remake starring Billy Bob Thornton and directed by Richard Linklater, who’s helmed everything from the Before trilogy to Dazed and Confused (and clearly loves baseball, given how much it factors into his wonderful 2016 film Everybody Wants Some!!).

Mayfield brought this car home in 12th at Daytona International Speedway in the summer of ’05, though the movie can’t say it did as well. The Bad News Bears didn’t even break even, making roughly $700,000 south of its budget and debuted to subpar critical reception as well.

It’s a pretty sick scheme, if nothing else, considering the pinstripes and baseballs alongside the typical Evernham Motorsports hallmarks.

8. The Hurricane Heist, $32.5 million

Forgettable movie, forgettable scheme. Next.

I half-kid. Matt DiBenedetto piloted this scheme in the 2018 Daytona 500, getting caught up in a crash and finishing 27th. The movie didn’t fare much better, grossing under budget. “Nothing can prepare you for this” on the decklid feels a bit ironic, and “UNSTOPPABLE” on the rear bumper feels the same.

Let’s look at the plot real fast and try to figure out why it failed. From Wikipedia:

“The film is about a maintenance worker, his meteorologist brother and a treasury agent contending with a band of rogue treasury agents who plan to use a Category 5 hurricane to cover their tracks of a bank robbery.”

I mean, yeah. That wasn’t going to make money. Next.

7. Blues Brothers 2000, $32.1 million

This feels appropriate, given we’re headed to the Chicago Street Course this weekend (and my Cubs are throwing a NASCAR night on June 29).

The Blues Brothers is a classic. Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi are the absolute best, it’s a comedy staple and director John Landis was on the heels of Animal House and had An American Werewolf in London and Trading Places in his future. Unfortunately, Blues Brothers 2000 was also in his future.

Why make a sequel? I have no idea. The 1980 original is perfect. By the time 1998 rolled around, Belushi had died long prior; a sequel shouldn’t have been necessary. It didn’t bomb, but only made $2.1 million over budget.

Just like with Mayfield’s Bears car, though, it’s a damn good scheme. I love the sort-of-inverted scheme with the white/black contrast as opposed to the normal blue Hot Wheels colors, and Kyle Petty did finish 11th in the 1998 Daytona 500.

To paraphrase The Blues Brothers (1980):

“It’s four days ’til Chicago, they’re on the street course, there’s 12 turns, it’s daylight … and it’s their first time driving there.”

“Hit it.”

6. NASCAR 3D: The IMAX Experience, $22.2 million

There’s a special place in my heart for the NASCAR-themed IMAX film. It’s the first movie I ever saw in a theater, at the Science Museum’s dome in Richmond, Virginia.

It also hurts my heart to see that it falls so far down the list, but NASCAR was for all intents and purposes more niche at the time than it is now. That said, of course it made it onto a paint scheme: Johnny Sauter‘s AOL car at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where it finished 24th.

I don’t have much to say about this scheme — the design is basically just kind of what it’s like looking directly into a projector, I guess. It’s fine.

NASCAR 3D: The IMAX Experience ended up making $21.5 million domestically and $665,000 internationally for a worldwide gross of just north of $22 million. Not bad for something that probably cost far less to make.

5. Swing Vote, $17.6 million

OK, what is it with Daytona and movie schemes? This is the fourth one in the first six schemes in this top 10.

Swing Vote came out in 2008 … and didn’t make money. $17 million at the box office against a $21 million budget. Ouch. This is one of those election-themed movies released in an election year (see The Purge: Anarchy in 2016 and The Campaign in 2012).

Low ratings aside, I won’t lie — the scheme is pretty nice. Swapping out the classic black-and-orange of the Bass Pro Shops scheme for red E stripes and a star-spangled blue backdrop worked out pretty great … except for the fact that Martin Truex Jr. finished 17th.

4. Stroker Ace, $11.4 million

This one kind of feels like cheating, since Stroker Ace was released in 1983 and these two tribute schemes courtesy of Spire Motorsports didn’t run until 38 years later. But I did find it interesting that the film made so little in its box-office run.

Granted, it hasn’t aged all that well since then, but the tribute throwbacks that Corey LaJoie and Justin Haley ran at Darlington Raceway in 2021 were pretty cool.

3. Run the Race, $6.4 million

So begins a run of three straight faith-based films to close out our list, starting with Korbin Forrister‘s scheme promoting Run the Race in 2018. This is another cross-sport scheme, since the movie concerns football. It made just $2.3 million on opening weekend and finished 10th at the box office.

Forrister failed to qualify in this scheme at Daytona (there Daytona is AGAIN, so that’s half this list) in February 2019. This scheme, Kenny Wallace‘s The Benchwarmers car and J.J. Yeley‘s 2008 Journey to the Center of the Earth Daytona scheme are the only three movie schemes to attempt but not make their races.

2. (Tie) The Identical & God Bless the Broken Road, $2.8 million each

The only tie to be on either list, and only because the gross for each film is so minimal. Two more faith-based movies land at the runner-up spot for lowest gross for a movie that featured on a NASCAR.

The Identical is a pseudo-Elvis-themed movie co-starring the late Ray Liotta and several other recognizable names. Though it seems weird to make an entire movie based around the plot of “What if Elvis had a twin?” or something along those lines.

Regardless, the movie was on the late John Wes Townley‘s No. 25 Zaxby’s Toyota at Chicagoland Speedway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway, tallying a best finish of 18th.

God Bless the Broken Road marks the third faith-based film in as many slots here, and the third on a mostly-yellow machine. Weird trend, but sure.

Cody Coughlin hasn’t tweeted in almost five years, so this was close to the top of his page and easy to find.

Somehow even blander than Forrister’s scheme.

Ironically, it was released alongside Conjuring universe entry The Nun in 2018, where the horror film made almost 39 times what Broken Road did. I guess Valak had something to say about the box office that weekend.

1. Navy Seals vs. Zombies, $56,191

Longtime NASCAR driver and Hollywood stuntman Stanton Barrett, who has 230 starts to his name across NASCAR’s top three series and movie titles on his resume ranging from John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum to Logan to Stranger Things, made his foray into the directing world with 2015’s Navy Seals vs. Zombies.

It’s probably a little unfair to have this on the list, since it received a very limited theatrical release. But as far as the parameters of the way these articles have been, it falls at the very bottom with a gross just over $50,000.

All that said, he ran three paint schemes to promote the movie, two of which are pretty awesome. His only Craftsman Truck Series start is pictured above, which came to an unfortunate, early end in a crash. He finished 29th at Talladega Superspeedway in that truck, plus recorded 28th- and 30th-place finishes in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition while promoting the film.

Great schemes — unfortunate results and final box-office gross. All I can find for his directorial debut, however, is the $56,191 international gross. I also had the chance to chat with Barrett about the movie and his career a couple years back, and we discussed his directorial debut and more.

Coming up within the next few weeks, we’re going to break down all the movies ever featured on paint schemes by how well they were received, calculating that based on some aggregate or another of IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Metacritic and Letterboxd scores. I still have yet to figure out how I’ll approach that, but we’ll be doing that down the road.

For now, I’m going to finish my Indiana Jones rewatch marathon and get excited for Dial of Destiny on Thursday, June 29.

About the author

Adam Cheek joined Frontstretch as a contributing writer in January 2019. A 2020 graduate of VCU, he works as a producer and talent for Audacy Richmond's radio stations. In addition to motorsports journalism, Adam also covered and broadcasted numerous VCU athletics for the campus newspaper and radio station during his four years there. He's been a racing fan since the age of three, inheriting the passion from his grandfather, who raced in amateur events up and down the East Coast in the 1950s.

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I’m sure so many movie schemes are run at Daytona because they expect the most eyeballs.

Kevin in SoCal

Mission to Mars was horrible? Wow.

Deacon Blues

Great article! Too bad there wasn’t a paint scheme honoring the original Blues Brothers movie; would’ve enjoyed seeing one for An American Werewolf in London!

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