Race Weekend Central

Reel Racing: Casting the ‘Days of Thunder’ Sequel, Pt. 2

We don’t have any new information on the rumored Days of Thunder sequel, but let’s continue working on the potential cast ideas anyway.

It IS another blockbuster release week for this summer, though, with Oppenheimer and Barbie debuting in the coming days. I’m all set with some friends to make it a double feature, kicking things off with Cillian Murphy building an atomic bomb and closing it out with Margot Robbie’s potential existential crisis in Barbie World.

We’re still only a week removed from Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One‘s release, a fantastic entry into the franchise (and maybe my overall favorite of the seven movies; I’ve seen it twice in IMAX in less than a week). So let’s get back to our guy Tom Cruise and his NASCAR sequel.

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Reel Racing: Casting the 'Days of Thunder' Sequel, Pt. 1

One of the most important parts of main character Cole Trickle’s story being continued more than three decades after the first film is to really, truly integrate all aspects of post-career racing into the story. Sure, Cole’s a hothead in the first movie, but we’ve seen guys similar to him early in their careers — someone like a Kyle Busch, a Joey Logano — cool off (somewhat) later on and become more well-liked around the garage, you could say.

As such, most of this part-two-of-three will revolve around his compatriots in the garage. Part three (next week) will close things out with the supporting cast of contemporary drivers, those he’s working with and more.

Cole Trickle’s Friends & Fellow Veteran Drivers: Christian Slater, Sharon Stone & More

Let’s kill several birds with one category here, and it’s one that I could see encompassing a number of actors. This is the “Cole Trickle’s longtime friends, peers and more” slot. I’m basically using this as a catch-all for those who Cole would’ve been around during his time in NASCAR.

First off is obviously Cary Elwes returning as Russ Wheeler, having just re-teamed with Tom Cruise in Dead Reckoning Part One and with titles since Days of Thunder under his belt like Saw, Twister and Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

By this point, Cole and Russ have put aside their differences and become — well, maybe not friends — but at least come to a point of mutual respect.

See, this’ll be them at the red carpet for the Daytona 500.

Let’s follow that up with a couple legends in their own right. Christian Slater comes in as an old teammate of Cole’s who kept his involvement with racing alive. Slater could easily fit into the same mold of character as Cole, but it might be interesting to see drivers of similar ilks who went two different directions — maybe Cole’s gone down a safer route, but Slater’s character has a cockiness about him that got him hurt down the road or turns others against him.

I’m a huge fan of Slater’s, primarily given his fantastic performance in the 1993 film True Romance (directed by Days of Thunder helmsman Tony Scott). It’s written by Quentin Tarantino and co-stars Patricia Arquette, Christopher Walken, Brad Pitt, Gary Oldman, Dennis Hopper, Samuel L. Jackson. It’s an action, crime, comedy and thriller all rolled into one. What more could you want?

Slater’s also fantastic in the 1990 film Pump Up the Volume, a wildly underrated radio-themed movie. As a radio guy myself (check out some of my old shows on 910 the Fan here), don’t mind me shouting that one out too.

Let’s also rope in Sharon Stone, most famous for her roles in Basic Instinct, Total Recall and Casino, to play a female driver with her career behind her as well. Stone is a legend in her own right and could absolutely be a former driver herself — I don’t see her as so much of an old flame, as some might, and more of a former competitor.

Also joining this cast of total speculation are Hiroyuki Sanada and Josh Brolin. Brolin (No Country for Old Men, Sicario, Avengers: Infinity War) is an easy casting: he’s six years Cruise’s junior, so place him in a role of a former, younger rival that was on the rise as Trickle was on the way out.

Sanada, meanwhile, is an incredibly underrated actor: he’s starred with Cruise before, in The Last Samurai, and recently appeared in both John Wick: Chapter 4 and Bullet Train (and he’s been in those Mazda commercials). He also showed up in Speed Racer, and a year prior played a pretty memorable part of the Danny Boyle space thriller Sunshine, which also starred Oppenheimer‘s Cillian Murphy, a pre-Captain America Chris Evans, a pre-Oscar Michelle Yeoh and more. That’s a phenomenal movie I’ll recommend any day of the week.

I’d cast Sanada as an overseas racer who decided to try his hand at NASCAR and excelled, whom Trickle initially viewed as a threat but later mended fences with and potentially became teammates with.

Other potential castings:
1. Jon Hamm (Baby Driver, Top Gun: Maverick, The Town)
2. Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Fight Club, Inglourious Basterds)
3. Don Cheadle (Avengers films, Ocean’s Eleven, Miles Ahead)

The Crew: Brian Tyree Henry, Elizabeth Debicki, Rebecca Ferguson & More

Let’s round out Cruise’s relative inner circle for this movie with the cast playing his crew and team. To be successful and avoid as much imitation as possible, I’d say Days of Thunder 2 has to shy away from the “Cruise’s character gets called in to mentor” route Top Gun: Maverick took. Let’s say he’s a team owner and work downwards.

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First off, the higher-ups at the team, played by Elizabeth Debicki and Pierce Brosnan. Brosnan, of course, served as James Bond in four installments of the 007 franchise and has made appearances in everything from Edgar Wright’s The World’s End to Mamma Mia! to more recently Black Adam as Doctor Fate, a character I still support a spin-off movie for.

Debicki, meanwhile, is a veteran in her own right — the 6’3 Australian having made appearances in two of the three Guardians of the Galaxy movies as well as Tenet, Widows and Macbeth.

She’s an excellent actress that would play a solid equivalent to a team principal in F1, and Brosnan could play the co-owner of the team alongside Cruise or some similar role.

I’ll slot in Rebecca Ferguson, who’s acted in alongside Cruise in three of the Mission: Impossible films, plus turned in great performances in Doctor Sleep, Dune and more, as a technical director for the team, and Brian Tyree Henry as the crew chief.

Henry has a commanding screen presence that’s hard to deny, especially as Alfred “Paper Boi” Miles in the FX series Atlanta. He also showed up in Widows with Debicki, was just nominated for an Oscar for Causeway and voices Miles Morales’ dad in the Spider-Verse films. He has the perfect mixture of comedic and dramatic chops to deliver on both sides of a role — which, as a crew chief dealing with drivers, you’d have to have in spades.

Other potential castings:
1. David Harbour (Gran Turismo, Stranger Things, End of Watch)
2. JK Simmons (Whiplash, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy)
3. Tim Roth (Reservoir Dogs, Mr. Right, Twin Peaks: The Return)

Cole’s Drivers: Wyatt Russell, Vanessa Kirby & Yahya Abdul-Mateen II

Finally, let’s round out Cole’s team with a pair of drivers. Three, even. I don’t want to go full-extreme with four, but three feels like an appropriate number — Cole’s an established name in NASCAR by that point.

First up, Wyatt Russell. The son of Kurt, Wyatt’s had comedic roles (Everybody Wants Some!!), action roles (The Falcon and the Winter Soldier) and antagonistic roles (TFATWS as well as 22 Jump Street and Goon: Last of the Enforcers). He’s done a bit of everything across the board and fits the role of a more brash, risk-taking driver.

Vanessa Kirby (Hobbs & Shaw, two Mission: Impossible films, Oscar-nominated for Pieces of a Woman) also fits the risk-taking-driver type, but in a more calculated sense. She’s an absolute badass in Hobbs & Shaw, but her dramatic performances like in Pieces of a Woman would help her character bridge the gap between cocky and levelheadedness.

And to round out the team, here’s Yahya Abdul-Mateen II. No stranger to action roles (Aquaman, Ambulance) and also with dramatic experience (The Trial of the Chicago Seven), he’d perfectly serve as the most levelheaded of Trickle’s three drivers.

Other potential castings:
1. Lakeith Stanfield (Get Out, Judas and the Black Messiah, Sorry to Bother You)
2. Florence Pugh (Midsommar, Little Women, Black Widow)
3. Charlie Hunnam (The Lost City of Z, Crimson Peak, Triple Frontier)


I didn’t expect this to run to three parts, but I guess that’s where we’re at! *Next* week, we’ll take a look at the third and final part of the casting, rounding out the auxiliary characters, opposing teams and listing off some names to complete a star-studded affair.

Who would YOU cast in Days of Thunder 2? Tell me below.

Follow @adamcheek

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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JD Brewski

Kind of silly but fun exercise – how about Russ Wheeler in the Jeff Gordon roll stepping into the general manager to Tim’s (Hendrick inspired) cup team. The rivalry lives, it just off track.

Chuck Ellison

Nicole Kidman has to come back or this movie will feel forced


My question is where are Michael Rooker and John C. Reilly?

Deacon Blues

This is a great suggested cast, Adam! Bravo for including Wyatt Russell!