Race Weekend Central

Reel Racing: Multiple-Movie-Scheme Efforts

I’m waiting until a little later this year to comprehensively rank and go over all the movie schemes that have hit the track in NASCAR, presumably overlooking one or two along the way … I’m pretty sure I’ve noted all or almost all ~107 of them down at this point.

This week, we’ll take a look at all of the multi-scheme, single-race efforts that certain films had within stock car racing. As is evident from the prior sentence, this excludes any movie represented on more than one car but in separate races; the rare, if not hasn’t-ever-happened instance of multiple cars promoting different films being in the same race; and so on and so forth. We’re specifically checking out all 12 instances and seeing which production overall performed the best on track.

1999, Atlanta Motor Speedway: Toy Story 2

One of the earliest instances of movie schemes was also one of the most expansive, especially for a single race. Toy Story 2 had three liveries take to the track at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1999, though none of them finished inside the top 20.

Bill Elliott, driving the Buzz Thru (a play on the McDonald’s Drive Thru) scheme (and my favorite of the three) with Hamm and Rex on the hood, finished 22nd. Kyle Petty‘s Buzz Lightyear Hot Wheels car rolled home a couple spots behind, while Johnny Benson‘s Woody car crashed out and was scored 39th when all was said and done.

2001, Daytona International Speedway: Jurassic Park III

Couple decent schemes here from Joe Gibbs Racing. I love how both have the yellow-and-black caution tape / fencing / whatever along the bottom and the dinosaurs tearing out of the hood. Great-looking cars, even if Tony Stewart‘s No. 20 font on the roof is insanely wonky.

Stewart finished 26th, while Bobby Labonte outdrove his younger teammate with a fifth-place finish at Daytona.

2003, Kansas Speedway: The Lion King

Kind of an odd occurrence here: a special edition of The Lion King was coming out on home video, so in came schemes promoting it on the twin Evernham Motorsports cars at Kansas in 2003 … nine years after the film came out.

Sure, why not?

And they ran damn well too. Bill Elliott finished second and Jeremy Mayfield third, making it a two-thirds Lion King podium that October behind winner Ryan Newman (more on him and these schemes’ stats later).

2003, Phoenix Raceway: Looney Tunes: Back in Action

Directed by the great Joe Dante (who also helmed projects like Gremlins and The Howling, and who I got the chance to interview at Nightmare Weekend Richmond last fall), Back in Action graced three cars (and a Craftsman Truck Series entry) on Phoenix weekend in the fall of 2003.

Steve Park got Daffy Duck on the car and Brian Vickers had a Bugs Bunny-themed ride, while Jeff Gordon finished the highest of any of them but had the absolute worst: barely any flair added to the No. 24, in that it was basically just the normal flames scheme (nothing inherently wrong with that) but with the film’s logo tacked on.

It ended up winning the truck race, though, as Kevin Harvick piloted this Tasmanian Devil-themed pickup to victory lane.

On the Cup side, Gordon finished seventh, Vickers 13th and Park 39th.

2004, Kansas Speedway: The Wizard of Oz

This is another weird one, kind of like the Lion King entries. Elliott Sadler and Brendan Gaughan scored top-10 efforts for one of the most iconic films of all time as it celebrated its 65th anniversary.

Sadler came home fourth, and Gaughan (for my money, the best of the four schemes) rolled under the checkered flag 10th. Jeff Gordon finished 13th, while Scott Riggs scored a 26th-place finish.

2004, Charlotte Motor Speedway: The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie

The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie 300, appropriately, featured two schemes promoting the film. This Busch Series event had two Hendrick Motorsports entries sporting characters — Jimmie Johnson with SpongeBob himself and Kyle Busch with Patrick Star — and they finished third and fifth, respectively.

Casey Mears did run a scheme promoting the film in Cup, probably my favorite of the trio.

Some might wonder where the 2015 SpongeBob schemes are. They weren’t specifically promoting a movie, so I left them off.

2005, Phoenix Raceway: Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith

Sure, Gordon went to victory lane with Yoda and Pepsi on his hood at Talladega Superspeedway the year Revenge of the Sith was released. And sure, Kyle Busch ran a Sith-themed car at Richmond Raceway.

But M&Ms’ promotion of the film extended to two cars in the same race in 2005, when Robert Yates Racing took to Phoenix Raceway with teammates Dale Jarrett and Elliott Sadler respectively representing the Jedi and Sith with their paint schemes.

I vividly remember the M&Ms packaging, as well as the Masterfoods Kudos bars (or whatever they were) from that era, promoting the movie. Jarrett finished 23rd in the Milk Chocolate M&Ms car … while Sadler finished 11th.

Like another instance later on, the dark side wins this bout.

2006, Charlotte Motor Speedway: Cars

Not much competition as to which scheme was the best here. Scott Riggs and Kyle Busch had the film as associate sponsors, with the duo of Doc Hudson and Lightning McQueen flanking the film’s emblem coming secondary to their respective primary backers of Valvoline and Kellogg’s.

That said, look further back in the field for Tony Raines, driving for Hall of Fame Racing, whose No. 96 was the closest the field had to McQueen’s No. 95 and, as such, underwent a scheme overhaul. That Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS was transformed from its (awesome) blue, green and black livery into a red scheme with a lightning bolt.

Unfortunately, it was also the slowest of the three. Raines finished 40th, while Busch ended up 38th and Riggs came home 13th.

2009, Charlotte Motor Speedway: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

The second installment of Michael Bay’s ridiculous blockbuster franchise (though his latest offering, AmbuLAnce, ruled) actually got three schemes in 2009, but only two of them ran at Charlotte.

Kyle Busch drove an Optimus Prime-themed M&M’s Toyota at Sonoma Raceway, but later in the year both Gordon and Newman ran schemes inspired by the movie that retained stars Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox while adding Isabel Lucas to the cast.

Gordon ran a Decepticon-themed car, while Newman ran an Autobots-inspired livery; the former prevailed, finishing fourth, while the No. 39 came home 11th. Guess the villains (or at least schemes inspired by them) do win sometimes.

2014, Phoenix Raceway: Dumb and Dumber To

Not much to write home about in terms of the movie or the race results here, to be honest, but it was a fun gimmick.

Good ol’ BK Racing ran twin Dumb and Dumber To (no, not a typo) schemes at Phoenix in 2014. Alex Bowman, a couple years before he impressed in the exact same race while filling in for Dale Earnhardt Jr., had Jim Carrey’s Lloyd Christmas on the hood, while journeyman J.J. Yeley sported Jeff Daniels’ face (as Harry Dunne) on his.

Even better, both schemes’ colors corresponded to the famous suits worn by the characters in (at least) the first movie. I personally haven’t seen the sequel.

2016, Auto Club Speedway: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Speaking of Junebug, he was involved in the next instance of multiple movie schemes for a single race. Arguably the most notable time this happened, Junior and Jimmie Johnson took to the wide banks of Fontana in the #HeroFaceoff to promote Batman v Superman.

It was neat to see multiple cars within the same stable sporting the same gimmick, kind of like the three Hendrick Motorsports cars did with “Dewcision” later that same year — Dale Jr. with the neutral car, Kasey Kahne with Pitch Black and Chase Elliott with Baja Blast (sorry Jimmie, no Dew for you).

This outcome is probably the easiest to remember, at least for one of the cars: Johnson won the race in the Superman car. Earnhardt didn’t put on too bad a showing, finishing 11th. It’s probably the best thing to come out out BvS existing at all … it’s just a shame Johnson didn’t yell “MARTHA” in victory lane, and that Junior didn’t come up to shout that it was also his mother’s name (if you know, you know).

2017, Texas Motor Speedway: Justice League

Earnhardt Jr. was also involved in the final installment on this list and hte most recent such occurrence of the topic. Ahead of Justice League‘s release in late 2017, he and Hendrick teammate Kahne ran schemes representing the six characters; each driver with three on their cars. Terrible movie, cool idea and execution.

Kahne’s sported Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Ezra Miller as the Flash and no Henry Cavill, but definitely the Superman logo. Wonder if that was a) a rights thing or b) because of how terrible he looked with the CGI-ed out mustache in Justice League, which was due to him having to have one for Mission: Impossible — Fallout (still one of the best action films ever).

The No. 88, meanwhile, did have Ben Affleck’s likeness as Batman on the hood, with Jason Momoa as Aquaman and Ray Fisher as Cyborg on the sides. Kahne finished 11th, Earnhardt Jr. 35th.

A Quick Stat Rundown

Movie schemes with the best average finish (top three):

  • The Lion King (2.5, two cars)
  • The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie (4, two cars)
  • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (6, two cars)
  • Honorable Mention: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (7.5, two cars)

Movie schemes with the worst average finish (bottom three):

  • Dumb and Dumber To (31, two cars)
  • Cars (30.3, three cars)
  • Toy Story 2 (28.3, three cars)
  • Honorable (dishonorable?) mention: Justice League (23, two cars)

Follow @adamncheek

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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Deacon Blues

Thanks, Adam! Another phenomenal article, interesting and cool!

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