AHEAD THERE ARE SPOILERS
This is a follow up to the review I posted the day after the Born Racer primer here in Indianapolis (and again a bit thank you to the management company – they could have premiered the movie in Hollywood but they had it here in the spiritual home of racing).
I feel like a voyeur every time I watch Born Racer. That’s how much access the camera crew had while making this movie. Unprecedented. Unfiltered. It’s amazing. For race fans going into the documentary you will walk away stunned and more in love with our sport then you were before. For nonrace fans, you’ll get a greater understanding of why the fans of this series may have a specific driver they cheer for, but they (for the most part) enjoy watching all drivers. This is ninety-percent because of the stars of the documentary, but it’s also because the producer and crew found a love for racing. During the premier event I spoke with Matthew Metcalf (who also produced the Bruce McLaren documentary) and his eyes lit up when asked about INDYCAR. He was so impressed by the access that INDYCAR drivers give their fans and of course gave everyone’s favorite fact that an INDYCAR crosses the length of a football field in a second.
It starts at qualification for the 2017 Indianapolis 500, when Scott drove a blistering four-laps to win the pole. Immediately you’re then in the motor home of the Dixons, morning of the race peering at them as they eat breakfast. That’s how the movie carries on: broad sweeping footage of races and practices mixed in with the prerequisite family videos of Scott as a younger racer, and the most voyeuristic shots of his personal life. It allows the story of both sides of Scott to be told. The hotshot driver we all love, and the father with his family. Shortly after the accident*, they’re back in the motorhome with Emma and his children waiting for Dad to walk through the door. They play up the focus on Sonoma, the last race and the hard race for the 2017 championship and suddenly the camera is in the backseat of a car while Scott’s on the phone with one of his girls, asking them about school. The movie does a brilliant job of showing both sides and the jarring clash of both sides during race weekends for the INDYCAR drivers.
It also shows both sides of the race team. Scott’s the forward facing part of the team (he and Chip and some would argue Mike Hull), but the movie highlights multiple team members behind the wall. As Scott’s championship hunt unfolds, a few team members are focused on (including Katie Gundlach who is one of Scott’s main engineers) and they provide the color details to the larger story. If you remember the 2017 season there were highlights and low lights and the movie doesn’t shy away from the real emotions felt by Scott and the Crew. The Mid-Ohio race highlights the emotions felt during the race, the full range of emotions. Scott’s anger as a driver on not getting the right information. The Team’s frustration after bad pit stops. Mike Hull’s calm demeanor both during and after the race (he’s known as Yoda from now on). Sure a few curse words get dropped, but it provides authenticity and humanity to what sometimes can appear to be fully autonomous robots both in the car and in the pits.
My second time watching the film was in a garage in Speedway with a small group of INDYCAR fans, and the most interesting moment was watching the reactions of everyone during the Dan Wheldon impact storyline. The movie starts that story line with an interview clip of Wheldon and within seconds you could hear everyone ask “are they going to show it”. I knew they were but both Abby and I realized in the garage we hadn’t prewarned anyone about the accident. They show it. They use some footage that most of us hadn’t seen before. They show the yellow tarp. Most impactful they show the reactions of the other drivers and the ceremonial restart. This review is not the time to discuss that, but there was a moment of lively debate on whether or not they should have restarted the race in full. Having watched the scene a few times now, I can understand if people feel hesitant to have such a scene in the movie. But after some reflection the underlying story of the whole movie is this two-sides the drivers have. One side is the husband/father/brother/friend (sister/wife/mother) on all of the days they are not in the car, and the other is the individual who is strapped into a car and has made that conscious or unconscious decision that they are risking their life.
Unfortunately the camera crew left before the 2018 season. It ends at Sonoma in 2017 with Scott coming in second in the points. He and Emma stand by pit wall talking and Emma makes the comment that she knew it wasn’t this year, but she feels really good about next year. When we saw it in the theater they had a graphic over the pre-credits scene letting everyone know Scott won, it was missing in the version we watched in the garage.
I am hopeful that this will lead the way to increase fans in the sport. I know that there is currently a production company following Mario Andretti around Italy to produce a special in advance of the Fifty-Year anniversary of his Indianapolis 500 wins. Mario’s name is even more well-known then Scott and that hopefully will drive up the interest of the common man. Now if they decided to make some movie or television special on AJ Foyt – well I’m going to apologize in advance of my father’s reaction.
Born Racer is now available on so many platforms. I’m a bit Amazon user and you can buy it either in digital download or DVD here (this is an affiliate link we receive probably one penny if you buy it). Or if you want other options please visit www.bornracermovie.com
What driver (current or past) would you want a movie/television special be made about? Let me know!
*If you’re a frequent listener to the podcast you know the issue taken with showing the Scott Dixon 2017 Indianapolis 500 crash. However the movie doesn’t show the crash just to show the crash like gratuitous violence in a movie.