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Loose Lug Nuts: Speed Racer

by Dave Grayson
Friday, May 16, 2008

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The stars of Speed Racer pose in front of an ALMS car in Long Beach in April
Gail Miller/AutoRacing1
So the "Speed Racer" movie, based on the 1960's Japanese animation TV series, finally made it to the theatre screens. This is no small feat because this movie has been in various forms of preproduction since 1992. So far the film has been beaten black and blue by movie critics. Even veteran actor John Goodman, one of the film's stars, said "God, I hope this thing doesn't tank" while being interviewed during the movie's premiere. However I should be fair and point out that the film did take in a respectable $20 million plus following its opening weekend.

So what does "Speed Racer" have to do with motor sports in general and "Loose Lug Nuts" in particular? I just love it when Hollywood actors use NASCAR races and broadcast forums to promote their latest projects. Most of them clearly don't have a clue about racing and they quickly prove that point during the course of these interviews. But you can't blame a press agent for sending these actors to a race track, with tens of thousands in the grandstands, or to a NASCAR broadcast with millions watching. They know these venues are big. In fact, the Speed Channel is rapidly becoming a press agent's new best friend.

Such was the case with actor Emile Hirsch: (I'm pausing here for a moment while you all collectively yell WHO?????). Hirsch is the star of "Speed Racer" and he recently did a live interview on ESPN's "NASCAR Now" to promote the film. This interview began with the proverbial question, "What kind of car do you drive?" The actor replied "I drive a Toyota Hybrid" and then expounded on the necessity of Americans thinking "green" in an effort to conserve energy resources.

Young Hirsch must have forgotten that he was addressing a national audience of NASCAR fans. To NASCAR fans hybrid is the process used to create the various flavors of potato chips that are consumed while watching the race. After the creation of barbeque chipolte ranch peanut butter potato chips is not easy. Tell a NASCAR fan to think green and they'll quickly point out the new paint scheme on Dale Earnhardt Jr's race car. The only time a NASCAR fan worries about energy conservation is when they're wondering if their favorite driver has enough fuel to make it to the end of the race. NASCAR fans love their muscle cars with high performance engines, four on the floor and the ability to go from zero to sixty in less time than it takes them to pass gas. In some cases the word Toyota can bring out the dark side of a NASCAR fan especially if they're located in the mid west.

Next Hirsch was asked if he would like to actually drive in a race someday and he responded with an emphatic "yes" and expounded on how much fun he had driving that exotic race car, "the Mach Five" in the movie. Moments later he admitted that he didn't exactly drive the car. Actually he just sat in it while it was parked in front of a giant, bright green, video screen that is used for computer generation. That's right, the racing footage in this movie is fake and was the brilliant creation of a team of computer wizards. All Emile Hirsch had to do was dramatically grip the steering wheel while grimacing like an evil monkey with a substance abuse problem.

Hirsch also commented on being invited to the Texas World Speedway by NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson and how much he enjoyed soaking in the racing experience. He noted that Johnson was a really great guy who, unfortunately, had some problems with his car during the race. Hirsch seemed to be perplexed over that fact that "Johnson seemed to be a little pissed off after the race."

The actor also mentioned that he got to meet "Chuck Gordon." Of course we all assumed that he meant the four time Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon and there's no doubt that someone from Hirsch's entourage told him to mention "Chuck" during the interview because of the brand new Jeff Gordon/"Speed Racer" souvenir shirt that just hit the market. By the way you can find this new piece of high fashion at "Racing One Dot Com" for $22.95. I assume that the batteries are not included.

In keeping with a long standing policy of presenting you all of the pertinent information available I did "Google" Chuck Gordon. It turns out that he's an actor who had a bit part in the 2007 film "Transformers." It also turns out that Chuck Gordon is a Coldwell Banker real estate agent in Seymour-Indiana.

At this point of the Hirsch interview I stepped into the kitchen because pigging out between meals made more sense that spending another second listening to young Hollywood discussing motor sports. I just hope the lug nuts were tight on the Mach Five race car. Someone needs to tighten up Emile Hirsch. I can't wait until Hollywood releases another film featuring a fast and exotic car.

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