A moving and adrenaline-filled journey chronicling a true American dream, The Ride of Their Lives is the story of the men who built NASCAR, told by the people who lived it. Narrated by Academy-Award winning actor and director, Kevin Costner, the history of NASCAR is presented via passionate, never-before seen first-person accounts from the people who lived it. Individual stories of loss and redemption highlight the evolution of racers from the moonshiners of the 1950s to the media darlings of the 21st century. The Ride of Their Lives is strikingly illustrated through archival footage chronicling a half century of Daytona 500 races, as well as tales of changes in the competition, the technology, the growing fanbase and the rock-star racers themselves. Including all-new interviews with famed NASCAR personalities Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Jeff Gordon, Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip.
It will come as no surprise that the coolest stuff in the NASCAR chronicle The Ride of Their Lives
is vintage footage of the early days: stock-car geeks racing around on the sand in Daytona Beach, and the 1959 building of the fabled racetrack in that NASCAR capital. The treatment of that era has some of the inventing-the-wheel quality of documentaries such as Dogtown and Z-Boys
in its breathlessness about a new subculture and its terrific original footage. There's more to cover in this standard-issue, TV-style history, of course, and the film does an energetic job of tracking the many dynasties that have enlivened the sport: the Pettys, the Allisons, the Earnhardts. Shooting stars such as Tim Richmond (the flashy driver who contracted HIV and died in 1989) and Jeff Gordon (who once hosted Saturday Night Live
), and their ability to change the image of NASCAR, are also tracked. The film is intended as a celebration, and isn't a critical take on the sport in any way, but to its credit it does at least allude to the less salutary aspects of NASCAR, including the fans' enthusiasm for the Confederate flag and the rough treatment of pioneering African-American driver Wendell Scott. The narration by Kevin Costner provides a smooth ride for the racing footage, which lavishes attention on some of the most celebrated finishes (and not a few of the most spectacular crashes). New interviews with the likes of Richard Petty, Darrell Waltrip, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., fill in the background on the various personalities, feuds, and triumphs that have colored NASCAR's grease-spattered run. --Robert Horton