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Hollywood Wednesdays – Days of Thunder

NASCAR Theme Week continues today here at the CRO Blog. So far this week we  looked at the history of NASCAR and the 3 greatest NASCAR races in history. Today we feature one of the most celebrated movies Hollywood has made about NASCAR, “Days of Thunder.”

“Days of Thunder” made its film debut in 1990 with great enthusiasm from NASCAR fans. Tom Cruise, the movie’s lead actor, plays a driver with a goal to win the Indianapolis 500. The plot follows his challenging road to victory.


“Days of Thunder” Plot

Cole Trickle, played by Cruise, is an experienced racer who has won many Sprint championships. He is recruited by Tim Daland to race for his NASCAR Winston Cup team and is given a new Chevy Lumina to drive. Throughout the movie, Cole forms a rivalry with another racer named Rowdy Burns. Tragedy strikes, and both men are injured after their cars are destroyed by “The Big One.” On a positive note, this accident causes the two men to become friends. After a few stumbles, Rowdy encourages Cole to drive his car in the Daytona 500. Cole manages to pull off a victory.


“Days of Thunder” Chevy Lumina

The 1990s era was difficult for Chevrolet. The manufacturer was experiencing challenges filling the gap of the Monte Carlo, an old-school, rear-wheel-drive vehicle. Chevy chose the Lumina as a viable replacement. The Lumina was a large coupe with a powerful V6 engine. Before it was available to the public, Chevy used the Lumina in NASCAR. “Days of Thunder” used a Lumina Z34, which did wonders for the branding of the car and made the model a household name. The sport Z34 came with fancy wheels, ground effects and a tuned 210 horsepower 3.2 liter V6.


The Track Goes Hollywood

Days of ThunderThe movie was not based on a true story, but it referenced many famous NASCAR characters. Cole Trickle, the main character, loosely followed the career of real-time racer Tim Richmond. One particular scene showed Cole deliberately blowing up his engine. This exact incident occurred with Richmond in Michigan in 1987. The cars used in the movie were provided by Hendrick Motorsports and actually raced in the 1989 Winston Cup season. Stunt drivers were professionals named Greg Sacks, Bobby Hamilton and Hut Stricklin.

After 25 years, “Days of Thunder” remains one of the most celebrated films for the NASCAR community. Fans still talk about the excitement and the cars. Chevy, which experienced a boost with its featured Lumina, owes the film a tremendous debt of gratitude for helping the company overcome a slump in the industry.

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