It was my birthday yesterday and Katy and I saw Racing Dreams at the Indianapolis International Film Festival. This was the only film we were able to make it to this year but we were not disappointed.
The documentary follows three youngsters in the World Karting Association National Championship, a series of five high speed go-kart races. Many Nascar Stars started in this series, including Jeff Gordon. He makes an appearance in the film and he seems nice enough.
Brandon, age 13, is probably the most talented and fearless of the bunch. Raised by a grandfather from heaven and a father from hell, this kid has no fear but is always on the verge of letting his emotions take him out of the race. Maybe a southern version of Tony Stewart or Kyle Busch.
Josh, age 12, is from the Flint, Michigan suburbs. As much as Brandon is reckless and fearless on the track, Josh is smooth, calm and collect. Both Brandon and Josh dominate their age groups.
And then there’s Annabeth. She’s the youngest and seems to be the only girl at the track. She doesn’t quite have the success of the other two, but she is one of the youngest and least experienced racers and holds her own. She finishes in the top five and its mentioned more than once that she could be the next Danica Patrick.
What is most striking about these three racers is that all of them come from very humble backgrounds. Each family sacrifices every dime so that their kids have a chance. Racing is an expensive sport and all three kids come out of the working class. Annabeth’s mom is straight out of Norma Rae, without the politics though, and it looks like Josh’s dad might be the last GM employee in Flint. Brandon’s parents are grease fires, but luckily Brandon’s grandparents are amazing. They teach their grandson many life lessons in their rural modular home.
The film that I kept coming back to was Hoop Dreams. That 1994 film follows two inner city basketball players on their quest to become professional basketball players. Neither makes it to the NBA, but do overcome long odds and are still making a difference in the world.
If these kids don’t make it to Daytona, it sure looks like racing has given them something more than the thrill of going 80 miles an hour in a go-kart.