Nascar has a long and storied history, but it also has a past littered with “What If?” questions. Join author Mike Mackler as he takes a look back at stock car racing’s 100 most-intriguing hypotheticals in “100 Stock Car Racing ‘What Ifs’”, the book available on Amazon in both Paperback and Kindle formats. Here’s a preview of one of the one hundred “What If” questions asked throughout the book:
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25. What if Days of Thunder was never made?
Background: The first modern big-budget action movie based around Nascar, the Tom Cruise vehicle (pun intended) premiered in 1990 after significant production support from Nascar.
What Actually Happened: Although derided by critics and hardcore racing fans alike, the movie sparked an interest in stock car racing from the general public—arguably the first wave of publicity that would peak with Jeff Gordon’s first championship.
What Could Have Been the Turning Point: What if Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson realized that they’d already made Top Gun and didn’t need to make it with race cars?
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What COULD Have Happened: If you said you were a Nascar fan in the early-90’s, you would occasionally get a response of “Oh, like Days of Thunder”. The film was a touchstone for the general public to identify stock car racing, and arguably having the star being a racer who was NOT a “good old boy” helped the sport shake its southern stereotype.
And if THAT Happened…: Would Nascar have become a national force in the late-90’s and 00’s without Days of Thunder? Probably. But while the movie itself isn’t the best, it was nice to have a slick Hollywood production as a promotional tool for the sport, rather than something like “Stroker Ace” or “Six Pack”.
What Else Could Have Happened: It could be argued that had this movie never been made, it would have been easier for Nascar to sweep the history of Tim Richmond (the inspiration for Cole Trickle’s character) under the rug.
Why It Had to Turn Out The Way It Did: Nascar needed an introduction to non-race fans, and this assault on the senses was, for better or worse, just what the sport needed.