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Ranking the 10 Greatest Fictional NASCAR Drivers

Joseph SheltonContributor IIIMay 27, 2013

Ranking the 10 Greatest Fictional NASCAR Drivers

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    There is no denying the thrill NASCAR fans get when their sport is portrayed on the big screen. Although NASCAR isn't as mainstream as the NFL, NBA or MLB, when it is given time in the spotlight, the fans feel a sense of pride in the fact that their sport is getting the attention it deserves.

    Along with the movies comes the larger-than-life portrayals of the NASCAR archetype, unforgettable figures who continue to provide us entertainment several years after they graced the silver screen. Drivers such as Stroker Ace, Brewster Baker and Cole Trickle have stayed in the hearts of the audience, NASCAR fan or not.

    Here is a list of NASCAR's 10 greatest fictional drivers.

10. Trip Murphy (Herbie: Fully Loaded)

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    In Disney's 2005 release Herbie: Fully Loaded, the eponymous 1963 Volkswagen Beetle unites with Lindsey Lohan to take on the NASCAR circuit, namely driver Trip Murphy. Murphy, who is the film's main antagonist, is an Earnhardt-esque figure who resorts to rough measures to eliminate his competition.

    Now, although he is the film's villain, the driver of the No. 82 Cheeto's Chevrolet had the backing as well as the talent to be good at what he does. He has won several races and will probably win several more if he didn't end up in psych ward after the film's climatic finish where his Chevy ends up taking a tumble coming to the checkered thanks to Herbie. 

9. Steve Grayson (Speedway)

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    We have seen the likes of a few NASCAR comedies, but 1968's Speedway is perhaps the only NASCAR musical comedy we will ever see.

    Starring Elvis Presley and Nancy Sinatra, the movie tells of successful stock car star Steve Grayson's plight with the IRS, due to poor money handling by his manager Kenny Donford, portrayed by Bill Bixby. The result is an uphill battle for Grayson to earn $145,000 to pay his back taxes so he can keep racing.

    While he proves successful in the movie, the "King of Rock and Roll" pales in comparison to the on-screen driving talents of the "King of NASCAR" Richard Petty, Tiny Lund and Cale Yarborough. Still, Speedway is a fun-for-all-ages movie that the entire family can enjoy.

8. Brewster Baker (Six-Pack)

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    1982's Six-Pack is the sort of movie only a true NASCAR fan could love, telling the story of journeyman driver Brewster Baker and the orphans who become his pit crew.

    Baker's talent is evident as the group progresses through the ranks, eventually capturing the Coca-Cola 500 at the film's end. Considering the lack of funding the team held as well as the lack of experience on the part of the, ahem, "pit crew," Baker's win was nothing short of astounding.

7. Stroker Ace (Stroker Ace)

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    1983's Stroker Ace tells the story of Stroker Ace, a three-time (four-time by the end of the movie) Grand National champion who is more concerned with winning than anything else. Much like Ricky Bobby, he's an arrogant individual at the beginning of the film.

    Once he loses his sponsor by dumping concrete on him, he gains another sponsor for his No. 7 Thunderbird in Chicken Pit, a string of chicken restaurants in the south. When Ace realizes he is in a bad contract, he attempts to lose in order to get out of the contract. 

    However, due to his ego, he still wins. Now, what does that say for a driver who can't lose even if he tried?

6. Elroy "Junior" Jackson (The Last American Hero)

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    The protagonist in The Last American Hero, Junior Jackson was a legend in the making.

    Jackson, who is a thinly veiled version of NASCAR Hall of Famer Junior Johnson, went from whiskey runner to tearing up the North Carolina dirt bullrings. Before too long, he was piloting the No. 12 Coca-Cola Monte Carlo on the Grand National circuit.

    In the end, Jackson ousts race leader Kyle Kingman by sending his STP Dodge sideways and ultimately takes the win at Martinsville. 

    Considering his progress to the top was unbelievably fast, and the fact that he had Gary Busey on his pit crew, Jackson is definitely on the list as one of the fictional NASCAR greats.

5. Jean Girard (Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby)

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    Jean Girard wasn't so much a villain in 2006's Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby as he was a diverse individual who sought to better Ricky Bobby, portrayed by Will Ferrell. 

    However, he presented formidable opposition much along the lines of a true villain such as relentlessly taunting Bobby, breaking his arm and winning constantly. As NASCAR's first openly gay driver, Girard seemed more of a mix between Juan Pablo Montoya, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch if anything. He became the first Frenchman, the first F1 crossover star and the first openly gay athlete to win a NASCAR race.

    Once he is bested by Bobby, though, he packs his bags and departs back to France. Still, one would only wonder how an individual like Girard would affect NASCAR in the real world.

4. Russ Wheeler (Days of Thunder)

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    Cole Trickle may have been good, but Russ Wheeler was just downright scary talent-wise. As the villain in Days of Thunder, pretty-boy Wheeler is brought on board as a substitute driver for Trickle while he recovers from his crash at Daytona.

    Almost immediately, he starts winning. When Trickle comes back, Wheeler is put in another team car and continues to win and taunt Trickle in the process. When Trickle metes out a measure of revenge, he is fired. 

    Still, Wheeler relentlessly takes jabs at Trickle, which culminates with him getting beaten in a close finish at the Daytona 500. Nonetheless, Wheeler was the future, and Trickle was the past. With both men still young in their careers, that didn't bode well for Trickle.

3. Rowdy Burns (Days of Thunder)

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    Michael Rooker's portrayal of Rowdy Burns was as close to Dale Earnhardt as you could get on the big screen. Ultimately, when it came to rookies he was a severe pain, but throughout the course of the movie, Burns and Trickle became friends.

    The stoic driver of the No. 51 Chevrolet had a laundry list of wins and championships to his name, so when it came to Trickle, he raced him harder than the others just to show him who was boss. In fact, a lot of Trickle's early rookie troubles could be pinned on Burns.

    However, following their wreck at Daytona, Burns was sidelined following a stout hit to the door by Trickle which left him with head injuries that rendered him unable to compete. Still, he had a race team to run, so ultimately he placed Trickle behind the wheel.

    The result? Burns became a Daytona 500-winning car owner. 

2. Ricky Bobby (Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby)

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    As the titular character in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Ricky Bobby gave us all a laugh with his dimwitted antics while he gave his competitors constant grief with his constant winning or his attempts at winning.

    Although he was a "big, hairy, American winnin' machine," Bobby didn't have what it took to be No. 1 until late in the movie. There is no doubt that he was great and a hit with the fans, but due to his constant disregard for his equipment and his competitors, he suffered a lot of hubris.

    Still, there is no doubt that Bobby is a driver who could run circles around the drivers on the 2013 Sprint Cup roster.

1. Cole Trickle (Days of Thunder)

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    Anyone who has seen Days of Thunder could tell you who Cole Trickle is. As the main protagonist in 1990's Days of Thunder, Tom Cruise, who was arguably the hottest movie star at that time, helped NASCAR grow by portraying the hard-charging, hot-headed driver.

    Although successful in the Sprint Car ranks, Trickle gets picked to drive in the Winston Cup series and begins his rookie campaign for the 1990 season. Almost immediately, he posts disastrous results and goes home with several wrecked race cars.

    However, when he takes his first win at Darlington, he posts four more to become the first rookie to ever win five races in a season. A wreck at Daytona sidelines him for an undisclosed period of time, but he is able to go on the rebound and win the Daytona 500 at the end of the film driving for rival Rowdy Burns, who is still sidelined by their Daytona crash the season before.

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