Some subjects, simply, may not make a good movie. Auto racing may be one of them. Certainly there are many more flops than hits. Even the good ones aren't liked by everyone.
But that didn't stop actor Tom Cruise from trying and failing. It didn't stop Sylvester Stallone last year. How many open wheel fans who saw Driven left the theater crying or laughing wildly?
But now, apparently, the failure of others won't stop Britney Spears and NASCAR.
Yes, Britney Spears.
The pop star and the sanctioning body have signed an exclusive agreement to develop and produce a dramatic feature film to tell the fictional story of the daughter of a successful, modern day NASCAR team owner. It will include "real NASCAR drivers, teams, tracks and competition."
Does that mean someone thinks the "real NASCAR" participants can act?
Spears will play a young character who uses her experience in the family business to inspire a former NASCAR driver to regain his desire to return to the sport.
NASCAR and Britney Spears? Making a real, dramatic movie. Together.
Should we be encouraged because her last movie - her only previous movie - was Crossroads and involved her sitting in a car?
"One of NASCAR's objectives is to grow our sport by developing entertainment projects that introduce NASCAR drivers, teams, tracks and their sponsors to an ever-growing audience," said NASCAR vice president of broadcasting Paul Brooks. "We have received numerous movie concepts set in the world of NASCAR but chose this project, because it is a great story that embraces our true, genuine sport as its backdrop. Britney Spears' involvement will help us reach an untapped fan base while serving our core fans with the authentic NASCAR experience."
While all this "true, genuine and authentic" repartee gives me pause, the thought of this partnership actually makes me smile.
The pop star and the sanctioning body.
Maybe it will be a fun movie. A sweet movie. Maybe. But I'll admit to total surprise if it's a good movie.
Speeds up at Richmond
The Indy Racing League will be at Richmond International Raceway next Saturday night, and if the testing that went on there this week is any indication, the cars will be soaring.
Scott Sharp was the fastest of three drivers preparing for the SunTrust Indy Challenge. He went 164.634 mph, 4 mph faster than Jaques Lazier's pole speed of 160.417 last year.
"I think all of the drivers had to learn a lot last year," Sharp said. "We were happy with the progress we made at the race last year. We got very competitive by the end. We're trying to get a different baseline and a more secure car."
They need it as they run 40 to 50 mph faster than the Winston Cup stock cars do at this three-fourths-mile track.
Sharp, the 1996 Indy Racing League co-champion who finished fifth in the inaugural SunTrust Indy Challenge, turned 250 laps during two days of testing. Also testing were his teammate, Al Unser Jr., and Mark Dismore of Team Menard.
"The race is going to be another Saturday Night Fight, Unser said.
Orlando Sentinel writer Ed Hinton has enjoyed Championship Auto Racing Teams racing for years, but even he sees little hope for the series after the announcement that it will continue to use a Ford turbo-charged engine next season.
Here is some of what Hinton writes:
"The finest era of open-wheel racing in America, nearly a quarter-century, is over.
"Championship Auto Racing Teams Inc. put itself on life support last week. The respirator is a handout from Ford Motor Co.
"CART, long a paragon of high technology in both speed and safety, will fit its outdated cars with a de-tuned "spec" engine next season. That means every team will get the same engines, plus a dole of $1.5 million per team in "assistance" from Cosworth Engineering Ltd., an arm of Ford.
"This is cost-cutting that comes of CART's struggle to please stockholders rather than race fans. This is corporate downsizing applied to sport, where you can't get away with selling a lesser product merely by stamping it with a name that once meant quality.
"This is so nearly a kit-car formula. ... This amounts to Formula Turbo Ford. ... To ensure survival, CART week lay down in an intensive-care bed from which it is inconceivable that it could ever rise and walk again, let alone run.
"It is hard to imagine that even drivers and team engineers, let alone fans, could muster much enthusiasm for such a series."
Nuts and bolts
The 37th annual Johnny Roberts Memorial and fireworks display will be held as usual at Hagerstown Speedway next Saturday night . Gates will open for the five-feature program at 5 p.m. The rain date is July 3, at 7 p.m.
The Memorial honors Johnny Roberts, who won the NASCAR modified championship in 1960 and 1961, local track titles including ones at Westport (Md.) Stadium, Lanham (Md.), and in 1962, earned NASCAR's Sportsmanship Award for pulling injured driver Ralph Rose from his burning car in a race at Richmond Fairgrounds.
Roberts is also the only auto racing driver in the Maryland Athletic Hall of Fame.
Baltimore's JC Beattie finished 18th in the ASA's Minnesota Governors Cup 300 last weekend at Elko (Minn.) Speedway.
Gary Stuhler of Greencastle, Pa., won the 35-lap Shorty Bowers/Bull Durham Memorial for late models for the fifth time at the Hagerstown Speedway.
This column was compiled from interviews, press releases and wire reports.