The Ragged Edge: ‘Days of Thunder’ celebrates 27 years
Back in the yesteryear of 1986, Paramount Pictures released a little movie called Top Gun.
Directed by Tony Scott and starring a young actor named Tom Cruise, the movie depicted a hot-shot, hard-headed fighter pilot named Pete “Maverick” Mitchell who competed for supremacy at an aviation school against a rival nicknamed “Ice Man.”
Backed by the sounds of Kenny Loggins, the Righteous Brothers and Cheap Trick, the two rivals clashed in the skies and on volleyball courts, all while Maverick flirted with a his female instructor, Kelly McGillis’ “Charlie.”
The movie made a lot of money.
Three years later, they made the same movie ... sort of. This time, Cruise was piloting stock cars in the world of NASCAR.
Twenty-seven years ago today, Days of Thunder roared into theaters on matched perfect and staggered special tires.
Once again directed by Scott and with the same golden color palate from Top Gun, Cruise portrayed Cole Trickle as he faced off with Michael Rooker’s Rowdy Burns, clashed egos with Robert Duvall’s Harry Hogge and did some more flirting, this time with his doctor, played by Nicole Kidman.
It didn’t make a lot of money, grossing $82 million domestically to Top Gun‘s $176 million.
But who cares?
Almost 30 years later, it’s still the closest fictional representation of NASCAR that’s ever graced the silver screen (we don’t need to mention a certain Will Farrell movie).
Was it completely faithful to stock-car racing?
Of course not, especially since there’s nothin’ stock about a stock car.
Did it have a have bizarre editing that made it look like a race was taking place at Daytona, Darlington and another track at the same time?
Did the late Bobby Hamilton make his first Cup start driving a car used in the movie?
It’s true! Hamilton qualified third at Phoenix in the No. 51 Chevrolet owned by Hendrick Motorsports and even led five laps.
As absurd as the move could get, Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel gave the movie a positive review. Decades later, Days of Thunder had enough authenticity to have an impact on those in the sport today.
“Makes you feel old, doesn’t it?” Dale Earnhardt Jr. told the New York Times in 2010, the movie’s 20th anniversary. “It was interesting to see our sport be put into the mainstream and be a part of that. I think it did a lot for our sport to be honest with you even though the critics weren’t solid on the movie and lot of people had different opinions about it. It got our sport a lot of exposure. The movie was fun to watch, regardless of whether it’s good or not.”
Four years ago, Kurt Busch paid tribute to the movie by racing one of the paint scheme’s from the movie in the July Xfinity race at Daytona.
Then there’s his brother, Kyle.
Kyle Busch goes by the nickname “Rowdy,” which was the name of Rooker’s character in the movie.
Two years ago, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver, his crew chief Adam Stevens, Joe Gibbs and Busch’s wife, Samantha, put their best foot forward for a recreation of the Days of Thunder trailer to promote the Crispy line of M&M’s.
Though in this video, Busch assumed the Cole Trickle role.
He’s no Tom Cruise.