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The Men Behind The Machines
The top drivers in NASCAR are featured in various sequences throughout the film, which provides insight not only into their racing experience but to the extensive responsibilities that come with being a superstar athlete in America's most popular spectator sport. "Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are two of the revered superstars of NASCAR,” says Hylton. "They each have an entourage surrounding them, because they can't go anywhere on their own without being absolutely smothered by fans, well-wishers and autograph seekers.”

"These guys don't just turn up at the track on Sunday and jump in the car and do a race,” Wincer cautions. "The demands on their time are mind-boggling.”

A typical week for a driver includes extensive travel, public appearances, media interviews, charity work and sponsorship obligations, all in addition to working, practice, and qualifying with their crews at the race shops. Unlike athletes in most sports, NASCAR drivers are extremely accessible to their fans, often greeting spectators and signing autographs until moments before a race countdown begins.

The drivers' legendary accessibility to the fans is part of what makes NASCAR events so special to so many people. But as the phenomenon grows, it becomes more challenging for the drivers to preserve that kind of personal connection with their fans. "When I started working on racing in 1982, the sport was growing,” recalls Goldberg. "Now the drivers are literal superstars, but they still have tried to maintain that accessibility, which really endears the sport to people. Fans feel like they're connected with these guys, that they are human, that they're real people, just like you and me.”

The filmmakers created a sequence that depicts the drivers' numerous commitments and careful preparation as racetime approaches. "Everybody knows there is an element of danger to racecar driving, but can you imagine the headspace the drivers have to get into as they put on their helmets, climb into their cars and put up the netting on their windows?” Orleans muses. "This sequence conveys that tension beautifully.”

"I've done a lot of work with the astronauts, and working with the NASCAR drivers and seeing how focused they are on their task reminded me of the astronauts,” says Neihouse, who served as co-director and principal cinematographer on the seminal IMAX film Destiny In Space and has been an IMAX astronaut training manager and camera equipment integration supervisor for the space team since 1988. "Like the astronauts, the drivers have huge teams of people backing them up. They couldn't get around the track if it weren't for the pit crew, the haulers, all the people it takes to mount one of these race teams. Being able to show everything that goes into this sport was the coolest part of making this film for me.”

"It's been incredible to see and be part of this project,” says Jimmie Johnson. "If you want to know what it's really like to be a NASCAR driver, this film is a must-see experience.”

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