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A couple months ago, I reviewed a two-disc set on the allure of the Daytona 500, the crown jewel in the NASCAR racing season. At the time, I said NASCAR did justice to the mystical qualities of the Great American Race and I suggested the folks at New Video interview some of the living legends to get their thoughts on how racing has evolved over the years. Apparently, there's a television show entitled Full Throttle Adrenaline, which does a couple of things for NASCAR. First, the production values and behind-the-scenes peeks have an NFL Films sensibility. Second, whether the racing fan wants to admit it or not, there is some covert marketing that, on the surface, NASCAR would seem to abhor, maybe just a little.
New Video's Full Throttle Adrenaline is a two-disc set that focuses on the present, examining how NASCAR operates along with the figures who help drive the sport's success. The first episode is where the dirty little secrets get discussed. The pit battles between drivers are given some air time, and many crashes throughout the years are given much love and attention. The safety measures that NASCAR has implemented are given equal time, but it's about the crashes. A little background: Restrictor plates are designed to help level the playing field on some of the larger race tracks. So a lot of people are racing at a high rate of speed in close quarters. You might get a look at restrictor plates and how they fit into a race car, but then you watch the results, which usually are spectacular crashes involving a large number of cars, some of them doing an occasional flip or two. Some other crashes are rock solid impacts that stun the drivers involved, as the in-car cameras and microphones help illustrate, but you'll also see the creation and implementation of a device to keep the head and neck from flailing. The crashes, the cars, some of the close finishes, and some of the drivers are the focus of the first disc.
The second disc is easily the better one and provides more convincing looks at the drivers beyond what you see on a broadcast. You get to look at how they conduct themselves both on and off a track. You see what they do in their spare time. You see the graciousness that's associated with the wives and girlfriends; Michael Waltrip proposed to his fiancée immediately after winning a race, in fact. How they drive is covered; even when they're racing poorly, they won't "roll over" for a driver who might potentially lap them on the track. Racing with other drivers is shown; while some get into spirited arguments, they'll talk the issue out after the race, despite some of the bluster that television cameras manage to catch. One particularly interesting sequence shows Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart clashing during a race several years ago where Edwards vents his frustration about being penalized for driving aggressively, but the racing team owner talks about forgetting it and moving ahead. The calming influence of an owner over the driver is almost immediate. The relationship between a driver and his crew chief is covered; drivers like Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson talk about what their crew chiefs do for them, and their respective crew chiefs—Tony Eury Jr. and Chad Knaus—talk about how they work with their drivers to get results. The level of candidness is quite surprising. My wife found herself watching the last half and becoming involved to some degree. That's an excellent first step; getting a woman who doesn't care about racing to watch something and identify with some of the drivers (even to some degree) is what Full Throttle Adrenaline seems to accomplish, and it's worth checking out.
If there is a problem with Full Throttle Adrenaline it's that NASCAR seems to bathe a little bit in the rowdy and raucous side without a censor button. For example, we know that Dale Jr.'s father died at Daytona, but watching him stagger out of a car that wrecked out in an earlier race probably wasn't the best thing to include here, but that's just me. There's some other footage of Earnhardt that helps show off his "Intimidator" persona, especially around Bill Elliott, and that was nice, but the other stuff seemed, I dunno, kind of like when the NHL or NFL condemns violence, yet releases a disc based solely on that, you know?
Technically, both volumes are presented in full frame, and there's not a lot of mystery to them. Surprisingly, there's a choice of 2.0 and 5.1 Dolby presentations. The stereo presentation is just that, but it's nice to have the surround. There's even a moment of subwoofer activity here and there.
Full Throttle Adrenaline is the second consecutive solid video compilation for NASCAR, and better than the initial installment based on access to the drivers, the crew, the owners, and the life of a driver beyond the track. Even topical fans will enjoy it and give it a spin. See? See what I just did there?
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