Popular NASCAR Drivers and Their Parallels in French New Wave Cinema

Popular NASCAR Drivers and Their Parallels in French New Wave Cinema

The protagonists of the French New Wave's most popular films are fiery, alienated loners with impenetrable accents. They are plagued by existential dread-the result of days, weeks and years spent pondering lives which seem to go around and around, but always end in the same place. While these characters' creators may have started out small, they eventually became recognized as some of the most influential filmmakers ever, with Wes Anderson and Quentin Tarantino, among many others, as followers.

This reminds us of a slightly more American institution that also came from humble beginnings but went on to dominate a sizable chunk of our culture: NASCAR. Yes, NASCAR. Its drivers, going round and round and speaking in odd dialects, aren't unlike the chain-smoking rascals in French New Wave movies. With this in mind, we find ourselves at the CRACKED offices asking the obvious question, often overheard in the infield at Daytona: If Dale Earnhardt Jr. were a film by Francois Truffaut, which one would he be?

The Film: The 400 Blows, 1959, Francois Truffaut

The hero is a Parisian schoolboy who yearns for acceptance in a cruel, indifferent world. After many mishaps and much struggle, he finally breaks free of his shackles.

You Are: Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Like young Antoine, Dale Jr. struggles for acceptance, in his case, acceptance by the fans who endlessly compare him to his late father, Dale Sr. Much like Antoine finds peace in the final scene, so too, does Dale Jr. in his decision to leave his father's old race team and join Hendrick Motorsports Racing.

Odds that Dale Jr. has any idea what French New Wave Cinema is: 10-1

He once admitted to seeing Fahrenheit 911, which in NASCAR is akin to admitting you once burned an American flag while eating a bald eagle sandwich.

The Film: Le Beau Serge, 1958, Claude Chabrol

Haunted by the death of his child and trapped in a lifeless village, Serge simply gives up. Drunk and embittered, he refuses to confront his demons.

You Are: Kyle Petty

Much like the protagonist, Petty is haunted by his inability to make a serious run at the Nextel Cup, a title his father won numerous times. Using an endless stream of glib wisecracks as his armor, he attempts with great futility to hide his deep and abiding sense of disappointment.

Odd that Kyle has any idea what French New Wave Cinema is: 3-1

His name is Kyle and he has a ponytail. As far as most NASCAR fans are concerned, he might as well have been born in France.

The Film: Contempt, 1963, Jean-Luc Godard

A talented young screenwriter is hired by a rich film producer to write an adaptation of The Odyssey, but the writer finds himself stifled by the thick-headed producer's contempt for classic art.

You Are: Tony Stewart

So, too, does Stewart find himself stifled by NASCAR bureaucracy, which holds free-spirited, old-school drivers like himself in contempt.

Odds that Tony has any idea what French New Wave Cinema is: 80-1

This hot-tempered Hoosier still orders "freedom" fries at Hardees and would probably beat a Denny's waiter nearly to death for suggesting French toast.

The Film: Jules and Jim, 1961, Francois Truffaut

Two friends share a brother-like bond and a love for the same impetuous woman. Over the course of many decades, she repeatedly comes between them, with tragic consequences.

You Are: Michael Waltrip and Darrell Waltrip

So, too, did the chase for NASCAR gold test the bonds of these two brothers from Owensboro, Ky. Michael now spends his days shilling rental furniture on TV, while Darrell has been reduced to bellowing nonsense catchphrases on NASCAR telecasts.

Odds that Michael or Darrell has any idea what French New Wave Cinema is: 25-1

Darrell wouldn't be able to find France on a map even if you spotted him three continents, but as NASCAR's most metrosexual driver, Michael is a decent bet to have at least heard of Jean-Luc Godard.

The Film: Breathless, 1960, Jean-Luc Godard

Michel is dashing, daring and doomed. The anti-hero of this film is the prototypical bad boy, the man all the woman lust after, even though they know he will only break their hearts.

You Are: Kurt Busch

Busch, too, is the doomed bad boy. Although blessed with great talent-he won the Nextel Cup in 2004-his quick temper, feuds with other drivers and a run-in with the police have put his career in jeopardy.

Odds that Kurt has any idea what French New Wave Cinema is: 4-1

Las Vegas-born Kurt proposed to his wife, Eva, while they were in Prague attending a Formula 1 race. Las Vegas! Prague! Formula 1! He might as well wear a beret and one of those striped shirts that you always see on mimes in cartoons.

The Film: Ma nuit chez Maud, 1969, Eric Rohmer

A man falls in love with a pretty blonde woman he notices at mass. But before he can take his vows, he encounters Maud, a divorcee who promptly beds him. Torn between two women, he must make a choice.

You Are: Carl Edwards

A winner in both the Nextel and the Busch series, Edwards is torn between being the big fish in the Busch pond or just another driver in the higher-profile Nextel Cup.

Odds that Carl has any idea what French New Wave Cinema is: 8-1

An aspiring actor (24) with his own record label, Carl once appeared bare-chested on the cover of ESPN Magazine. He is the Justin Timberlake of stock car racing. Thankfully for Edwards and his fans, Justin Timberlake thinks French New Wave is that thing Cameron Diaz used to do to him on his waterbed.

Scroll down for the next article
Forgot Password?