NHRA JR. DRAG RACING HITS THE SMALL SCREEN
In 1982, legendary Top Fuel driver Shirley Muldowney was immortalized in the movie Heart Like A Wheel. Now, more than 20 years later, a new generation of female racers is in the spotlight with the Disney Channel's Right on Track. The film is loosely based on the lives of sisters Erica and Courtney Enders, following the two as they grew up watching their father race and their years in the NHRA O'Reilly Auto Parts Jr. Drag Racing League.
"Although based on the real Jr. Dragster lives of Erica and Courtney, it has been significantly fictionalized and dramatized to suit Disney's needs," said Gregg Enders, Erica and Courtney's father, who served as a technical adviser on the film.
Though most of the production on the film happened in 2002, the beginnings of Right on Track were in 1999 when Disney approached the Enderses about making their story into a movie.
"They were doing a couple of movies on true stories of girls in unusual sports, like Double Teamed, which was about two sisters who play basketball and made it to the WNBA," said Erica. "I guess they thought Courtney and I drag racing would be a cool story to catch the interest of younger kids that watch the Disney Channel."
The Enderses met with movie producers that year when they traveled to Southern California so Erica could attend the Frank Hawley Drag Racing School and earn her license to drive in Super Comp and Super Gas. During the meeting, producers interviewed the family to gather information for the script. For the next two years, Sally Nemeth and Bruce Graham wrote the script, which they later presented to the Enders family for review.
Said Erica, "They had no idea about cars and stuff, just like we have no idea about cameras. So Dad and I tried to help make it more realistic, even though there's some stuff in there that isn't true because they had to make it more interesting."
After finalizing the script, production began on the film in April 2002 in Salt Lake City; racing scenes were filmed at Rocky Mountain Raceways. Right on Track was produced by Just Singer Entertainment and Salty Pictures Inc. in association with the Disney Channel. Erica and Courtney did all of the driving in the movie in addition to making cameo appearances. Beverley Mitchell, who plays Lucy Camden on the television show 7th Heaven, stars as Erica, and Raising Dad star Brie Larson takes on the part of Courtney. Jon Robert Lindstrom of the daytime drama Port Charles plays Gregg, and Jodi Russell plays the girls' mother, Janet Lee. Marcus Toji portrays Randy Jones, the Enderses' crew chief. According to Erica and Courtney, the casting was right on the mark.
"Brie and Beverley are awesome actresses, but I don't think they had to act a lot for this movie," said Courtney. "Brie is exactly like me in person, and Erica is exactly like Beverley in person. So it was a perfect match."
Shooting took two months, and Erica and Courtney were on the set for three weeks. After being edited, the film was completed in November, and the Enders family held a private viewing in early December for 350 to 400 guests. Those on the guest list included NHRA President Tom Compton, who appeared in the movie, and members of the Right on Track crew. Erica and Courtney both enjoyed watching the movie.
"I thought it was really cute," said Courtney. "I thought it was going to be kind of weird or corny because it was about us, but it turned out cute, and it was actually interesting for me to watch the first time."
Erica agrees. "I'm excited about it. I can't wait until it comes out I can't wait to see how kids will react," she said. "There have been some critics so far saying, 'This isn't real, and this doesn't happen in drag racing,' but hey, it's a Disney movie and it's geared for kids [ages] 8 to 12."
For more information about Right on Track, please visit www.disney.com/disneychannel/originalmovies/