Yet again, Hollywood didn’t trust racing to tell its own story. A completely unrealistic story (driver drops out of racing and after a handful of races gets put in a factory-backed NASCAR ride) gets combined with highly questionable morality (it’s okay to commit felony theft as long as you are a cute orphan). There’s not a lot to add to that, but here’s the plot, such as it is:
A family of orphans strips Brewster Baker’s (Kenny Rogers) race car while he’s accidentally locked in a gas station rest room. Baker catches up with them, saves their ungrateful little hides after running them off a bridge, and proceeds to get out-maneuvered by the Six Pack (so named after beverage packaging, and not Roger’s already burgeoning abdomen). You guessed it, in the end, he passes up winning the NASCAR race to save the kids from the nasty sheriff, marries his girl and makes a home for them all—aw, gee, shucks.
Okay, this isn’t the worst racing film you’ll ever see. But that’s sort of like comparing a follow-the-leader feature event to a rain-out. There’s a lot to not recommend Six Pack, but it’s also better than almost any first-run reality show on television. Rogers, who had already charmed fans acting in The Gambler, is reliably good-natured and low-key here. You get to see Diane Lane and Anthony Michael Hall early in their careers before they became stars—advancement that wasn’t helped here. If you want to see NASCAR races on film, there are a bunch that are much better—it’s pretty blah stuff here.
But if you are interested in seeing what dirt late models were like during that evolutionary period between the junkyard and The Wedge, there’s some pretty neat stuff here with good camera angles and a little side-by-side racing.
There are other racing flicks to see ahead of this one—but Six Pack is a generally genial little movie that does no damage as long as you don’t take it seriously.
Type of Racing: NASCAR Grand National (now Cup) and dirt late models
Tracks: Ironically, the movie supposedly takes place in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi primarily, but all the filming was done in Georgia. Dixie Speedway and Seven Flags Speedway stand in for the dirt tracks. Birmingham International Speedway (torn down in 2009) is the short paved track, and NASCAR footage was shot at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Reel Racers: Kenny Rogers, Erin Gray, Terry Kiser, Barry Corbin
Real Racers: Buddy Baker (cameo); other familiar cars on the track
Year of Release: 1982
DVD Length: 108 minutes
Approx. On-Track: 19 minutes
. . . Rogers tows with a motor home and open trailer—which was pretty much state of the art for short track racing at the time.
. . . Kids in the pits. By this time, it wasn’t unusual to see women, but kids still weren’t allowed in. . . . Furthermore, the kids keep showing up unannounced at the dirt track—they’re dirt-poor orphans—so who’s buying their pit passes?
. . . Chuck Woollery is the track announcer at Atlanta. Burt Reynolds does a walk-through cameo at a night club.
. . . A couple of fictional characters including race driver “Johnny Dallenbach,” and Ford Motor Company representative “Sam Penske.” Gotta wonder how then-mega dealer of Cadillacs Roger Penske felt about that.
. . . Penske’s approach to Brewster to drive NASCAR, “I’m with Ford and, like you, we’re getting back into racing…” Ford had not provided official factory backing to NASCAR teams between 1971 and 1980.