To The MAX

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I've been to hundreds of NASCAR races in my life, both as a media member as well as a fan. And I can honestly say I've never seen anything like what I witnessed watching the new "NASCAR 3D: The IMAX Experience" movie.

The visuals are magnificent, the sound is awesome (with the possible exception of some of narrator Kiefer Sutherland's copy) and the best way to describe the total experience is - cool.

If you're a seasoned NASCAR fan, you probably won't learn anything new about the sport. It's basically NASCAR 101, explaining the origins of the sanctioning body from the beach races in Daytona and the vision of founder Bill France, Sr. New fans or people who have heard about this NASCAR phenomenon and are intrigued by its immense popularity will no doubt get much more from the "story" of the film. And it's obvious that was NASCAR's intention in working to produce this movie.

"One of the main goals of doing this project was to appeal to new potential fans and be able to take NASCAR and explain the whole sport to someone who has never experienced it," said Paul Brooks, NASCAR's senior vice president and president of NASCAR Digital Entertainment.

But everyone will be dazzled by the presentation. From cameras mounted on front fenders to overhead shots of Daytona, Talladega, Martinsville, Bristol and maybe most impressively, Fontana, the film takes the viewer to places that don't seem possible. And if you think FOX and NBC give you an inside look at what happens on the track every week, wait until you see it in 3D.

The last time I saw a 3D movie was about 25 years ago when I was talked into seeing "Jaws 3D" with a bunch of friends while in school. The memory of wearing those bad cardboard glasses and peering at the fuzzy screen still gives me a headache (as does the movie's plot).

But 3D technology has evolved tremendously. You still wear glasses, but they are more of a lightweight sunglasses variety. And forget about fuzziness. The picture on the 12 story screen is digitally sharp and the images literally leap off into the audience - a tire bouncing away from a crash, sparks from a welder, champagne from a victory lane celebration.

The film also takes you into some of the team headquarters including DEI and Joe Gibbs Racing. It touches briefly on the business side of racing and the massive preparation, and expense, teams go through during the season.

And then there's the sound. I crank it up on the home theater when FOX gives me a chance on Sundays when I'm not on the road. But that's not even close to what you'll hear from this movie. Your chest will pound as the pack flies by in a feeling that is nearly identical to being there.

Only 45 minutes long, "NASCAR 3D: The IMAX Experience" literally flies by. The final segment, which begins simply with Sutherland announcing, "OK, strap in and hold on. We're going racing," and a flurry of racing follows is the best passage of the film. Obviously in presenting a true picture of NASCAR racing, action speaks louder than words.



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