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This year has been a big year for NASCAR at the box office, and it's sure to get bigger starting on August 4th.

After Lightning McQueen took to the track in the animated smash "Cars," another character will race onto the big screen going by the name of Ricky Bobby.

Will Ferrell, who plays the title role in "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby", hopes to gain even more exposure for NASCAR with the release of the upcoming comedy.

"NASCAR is already pretty much in the mainstream, but I think this movie will definitely increase its audience we hope, and open up the sport, as well as provide a funny movie for people that don't know that much about racing," Ferrell said.

Ferrell's goals are definitely obtainable as the movie, in my opinion, was hilarious.

I had the chance to see this movie during the movie's Chicago promotional push during the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup weekend in the "Windy City."

Not only did I get to see the movie, but I also experienced some of the filming during the 2005 season at Talladega Superspeedway and Lowe's Motor Speedway. Along the way I snapped some Photos to share with the RacingOne readers.

Without giving any of the plot away, other than what is shown in the trailers, Ferrell's character is an upcoming star in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series. He is put to the test when a gay Formula One driver, named Jean Girard (played by Sacha Baron Cohen - also known as Ali G) joins the series as his teammate at Dennit Racing.

For John C. Reilly, who plays Ricky Bobby's best friend and teammate Cal Naughton, Jr., this is not the first time we have seen him on the big screen in a NASCAR movie. In 1990, Reilly played Buck Bretherton, pit crew, a member for Cole Trickle, in "Days of Thunder."

In "Talladega Nights," both Ricky Bobby and Cal Naughton, Jr. are known for their "Shake and Bake" drafting technique that helps Bobby win races.

Reilly said the making of this movie was a totally different experience, one that made him a bigger fan of NASCAR racing.

"We had so much money on 'Days of Thunder' that we recreated almost everything, all the races and everything," said Reilly. "So, on this movie, we actually shot at the real races and got to interact with drivers and the race car thanks to the Richard Petty Driving Experience."

Other stars of the film include Michael Clarke Duncan, who plays Lucius Washington - Ricky Bobby's crew chief, and Leslie Bibb, who stars as Ricky Bobby's "smokin'" hot wife Carley.

I won't say the names, but two current NASCAR drivers have a cameo roles in the film, and Ricky Bobby even picks up a gift on sale at Target for one of them.

One unique promotional aspect about the movie was the ability to market Ricky Bobby and the film through the sale of NASCAR-licensed film merchandise. Starting last April at the movie's first big promotional push at Talladega Superspeedway, merchandise was available to purchase at the races in Ricky Bobby's own hauler set up just like the stars of the NEXTEL Cup Series. Racing hats, driver tees and even die-cast replica cars of the No. 26 (Bobby-Wonder Bread, Laughing Clown Malt Liquor and ME), 47 (Norton Jr. - Old Spice) and 55 (Girard - Perrier) cars were introduced then.

"It's not that weird (to have my own merchandise hauler) because I have one of those in front of my house," said a joking Ferrell at Chicagoland Speedway. "It's not race related. It's just me with items from my house. I generate most of my income from the trailer I have in front of my house and various items I pick up on the freeway."

When the credits come up at the end be sure to stick around for some more comic relief, as outtakes are shown of Bobby and Norton Jr. filming sponsorship commercials.

The tagline of "Talladega Nights" is the story of a man who could only count to No. 1, but come next weekend the movie will have the same tagline when it also races to No. 1. Although, it might not stay there for long, this movie is a breath of fresh air for the racing community. The movie is full of fun, laughter and great racing action - A must see for the NASCAR fan.

Does anyone remember the last PG-13 racing movie depicting a major racing series?

I believe it was "Driven," and that movie was similar to "Talladega Nights" in that it made you laugh. The only difference is that "Driven" was a drama not a comedy.

In fact, the only good thing to come out of "Driven" was the RacingOne Billboard's one-second appearance in the scenes at the old Chicago Motor Speedway.

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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, 2006

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