"If you ain't first, you're last."A 2006 comedy film parodying the world of NASCAR, directed by Adam McKay and starring Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Michael Clarke Duncan, and Sacha Baron Cohen, among others. It is a Judd Apatow production, and considered by many to be the spiritual successor to Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, which was also an Apatow production directed by McKay.Ricky Bobby (Ferrell) is a dim-witted yet charismatic NASCAR superstar who lives by the motto of his missing father Reese Bobby (Gary Cole): "If you're not first, you're last." Helping him always secure the number one spot on the track is friend and fellow driver Cal Naughton, Jr. (Reilly). A few years after his initial rise to stardom, Bobby has a wealth of endorsements, is married to a babe named Carley (Leslie Bibb), and together they raise their two boys, Walker and Texas Ranger Bobby.However, the good life Bobby has made for himself is put in danger when French Formula One racer Jean Girard (Cohen) makes a jump to NASCAR. After a humiliating loss puts Girard at the top of the NASCAR world, Bobby loses everything: his reputation, his endorsements, and even his wife (to Cal!). However, with the unorthodox training methods of Reese, and the support of his mother Lucy (Jane Lynch) and his assistant-turned-lover Susan (Amy Adams), Ricky motivates himself to return to the NASCAR scene in order to restore his reputation.Now has a character sheet that could use a little love.
This movie provides examples of
- Actually Pretty Funny: Some NASCAR fans have embraced the movie and the phrase "Shake 'n bake" can sometimes be heard at races by fans and commentators.
- Affably Evil: Jean Girard is one of the most likable characters in the film. In fact, he's not even evil, the story just makes him out to be that way simply because he's Ricky's rival.
- Affectionate Parody: Of NASCAR and southern culture in general.
- Always Second Best: Cal feels this way towards Bobby. He was finally able to beat him as well as Jean Girard in the final race due to technicality.
- Anachronism Stew: An interesting one. At the final Talladega race, when the pace car pulls off on the last restart, Ricky Bobby's and Jean Girard's cars are side-by-side, a la a double-file restart. However, when the movie was filmed, this would not be how they would line up for a restart: while double-file restarts (or "Shootout-style restarts" as they were also called) did exist in 2005 in the Cup Series, they were only used in the non-points Monster Energy Cup races - the Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona and the All-Star Race at Charlotte. In points-paying races, the field lined up for restarts with two lines of cars - lead lap cars on the outside line, and lap-down cars on the inside line; on restarts with less than ten laps to go, all of the cars restarted single file whether or not on the lead lap. Double-file restarts were only implemented in points races starting at the 2009 Pocono 500.
- In a reverse case, we see Ricky Bobby and Cal Naughton Jr. communicating with each other over their radios. After the Car of Tomorrow came out, it was possible to see a "two car tandem" where two cars would hook up nose-to-tail at restrictor plate tracks and be able to go much faster than the pack, which led to somewhat more competitive racing at Talladega and to a lesser extent at Daytona. In 2012, NASCAR took away the ability for drivers to directly communicate with each other in an effort to restore regular pack racing to plate tracks.
- Anarchy Is Chaos: Ricky's children appear to have this view, despite admitting to not knowing what the term means.
- Anti-Villain: Jean Girard, to the point where he's pretty much a Designated Villain. Especially since he’s more reasonable and honorable than most of the protagonists.
- Artistic License – Sports:
- The Texas Motor Speedway race is signed as the Dickies 500 (which is now the AAA Texas 500), but there are a few glaring inaccuracies to any NASCAR fan: one, the race ends in the day time, when both Texas races (spring and fall) end under the lights (the spring one is a Saturday night race), which is more true of the fall event (which used to be the Dickies 500) because it is in November. Also, the NASCAR on FOX crew is shown commentating for the race, when at the time of filming, and in the present day, it would have been the NASCAR on NBC team (or, from 2007 to 2014, the NASCAR on ESPN/ABC team) who would be covering the race. FOX covers the spring Texas race, currently known as the O'Reilly Auto Parts 500.
- In the race where Ricky tries to win while driving in reverse there should have been roof flaps deploying. Every NASCAR car has flaps that open up on the roof to prevent them from flying into the air when in a crash. They only open when the car is moving in reverse with sufficient wind speed.
- Ricky Bobby's career starts when, while just a member of the pit crew, he relieves the driver of the #26. While NASCAR does allow relief drivers to get in a car after the race is already started (which often happens with a driver who's recovering from a serious injury who needs to start for points but can't expect to complete the whole racenote ). But the relief driver must have practiced in a Monster Energy Cup car during that weekend at that track of the event. Since Ricky Bobby is on the pit crew, he would not have practiced a car and therefore would not be allowed to get in the car for his first race.
- When Reese goes to pick up the two Talladega tickets, the sign at the vendor window says "Saturday Tickets." In reality, both of Talladega's Monster Energy Cup races (the circuit Ricky would have been racing in) are held on Sunday. The Saturday race would be the Xfinity Series race on the spring weekend, and the Truck Series race on the fall weekend. The only Monster Energy Cup races held on Saturdays are night races, of which none happen at Talladega because it does not have lights.
- NASCAR did not implement the double file restarts for lead lap cars until midway through the 2009 season. Since Ricky Bobby and Jean Girard were both still on the lead lap, Ricky Bobby would have had to line up behind Girard since he was in second place when the caution flag came out. Ricky would have been black flagged for lining up that way, meaning he could not have won the race, even if he had crossed the line before Girard.
- When Ricky and Cal execute "Shake N' Bake", they down shift, then pull out of line. A few times this occur, they're racing at Talladega. Talladega is a restrictor plate track, meaning that with the exception of restarts, and entering and exiting pit road (which they did at full speed), the drivers don't shift at all under green. Also, Ricky was single-handedly passing multiple cars at Talladega. With today's air packages and restrictor plates, passing one car alone without drafting help is very rare.
- In the climatic race, team owner Larry Dennitt gives Cal team orders, through Cal's crew chief, to take out Ricky so as to keep Ricky from getting past Jean Girard. When Cal refuses to comply, Dennitt orders his third car, Ricky's old #26 ride, to wreck Cal so that Cal can't give Ricky a push. That would be really stupid to pull off in real life since NASCAR monitors radio communications, and the officials would see this as an attempt to manipulate the finish of the race, especially since the #26 shoving Cal into the wall took out most of the field. This would end with all of Dennitt's teams receiving huge fines, point penalties, as well as the suspensions of several personnel, if what happened in real life to Michael Waltrip Racing after they were caught attempting to manipulate the finish of the September 2013 Richmond race to get Martin Truex, Jr. into the Chase means anythingnote .
- Girard and Ricky are disqualified for getting out of their cars. Their mangled, obliterated, more-metal-and-fiberglass-shavings-than-cars cars. This happened on the final lap. In real life, the NASCAR rule is that once the white flag waves, the next flag will end the race, whether it's the checkered or yellow flag. If the caution happens before the field gets to the finish line, the field is frozen at the instant of caution and the finishing order is determined by photographic evidence and video replays.
- Ricky Bobby's car is shown to have a 5 speed transmission with a reverse gear. NASCAR only allows a 4 speed transmission with a reverse gear.
- As Himself:
- Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is seen near the beginning asking Ricky for his autograph to drive home how popular Ricky is at the start of the movie.
- As well as fellow driver Jamie McMurray, who learns the hard way what Ricky Bobby picked up on sale at Target (the bird).
- The teams from both FOX (Mike Joy, Larry McReynolds and Darrell Waltrip, and NBC (Bill Weber, Wally Dallenbach, and Benny Parsons) at the time of the filming make appearances. The NBC team establishes that Ricky's comeback race is supposed to be the 2005 UAW-Ford 500, of which some of the racing footage was comprised from.
- Jean Girard introduces Ricky Bobby to Elvis Costello and Mos Def.
- As You Know: Reese and Ricky review the origins of stock car racing.Ricky: [gets doused by a pail of water] Oh!
Reese: Where'd stock-car racing come from?
Ricky: What? [gets doused again] Hey, stop doing that!
Reese: How did stock-car racing get its start?!
Ricky: Uh, bootleggers in Prohibition, they had to have cars fast enough to outrun the Feds. Then they started racing each other!
Reese: That's right. [douses him again]
Ricky: If I was right, why'd you throw another bucket on me?!
Reese: Well, I filled up three.
- "Awesome McCool" Name: Walker and Texas Ranger Bobby, Ricky's sons.
- Badass Gay: Jean Girard.
- Ballad of X: Name title
- Berserk Button: Don't you put that evil on me, Ricky Bobby!
- Bratty Half Pints: Ricky's sons stop acting like "retarded gang-bangers" after Ricky's mother gets after them, though at the beginning you'll probably be surprised that their parents don't punish them for mouthing off to other family members. Especially once Cal incites them.
- The Cameo: Elvis Costello is a guest at Jean Girard's house.
- Cool Old Lady: Though not shown, Eleanor Roosevelt is attributed a quote at the beginning of the movieAmerica is all about speed. Hot, nasty badass speed.
- Ricky's mother, Lucy Bobby, certainly counts when she whips Walker and Texas Ranger into shape.
- Cuckoolander Commentator: NBC reporter John Hannafin keeps mistaking people in the grandstands for famous celebrities. First, he's caught mistaking a man for Kenny Rogers, despite Bill Weber telling him, "John, that's not Kenny Rogers," and Hannafin is later seen trying to interview a black man that he thinks is Larry Byrd, who is white.
- Cultured Badass: Jean Girard, who drinks espresso and reads books on philosophy while racing.
- Danger Takes a Backseat: Done intentionally by Reese with the cougar in the back seat of his car.
- Dare to Be Badass: Susan gives this kind of speech to Ricky.
- Dark Horse Victory: Both Ricky and Girard are disqualified for having gotten out of their cars, so the trophy goes to Cal, who was in third place when the big crash took out everyone on the grid except for Ricky and Girard.
- Defeat Means Respect: Girard is seeking out someone good enough to defeat him. He embraces Ricky Bobby at the end.
- Disappeared Dad: Reese Bobby.
- Dramatic Drop: A bar patron drops his beer the second that Jean Girard introduced everyone to his husband.
- Eagleland: The red-blooded American Ricky Bobby vs. cultured gay French driver Jean Girard.
- To further cement Ricky's Eagleland stereotype, he owns multiple SUVs, eats a bountiful harvest of fast food for every meal, has a shallow, gold-digging trophy wife, and prays to Lord Baby Jesus - and gets paid to promote Powerade every time he says grace.
- Everyone Loves Blondes: Carley Bobby.
- Expy: John Hannafin, the roaming NBC reporter at the last race, may be based on FOX Sports' Jeff Hammond
- Fair-Weather Mentor: Inverted. Ricky's father refuses to stay around when things are going well, and usually ends up intentionally screwing it up.Reese: Well, it looks like everything is just about perfect now. Making me a little...twitchy.
- Familiar Soundtrack, Foreign Lyrics: Jean Girard is established as a badass driver, and a real threat to Ricky, in a scene scored with Marie Laforet's French-language cover of "Paint It Black" by The Rolling Stones.
Ricky Bobby: (at seeing Carley's chest) "Please be 18!"
- Carley Bobby. She even takes her shirt off to flash Ricky.
- She does it twice at the end to Ricky, prompting two guys to faint and the rest to get out their cellphones. Miraculously, Ricky turns her down, and Susan flashes her boobs at Carley. Carley is impressed.
- Flexible Tourney Rules: Averted. Girard and Ricky are disqualified for getting out of their cars. Their mangled, obliterated, more-metal-and-fiberglass-shavings-than-cars cars.note Bill Weber: That was the most incredible thing I've ever seen in all my years! Of course, it's completely illegal and in no way counts, but man, what a show!
- Glasses Girl: Susan.
- Gold Digger: Ricky's wife Carley, who is only with him for his money and prowess as a racer and dumps him for Cal the moment he's no longer #1.
- Golden Moment: Susan’s monologue about how Ricky is only representing himself, and is not running the race to gain anyone’s love or approval. This is repeated again by Ricky’s dad after the race. As is typical of these moments, it is followed up by a moment-breaking joke about Applebee’s.
- Hero Antagonist: Jean Girard.
- High Concept: The film was literally pitched by McKay and company by simply writing on a chalkboard: "Will Ferrell as a NASCAR driver."
- Hilarious Outtakes: A number of them during the credits, most of which consist of the actors going above and beyond many of the already funny scenes to purposefully corpse their fellow actors.
- One example is that the outtakes show some of Cal and Ricky's commercials that were ultimately cut from the film - like an advertisement for funeral homes or a public message about packs of stray dogs that are roaming through major cities.
- Humiliation Conga: Practically the entire movie is this for Ricky. Especially his first few encounters with Girard and the Training from Hell his dad puts him through.
- Implausible Deniability: Ricky thinks he's unable to walk. Earlier in the movie before the knife scene he gets out of the wheelchair he's in to block a basketball.
- Instantly Proven Wrong: After Ricky backs into a shopping cart, he tells a police officer that it won't happen again. He then looks backward to start backing up, but then goes forward and runs into the officer.
- Insult Backfire: Cal reminds Ricky that "these colors don't run," when Jean Girard has Ricky pinned down by the arm, threatening to break it. Both the United States and France have red, white, and blue flags.
- Interfaith Smoothie: Parodied and deconstructed.
- Parodied by having Ricky Bobby simultaneously call on Jesus, Allah, the Jewish God,note and the Buddha. He then moves on to asking Tom Cruise to use his witchcraft and finally calling out to Oprah Winfrey.
- Deconstructed by suggesting that Interfaith Smoothies are driven by an opportunistic desire to cover all your bases spiritually.
- Jesus Was Way Cool: Ricky and Cal discuss their visions of Jesus, with Cal imagining Jesus wearing a tuxedo T-shirt, which shows that He’s formal but also knows how to party.
- Another scene has Ricky's family calling him out on always referring to Jesus as a baby when he says grace. "He was a grown man! He had a beard!"
- Kick the Dog: Poor Chip is on the receiving end of this during the dinner scene, from hearing about his war medals being thrown off the side of a bridge to his grandchildren attacking him and threatening bodily harm on him. Ricky and Cal are certainly no better by encouraging the little punks, topped off with Ricky claiming that his sons are better than Chip has ever been in his life.Ricky: All you ever did with your life is make a hot daughter. That's it! That is IT!
- Lady Drunk: Dennit's wife ("Mrs. Jim Beam") is very much a straight version. This causes some pretty embarrassing situations for her husband when they are in their private viewing boxes at the races.
- Large Ham: Ricky.
- Manchild: Ricky and Cal.
- Mind Screw: Ricky completely dumbfounds Cal by apologizing to him, even though it was Cal who stole Ricky’ wife. Cal's crew member suggests that maybe Cal subconsciously resented Ricky for never letting him win and took retribution by stealing his wife.
- Mood Killer: After Lucius gives a stirring speech about Ricky driving for his own sake, Glenn completely ruins the moment by making an extremely nerdy metaphor about Ricky's car being his Excalibur.Ricky: Okay, Glenn. Everything cool that Susan said, you wrecked it.
- Ms. Fanservice: Carly Bobby, played by Leslie Bibb.
- Only Sane Man: Lucius. It's relative.Lucius: We'll use this knife to pry it out!
- Overused Running Gag: Ricky running around in just his underwear and helmet thinking that he is on fire gets old after it only comes on twice.
- Playing Gertrude: Reese and Lucy Bobby are played by Gary Cole and Jane Lynch, who are only 11 and seven years older, respectively, than Will Ferrell.
- Precision F-Strike: From the well-mannered Girard. "By the way, Ricky, I saw the Highlander movie! It was shit!" Or Girard's earlier line, "Hakuna Matata, bitches!"
- Product Placement: Parodied, as with many other aspects of NASCAR.
- Taken to the extreme when the dramatic wrecking of Ricky Bobby and Jean Girard is interrupted by an Applebee's commercial. This is an in-joke reference to how many criticized the original NASCAR on NBC coverage for their excessive commercial breaks during green flag runs, which also often missed restarts.
- Perhaps even more extreme when Ricky thanks baby Jesus for certain products during dinner blessing due to contractual obligations.
- Lampshaded:Mike Joy: Ricky Bobby, who never met a sponsor he wouldn't push, has a huge Fig Newtons sticker on his windshield!
Darrell Waltrip: I think NASCAR'll black-flag him for that!
Mike Joy: He sold the windshield!
Ricky Bobby: This sticker is dangerous and inconvenient, but I do love Fig Newtons.
- Quote Mine: Parodied; see this page's image, above. If you can't make it out, it says "Best movie ever made." —Ricky Bobby. This is a line Ricky says in the movie itself, and he's actually talking about Highlander.
- Quote Swear Unquote: "Hakuna matata, bitches!" from The Lion King.
- Reality Ensues: Ricky’s on-foot victory is disqualified, despite being an exciting and dramatic finish.Announcer: “Ricky Bobby wins! You’ll never see anything like that in a hundred lifetimes! It was completely illegal and in no way will count, but man that was something!”
- Reality Is Unrealistic:
- When the Big One hits during the final race, as the result of Cal Naughton, Jr.'s teammate hooking Naughton into the wall for helping Ricky Bobby overtake Jean Girard, every single car in the pack piles in and only two cars (Ricky and Girard) are left running and on the lead lap. Big crashes that reduced the number of cars in contention significantly have happened in Real Life at the Cup and Busch races at Talladega, although typically, with the exception of maybe the wreck on lap 14 in the 2002 Aaron's 312 Xfinity racenote , there are more than two cars still running on the lead lap.
- Twice during the scene in Ricky's mother's kitchen, Texas Ranger mouths Walker's words. Although this is a common actor's mistake, it makes sense in this particular context. These two are always planning and thinking together, so the idea that they can anticipate each other's every word is quite fitting.
- Refuge in Audacity: Somehow Ricky Bobby gets away with plastering a huge Fig Newtons sticker on his windshield.
- Second Place Is for Losers: "If you ain't first, you're last." Ricky Bobby bases his entire life on this one phrase his father told him, and earnestly believes it to the point that he can't deal with the idea of someone being better than him. He has a nervous breakdown when he wrecks in his first race against Jean Girard and needs training just to know how to go fast again.
- Subverted later on in the movie when Ricky's Dad says "I was HIGH when I said that! That doesn't make any sense at all. You can be second, third, fourth... hell, you can even be fifth."
- Seinfeldian Conversation: One breaks out every single time someone tries to say grace. "I like to think of Jesus as a mischievous badger."
- The plot very loosely imitates the 1990 Tom Cruise racing movie Days of Thunder. Ricky Bobby is like Cole Trickle; Jean Girard is a combination of Rowdy Burns and Russ Wheeler, etc. By coincidence, John C. Reilly appears in both movies (as Cole's car chief in Days of Thunder, here as Cal Naughton, Jr.).
- Ricky compares his making out with Susan to the Whitesnake videos with Tawny Kitaen.
- Sir Not-Appearing-in-This-Trailer: Amy Adams was left out of all advertising in favor of Leslie Bibb.
- Spirited Competitor: Jean Girard, looking for a Worthy Opponent.
- Spoiled Brat: Walker and Texas Ranger, until Granny whips them into shape.
- This Is Gonna Suck: "I'm flying through the air now. This isn't good."
- Throwing Off the Disability: Ricky Bobby thought that he had become paralyzed despite the doctors telling him that he's fine and that his mind is making him think he's paralyzed. It took a knife to the leg to make him realize he's okay. The broken arm is another example of this. For the record, after making Girard break his arm, Ricky would not in real life be able to get behind the wheel of his racecar so quickly - he'd have to be medically cleared to race by NASCAR.
- Took a Level in Jerkass: Fame got into Ricky Bobby's head.
- Took a Level in Kindness: Both Walker and Texas Ranger after Granny whips them into shape with some much-needed discipline and turns them into decent kids.
- Training from Hell: Ricky's dad, Reese, helped Ricky Bobby regain his confidence by making him drive with a full grown cougar in the back of the car. And making him drive while blindfolded. And making him run from the cops with a kilo of cocaine taped underneath his car "Colombian bam-bam", later revealed to be a bag of Lucky Charms.Reese: You've got to drive with the fear.
Ricky: THERE'S A COUGAR IN THE CAR!
Reese: Yeah. That's the fear.
- Two First Names: Any member of the Bobby family by default. Lampshaded at the beginning of the film. Also, Jean Girard.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Ricky admits that his main motivation for racing and winning is to gain his father’s love and attention. His dad tells him, though, that he shouldn’t race for anyone but himself.
- What An Idiot: In-Universe, Bill Weber's reaction to John Hannafin's interviews of "celebrities" in the grandstands:
- Bill Weber: Now let's go to John Hannafin, who's in the stands with a country music legend.
[cuts to Hannafin in the stands]
John Hannafin: Thank you, Sean. I'm here with one of the greatest country music stars of all-time, Kenny Rogers. Kenny, what do you think of the race so far?
Kenny Rogers: [who, as you probably can see, is obviously not Kenny Rogers] It's great. They're going really fast.
Bill Weber: John, that's not Kenny Rogers.
John Hannafin: [not hearing Weber] In the song "The Gambler", you sang "You gotta know when to walk away and know when to run." Should Ricky Bobby have stayed away from racing?
"Kenny Rogers": Mr. Bobby's very competitive. If he wants to race, he should race.
John Hannafin: Well, this is John Hannafin with Kenny Rogers. And now back to you, Bill.
Bill Weber: Well, that, of course, was not Kenny Rogers.
Benny Parsons: Not even close!
- And later, Hannafin is shown interviewing a black man he mistakes for NBA legend Larry Bird - who was white:Bill Weber: Come on, John! Pay attention!
Benny Parsons: I'm honestly concerned he might have had a stroke.
- Win-Win Ending: Literally every plot thread in the movie ends positively for all parties involved. For the main ones: Ricky finds the will to race again, beats Girard at Talladega, and rekindles his relationship with his long-lost father. Girard loses to Ricky (which means he's finally found a Worthy Opponent), earns enough of his respect to receive a kiss, and the two of them seem to be building a friendly rivalry. Cal realizes what a jerk he's been and helps Ricky beat Girard, but the manner of their finish gets them disqualified, so he wins Talladega instead; after the race, he apologizes to Ricky, who accepts, but also lets Cal keep racing on his own team and earn his own fame.
- Worthy Opponent: Jean Girard is looking for one, and believes he’s found it in Ricky Bobby.
- Carley seems to actually have some respect for Susan at the end when Susan flashes her boobs, proving that Carley's not the only one who can use Fanservice to her advantage.