The Highlight Reel

“Right on Track” and the family dynamics of drag racing

Nick Porisch

More stories from Nick Porisch

The Highlight Reel
May 10, 2023

Photo by Marisa Valdez

Image copyright Walt Disney Pictures

I’m taking a new approach to my coverage of this week’s Highlight Reel film, Disney’s 2003 drag racing classic “Right on Track.”

Normally, I watch the movie, take a few notes then break it down after the fact.

However, it’s currently the morning this column is due. I have class at 12:30 p.m., and I’m only a third of the way through the movie. So, this week, the column will consist of my live reactions and thoughts on the movie as they blip into my brain.

To catch readers up to speed, “Right on Track” is about Erica, a teen girl who is an extremely passionate, competitive junior drag racer.

Similar to “Motocrossed,” the world of drag racing is male-dominated, but, in contrast to that movie, Erica doesn’t play by the sexist rules of her sport. She’s proudly feminine, while still destroying her male competition on the track.

In a similar contrast, her father is a supportive and proud coach, and her mom’s only qualms with her drag racing career is the potential for danger.

Up to this point in the movie, the plot has revolved around Erica’s climb up the drag racing ranks, battles against sexist business owners for sponsorships and mild rivalry with her younger sister, Courtney.

Oh no! Erica’s dad is mad at her right now. She just won a big race, and rubbed it in her jerk competitor’s face.

“I knew I had to teach you how to lose,” her dad said, “but I never thought I’d have to teach you how to win.”


Oh no again! Erica just disqualified herself in a race because she started before the green light. I’m worried about our hero. Her focus seems to be slipping.

On top of these growing concerns, there’s also been a recurring subplot about volleyball at Erica’s high school. I’m struggling to figure out how it connects to the rest of the movie, but only time will tell.

Oh no yet a third time! There’s a malfunction in Erica’s car and she’s out of control. Things really are not going well lately for our characters, in seemingly random ways unconnected to any kind of theme, character arc or plot development.

They’re airlifting Erica to a hospital because her car crashed. There’s dramatic guitar and piano music. I really don’t know what’s going on anymore.

Okay, I think this live reaction style is flopping. I’m going to actually pay attention to the movie and report back in half an hour.

Erica rediscovers her love of drag racing, gets some sponsors and her sister Courtney becomes her racing partner. They make their way up the ranks and eventually win the big championship together. Pretty typical sports movie stuff.

The plot of “Right on Track” is not its focus, though, even if it’s based on a true story. The drag racing really isn’t, either. “Right on Track” shines in its portrayal of a family and their shared passion for drag racing.

Erica and Courtney’s relationship is a remarkably well-done representation of the love-hate relationship between adolescent sisters, and a lot of their dialogue feels like it could be pulled directly from the conversations between my younger sisters who are about the same age.

Their dad is the most three-dimensional and empathetic father figure I’ve seen yet in one of those movies, and their mom is somewhat one-note but still feels grounded in reality.

Not to mention, this movie feels like a much stronger portrayal of young women competing in a male-dominated sport. In the movie, Courtney and Erica inspire another little girl to pursue racing, and don’t take any sexist nonsense from other members of their sport.

Overall, “Right on Track” is a fun, if slightly forgettable, sports movie that nails everything it tries to do.

Also, Courtney is played by Brie Larson. So, yeah, check it out.

Porisch can be reached at [email protected].