Indy 500 becomes ‘Turbo’-tastic

Published On March 17, 2016 » 2924 Views» By Jeff Vrabel » Blogs, IMS, Indy 500

We’re chronicling 100 days of Indy 500 history on #SpeedRead leading up to the historic 100th Running. With 73 days to go, Jeff Vrabel continues exploring the many tie-ins between the Indy 500 and pop culture.

More Vrabel: The Beatles at IMS | Pace Car drivers | Snake Pit rebirthThe ultimate “500” playlist | David Letterman, pit reporter | Indy 500 on Atari 2600On “Jeopardy!”More 100 days blogs

There are countless movies about auto racing, and 75 percent of them star Paul Newman. But racing’s biggest cinematic proponent is absent in “Turbo,” the 2013 CGI whiz-bang feature about an underdog driver who dreams of becoming the greatest racer in the world and taking the checkered flag at the Indy 500, a task made only slightly more complicated by the fact that he is a snail. (He’s played by Ryan Reynolds and spends the movie battling his brother, played by the always-magnificent-even-as-a-snail Paul Giamatti. The voice cast also includes Michael Pena, Snoop Dogg and Samuel L. Jackson, who we sort of can’t believe haven’t been in a live-action movie together yet.) So yeah, it’s pretty much “The Fast and the Furious” with snails. Frankly, we’re kicking ourselves for not thinking of this first.

Turbo's race wasn't always this easy in the movie, but of course he got a Hollywood ending.

Turbo’s race wasn’t always this easy. We’re not giving away the ending.

In the movie, Turbo dreams of following in the footsteps, or whatever it is snails leave (slime, right? we’re pretty sure it’s slime) of his hero, five-time Indianapolis 500 champion Guy Gagne. Something happens wherein Turbo’s DNA gets mixed with nitrous oxide (listen, we’re just reporting here, people), and Turbo becomes the Fastest Snail In All of California, enabling him to fulfill his dream in spite of the funny looks from the other snails, who are suspicious of his powers. There’s a race, but we wouldn’t want to spoil the ending or anything.

Here’s the cool part: To make the movie, DreamWorks partnered with Hulman and Company on the racing scenes, to ensure as much authenticity as possible when dealing with nitrous-fueled snails. Technical consulting was furnished by none other than Dario Franchitti. These days, “Turbo” now exists as a cartoon series on Netflix called “Turbo FAST,” or, as my 4-year-old calls it, “The Snail Movie.”

Dario Franchitti (non-animated man on the left) was a technical consultant for the movie.

Dario Franchitti (non-animated man on the left) was a technical consultant for the movie.


About The Author

Jeff Vrabel

I’m an Indiana native and former resident of Chicago and Hilton Head Island who’s written for for such outlets as GQ, Men’s Health, Success, the Washington Post and my hometown Indianapolis Monthly. I spent decades listening to the 500 on the radio and have run two Mini-Marathons around the IMS track, but only dropped a packet of energy beans on Turn 3 during one of them. And I live near Indianapolis with my family; my oldest son just stole bacon off your plate and the youngest was personally approved by Springsteen (long story). Find me at the cleverly named or