“Focus” light on IndyCar content, but oozes enough cool to enhance “cool factor”


MILWAUKEE – One of the major projects for the Verizon IndyCar Series’ marketing and PR departments this winter has been to push out a series of nationwide premieres of the Warner Bros. Pictures new movie “Focus,” starring Will Smith and Margot Robbie.

It’s been a big task to get the premieres launched in most of the IndyCar race markets – Indianapolis, Detroit and here in Milwaukee to name a few – not to mention the major premiere in Los Angeles last week.

While IndyCar is a part of the movie, it’s only a small part.

I had the opportunity to take in the premiere here Friday night at the Marcus Majestic Cinema with Jack Hawksworth, now driver of the No. 41 ABC Supply Co. Honda for A.J. Foyt Racing, and two members of the IndyCar and Andretti Sports Marketing staff.

When the first IndyCar segment came up about 45 or 50 minutes into the movie, we all exchanged quizzical looks.

The standard turbocharged V6 engines that Chevrolet and Honda make were over-dubbed with portions of either V8 or V10 era Formula 1 engines, with no consistency.

The V6s were heard idling a bit later, but that was definitely a “secondary sound” compared to the screams of V8s and V10s you heard earlier.

Again, it would only be racing insiders/fans/geeks that would pick up on this, but it’s an important element to note.

The other racing element of the film is that Smith’s character, a veteran con man, is working his angle on what appears to be an Argentine businessman while also dealing with an Australian when at the track (NOLA Motorsports Park, where the IndyCar portions were filmed). We never got the South American character’s native country, but as that portion of the film is supposed to be taking place in Buenos Aires, you can make that deduction.

With that being said, you can look at the IndyCar portion of the film in a positive light, despite how brief it is (2 to 4 minutes, tops, in a roughly 1 hour, 45 minute film).

The two most recent, specific, live-action open-wheel racing-focused movies to hit the big screen are “Rush,” which came out in 2013 and “Driven,” which crashed into theaters in 2001. IndyCar also had its animated movie – “Turbo” – come out in 2013, which I won’t compare it to here because it isn’t a comparable example.

“Rush,” Ron Howard’s Hollywood version chronicling the 1976 Formula 1 title bout between James Hunt and Niki Lauda, was critically acclaimed, earned two Golden Globe nominations for best picture and Daniel Bruhl’s portrayal of Lauda.

“Driven”… the less said about it the better, other than to say it’s still the butt of jokes almost 15 years later.

Where “Focus” (something about racing being a part of one-word movie titles, it seems?) succeeds from a racing standpoint is that it makes racing – and in particular IndyCar racing – look cool.

Smith and Robbie have great chemistry throughout the film, even as it weaves through various twists and turns.

The South American team member Smith is dealing with gives off a vibe of arrogance, but the Australian individual he works with is depicted nicely – several Australians make up the IndyCar paddock and they’re some of the nicest (and quirkiest, in Will Power’s case) people you’ll run across at a race weekend.

The key, ultimately, is that while “Rush” and “Driven” were racing-focused films, “Focus” is meant for a wider audience. Smith is still a top flight star; Robbie’s star is clearly on the rise given her work here and in “The Wolf of Wall Street;” and in terms of a con man/action thriller with comedic moments sprinkled throughout, this is intended to draw in typical fans of that genre.

These are the kinds of things that expose IndyCar to a wider audience beyond the so-called “I-465 bubble” mentality, and the visibility is something that’s now there before the season gets going a month from now in St. Petersburg.

It’s good to see, and in a perfect world you’d like to see Smith or Robbie on the short list to be involved with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway later this year, perhaps driving the pace car.

If nothing else, it forces you to focus on IndyCar for the few moments it is on screen, when you’re not focusing on the cons going on the rest of the time.

Houston Supercross by the numbers: Five riders begin to gap the field


Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.

Houston Supercross numbers
Cooper Webb’s ability to close races makes him a Houston favorite. – Feld Motor Sports

Despite an accident in his heat in San Diego that sent him to the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ), Sexton recovered to score a top-five that weekend. His podium finish in Anaheim 1 and overall win last week in Anaheim 2 makes him one of the three riders with a perfect top-five record. He is joined by Cooper Webb, who finished second in the first two rounds and fourth last week, and Ken Roczen, whose consistency in the first three races contributed to him grabbing the top spot in this week’s NBC Supercross Power Rankings.

There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.

Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.

Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.

By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.

With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.

This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.

Jim Pomeroy won the first race in the Astrodome in 1974, one of three races held during Supercross’ inaugural season along with events at Daytona International Speedway and the Los Angeles Coliseum. Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.

Two privateers have started the season on a high note.

Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.

Michael Mosiman scored his first 250 win last year in San Diego. – Feld Motor Sports

The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.

Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.

In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.

The other 250 riders with 2022 wins this week are Mosiman, who earned his first Supercross win last year in San Diego, and Nate Thrasher, who became the fifth new class winner at Daytona.

Jeremy Martin will attempt to extend a record this week in Houston. His division leading SuperMotocross podiums number 65. He has 26 wins in the combined sessions, which ranks fourth all time.

Last Five Houston Winners

2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Cooper Webb
2021, Race 2: Eli Tomac
2021, Race 1: Justin Barcia
2020, no race
2019, Cooper Webb
2018, Jason Anderson

2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Colt Nichols
2021, Race 2: Jett Lawrence
2021, Race 1: Christian Craig
2020, no race
2019, Dylan Ferrandis
2018, Aaron Plessinger

By the Numbers

Anaheim 2
San Diego

More SuperMotocross coverage

Supercross unveils 16th edition of a Ricky Carmichael designed Daytona track
Power Rankings after week 3
Malcom Stewart out for “extended duration” after knee surgery
Haiden Deegan makes Supercross debut in Houston, Justin Cooper to 450s
Talon Hawkins set to relieve injured Jalek Swoll in Houston
Jalek Swoll out for an indefinite period with broken arm
Ken Roczen urgently needed a change
Chris Blose joins Pro Circuit Kawasaki in 250 East opener
Seth Hammaker to miss Houston with wrist injury
Jo Shimoda joins Seth Hammaker, Austin Forkner on injured list
Injury sidelines Austin Forkner for remainder of 2023 SX
Chase Sexton wins Anaheim 2 in 450s; Levi Kitchen takes 250s
Results and points from Anaheim 2