KNOXVILLE, Iowa — The lights dimmed and the room fell quiet as images of a storied racing career began to play out upon the screen. Through riveting footage and interviews, the life and times of Damion Gardner came to vivid, compelling life.
“World’s Fastest Sprint Car – Damion Gardner and the Championship Mind” is an 86-minute film crafted by longtime motorsports videographer Sean Buckley and several colleagues. The premiere screening took place Aug. 11 at the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and Museum.
Gardner is one of the most successful West Coast sprint car racers of all time, scoring 106 USAC wins in a career that recently concluded with his decision to retire from the cockpit. Known as “The Demon,” Gardner is fiery and passionate, racing with a fierce determination that made a lasting impression on all who witnessed the arc of his career.
In 2014, Gardner earned the distinction as the fastest sprint car driver in history via his 211-mph run at the Bonneville Salt Flats, a central element of the film.
Buckley has done a masterful job of pulling together various facets of Gardner’s life and career. The film was initially developed solely around the Bonneville effort, but Buckley expanded the project to provide a wider look at the complexity that has always made Gardner one of the most intriguing people in any pit area.
The film is highly entertaining and will inspire race fans across a wide spectrum. The fiery exchanges caught on video between Gardner and his rivals, coupled with introspective on-camera thoughts from Gardner, provide a glimpse deep into the persona of a hardcore, deeply devoted racer.
Gardner is, above all, a personable man. He talks as fast as he races; his comments are dotted with profanity here and there, but somehow instead of sounding offensive, it just sounds like … Damion. When it comes to racing, he has strong ideas and opinions. At times his passion has pushed him slightly over the top, but that’s one of the reasons he’s always been a fan favorite.
Most of all Gardner is endearing to those who know him. Many of his friends were among the audience at the screening, and as the film captured some of Gardner’s idiosyncrasies, they looked at one another and smiled as if to say, “Yep … that’s Damion.”
Two elements of the film are particularly striking. One, as the film explored Gardner’s early years in West Coast sprint car racing, it reveals a dynamic racing scene that pitted Gardner against superstars such as Richard Griffin and Cory Kruseman. It’s a sharp reminder of just how good we had it during this period.
Two, the segment detailing Gardner’s Bonneville experience is a visual and emotional treat. The camera work of Mike and Tim Truex of Loudpedal Productions is lush with color and movement, drawing the viewer in so deeply that you can almost feel the sand crunching beneath your feet.
Buckley and his co-producers have done the first step: They have created a powerful, lasting tribute to one of racing’s most unique stories and most provocative characters. The next step in their journey will determine how the film is distributed. Theaters? Amazon? Streaming? That all remains to be seen.
However it plays out, you must see this film. It is 86 minutes of pure racing entertainment. When it concludes, you will likely find yourself wanting to watch it again.
And again. And again.
This story appeared in the August 30, 2023 edition of the SPEED SPORT Insider.