Helmer TBA within a month

Another racing-themed movie has joined the handful that are roaring to be first past the checkered flag.

Jeff Maguire and Jeff Apple, the respective writer and producer of Wolfgang Petersen’s “In the Line of Fire,” have reteamed to make “Dreamracer,” a big-budget action-romance set in the world of NASCAR racing.

The film is being written by Maguire and Roger Towne (“The Natural”) and will be produced by Apple and his partner Jake Hooker through their Apple/Hooker Entertainment shingle. Venture capital firm Forbes Group, an initial investor in “Fire,” has been tapped to provide development finance.

Racing movies are becoming increasingly popular with big name talent. Warner Bros. has put its “Speed Racer” — to be directed by Alfonso Cuaron and produced by Lauren Shuler-Donner — on the fast track. And stars such as Antonio Banderas and Sylvester Stallone have their own race pics in development.

“This is the only NASCAR project, and we aim for it to be a major-budgeted studio picture, with back-end promotion from NASCAR,” said Apple.

According to Forbes magazine, NASCAR is one of the fastest-growing professional sports in the U.S. NASCAR has granted Apple/Hooker the exclusive rights to produce a theatrical film on the sport, which it will endorse and to which it will provide technical and promotional support. Apple and Hooker said that the project will also have unprecedented access to NASCAR locations and back-end marketing opportunities.

The producers aim to have the film shooting by spring or summer of this year, for a targeted February 1999 release, the 50th anniversary of NASCAR racing and the date of the Daytona 500 race.

No director is yet on board, but the producers said that they were holding talks with various names and intended to make an announcement within a month.

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