Pacific Raceways plays a part in new movie

Kent track, driving school personified in 20th Century Fox’s new film, ‘The Art of Racing in the Rain’

Good timing.

Pacific Raceways and ProFormance Racing School play supporting roles on the big screen as the racetrack embarks on a $25 million renovation and expansion project.

Kent’s storied road course is a part of 20th Century Fox’s new film, “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” that premiered in theaters nationwide last Friday.

The dramatic comedy, released by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, has received mixed reviews from critics.

Adapted from Seattle native Garth Stein’s best-selling novel of the same name, the movie included scenes from Pacific Raceways.

“It was really moving to see Pacific Raceway in a major motion picture,” said track president Jason Fiorito, who attended a screening of the movie with family and friends at AMC Pacific Place 11 in downtown Seattle on Aug. 8. “It was a great book by Garth Stein. (Producer) Patrick Dempsey did a wonderful job putting it together in a movie. … It couldn’t have been more impactful on all us to see our local track in a major motion picture.”

Three generations of Fioritos – track owners – joined Stein, ProFormance instructor Don Kitch Jr., and his family at the screening.

“The Art of Racing in the Rain” is a tearjerker, a heartstrings-tugging tale that follows a man’s journey of life, love and loss –through the eyes of his dog, Enzo, a witty and philosophical golden retriever (voiced by Academy Award-winning actor Kevin Costner).

Actor Milo Ventimiglia plays Denny Swift, a Seattle amateur race-car driver who competes at Pacific Raceways and teaches at the racing school. An aspiring Formula One driver, Swift understands that the skills he uses on the racetrack can also be applied to successfully navigating everyday life. Besides racing, Swift loves his wife, their young daughter and his best friend, Enzo, who wants to be reincarnated into a human.

Gary Cole plays Kitch, and another ProFormance instructor and race-car driver, Kevin York, greatly influenced Swift’s character and inspired Stein’s story. York was Stein’s driving instructor when he attended the racing school at Pacific Raceways in the mid-2000s.

Filmmakers primarily shot the movie in Vancouver, British Columbia, beginning May 2018. Crews came to Kent a month later to collect a number of shots, including the film’s concluding, fadeaway scene – Swift taking Enzo on his last ride.

Fiorito got a chance to hang out with Stein, who observed as crews captured scenes of man, dog and Ferrari zipping through the front and back sides of the road course.

“It was interesting to watch how much of a production a few shots ends up being in a film like that,” Fiorito said.

The movie comes at a good time for the expanding motorsports complex. Work has already begun, and Fiorito expects new buildings to go up by the end of the year and made available to tenants by the first quarter of 2020.

No public dollars are being used, or even asked for, in the development of the track, Fiorito reiterated.

“It has been like a whirlwind the last few months since the favorable ruling out of the (King County) Hearings Examiner,” Fiorito said of getting the green light to develop the venue. “Even since the (NHRA Northwest Nationals on Aug. 2-4) we’ve made significant progress on the site.”

A mile of the road course has been repaved since the filming of the movie, a signature improvement and one of many to come, said Fiorito, whose grandfather built the track in 1959.

“It feels like the train has finally left the station, and we’re moving forward pretty aggressively with not only the development, but the upgrades,” Fiorito said of a project that has been 20 years in the making.

“And yes, the energy around here – both with the commercial development and having Pacific Raceways showcased in an A-list, silver screen production – really seems like we’re headed in a positive direction very quickly,” he said. “The energy is very, very exciting.”

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