Champion Learn to Forgive

Champion: Learn to Forgive

John FarrellBy John Farrell9 Minutes

I used to work for NASCAR for seven years. When I left NASCAR back in 2014, I went to work for Lionel (the model train company), but after a year of working on Lionel’s train business, I transferred to Lionel Racing, which designs and produces NASCAR- and NHRA-licensed diecast cars. After almost three years at Lionel, I walked away from the NASCAR industry for good.

It had been a good ten-year run with many highs and lows. Coming into the sport as a complete novice, I learned millions of things about the sport (its drivers, tracks, cars, competition, history, and much more) and myself. Though one thing I will always remember about my time around NASCAR is how competitive everyone was … and not just the drivers, but the owners, crew chiefs, pit crews, track personnel, sponsors, employees, and fans.

And because of this ultra-competitive nature, when you felt someone had done you (or even worse, your driver) wrong, it was extremely hard to forgive the offending party. Holding grudges and using the pent-up aggression as motivation to propel you to the checkered flag isn’t all that uncommon in the racing world, not just NASCAR.

Unfortunately, that anger and aggression can sometimes turn ugly and fatal, as it did in the 2017 film Champion, starring Gary Graham, Andrew Cheney, and Robert Amaya. Champion can be seen on Inspiration TV.

Driven to Succeed

Sean Weathers (Cheney) is a veteran racer used to winning on the small dirt tracks littered throughout the Southeast. His penchant for taking the checkered flag is matched only by his arrogance. His on-track success is challenged by up-and-coming driver Ray Reed (Isaiah Stratton), who already has two wins on the season).

Although they are two of the best drivers on the circuit, their lives away from the track aren’t spotless. Sean’s wife left him to raise their young but mature daughter Gracie (Faith Renee Kennedy) alone. Unfortunately, Sean is too preoccupied with his racing (and on-track feuds) to have much time for Gracie. His relationship with his husband-wife crew of Rex (Amaya) and Sam Marshall (Lindsay Sparks) is just as strained. They often show frustration with his racing moves and off-track antics.

Ray and his estranged father (Gray Graham) have recently reconnected after years apart. When Ray invites him to his upcoming race at Dixie Speedway (located in Woodstock, Georgia), Jack does the unexpected and leaves work early to attend. Before the race begins, Ray introduces Jack to one of his close friends and crewmembers Logan Evans (Cameron Arnett), who happens to be a Christian pastor. The father and son even make plans to get together soon to spend more time together.

Gracie meets Jack while watching the race from behind the fence. From their vantage point they’re able to see the action unfold on the track below them, including the battle for first place on the last lap. After a hard-run race, Sean returns to Victory Lane for the first time in a long time. However, he’s upset with how Ray raced him (although nothing about their close-quarters racing was illegal or particularly aggressive) and that Ray’s receiving more attention than he thinks he deserves.

This doesn’t sit well with Sean, and he plans to do something about it during the Southern Regionals Dirt Track Championship at Rome (Georgia) Motor Speedway.

Sean: Reed’s lucky he got as close as he did.

Sam: “Nice to see you, Sam. Thanks for killing yourself getting the car ready.”

Sean: I’m gonna put that rookie in his place tonight. If he even tries …

Sam: Sean. (to Gracie) Hey, sweetie, Rex said he needs your help outside real quick.

TV Announcer: … be sure to involve these two competitors. With Reed leading in points, Weathers is gonna be looking to show him who’s boss on out there on the track, and that’s definitely gonna lead to some fireworks. We spoke to crews on Weathers’ and Reed’s teams …

Sam: Look, I know this is important. Maybe just a little too important.

Sean: Last I checked, it’s our job to be winning races. What?

Sam: Right. So why are you making it personal?

Sean: It’s just a good old-fashioned rivalry. That’s all. It’s healthy.

Sam: Sean, we’ve known you a long time, and we’ve had a lot of rivalries, but Rex is starting to notice it too. You’ve got some sort of vendetta against this guy.

TV Announcer: Weathers had the points to be champ last year, but Reed’s the talk of the track this year.

Sean: They talk him up like he’s the next big thing. He needs to be taken down a notch. That’s what I intend to do.

Sam: Sean, you can’t …

Sean: Look, Sam … worry about the car. Let me worry about Reed.

During the race that night, Sean and Ray are running one and two going into the final lap. As they approach the checkered flag, Sean’s No. 16 race car is running to the inside of Ray’s No. 73 when Ray’s car cuts down across the nose of the No. 16. The No. 73 goes airborne and somersaults down the straightaway, coming to a halt near the infield while the No. 16 slams into the track’s outer wall.

Ray dies in the accident while Sean is badly injured and may never race again. Jack is filled with anger and hatred toward Sean for killing his son. Sean turns to alcohol and drugs to cope with his own personal demons, eventually losing custody of Gracie.

Finding Forgiveness

Although Champion (2017) is a Christian film, it is subtle about its faith-based narrative. The characters don’t go around quoting scripture (although a Bible is visible in several scenes), but the movie centers around one of the most important tenets of Christianity: forgiveness.

The concept of forgiveness runs throughout the remainder of the film as each character struggles to discover their new normal. Jack’s heart for forgiveness is put to the test when Logan suggests hiring Sean to fix some things around the house. Sean isn’t only seeking forgiveness from Jack, but also from his daughter.

Will what begins as a surface-level kind of forgiveness for Jack develop into real forgiveness? Will Sean find a new job after losing his ride? Will Sean win Gracie back and earn her forgiveness?

To learn more about Champion and its upcoming airtimes on Inspiration TV click here