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Fact check: What's true, what's not in 'Logan Lucky'?

The Charlotte Observer — Théoden Janes The Charlotte Observer

Jan. 12--Like 2016's "Masterminds," "Logan Lucky" cinematically tells the tale of a band of simple, down-on-their-luck Southern folk who attempt to pull off a high-dollar heist in North Carolina without ever pointing any guns.

The key difference is that -- unlike "Masterminds" -- director Steven Soderbergh's crime dramedy is not based on a true story. (Well, the other significant distinction is that critics and audiences actually liked "Logan Lucky.")

Still, because the central crime in "Logan Lucky" takes place at Charlotte Motor Speedway during the Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day weekend, viewers may well be left wondering: How close is the movie to reality?

Answer: It varies.

The broad strokes are accurate. The Coca-Cola 600 is referred to in the movie as "the biggest race of the year"; "this is NASCAR's greatest distance," an announcer boasts at one point, "and stock car racing's longest night. It'll take 400 laps to complete 600 miles." That's all true.

"The Coca-Cola 600 is the longest race on the NASCAR circuit," says Scott Cooper, CMS's vice president of communications and public relations. "And it's the only race that starts in the daylight and finishes at night -- that's why it's considered one of the most challenging races for the competitors every year, because the track conditions change throughout the day to evening. The fact that we've been blessed to have it every year on Memorial Day weekend adds to the bigness of that event."

When we talked to Soderbergh back in August, we learned that the director brought five camera units and stars Channing Tatum and Riley Keough to the Concord track on race day in May 2016, when they spent five hours fervently shooting the NASCAR race and its trappings while trying to draw as little attention as possible. Meanwhile, Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Ga., stood in for Charlotte Motor Speedway in several other shots and scenes used in the film.

But if you've seen "Logan Lucky" -- which has been enjoying a second life this winter on DVD and via iTunes and Amazon (it will debut on Amazon Prime Feb. 20) -- you might have other questions about things characters say about the venue, or stuff that you see while they're ostensibly roaming around it.

Well, we've got pretty much all of the answers for you, thanks to a recent conversation with Cooper. (Just note: Minor spoilers ahead ...)

In the movie: Jimmy Logan (Tatum) is a former miner who -- until he's fired, at the beginning of the movie -- is part of a crew working in the tunnels underneath Charlotte Motor Speedway to repair "all these sinkholes." The damage, Jimmy explains, was caused when a 40-year-old pipe burst. He also mentions that the speedway was built on a landfill.

In real life: Though there are some drainage areas underneath the speedway, Cooper says there are no tunnels, per se -- unless you count the pedestrian/vehicle entrances that run underneath the track's third and fourth turns. A giant sinkhole did appear in the infield in October 2010, and it was reportedly due to an issue with an old drainage pipe, but the hole was filled in and the surfuce area was re-landscaped within about a week. (The repairs were not done by miners, he says.) Part of the speedway is built over an area that used to be a Charlotte-Mecklenburg County landfill.

In the movie: While explaining his idea to use the tunnels for the heist to his brother Clyde (Adam Driver), Jimmy off-handedly mentions that "a few years ago, they (CMS) built condos for people who wanted to live above the track all year long. They sold out in less than 24 hours."

In real life: This is mostly true. In 1984, Charlotte's track was the first NASCAR speedway in the country to build condominiums suitable for year-round living, Cooper says. But initially, he says "they were actually selling very slowly. There was not a lot of interest." That changed when NBC's "Late Night With David Letterman" featured a segment about the condos; "following that, they began to sell like hotcakes," with multiple phases selling out. Over the years, Cooper says condo owners have included Richard Petty, Rusty Wallace, Mark Martin and Felix Sabates. Located above Turn 1, they provide a great view of the track. There are a handful of year-round residents, Cooper says, and all are owned privately ("they've actually got their own homeowners' association") but the 50-plus units are "primarily utilized for hospitality and entertainment during our NASCAR race weekends."

In the movie: During that same conversation with Clyde, Jimmy says Charlotte Motor Speedway "even got their own police force and jail."

In real life: CMS has its own security staff. There is no jail on the property, but "several decades ago," Cooper says, "we actually had a holding area for fans that, say, were having a little too much fun, that needed to be removed from the grandstand area. That doesn't exist now." On major event days, the Concord Police Department leads law-enforcement coordination, and anyone arrested is transported to a CPD facility.

In the movie: Jimmy explains that cash is moved around at the speedway via Pneumatic Tube Transport. "Each concession has its own rig," he tells Clyde. "When a register starts to fill up, they can do a money dump through the PTT. Easy to do, and it don't interfere with the beer selling. Plus, a heck of a lot more secure than tryin' to pick up cash during a race." All the tubes, he says, "just run right into the main vault. The whole thing is like a cash highway."

In real life: Totally false. "I can't go into detail about how we actually move the cash," Cooper says, "but needless to say, we do not have a pneumatic tube system to move cash. We do have heavily armed security personnel that do monitor cash flow and movement throughout the speedway on a major event day like the Coca-Cola 600. And we do have a safe that is here on property." On major event days, he says, it's guarded -- by a SWAT team -- "at an undisclosed location" inside the venue.

And while the Pneumatic Tube Transport system was created via movie magic, there is, in fact, a network of pipes that run along the concourse at Charlotte Motor Speedway that do look like they could be pneumatic tubes. So Soderbergh, the director, put them in the film. Those tubes, Cooper says, are used for a variety of purposes. "Some of it is television fiber for TV and for internet feeds, and some of it is electrical cabling. So the tubes you see in the movie are very practical and very functional, but they're not used for the purposes that they show in the movie."

In the movie: The brothers' original plan is to knock off the speedway during the "Grocery Castle Auto Show," set for June 4, the weekend after the Coca-Cola 600. (That plan is thwarted when sinkhole repairs are completed ahead of schedule; since they need the tunnels to do the job, the brothers move the heist up a week, to race day.)

In real life: "Grocery Castle" is a fictional grocery-store chain. However, filmmakers might have been inspired by the speedway's 40-plus-year-old Auto Fair, which in the past had grocery-store chain Food Lion as its title sponsor. The event -- held at CMS twice a year -- precedes the Coca-Cola 600 (it'll be April 5-8 this year) and is currently sponsored by Pennzoil.

In the movie: Joe Bang (Daniel Craig), the explosives expert who the brothers bust out of prison to help with the heist, stops to buy a beer at a concession stand during the race. The woman at the counter asks, "You want a second one for just $10 more?"

In real life: A 16-ounce domestic beer actually costs $7, Cooper says. Even Cabarrus Brewing Company's special 600 Ale costs just $8.

In the movie: Country music star Leann Rimes performs "America the Beautiful" before the race.

In real life: She did not; the footage of her singing was filmed elsewhere at another time. However, filmmakers did use actual shots of the military exercises and the tribute U.S. Armed Forces that were part of the pre-race show in 2016.

In the movie: Near the end, FBI agent Sarah Grayson (Hilary Swank) points out that no one at CMS "was ever able to give us an exact accounting of how much money was actually stolen," and asks a squirrelly speedway general manager (Brandon Ray Olive), "How did you arrive at the number to ask for if you didn't know how much was stolen?" He replies, "I'm not an accountant, so, uh, I wasn't in there for those discussions. But as far as all of us here at Charlotte Motor Speedway are concerned, the matter has been resolved to our satisfaction."

In real life: Of the scene -- which was actually filmed in an office overlooking Atlanta Motor Speedway -- Cooper says: "I thought that was hilarious."

Janes: 704-358-5897;

Twitter: @theodenjanes

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