Ricky Bobby (Will Ferrell) is a NASCAR driver who wants to go fast. While he was working on the pit crew of Dennit Racing driver Terry Cheveaux (Adam McKay), Ricky replaces him and ends up finishing in third place, despite starting mid-race in last place. Ricky quickly soars to the top of NASCAR by achieving his fame and fortune at Dennit Racing and meeting his future wife, Carly (Leslie Bibb). Ricky eventually persuades Dennit to field an additional car and arranges to have his best friend, Cal Naughton, Jr. (John C. Reilly), on his team. While he and Cal are on top of the racing world, Ricky challenges his flamboyant French Formula One archrival, Jean Girard (Sacha Barone Cohen), who outperforms him on the track and becomes Dennit Racing's next top driver. Desperate to regain his dominance, Ricky pushes himself too hard during the race at Charlotte Motor Speedway and ends up going airborne, barrel-rolling several times.
Cole Trickle is a young racer from Glendale, California, with years of experience in open-wheel racing winning championships in the Indycar Series. His goal was to win the Indianapolis 500 but realises that "You can't win at Indy without a great car and my name isn't Andretti or Unser". He is recruited by Chevrolet dealership tycoon Tim Daland to race for his team in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. Daland also convinces former crew chief and car builder Harry Hogge to come out of retirement and lead Cole's pit crew. After Trickle sets a fast time in a private test at Charlotte, Hogge builds him a new Chevrolet Lumina to drive in the Winston Cup, though the season has already started.
Jimmy Logan, ancienne gloire locale de football américain de Virginie-Occidentale, vit désormais de petits boulots en petits boulots. Divorcé de Bobbie Jo, il s'occupe dès qu'il peut de sa fille Sadie, qui participe à des concours de beauté pour enfants. Jimmy est engagé sur un chantier en Caroline du Nord, sur le circuit Charlotte Motor Speedway. Mais il est licencié en raison d'une blessure non déclarée au genou. Très remonté et sans un sou, il convainc son frère Clyde, ancien soldat en Irak et amputé d'un bras, de commettre le braquage de la chambre forte du circuit, équipée de tubes pneumatiques. Pour mener à bien leur plan, ils s'associent au spécialiste des chambres fortes Joe Bang, pourtant incarcéré à Monroe. Ce dernier exige que ses deux frères, Fish et Sam, soient aussi de la partie. Les frères Logan peuvent aussi compter sur leur sœur, Mellie, qui tient un salon de coiffure. Cette petite équipe va donc commettre ce braquage sur la légendaire course de NASCAR Coca-Cola 600, durant le Memorial Day.
A racing team run by Pat Kazarian starts out with two drivers, Mike Marsh and Jim Loomis, but a crash at Daytona results in Jim's death. His girlfriend Holly McGregor arrives too late for the race and feels guilty for not being there.