At some point in their life, every child dreams of becoming a race car driver. Those men and women who pilot cars at the highest speeds—be it in NASCAR, Formula 1, or rally racing—capture our hearts and minds as they careen past the limits of sanity and, possibly, physics. But something romantic persists in the union between a race car driver and their car, and the heroes in the cockpit become legends in their own right.
Sometimes, though, things happen the other way around. In our culture, Hollywood actors, reality TV stars, and even professional athletes earn fame and money to such an extreme that they can seemingly live out the dreams that the rest of us cherish. But celebrities were kids, too, once (some were celebrities as kids, though), and their dreams often align with the rest of ours.
And so it only makes sense that the biggest legends off the track would feel that they've earned their way into the racing scene—and with the massive resources it takes to put a race car on the track, celebs often pay to play. But that's not necessarily a bad thing, and a fair number of stars have turned out to be multitalented enough to excel behind the wheel of serious race cars, as well.
Of course, there are also plenty of people who have earned some serious name recognition who fall on the other end of the spectrum—barely able to drive to and from the grocery store, much less in the powerful vehicles they've bought to help cement their status and image. Keep scrolling for 10 celebs with legit race car experience, and 10 who shouldn't be allowed to drive, ever.
21 Legit: Eminem
Eminem's car collection has been documented at length all across the internet, and it reveals a preference for cars with legitimate track inspiration. His Porsche Carrera GT and Ford GT are both cars at home on the race course, and Eminem is known to have spent some time flogging both cars to the limits of their abilities. It takes real nerve to take either of those supercars anywhere near to the edge, but Marshall Mathers has never shied away from pushing it in anything he's undertaken—and his latest album even features a jab at possibly the most famous female race car driver of all time, Danica Patrick.
20 Legit: Frankie Muniz
Frankie Muniz rose to fame as the titular character in the longtime sitcom Malcolm in the Middle. And while being a comedic child actor is no joke, Muniz's passion later in life turned to automotive racing in a big way. In 2001, Muniz drove the pace car for the Daytona 500 and met Dale Earnhardt. By 2004, he was racing in the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race in Long Beach, south of Los Angeles, and placed seventh. In 2009, he raced for Team Stargate Worlds in the Champ Car Atlantic Series and placed in the top ten for every race in which he competed.
19 Legit: Rowan Atkinson
Here in the United States, Rowan Atkinson has made his face instantly recognizable thanks to his role as Mr. Bean, as well as plenty of other comedic appearances over the years. But in the UK, Atkinson is more of a national treasure—and he's taken to racing vintage Jaguars, in classic form, on a regular basis, and also raced for two seasons of the Renault Clio Cup behind the wheel of a Renault 5 GT Turbo. He made an impressive appearance on Top Gear, as well, setting the second-best lap time of any contestants in a hilarious round of tests of the Kia Cee'd.
18 Legit: Patrick Dempsey
Patrick Dempsey is renowned for his classic car collection, and paparazzi constantly catch him driving around Los Angeles in cars that would make any gearhead swoon. But besides his impeccable taste for road-going vehicles, the Grey's Anatomy star also has a penchant for actual race car driving. He's even proved more than adept behind the wheels of some serious cars, as he competed with his Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche team until the 2015 season. Career highlights include a win at the Fuji round of the 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship and a second in class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans earlier that year.
17 Legit: Ludacris
Ludacris has made a name for himself in the hip-hop industry, and he parlayed that fame into a recurring role in one of Hollywood's biggest moneymakers of all time: The Fast and the Furious franchises. In both his raps and his movies, he commonly refers to and drives around in some awesome cars—and in real life his tastes vary from a staid Acura Legend sedan to a wild Chrysler ME Four-Twelve concept car. But he's also known to enjoy track days on the outskirts of LA, and has also served as the grand marshall for a Furious 7-themed Nascar Xfinity Series race at the Chicagoland Speedway.
16 Legit: Steve McQueen
Possibly the most famous celebrity to be associated with actual automotive racing has to be Steve McQueen. Sure, Jay Leno is alive these days, and there's no doubt his car collection is among the best in the world, but McQueen demonstrated more of a focus on actual competition during his days in the spotlight as the King of Cool. Getting a character in Cars named after you is significant, but McQueen himself was probably more proud of the time he took first in class at the 12 Hours of Sebring behind the wheel of a Porsche 908/02 (and second overall). Of course, in films like The Great Escape, Bullitt, The Thomas Crown Affair, and Le Mans, McQueen was also famous for being the most capable stunt driver on set.
15 Legit: Paul Newman
After Steve McQueen, Paul Newman may be the most famous Hollywood star to take up race car driving in a big way. In terms of actual star power, Newman may have McQueen beat thanks to a much longer career, but behind the wheel of a race car, it's anyone's guess who would win. Newman was an avid racer for a longer career, as well, and the highlight of his time on the track came at 1979 running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, where he placed second in a Porsche 935. He was also part of the winning team at the 24 Hours of Daytona—in 1995 at the age of 70—making him the oldest winner in a major sanctioned race.
14 Legit: Tim Allen
Tim Allen is best known as the star of Home Improvement, but he was also a lesser-known star on the race track, as well. He formed a partnership with automotive legend Steve Saleen and had a successful career on the track as part of the Saleen-Allen "RRR" Speedlab team. He wrote later that the experience "...was truly, a dream come true. To actually be a part of the racing team and participate in SCCA World Challenges is well… beyond comprehension. First, you learn the rules of racing. Then you get out on the track in a race and you’re going fast—really fast. All you care about is getting round that next corner, shoving on the gas, and getting round the next corner. Nothing else in your life really matters at that moment—it’s all testosterone and technique."
13 Legit: Paul Walker
Any fan of automobiles and Hollywood knows and loves Paul Walker not just for his role in the Fast and Furious franchise, but also because the man was a serious car aficionado off the screen, as well. Before his tragic demise in 2013, which occurred when a friend of his lost control of a Porsche Carrera GT (that was running on tires that were more than a decade old), Walker was part of the crew at AE Performance. His car collection also revealed that Walker loved to spend time at the track, typically behind the wheel of a Porsche GT3 RS or an E36-generation BMW M3.
12 Legit: Gene Hackman
After Steve McQueen's epic chase at the helm of a Form Mustang ripping through the streets of San Francisco in Bullitt, possibly the most famous car chase caught on camera in that era featured Gene Hackman racing through the streets of New York City in the 1971 noir detective film, The French Connection. In real life, Hackman loved to drive race cars on the track, and by the late-70s he was driving open-wheeled Fords in Sports Car Club of America races. He also competed in the 24 Hours of Daytona in a Dan Gurney Team Toyota in 1983, and won the Long Beach Grand Prix Celebrity Race.
11 Legit: Tom Cruise
One of the biggest movie stars in the history of cinema, Tom Cruise can afford just about any car he wants, and he can also easily manage to finance his own racing team. Nonetheless, Cruise seems to get his real kicks filming increasingly challenging stunts for movies—and he typically performs the majority of the stunts himself. But Cruise also starred in the racing flick Days of Thunder and made an impressive showing on Top Gear when he raced against Knight and Day co-star Cameron Diaz. Top Gear legend The Stig even reportedly said that Cruise "...was just amazing" and earning The Stig's praise is no small feat, indeed.
10 Questionable: Justin Bieber
Justin Bieber has accumulated massive wealth and fame at a young age and has had to learn the hard way that not everything in the world is a plaything. And yet, he's still got a huge number of big-boy toys in his garage, including Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and Mercedes-Benz sports cars. They're typically wrapped in gaudy chrome or matte schemes, but nonetheless, they're all about as good as it gets. Bieber has also been caught—repeatedly—speeding around Calabasas, which is definitely understandable given the many hundreds of horsepower under the hoods of his rides. But at the very least, he could step up his situational awareness a little bit.
9 Questionable: Michael Phelps
Despite the fact that Michael Phelps has had his face plastered on the side of a race car, it's a safe bet to assume that he'll be employing a chauffeur for much of his life. Arguably the greatest swimmer of all time, the 28 Olympic medals to his name without a performance-enhancing substance controversy will probably go down in history as one of the greatest feats by a single athlete. And yet, Phelps was caught driving under the influence twice, and a famous picture of him enjoying a substance that some might debate enhances performance has made the rounds online ever since.
8 Questionable: Lindsay Lohan
At this point, the collective universe is proud when a child star ends up turning into a normal, responsible adult; but no one ever gets credit for the things they're supposed to do. Lindsay Lohan may be well on the way towards a steady career as a resort promoter in Greece, but for the last decade or more she's earned her stripes as one of those celebs that can't stay out of the spotlight, and we don't mean racing stripes. Despite starring in 2005's Herbie Fully Loaded, where she plays a young girl who dreams of NASCAR races, Lohan has been in multiple accidents, totaled a Porsche, and seemingly been caught by the paparazzi every time.
7 Questionable: Kris Jenner
The matriarch of the Jenner-Kardashian clan may have made some bold career decisions for her daughters (and sons, arguably), but she's definitely not setting a good example when it comes to teaching responsible driving skills. In 2016, she got into a rough collision with a Prius on the streets of Los Angeles—and it turned out that the incident resulted in some scary injuries for Jenner. But the man whose car she totaled had things even worse, as he was living in the car at the time. Much like the rest of her family, Jenner would probably be better off being schlepped around by professionals rather than driving herself (as further evidenced by the picture above).
6 Questionable: Caitlyn Jenner
After winning the gold medal in the decathlon at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, Caitlyn Jenner had some time behind the wheel of some legitimate race cars. Jenner went on to win a celebrity race at the Long Beach Grand Prix in 1979, beating the likes of Clint Eastwood and Fred Dryer and got hooked on racing. Later appearances at the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring should have provided ample training for someone to be a confident driver for the rest of their life. But of course, things clearly changed for Jenner and in 2015, she was involved in a car crash that led to fatalities on the Pacific Coast Highway near Malibu, California.
5 Questionable: Halle Berry
Halle Berry's career has been on the backburner (relatively) for the past few years, but in the 2000s, she was a serious up-and-comer in the Hollywood scene. After winning an Oscar for her role as a single mother in Monster's Ball, Berry made several high-profile appearances in action films like the early X-Men movies, Swordfish, Catwoman, and even a James Bond film. But perhaps all that stunt training helped Berry improve her real-world driving, as unfortunately, she had admitted to being the driver at fault in a hit-and-run incident in 2000. Previously, she'd also seriously hurt her head in another crash in 1997, so if the last 18 years are any indication, perhaps she's a better driver today.
4 Questionable: Matthew Broderick
Matthew Broderick shot to stardom thanks to his life-changing titular role in 1986's Ferris Bueller's Day Off. In the classic 1980s teen comedy, Broderick's character famously borrows a Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder—one of the most valuable cars in the world—and totals it. Of course, in filming, replicas were used for the crashes, but the sequence is painful for fans of Ferrari, nonetheless. In 2012, Broderick referenced his driving skills, or lack thereof, in a Super Bowl ad for Honda (directed by Todd Phillipps, of Hangover fame), though perhaps the bit was in bad taste given that Broderick was the guilty party in an accident in the UK that took two lives in 1987.
3 Questionable: Mario Balotelli
Mario Balotelli is a professional soccer player, currently on Nice's team, and claims citizenship in Italy. Balotelli earned 3.7 million Euro in 2016 for his play (or over $4 million) and has the kind of car collection soccer and automotive fans can only dream of. He's regularly seen with Ferraris, Bentleys, an Audi R8, and more—and reportedly crashed his Bentley Continental on the way to practice one day. But no worry for Balotelli, as he just hopped in another of his ridiculously valuable rides and headed to practice anyways. Hopefully, the Alfa Romeo Giulia he's bought (captured in the picture above) receives better treatment, as it does hail from Italy, as well.
2 Questionable: Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo may be the most famous person in the world (outside the United States, that is), and is definitely in the conversation as one of the best soccer players of all time. His career earnings and endorsements go in line with the outrageous salaries that players of the world's favorite sport can earn, and his car collection follows in a similar vein. Unfortunately, Ronaldo's talents on the field don't quite translate to the road, as he famously crashed his Ferrari 599 GTB after owning it for only two days. The accident almost left him unable to compete in 2016 Euro Cup play, but Ronaldo should be more concerned that the car was uninsured at the time since he's apparently the bane of the insurance industry's existence.
1 Questionable: Mr. Bean
Rowan Atkinson made an earlier appearance on this list as a celebrity with legitimate automotive racing in his life. But it seems like Atkinson resorts to his inner Mr. Bean when he's not on the race track. Sure, he's owned an impressive collection of cars in his day, including an Acura NSX, an Aston Martin DBS V8, an Aston Martin V8 Zagato, and the legendary McLaren F1—but he's also crashed the latter three of those cars in well-publicized accidents. In the case of the McLaren F1, an accident in 1999 led to over a year of repairs and the largest insurance payout in Britain's history at the time, £910,000. And then Mr. Bean went out and crashed it again in 2011! To make things even more like a classic, absurd Mr. Bean episode, despite the two crashes, he later sold the car for just about $12.2 million!
Sources: Jalopnik, The Drive, TMZ, and Wikipedia.