Speedway Junky would make an interesting comedy either way. But that darn Johnny/Eric story line just won't let it happen. And it's pretty clear that Perry hopes to span the comical-tragical-historical spectrum. This sort of thing is part of a long storytelling tradition (Shakespeare is riddled with it), but here the result is a sense of stylistic clash, not balance. There are several operant premises here. While the dramatic parts are meant to be taken seriously, the comedy is meant to be taken ironically. This might partly be a result of Perry's wavering directorial control. When he steps out boldly, as in the film's wild finish, we're willing to follow him into bizarre territory. But as the early story suffers from a timid, conventional narrative approach, it's all too easy to get distracted by the stylistic shifts. It's as if Perry found his voice at last, but mostly too late for this film. If you view movies as commerce, that's a shame. But if you see moviemaking as a process, take heart. There's more to come from this filmmaker than Vegas will ever know.