Some say that when he was born it was via roundhouse kick instead of a C-section. That’s because he’s Eric Norris, the son of karate/film/folklore legend Chuck Norris. Now comfortably ensconced in his own Hollywood career, the younger Norris recently revisited one of his past lives: aspiring NASCAR racer. Norris finished 15th last weekend in the minor league race at Sonoma, his first race in five years, but there was a time when he was a rising star. Ten years ago Norris was the champion of a NASCAR feeder series before returning to his stunt man roots. We caught up with him after his auto racing return.
ESPN The Mag: We saw you around the racetrack for a number of years in the Truck Series, what have you been up to since then?
Eric Norris: I have been focused on my career in movies and TV. I do some stunts, but right now my main thing is working on "Sons of Anarchy" on FX. I am the stunt coordinator on it and direct the second unit. For example, the other day, I got to direct a whole motorcycle chase and be the stunt coordinator.
ESPN The Mag: How did you get involved in "Sons of Anarchy?"
EN: I have done a bunch of Fox shows, and I have a really good relationship with them. This show is going into its fifth season and their stunt coordinator is now doing "Die Hard," so there was an opening and they called me up.
ESPN The Mag: I saw your name in the credits for the classic comedy "Office Space," what was your role in that film?
EN: What’s funny about that is I get more people saying to me, 'Oh my god, you were in "Office Space?"' It must be some cult type of movie. All I did was the scene where the guy is backing out of the garage and a big truck comes in and plows into him. I was driving that truck.
ESPN The Mag: That’s awesome!
EN: Yeah, I have never seen it, but of all the movies I have worked on, that’s the one people ask me about. I should probably rent it.
ESPN The Mag: Racing wasn’t exactly a hobby for you: You won the K&N Pro Series West in 2002. Was the plan to advance to the upper ranks of NASCAR?
EN: Oh yeah, I had every intention of doing a full-time Truck or Nationwide deal. We had a sponsor, Jani-King, for a number of years and they were awesome. Once we won our championship, we thought we were going to the next level with them, but at the last minute, something came up and they pulled out. It was December, and we gave it another month or two trying to find a sponsor, but eventually we had to close our doors. I put movies on the back burner and tried to race full-time, but unfortunately it didn’t work out.
ESPN The Mag: Not a bad backup plan.
EN: I am very fortunate. I have a great job: I get excited to go to work all the time. The other day we had a big motorcycle chase and crash that I set up. I love it. There’s no downside, other than I miss racing.
ESPN The Mag: How long have you been doing stunts, and how did you end up getting involved in racing?
EN: I've been doing stunts since 1985 — that’s 27 years. My whole childhood I loved racing, and I raced motorcycles. When I moved to Texas to do my dad’s show ["Walker, Texas Ranger"] I was the stunt coordinator and did a bunch of stunts in it and ended up directing 18 episodes. While I was there, I got an opportunity to race some open wheel cars, like formula 2000, and I caught the bug. Later I had an opportunity to go race NASCAR Trucks. We had a big sponsor, but I had never done any oval racing before so I went out and got my butt kicked because I was a road racer. After doing eight races that year, I took a step back and got my own team to race in the West Series until we won a championship in 2002.
ESPN The Mag: Did your dad race at all, or was it just the stunt man gene that he passed on to you?
EN: No, he definitely has the racing bug. We did some fun stuff doing off-road racing, but he was also into offshore boats, I mean big 160 mph powerboats. He won a championship racing for Popeyes Chicken. We were supposed to run the Baja 1000, but a movie came up and he couldn’t make it so I did it with my uncle.
ESPN The Mag: What’s the best thing about being Chuck Norris’ son?
EN: Anybody who meets my dad knows he is such a normal guy. He was a great dad; he was always there for me growing up. For most of my life, he was just a karate instructor that owned a bunch of karate schools and became the world champion of karate. It wasn’t until I was in high school that he started to get famous. It was a normal, ordinary upbringing for me. Now in the movie industry it opens doors for me because he has such a great reputation.
ESPN The Mag: So what do you make of the recent outbreak of Chuck Norris–based humor?
EN: He loves it! It’s all flattering, and it makes him bigger than life. It’s funny that he is 71 years old and you’d think most people wouldn’t know who he is anymore, but he is more popular than ever. All of my kids’ friends know about him.
ESPN The Mag: What is your favorite Chuck Norris fact?
EN: It’s not appropriate! Chuck Norris went to the Virgin Islands. They aren’t virgins anymore!
ESPN The Mag: Is it true he can win Connect 4 in only three moves?
EN: [Laughs.] Yeah!
ESPN The Mag: Is there a downside to being Chuck Norris’ son?
EN: No, there is no downside at all. He opened a lot of doors for me, but I have to work my butt off and I have the motivation to work a little harder because I had that advantage and I want to prove myself. It’s a great thing to have him as a dad.
ESPN The Mag: We saw you race in the West Series for the first time in five years last weekend, any plans to race some more?
EN: It definitely brought the bug back, makes me want to do it more, but it's hard. There was a time I wanted to make a living racing, but the problem now is if I get on a movie, I can’t say, 'Hey, I am going to miss these dates.' They are not going to change their schedule, so I can’t commit to anything. Maybe at the end of the year I will try Phoenix in a West Series car.