At a racetrack, aging drag racing star Lonnie "Lucky Man" Johnson (Smith) makes engine refinements to his car, which is sponsored by the international oil company Fast Company. On its first test run it blows up, but Lonnie escapes unhurt. Fast Co. team boss Phil Adamson (Saxon) is not impressed, telling the head mechanic, Elder (Don Francks), that the team can't afford to win if it breaks the budget. The real business is that the car remains competitive and helps sell Fast Company oil products. In the "Funny Car class", Lonnie's protégé Billy "The Kid" Brooker (Campbell) gives top dog Gary "The Blacksmith" Black (Cedric Smith) a close run.
On the road to Big Sky, Montana, Lonnie phones his girlfriend Sammy (Jennings), who is living in Seattle, saying he misses her. When the Fast Co. rig blows a tire, Black, jealous of Fiasco's money and Lonnie's popularity, refuses to help change the tire. Adamson flies in his private plane with Candy Ellison (Judy Foster) the pretty new Fast Co. ad girl. At the Big Sky meet, Adamson takes a backhander from the organizer. He says that the fans come to see Lonnie, so while the dragster is being repaired he will replace Billy in the Funny Car. Lonnie doesn't like the idea. Billy likes it less, blaming Lonnie's ego. Lonnie's first ever Funny Car run is against Black, who is angry at the driver switch, especially when he loses the race. Billy finds some compensation in the attractive presence of Candy.
En route to a next race in Spokane, Lonnie calls the dragster mechanic with a few ideas, but is told that Adamson cancelled the repair work. At the meet, Lonnie is less than complimentary on his Fast Co. TV spot. Adamson is incensed and calls the company to say he's bringing in Gary Black. Candy overhears the phone call, and when she refuses to have sex with the TV interviewer as damage control, Adamson fires her. He offers Black the Fast Co ride. At the same time, Candy and Billy go and "get it on" inside Lonnie's trailer. Sammy shows up and interrupts them. She furiously assumes that it's Lonnie in the bed, until he appears in the doorway.
Reunited, Lonnie and Sammy kick out Billy and Candy, and they resume making love and he talks about quitting racing. Adamson walks in without knocking, causing Lonnie to punch him to the floor. He says they're finished, but Lonnie assures him the car will race. Outside the trailer, Adamson gives Black and the surly mechanic, named Meatball, a job.
While on another test run, the Funny Car's engine blows, but Lonnie controls the situation using the cockpit safety gear. Billy angrily accuses Black of sabotage, but Lonnie intervenes on Black's behalf. In the pit, Adamson announces that Black is the new Fast Co driver and the whole team is fired. Lonnie goes for him but is slugged with a tire iron by Meatball.
Billy is deponent, but Lonnie insists they'll still race at Edmonton next weekend (they will steal back the car). Billy and P.J. (Robert Haley) visit the local motor show and are amazed that Adamson has the car on display. That night, Billy and Candy create an amorous diversion for the security guard while Lonnie drives the car away. Working overtime, Lonnie, Billy, P.J. get it in shape for the race.
At the Edmonton racetrack, there is a night meet. Lonnie's surprise independent entry is announced. Adamson is worried that Black will be beaten, but Meatball says he will win as long as he is in the left lane. Lonnie gives an ecstatic Billy the ride.
At the toss up for the lane choice, Billy wins and chooses left. Adamson ensures a last minute change, and Billy's complaint is ignored. As the driver's wait on the starting line, Black watches Meatball slope away, carrying two large cans of oil. At the green light, Billy gets a fast start, but Black surges alongside and then swerves, seemingly trying to run him off the road. Black takes the lead, then cuts into Billy's lane and hits the oil that Meatball has poured on the track. His car explodes in a huge fireball. Billy goes for Meatball at the side of the track and in the struggle, Meatball's overalls catch fire. Billy uses his cockpit extinguisher to save his life.
The team arrives on the scene. Adamson panics and takes to his plane. As it taxis down the runway strip, Lonnie jumps in the Funny Car and hits the throttle. He catches up just as the plane takes off, clipping the end off a wing. Adamson fights for control but the plane dives into a parked Fast Co oil truck, producing the second inferno of the night.
The next morning, the team members discuss the future. Lonnie promises he'll have new funding in place soon, but first he and Sammy are going to share some quality time. Billy and Candy like the sound of that and go off somewhere to have sex too, but Elder and P.J. are left by themselves with a car to prepare.
The film is the first of his feature films for which Cronenberg did not originate the screenplay. The production of Fast Company brought Cronenberg into contact with cinematographer Mark Irwin, art director Carol Spier, sound editor Bryan Day, and film editor Ronald Sanders, all of whom became regular crew members on his films. Actor Nicholas Campbell, who plays William Smith's young sidekick, also went on to appear in three more Cronenberg films, The Brood, The Dead Zone, and Naked Lunch.
Although Fast Company - an all-action, non-horror, non-psychological B-movie - remains an anomaly in Cronenberg's filmography, it has never lost its place in the affections of its director, who is an enthusiast of cars and their machinery ("which I get very metaphysical and boring about") and sometime racer.
This was the final film for Claudia Jennings before she was killed in a car accident later that year, several months after the film's release.
Fast Company received generally positive reviews. It holds a 88% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with an average rating of 6.6/10.