The film is loosely based on a magazine article, titled “Racer X”, about New York street clubs that race Japanese cars late at night. Elite street racer and ex-convict Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his crew: Jesse (Chad Lindberg), Leon (Johnny Strong), Vince (Matt Schulze) and Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez), are under suspicion of stealing expensive electronic equipment. Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) is an undercover police officer who attempts to find out who exactly is stealing the equipment. He works for FBI agent Bilkins (Thom Barry) and LAPD Sgt. Tanner (Ted Levine).

Falling for Dominic’s younger sister, Mia Toretto (Jordana Brewster), Brian later confesses to her his status as an undercover police officer and convinces her to come with him to save her brother and his friends from the truck drivers, who have now armed themselves to combat the robberies. He tracks Dominic’s location by triangulating his cell phone signal and they arrive at the hijacking in-progress to find Letty, badly injured at the car accident, and Vince critically wounded, having lacerated his arm and been shot by the truck driver. Brian and Mia work together with Dominic, Leon and Letty to rescue Vince. Brian then makes the difficult decision to blow his cover to the crew by phoning in for a medivac. The revelation enrages Dominic, but he contains himself and flees with Leon, Letty and Mia as the medivac arrives for Vince.

Brian follows Dominic to the house and holds him at gunpoint to prevent him from fleeing. Jesse arrives shortly afterwards, apologizing for his actions at Race Wars and pleading for Dominic’s help with Johnny Tran (Rick Yune). Moments later, Tran and his cousin Lance Nguyen (Reggie Lee) perform a drive-by shooting, killing Jesse. Brian and Dominic chase them, with Dominic driving his late father’s modified 1970 Dodge Charger. Dominic forces Lance’s motorcycle off the road, severely injuring him, while Brian shoots and kills Tran. Afterwards, Brian and Dominic engage in an impromptu street race, narrowly avoiding a passing train. Dominic collides with a semitruck and rolls his car twice, injuring himself, and rendering the Charger undrivable. Instead of arresting him, Brian hands over the keys to his Supra and lets Dominic escape, using the line “I owe you a ten second car”. After the credits, Dominic is seen driving through Baja California, Mexico in a 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS.