I’ve closely followed both F1 and NASCAR for most of my life, so I was curious as to how stock car racing’s answer to Drive to Survive would portray the sport. I’m sure comparisons will be made between the two. While it isn’t a carbon copy of DTS, is certainly follows a similar format in showcasing the lives of the drivers and their weekend battles out on track. But will it have the same impact?
What I hoped to see going into it
As an American, the uptick in US interest around Formula 1 after Drive to Survive arrived on Netflix has been stunning to me. People in my life who never cared about motorsports now want to talk about F1. I am sincerely hoping that the streaming service can do the same for NASCAR, introducing stock car racing in a way that appeals to a larger audience, while also shattering some of the stereotypes that are attached to it.
NASCAR remains king in viewership among US-based racing fans, but the younger demographic is one the sport is desperately chasing. A compelling on-track product won’t be enough to attract most of them. They need stars. Even non-racing fans know who Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, and Tony Stewart are. The problem is, those are the stars of yesterday and are no longer behind the wheel. What about the stars of today? Going into this docuseries, my main hope was that it would do more than just showcase all the drama that exists with the ten-race playoffs. It had to take these drivers and show them in a way we’ve yet to see, bringing their personalties to the foredeont and really giving people a reason root for — or perhaps root against them.
The action, the drama, the politics and the personalities — it’s all right there. NASCAR already has a great product, but they need help selling it. With Netflix’s help, will they finally be able to?
NASCAR Full Speed opens in a surprising fashion, showing us a bit of pre-race scene for the penultimate race of the year at Martinsville Speedway. It’s then followed by an introduction that portrays these drivers as they should be — gladiators facing off in a high-speed arena.
I particularly liked Denny Hamlin‘s comments about racing versus stick and ball sports, explaining how you might get lucky and make a three-point shot that Michael Jordan doesn’t make, but no athlete from that world can just get into a race car and run as fast as Hamlin does. I thought that set the tone perfectly.
Now for the uninitiated, Hamlin is…