NASCAR Insider Draws Parallels Between Dale Earnhardt’s Tragic Demise and Netflix’s Latest Docuseries

Published 02/06/2024, 6:44 PM EST

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USA Today via Reuters

February 18, 2001. At the Daytona 500, the roar of engines was deafening, and the anticipation was palpable. But a gloomy cloud was looming amid the air of adrenaline. An unfortunate turn of events on the final lap tragically claimed the life of NASCAR legend “The Man in Black,” Dale Earnhardt Sr, leaving an irreplaceable void in the sport and the hearts of millions.

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Yet, amid the grief, an unexpected consequence emerged: NASCAR’s popularity skyrocketed. With Earnhardt’s passing, several Domino effects followed. The most notable of these was Dale Jr, Earnhardt’s prodigal son, who grew in recognition, carrying on his father’s legacy, and winning over a new generation of ‘Earnhardt’ admirers.

“Full Speed”: A Potential Game-Changer Like “The Man in Black”?

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After twenty-three years, NASCAR is approaching what seems to be another turning point in its history. This time, the story is one of possible immortality rather than loss. “NASCAR: Full Speed” is an intimate look at the lives, rivalries, and unyielding determination of the final 16 drivers competing for the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series championship. It delves deeply into the fast-paced world of the very elite level of stock car racing. So far, the series has received a lot of good reviews, even earning a 7.7 rating on IMDb while being in the Top 10 on Netflix’s list of trending documentaries.

The recent acclaim of the Netflix docuseries and the spike in popularity following Earnhardt’s passing could be comparable, according to industry insider Brett Griffin, who, speaking alongside TJ Majors, Freddie Kraft, and Casey Boat on Dirty Mo Media Network’s podcast, “Door Bumper Clear,” had some interesting views.

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“You know, I look back, and this was an unfortunate situation, but we became the biggest we’ve ever been when Dale Earnhardt died in 2001. It made Dale Jr. Elvis Pressley overnight. We went to a stake and shake in Daytona Beach on an off-week, and all the kitchen employees were on their cellphones, calling their buddies. By the time we left there, there were 3–400 people there to see Dale Jr. because that’s how big the sport was. Dale Jr was on every UPS commercial in the country,” said Griffin.

NASCAR is trying to embrace the change in the era of streaming

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Brett Griffin emphasized the potential of ‘Full Speed’ to boost NASCAR’s popularity further, referencing the new F1-exclusive documentary by Netflix, “Drive to Survive”, and declaring, “I feel like this is another opportunity for us to kind of downshift and get a lot of momentum because if we keep talking about wanting to do things for new fans… Being top 10 on Netflix, it’s certainly going to do that. I mean look what it did to F1 here in America..”

Watch This Story: All You Need To Know About NASCAR: Full Speed

Although it probably won’t have the same worldwide impact as Netflix’s F1 series, ‘Full Speed’ aims to be a genuine representation of the sport. Nevertheless, prominent drivers including Denny Hamlin, the 2023 champion Ryan Blaney, and Ross Chastain feature heavily in the documentary series, which also offers in-depth looks at the operations of NASCAR teams and their respective pit crews. If that wasn’t enough, viewers are also given personal access to the lives of drivers and their families, as well as the heart-pounding excitement of NASCAR races. Also, ironically, Earnhardt Jr. serves as one of the show’s executive producers.

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Furthermore, as evidenced by the exclusive agreement with Amazon Prime Video, NASCAR President Steve Phelps has also been outspoken in his approval of streaming services. The fact that NASCAR: Full Speed is exclusive to Netflix supports this tactic. The documentary series will act as an essential first step in reaching a worldwide audience, as streaming grows in importance to NASCAR’s marketing and revenue.’

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Written by:

Amman Augustin

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Amman Augustin is a NASCAR Writer at EssentiallySports. With his coverage majorly focusing on the lavish off-track lives of drivers, Amman often brings the lesser-known side of Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick to their fans. Another aspect of NASCAR where he flourishes is covering rivalries between competitors.
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Edited by:

Shivali Nathta

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