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‘NASCAR: Full Speed’ Could Be the Key to Boosting the Sport’s Faltering TV Ratings

Published 01/15/2024, 4:30 AM EST

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USA Today via Reuters

On January 30th, NASCAR fans will be glued to their TV screens. The 2024 Cup season may be starting on February 4th with the Clash at the Coliseum, but everyone is excited for another reason. This is because NASCAR is finally taking the plunge and coming out with a Netflix docuseries.

Naturally, it follows the likes of Formula One: Drive to Survive, MotoGP Unlimited, and the All Or Nothing Series. For the uninitiated, the docuseries known as NASCAR: Full Speed, is focusing on the 2023 Playoffs. Across five episodes, the series will follow several drivers as they compete for the title. It is also worth mentioning that Dale Earnhardt Jr is one of the many producers of this series.

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Naturally, there is a lot riding on this docuseries to be a success. There has not been a dedicated media for the stock car racing series, outside of movies like Days of Thunder. Race: Bubba Wallace did come close, but that was focused on one single driver. So NASCAR needs to capitalize on their chance.

How bad was is the viewership situation in NASCAR?

Over the past few years, NASCAR has been facing a steady decline in TV ratings for each race. According to SportsPro, there was a 5% decline in viewership from 2022 until 2023. Back in 2022, the average TV viewership was around 3.03 million but is now recording 2.86 million. On the bright side, the season finale at the Phoenix Raceway garnered an average of three million viewers. What makes this significant is that the season finale was the highest-rated playoff race.

USA Today via Reuters

Additionally, the grand debut of the Chicago street race drew 4.79 million viewers. This made this race the most-watched NASCAR race on NBC Sports, and the second-most-watched race of the season. However, the other races still witnessed a drop in the viewership and that impacted the overall average. All this is even though NASCAR still pulled in better numbers than Formula One.

WATCH THIS STORY: NASCAR Might Have Just Saved Themselves With the $7.7 Billion Media Rights Deal

Why the Netflix series is a blessing in disguise

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With the docuseries incoming, it should ideally attract more consumers. Especially considering that Netflix is widely popular in America. What also helps is that from 2025 onwards, some NASCAR races will be broadcast on streaming platforms like Amazon Prime. So if NASCAR: Full Speed can build up its audience like Formula One has, it will benefit the sport.

NASCAR has long been associated with traditional fans, who are often stereotyped as fairly old. So this could be the sport’s chance to appeal to a younger demographic, just like F1 did with ‘Formula 1: Drive to Survive’. As per reports, in 2022, 30% of F1 fans said that ‘Drive to Survive’ was a “major reason” they started following the sport. In 2023, that number came out to be 22%.

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Additionally, NASCAR: Full Speed could also humanize the drivers and help the fans connect to them better, especially the younger generation. Drive to Survive even delved into the personal lives of their drivers. This was a stroke of genius because it proved that the drivers are just as human and relatable as anyone else.

If NASCAR can follow this trick, it will be all the better for them. Especially since they have a number of top drivers on the grid. Some of them have a lot of personality, like Kyle Busch, Ross Chastain, and others. If the series can explore the popular drivers, it could appeal to the fans and make NASCAR even more popular. However, it must try and avoid falling into the trap of over-dramatizing the series. This was something that Drive to Survive has been accused of by not only fans but also drivers.

As per Autosport, reigning world champion and Red Bull star Max Verstappen said, “Of course, I understand when you create a show, there needs to be drama, it needs to be exciting. But I’m a guy who finds it also very important that you’re portrayed well, and that they do not start to copy comments on the different kinds of footage while it didn’t happen like that.” He shared these thoughts last year while explaining his reservations about being a part of the series.

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READ MORE: “Grow NASCAR in Leaps and Bounds” – Kenny Wallace Reveals Why Netflix Docuseries Will End Up Doing Wonders for NASCAR

All in all, the Netflix series does seem like a step in the right direction. Are you excited about the series’ debut?

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Written by:

Dhruv George

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One take at a time

Growing up as a Formula One fan, I was always vaguely aware that there was a sport called NASCAR. But when I actually got to know more about it, it didn't take me long to get hooked. My closest encounter with NASCAR was back in 2009 when my family took a picture of me next to one of Dale Earnhardt Jr?s cars.
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Edited by:

Ranvijay Singh