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‘NASCAR: Full Speed’ Needs to Avoid the Mistakes ‘Drive to Survive’ Made, to Keep Its Fanbase

Published 01/20/2024, 7:20 AM EST

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USA Today via Reuters

Lately, sports documentaries on platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime have been all the rage. Especially with the likes of the All or Nothing Series, MotoGP Unlimited, and Break Point. Now, it seems we have a new name that will be joining that list pretty soon. On January 30th, Netflix will be releasing a brand new documentary series based on NASCAR. This series will be called NASCAR: Full Speed, and it will depict the 2023 playoffs. In essence, this is just NASCAR’s version of ‘Formula 1: Drive to Survive’, which has been very popular with the masses.

According to reports, Full Speed will be a 5-episode series. Additionally, it is expected to air, just before the Clash at the Coliseum on the 4th of February. The best part is that Dale Earnhardt Jr is serving as executive producer, which does lend a lot of credit to the series. Each episode will last 45 minutes and follow nine Cup drivers through the 2023 campaign. Those drivers include Ryan Blaney, William Byron, Ross Chastain, Denny Hamlin, and Bubba Wallace. Also included are Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell, Joey Logano, and Tyler Reddick.

Keeping in mind how similar documentaries have helped their respective sports in the past, the much-anticipated series holds a lot of potential for NASCAR. However, the makers would need to make sure that they also learn from the mistakes of others.

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Where did Drive to Survive go wrong?

Safe to say, ‘Drive to Survive’ has been very popular among the fans, as it brought a heap of new fans to F1. However, as we move to the later seasons, the series does seem to have its drawbacks, and they are big ones. One of the biggest complaints is that Drive to Survive has a tendency to over-dramatize narratives and manufacture non-existent rivalries.

More often than not, DTS have used their creative freedom to portray certain events in an unexpected way. In essence, it would find a specific angle and build a narrative around that. Among them was the creation of a bitter rivalry between good friends and former teammates, Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz. To achieve this bit of manipulation, the ones working on the show moved a line of Norris’ race audio from one race to a completely different one.

It got to a point where Max Verstappen refused to make an appearance for a while. This was particularly evident in the 2021 season, where he eventually won his maiden title. He even went as far as to say, “I saw the benefit initially of course you get more popularity, but for me now I think you reach a stage where its a bit more like ‘Keeping up with the Formula One world’ if you know my reference.

“I think it shouldn’t be like that. It’s better just to make a season review by F1 itself, that’s why nicer to look at. But that’s my opinion. Nobody needs to share my opinion. I just don’t like to be a part of it.” Not only drivers, but it also left a bad taste in the fans’ mouths.

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

What can NASCAR: Full Speed do to steer clear?

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It seems Full Speed should avoid spinning narratives and creating falsified drama. The current cast of drivers already provides plenty of content that should be enough for the five-episode run. Drivers like Blaney, Hamlin, Wallace, and Larson are relatively popular, and plenty of storylines can be built around them. In Blaney’s case, he is the reigning champion, so it is obvious to have some focus on him.

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Larson hails from arguably the best team in the Cup Series, Hendrick Motorsports. Especially at a time when HMS were operating at half strength. Hamlin and Wallace are figures who are often in the news for their antics. The two drivers have their fair share of controversies, so that should be enough fodder. Hence, with the Cup Series driver, there might not be a need for Netflix to artificially manufacture any plotlines and rivalries.

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

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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