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Will the NASCAR on Netflix Documentary Be a Hit?

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Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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What’s Happening?

We are just over one week away from the release of NASCAR’s hotly anticipated Netflix docuseries “NASCAR: Full Speed”. Many hope this documentary will reach a new audience, and maybe NASCAR can see an uptick in that “Key demographic” that fans and pundits alike talk about so much. Will this documentary do what NASCAR hopes it will do?

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  • “NASCAR: Full Speed” is a 5-part docuseries that will release on January 30th. The 45-minute episodes will focus on the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, and it will focus primarily on Ryan Blaney, William Byron, Denny Hamlin, and Ross Chastain.
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Ben Kennedy are listed as executive producers of the docuseries alongside Words+Pictures CEO, Connor Schell. Words+Pictures also worked on the motorsports documentary, “Lionheart”, which is about Dan Wheldon.
  • Fans are curious and excited about this documentary. Everyone is in “Wait and see” mode about this, and it also comes with the NASCAR season rapidly approaching.

What Does “Doing Well” Actually Mean?

This is a simple question with a surprisingly complicated answer. While putting together a quality documentary can do nothing but help, it’s less about that and more about the impact it creates.

NASCAR is doing this to reach a new, particularly younger, audience, which, they so desperately need. For example, at Richmond last summer, NASCAR lost to F1 in the key 18-49 demographic despite F1 broadcasting a race that day on cable at around 9 am ET.

How did Formula One reach a younger audience? They released a Netflix documentary, “Drive to Survive”. This introduced Formula One to many Americans who did not know anything about the sport.

With that in mind, how does NASCAR measure success with this documentary? Look no further than TV ratings and ticket sales. If NASCAR sees a tangible difference in TV ratings or ticket sales amongst younger audiences, then, this can be considered a success.

It’s not about vibes or whether someone “sees more young people” at a NASCAR race. It’s whether or not more young people either tune in to watch NASCAR and/or go to a NASCAR race. From there, let the product on the track keep the new fans engaged. The question is, can this happen?

The Characters NASCAR Will Emphasize

It’s obvious NASCAR is trying to reach a brand new audience with the characters they are emphasizing. In the original press release, it was revealed that Ryan Blaney, William Byron, Denny Hamlin, Tyler Reddick, and Ross Chastain would receive a lot of attention during the documentary.

The characters in this story are not the old guard. There’s no Kevin Harvick on his retirement tour, no Kyle Busch, and no mention of the stars of NASCAR’s past such as Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, or Dale Earnhardt. Look at the trailer below, it focuses solely on the stars of NASCAR today.

If NASCAR wants to reach a new demographic, the stars of today are the ones they need to emphasize. They need to tell a new audience, that these are the characters to follow in the sport that exists today. This is no longer Jeff Gordon’s NASCAR.

Ryan Blaney is here because he is the Series Champion. William Byron was the best statistical driver of 2023, and he largely represents the NASCAR of today. Denny Hamlin is older, but, he is still relevant along with NASCAR’s most controversial personality. Ross Chastain went viral with the “Hail Melon”, and he is one of the sport’s most popular drivers. Tyler Reddick’s car is co-owned by Michael Jordan, and Reddick is a young, relevant driver.

Can NASCAR reach a new audience with this strategy? They absolutely can, and they can promote the sport that these fans can tune in to on Sundays, not a 15-year-old version of it.

A Look at Those Involved

Ben Kennedy and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are both executive producers of the docuseries. Earnhardt Jr. is a recognizable face, and he brings a driver’s perspective. Ben Kennedy is an interesting addition as well.

Kennedy has been known to push the envelope in an attempt to reach new fanbases. Moving the Clash to the LA Coliseum was his idea, and that was to reach a new audience.

However, neither Earnahrdt Jr. nor Kennedy have much experience in creating a docuseries like this. Earnhardt Jr. does have extensive media experience, but this is very new territory.

The people are there to promote the sport well. However, will it come together in a quality documentary that pushes a new fanbase to tune in on Sundays?

Will the documentary succeed? It comes down to how many new NASCAR fans this created.

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Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

All Posts