Back in the earlier days of the modern internet, when MySpace was king and Twitter and Facebook were in their infancy, YouTube was born — which ultimately led to a whole new form of NASCAR media.
Over the years, popular channels covering NASCAR and other sports emerged, offering an alternative source of entertainment for fans. One of those channels is Black Flags Matter, the brainchild of Darian Gilliam.
Since BFM’s inception in 2017, it has drawn in over 65,000 subscribers. Prior to the Phoenix Raceway weekend, Frontstretch had the pleasure of speaking to the man behind the channel.
Gilliam’s content-creating career began when he was just 19 years old. Faced with the retirement of his favorite driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., he wondered how he would continue his interest in his favorite sport — a sport that he had always loved and grew up watching with his mother.
“It was just a perfect scenario,” Gilliam told Frontstretch. “[…] I began making videos, and then I met [NASCAR YouTubers] Eric Estepp, Jared Lundberg and Danny Baldwin. That changed everything.”
From there, popularity and interest in his YouTube channel began to build in earnest, as he put out popular series on the channel like NASCAR Busts, Gone Too Soon and Championship Seasons, to name a few. When asked what his favorite of his series was, Gilliam’s answer was like one you would get from a proud parent asked to pick a favorite child.
“In the beginning, I would say it was Busts,” Gilliam said. “But I remember my stepfather saying something to me about making negative content, and he was like, ‘Can’t you make anything positive?’
“So I started making other things, more positive series, like Championship Seasons and such. I would say that all my NASCAR series are my favorite.”
Beginning in 2018, Gilliam and the aforementioned Estepp, Lundberg and Baldwin started up the NASCAR Weekly Podcast, which is exactly as the title says. The four of them sit down and discuss the week in NASCAR and have some fun guests stop by and talk about it with them.
Podcasting in NASCAR has grown just as YouTube has, as personalities like Denny Hamlin, Earnhardt and Corey LaJoie have taken to the airwaves for weekly episodes. Beginning in 2018, Gilliam, Estepp, Lundberg and Baldwin started up the NASCAR Weekly Podcast, which is exactly as the title says. The four of them sit down and discuss the week in NASCAR and have some fun guests stop by and talk about it with them.
However, Gilliam has no desire to fly solo and make his own podcast alone.
“It wouldn’t ever be as fun,” Gilliam said. “I love streaming video games and things like that, but a podcast would be so difficult. It’s already a lot of hard work with four of us on NWP. It would just be difficult and not as entertaining.”
Throughout his time on YouTube, Gilliam has been an active presence on Twitter, engaging with fans in an up-to-the minute way. Over the years, he has been a polarizing figure on the social media platform. His “jinxes” are legendary, and so are his days of whipping people into a frenzy with his comments. Below is an example of one of his jinxes, tweeted while Tyler Reddick was leading the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum shortly before falling out of the race.
Those days are long behind him, though, Gilliam admitted. Frontstretch asked him what he thought about Twitter as a whole and if he thought “NASCAR Twitter” was a positive or a negative in growing the sport.
“In some aspects, yes, in some aspects, no,” Gilliam said. “Sometimes it’s helpful, like it helps me get my channel out there. But it’s definitely a double-edged sword.
“It helps the sport in some ways, and in some ways it doesn’t. The same can be said for all social media and the growth of all sports in general.”
I also couldn’t help but ask Darian what he thought about the 2023 Cup Series season. I specifically asked him for a championship prediction and what he thought would be the biggest surprise going forward. He certainly didn’t disappoint with his answer about a champion.
When asked to make a championship prediction for the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series, one new partnership came to Gilliam’s mind: Kyle Busch and Richard Childress Racing.
As far as his thoughts on a surprise storyline, he offered a really insightful answer.
“I think the biggest surprise this season would be if multiple Stewart-Haas Racing cars won a race this year,” Gilliam said. “Kevin Harvick has really been carrying that team on his back, and it looks like after his retirement next year, they could be headed for a year like Hendrick Motorsports had in 2018, when they were trying to find their direction.”
As the time wound down and with my children running in and out to see exactly who Daddy was talking to, I asked Darian if he ever thought Black Flags Matter would ever have 65,000 subscribers when he began and what his goals were in the future.
As for the future of BFM, Gilliam has a few goals and milestones he’s aiming for.
“Hopefully I’m doing this for another five years,” Gilliam said. “I certainly never saw 65,000 subs [subscribers] coming. That was out of the universe to me.
“My original dream was to be a motorsports journalist, so I’m going to keep after that. I really want 100,000 subs, because when you get that, YouTube gives you a plaque with a silver ‘Play’ button. I don’t care if anyone ever sees it, I’ll know it’s there.”
With the growth that NASCAR YouTubers have seen also comes more respect and others in the industry seeing them as legitimate media. Gilliam and company can now apply for media credentials to cover the races.
“I just want to keep doing my thing, keep moving the community forward,” Gilliam said. “I got credentialed for the Daytona 500 this year, and that was a huge accomplishment for me, and I’m going to be at Atlanta [Motor Speedway] next week. I just want to keep on working for myself.”
Gilliam is as advertised. He’s warm, he’s welcoming and he just wants to see the sport he loves continue to grow. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @BlackFlagMatter, and subscribe to the Black Flags Matter YouTube channel to help Gilliam’s quest for that silver “Play” button.
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