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Dropping the Hammer: NASCAR Invests in Past, Future with Classics & Netflix

Last week was a very good one for NASCAR.

Between Michael McDowell‘s big NASCAR Cup Series win at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and William Byron‘s victory in an uneventful day at Watkins Glen International, came two very important developments for the sport.

The first was one 75 years in the making.

Of all the things to come from NASCAR’s 75th anniversary, the arrival of the NASCAR Classics website and YouTube account is, for my money, the biggest and most important.

Sure, it’s not a definitive showcase of the Cup Series’ 75-year history. Frontstretch‘s Michael Finley has put together a nifty spreadsheet that shows that glaring omissions — why does 2008 only have six races? — and even the reasonable ones; races featuring driver deaths are not found.

Some gaps are already being filled.

And yes, a lot of the stuff found on Classics was accessible on YouTube for years.

But a lot of it lacked the clarity and detail available on the master tapes and video NASCAR has access to in its archive. That’s what we were treated to for roughly three years when NASCAR uploaded related classic races to its YouTube every week of the season before stopping last year.

Now we know why.

Yes, you can watch a four-hour video of the final Cup race at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville in 1984 on YouTube, complete with commercials (which is historically valuable by itself). But it’s from a years-old VHS recording with terrible audio levels.

On Classics, we get the closest thing to a HD version of a 1980s broadcast.

And it’s free!

Because of that, it may be too much to ask NASCAR to give us some random qualifying sessions from 1994 or a Happy Hour practice from 1998.

However, hopefully we’ll see parts of the NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series history make their way onto Classics at some point down the line.

But Classics isn’t all that happened in the NASCAR world this week.

Last year, NASCAR and NBC misfired.

Together, they produced a NASCAR Cup Series docuseries covering the 2023 Cup season up to the championship race at Phoenix Raceway.

This was a great idea. NASCAR needed something similar to the Drive to Survive series that had caught lightning in a bottle for Formula 1 and its popularity in the United States in 2020.

Then … NBC aired it on the USA Network late at night on Thursdays.

TV viewership never cracked 300,000 people. Because who watches USA Network on a Thursday night unless you lost the remote between episodes of Law & Order?

It wasn’t until halfway through the season that the decision was made to put episodes on Peacock.

So good news came last week and was then made official Aug. 21.

NASCAR is getting the Netflix treatment.

Technically, NASCAR has already received Netflix exposure. There was the documentary series on Bubba Wallace that was decent and even garnered a Sports Emmy.

And … there was the ill-fated multi-camera Kevin James sitcom The Crew.

But this will be different.

Cameras are already rolling on a five-episode series that will document the 2023 postseason and is scheduled to debut in early 2024, one would hope right before the Daytona 500.

The creative minds behind this project are the real gamechanger.

You have Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Ben Kennedy attached as executive producers to help bring some authentic NASCAR knowledge to the table.

Other parties invovled?

Connor Schell and Libby Geist.

I didn’t know those names before yesterday. Neither did you.

But you might be familiar with some of their work.

They were executive producers on the critically acclaimed and immensely popular docuseries The Last Dance, focusing on Michael Jordan’s NBA career, and OJ: Made in America, along with numerous ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentaries.

If you haven’t watched them, I highly suggest you seek them out.

There’s no guarantee that the final product, whenever we see it, will be on par with either of those series.

There’s also no guarantee it will have the same impact as Drive to Survive, despite it being on the same platform that’s available to hundreds of millions of potential viewers.

DTS arrived at just the right time and during just the right season for it to strike a nerve in F1’s favor.

But hey. Whatever we get, at least it’s not another multi-camera sitcom.

2023 is Daniel McFadin’s 10th year covering NASCAR, with six years spent at NBC Sports. This is his third year writing columns for Frontstretch. His columns won third place in the National Motorsports Press Association awards for 2021. His work can be found at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and SpeedSport.com. 

The podcast version of “Dropping the Hammer” is presented by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

About the author

Daniel McFadin is a 10-year veteran of the NASCAR media corp. He wrote for NBC Sports from 2015 to October 2020. He currently works full time for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and is lead reporter and an editor for Frontstretch. He is also host of the NASCAR podcast "Dropping the Hammer with Daniel McFadin" presented by Democrat-Gazette.

You can email him at danielmcfadin@gmail.com.

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Dawg

I’m probably as hard core as anyone, & I have fond memories of watching drivers like Benny Parsons, Tim Richmond, The Bodines, Lake Speed etc.

But watching the old races, leaves me pretty unexcited.

The thing I like the most about watching current races, is how the results fit into the overall picture, who gained ground, who lost, etc.

With the so-called, Classics, there is no real context.
It’s like watching a ten year old baseball game, or golf tournament, nothing really matters.

Bill B

I have some races saved that I recorded on DVD and some that were released on DVD that I purchased, but I haven’t watched one in a long time. When they re-broadcast an old race on TV, I will often put it on as background noise and may watch with one eye as I do other things, but I rarely will sit down with my full attention watching it. So, it’s nice that these old races will be available but I’m not sure that the demand will be what Netflix expects.

It will also suck if the races that are available for free on YouTube and other places suddenly become unavailable because Netflix wants to monopolize them. Hopefully that won’t be the case. One thing is for sure, I won’t be paying anything to watch old races.

wildcats2016

Like you I also have races that I recorded – some on DVD some on VHS tapes. I’ve been transferring the VHS tapes over to DVD. I do watch some of the old races. Not sure that I’m willing to pay to do it. Certainly the races that are part of the various newer championship formats from the BZF era are less interesting to me that before the CoT was introduced. In my personal opinion, the races became far less interesting after that.

wildcats2016

Just to be sure – I have to have Netflix to be able to see the NASCAR classic races?

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