Race Weekend Central

Reel Racing: Reflecting on Netflix’s ‘NASCAR: Full Speed’

I wanted to look back at Netflix’s NASCAR: Full Speed, as it’s been almost a couple months since it came out, we’ve since had plenty of discussions about it and a brand-new NASCAR season has begun.

We’ve now had some time to sit with it and start looking forward to what’ll hopefully be a second season filmed this fall. My small claim to fame with the first season was a one-shot, split-second cameo during the section covering the playoff race at Bristol Motor Speedway:

Be sure to keep an eye out for more of your favorite Frontstretchers throughout.

So let’s talk about this docuseries. I was a huge fan of it — not to say there weren’t things that couldn’t be improved, but I thought Netflix did an excellent job with their production and how they constructed the framework of the series.

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I want to first give a shoutout to the uncensored nature of the coverage. Yes, it might seem juvenile to be like “tHeY sHoUlD lEt ThEm CuSs,” and I understand that, but it’s the true nature of these races. These guys get pissed. These guys get angry. They’re gonna fly off the handle at some point or another, and case in point, the video below from NASCAR’s SHOWTIME series way back in 2010 (2011?) is infamous and has been lodged in my brain for a decade.

“Stop flipping me off and just f**king drive your s**t, you little b***h! Flip me off again, motherf**ker. I’ll dump your s**t.”

Words to live by, Kyle Busch. *salutes*

I somewhat jest, but that’s the stuff I want to hear. I want the raw audio and these guys’ thoughts laid out in front of us (and besides, I’d much rather that than bleep after bleep).

We get Bubba Wallace telling Tyler Reddick, “Good job, you little f**ker,” after the No. 45 won at Kansas Speedway. Gianna Tulio, Ryan Blaney‘s fiance, giving him the Cliff-Booth-to-Rick-Dalton speech from Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (“Be Ryan f**kin’ Blaney”). Blaney calling someone a d**khead. Denny Hamlin calling Joey Logano a “piece-of-s**t human.”

Maybe I’m alone in this, but I think that stuff is hilarious, and it was just fun to hear how mad these guys are at each other for a good chunk of the race (we knew this, but it’s more fun to have the audio proof).

In terms of production, Netflix kicked ass on this series. Cameras were everywhere all weekend each playoff race, and I certainly noticed it at Bristol when I covered the night race weekend there. It wasn’t like they were in the way — they were efficient and did what they needed to do. But the presence was there, and it was kinda cool to be alongside cameras you knew were capturing footage that could end up on Netflix.

I remember being beside one during Wallace’s media center availability, ducking under another around Michael McDowell after the No. 34 was eliminated and also one capturing myself and a couple other reporters jogging after Blaney on pit road after the checkered flag.

My only complaints lie with the general scope of the series. Five episodes aren’t enough, at least for a NASCAR junkie like myself (and I know for so many others too). I’d love at least six episodes, one for context heading into the playoffs while four cover the eight races and the finale covers the championship. Eight would spread it out even more. Or — the perfect amount — 11 episodes, where episode 1 is the contextual episode while 2 through 11 highlight one race apiece.

I think adding episodes would also be a great way to loop more people in. I realize that sounds counterintuitive — why would someone watch more of something if they aren’t interested — but for added context, throw in a couple more episodes highlighting the playoff field. You’d be forgiven if at times during this series you didn’t realize McDowell, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick even existed. I do think it was important to highlight both Harvick in his final campaign (even if it was more from afar) and how Truex basically limped his way through round after round before his eventual elimination.

That said, I loved the slices of the drivers’ personal lives in this. Hamlin’s time with his kids was adorable. William Byron‘s LEGO hobby. Blaney’s time with his now-fiance. That stuff is cool and I think would help endear the show to more casual viewers (or even non-NASCAR fans). For the layman, it’d help show that these aren’t just men and women who are faceless, helmeted people in firesuits who turn left for four hours every Sunday.

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Overall, I absolutely loved the series — most of the productions we get related to NASCAR in terms of media are subpar movies, TV documentaries about stuff from the past or random stereotypical nonsense. Not to discount the craft that goes into those or their final products, but damn, this blows all of those out of the water. I think that, besides Senna, this is the best racing documentary project I’ve seen yet (and I’ve seen a lot).

I do want to finally finish that miniseries that Disney and Hulu put out regarding the Brawn GP saga in Formula 1, though. Time to finally dive back into that soon. As a quick plug, I covered GalaxyCon Richmond this past weekend, which put me in an entertainment state of mind after interviewing the likes of Corbin Bernsen (Major League), Chris Parnell (SNL, 30 Rock) and more. Also check out me getting to chat with Danny Trejo, Dee Wallace, Joe Dante and others at Nightmare Weekend Richmond last fall.

If you want to hear some audio thoughts from myself and Frontstretch‘s Jack Swansey on comparing Full Speed to Drive to Survive (and see our beautiful faces), check out the video below.

Stay tuned, because we’ll have a review of the two racing documentaries we’ve gotten so far in 2023 — I Am Kevin Harvick and The Lionheart — next week. I’ll also be joining my Frontstretch compatriot Michael Finley for a few “F1 Midweek” articles in the forthcoming weeks as I check out the new season of Drive to Survive and contribute my thoughts in his pieces.

Follow me on X @adamncheek

About the author

Adam Cheek joined Frontstretch as a contributing writer in January 2019. A 2020 graduate of VCU, he works as a producer and talent for Audacy Richmond's radio stations. In addition to motorsports journalism, Adam also covered and broadcasted numerous VCU athletics for the campus newspaper and radio station during his four years there. He's been a racing fan since the age of three, inheriting the passion from his grandfather, who raced in amateur events up and down the East Coast in the 1950s.

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Blaize

Those of us who don’t subscribe to Netflix probably would’ve loved it too.

Deacon Blues

Excellent perspective, Adam! Glad you had the chance to be included in the footage!

wildcatsfan2016

I would probably have enjoyed it too but I don’t have Netflix and have no plans to pay for another service. NASCAR needs to keep this in mind as they keep playing with the idea of moving races to a “premium” channel. Some may follow but I probably won’t.

Mike

I agree with you about the drivers expressing their frustration with other drivers, that is what made nascar. But when nascar started fining the drivers for every curse word and on track aggression the vanilla drivers appeared. So im happy to see some raw emotion and road rage racing again

Steve

Overall, I thought the series was decent. The 2 biggest things I didn’t really like was:

1.) The whole over the top drama of the playoffs with everything seemingly life or death, which was kind of a joke. Putting aside the fact that playoffs are a complete gimmick and a crap shoot, these guys are driving a race car, not performing open heart surgery. Tone it down a little.

2.) The fact that they completely ignored Christopher Bell until the Championship race was a bad look. He looked legitimately pissed that they spent 8 races completely ignoring him, then wanted to include him after he made the Final 4. (This guy has to be the most underrated and least respected driver on the Tour and I just don’t get why)

On a side note, from watching the tennis and golf versions of this, I’m hearing more and more of players not really liking Netflix following them around 24/7. Most of these athletes already struggle mentally with the highs/lows of their careers without the Netflix aspect of it, adding cameras following you around for months can’t help very much.

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