NASCAR Needs More Driver-Focused Documentaries

Getty Chase Elliott (right) was the focus of a Peacock documentary.

Back in 2021, Chase Elliott became the focal point of a Peacock documentary. “Chase” was a fascinating look at his youth and rise to stardom, but NASCAR and its partners should now continue to build upon it with other entries.

Elliott was a fitting topic for the Peacock documentary in 2021. After all, he was the reigning Cup Series champion, and he was the sport’s Most Popular Driver. He also had an interesting story that featured trips to the track with Bill Elliott, a move to Colorado, and a fascination with airplanes.

More than one year has passed since the release of “Chase” and NASCAR has crowned two more champions. There have also been multiple drivers that have stepped up and taken center stage with aggressive driving styles, big personalities, and interesting backstories. Though there have been fairly limited options in terms of documentaries.

Why is it important to have more? The main reason is that documentaries highlight the specific drivers, their respective journies to the sport, and the struggles they have overcome instead of simply focusing on wins and losses.

Fans and casual viewers can make a number of assumptions about each driver just by watching races. Having a documentary to watch can only help them become more invested in the sport and the drivers as they continue to learn about each one. It can also help pass the time during the offseason.


Some Drivers Have Been Featured in Documentary Series

Samantha Busch

GettyKyle Busch (left) & Samantha Busch (right) walk the red carpet at Sonoma Raceway.

Austin Dillon’s Life in the Fast Lane” provided a look at the Richard Childress Racing driver’s life. Though the focus was on him, his wife Whitney, and their friends Paul and Mariel Swan. The series did not dive into his background.

Another example is “Rowdy,” the documentary focusing on Kyle Busch’s career. This film made its debut during the 2022 season with a premiere in Nashville. It put the spotlight on his two championships, his relationships with some high-profile competitors, and his recovery from an injury in 2015.

One interesting example is the Netflix documentary series about Bubba Wallace. “Race” was initially announced with a description saying that it would focus on “the 2021 season through the eyes of the only Black driver at the top level of the sport.”

Wallace’s first season with 23XI Racing was still a storyline, but it became more of a thread that tied each episode together as the series jumped back and forth between seasons. Competition meetings, simulator sessions, and meetings with boss Denny Hamlin were shown less frequently.

The series actually dedicated the majority of the episodes to the 2020 season. Some of the big moments included Wallace calling for NASCAR to get rid of the Confederate flag, the investigation into the garage door handle at Talladega Superspeedway, and his struggles with depression.


Several Drivers Would Make Interesting Subjects

GettyRoss Chastain greets fans at Michigan International Speedway.

Putting Elliott as the focus of a documentary was expected based on his role in the sport, but who else would fit? There are actually multiple drivers that have interesting stories to tell.

One prominent example is Ross Chastain. The Trackhouse Racing driver has not had an easy path to NASCAR stardom. He grew up on a watermelon farm, drove for numerous underfunded teams, and fought for every opportunity before finally winning his first two Cup Series races.

Another option, provided he would want to take part, is Denny Hamlin. The driver of the No. 11 Toyota came from a modest background, but he earned a role as a developmental driver for Joe Gibbs Racing by dominating Late Model races.

A documentary on Hamlin could focus on a wide variety of topics. His rise through the ranks would be near the top of the list, as would his recovery from a compression fracture of his lower back in 2013. The series could also focus on how he became a Cup Series team owner.

Hamlin and Chastain are only two of the possible options. There are countless others that would make fascinating documentaries, such as Erik Jones, Tyler Reddick, Kevin Harvick, and Austin Cindric.


Another Documentary Series Partially Filled This Role

Race For the Championship” told the story of the 2022 Cup Series season. It started with the Busch Light Clash at the LA Memorial Coliseum, and it followed the top drivers through the 36-race schedule while highlighting the biggest moments and some unexpected problems.

There were also prominent drivers that took part in the series. Kyle Busch, Ross Chastain, Elliott, Joey Logano, Kyle Larson, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Harrison Burton, Brad Keselowski, Daniel Suarez, Ryan Blaney, and Corey LaJoie all showed off their home life and how they prepare for upcoming races.

While “Race For the Championship” provided an in-depth look at the everyday lives of some drivers, it did not focus on many others. For example, championship four driver Christopher Bell was not part of the series, nor were William Byron and Alex Bowman.

If the USA Network series returns in 2023, there will be 10 more opportunities to focus on the current slate of drivers and their time away from the track. New drivers could take center stage and provide a deeper look into their respective lives and personalities.

 

 

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