Could NASCAR Benefit from a Formula 1: Drive to Survive Style Documentary?

One of the fastest-growing sports in North America is Formula 1 Racing. Once considered niche to North American audiences, F1 has surged in popularity in the last two years. Why is the sport so much more popular in Canada and the United States? The Netflix document Formula 1: Drive to Survive. We believe, along with more NASCAR bets and lines available in North America, a behind-the-scenes show similar to Drive to Survive is possibly the best way to grow the sport’s appeal.


What Drive to Survive has Done for F1 in North America

For decades F1 was a relatively niche sport in North America. Its early Sunday time slot for the majority of races did not appeal to many viewers except the diehard fans. The races in the Americas would draw in more viewers – but it still drew in fewer viewers than many other sports.

In 2021, everything has changed. The F1 is consistently setting new highs for viewers per race and for the first time in the sport’s history in the United States drawing in over one million viewers. For many races, viewership is up over 50% compared to 2019 and 2020.

Many give credit to Drive to Survive for the increase. The show turned casual viewers into more dedicated ones, while simultaneously bringing into an entirely new class of viewers. The behind-the-scenes and attention to detail of the show make people invested in F1 Racing in different ways. It makes it more than just about the cars. It makes it about the drivers, the drama, and everything that goes on into a race weekend.

Could a Similar Show Help NASCAR?  

NASCAR on average draws in double to triple the viewers of F1 Racing. In 2019, the majority of NASCAR races drew in an audience between two and three million viewers. The sport’s premier event – the Daytona 500 reached a peak audience of 9.17 million viewers.

The question is, could you convert some of the viewers who watch only the Daytona 500 – and the odd other race throughout the season – into consistent watchers of the sport? Well, you could attempt to do a similar behind-the-scenes show that deals with the drivers, arising conflicts, and the dynamics of the team. If done right it could even help the sport reach audiences who never had an interest in NASCAR.  

Producing the program likely would not cost NASCAR very much – if anything at all. Everything for the program is there – they just need to allow access to a camera crew and production team.


“NASCAR Quaker State 400 – Kentucky Speedway – 7/9/2016” by rbatina is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

NASCAR attempted to make a show in a similar vein in 2017. The show – Road to Race Day – followed Hendrick Motorsports. It gave viewers “unrivalled access to the intense and unique world of Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR’s winningest team.” The show lasted only one season.

You can blame its short run on where it was broadcast. The 12 episodes of the show were broadcasted/streamed on internet television service go90. If you do not remember go90 – it was a short-lived streaming service from Verizon with a “mobile-first” focus on content. It barely lasted three years before Verizon sold off what they could to cover the $1.2 billion they invested in content.

Since the failures were due to the service and not the program – which currently holds an 8.2 rating on IMDB – you could take another swing at it (you could call Road to Race Day a foul ball). Maybe switch the model – or blend the two programs to create something fresh. Who knows, but with the 2021 NASCAR season nearly over, now is the time to make a plan and get ready to follow the behind-the-scenes of the 2022 season.