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NASCAR Full Speed review: Will the Netflix docuseries elevate the championship?

Full Speed is NASCAR's attempt at cashing in on the docuseries market, and while it isn't a carbon copy of DTS, it certainly follows a similar format in showcasing the lives of the drivers and their weekend battles out on track.

NASCAR remains king in viewership among US-based racing fans, but the younger demographic is one the series is desperately chasing.

A compelling on-track product won't be enough to attract most of them. They need stars. Even non-racing fans know who Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, and Tony Stewart are.

The problem is, those are the stars of yesterday and are no longer behind the wheel. What about the stars of today?

This docuseries had to do more than just showcase all the drama that exists with the 10-race playoffs format NASCAR's Cup series uses to determine the champion.

It had to take these drivers and show them in a way not yet seen, bringing their personalities to the fore and really giving people a reason to root for — or perhaps root against - them.

The action, the drama, the politics and the personalities, it’s all right there. NASCAR already has a great product, but they need help selling it.

NASCAR Full Speed opens in a surprising fashion with a pre-race scene for the penultimate race of the year at Martinsville Speedway. It's then followed by an introduction that portrays these drivers as they should be — gladiators facing off in a high-speed arena.

Denny Hamlin makes an astute comment about racing versus stick and ball sports, explaining how you might get lucky and make a three-point shot that Michael Jordan doesn't make, but no athlete from that world can just get into a race car and run as fast as he does. This ultimately sets the tone for the rest of the series.

Hamlin is NASCAR's villain these days, and it's a role he embraces fully. Little time is wasted making that abundantly clear. He also felt a bit like the main character during this docuseries as he was a constant throughout it, both in his role as a driver and owner.

His crusade to finally become Cup Series champion is the centrepiece of his story and hangs over him in the show as it does in his real-life career.

Not only did we get a glimpse into the personal lives of these drivers, but it quickly became apparent that we were going to be treated to plenty of behind-the-scenes content both at the team shops and race track.

The opening episode covers the regular season finale at Daytona International Speedway, with most drivers in a must-win situation were ignored. This ended up being the right move, as it instead focused on explaining the awkward position Hamlin found himself in. He drives for Joe Gibbs Racing, and Coach Gibbs' grandson was the first driver outside the playoffs. The driver he was chasing? Bubba Wallace, who drives for Hamlin. They spend a lot of time on Hamlin's dilemma and his decision to publicly admit that he would help his driver over his boss' grandson.

Something the show could have really benefited from was going deeper into the preparation of the cars, giving viewers a look at the entire process from the building, wrapping, transporting and so on. It takes a tremendous amount of effort to get just one car from the shop floor to the track on Sunday.

A criticism of Drive to Survive was how it left the viewer in suspense over Romain Grosjean's horrific crash during the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix. Something similar could have happened with Ryan Preece's rollover crash at Daytona, but Full Speed chose not to draw it out. Refreshingly, it opted not to overdramatise anything.

The formula for the show became clear from the second episode, with each subsequent one dedicated to a three-race playoff round. We see more of Bubba Wallace, while also being introduced to defending champion Joey Logano. NASCAR's rather complicated playoff format could have killed the narrative if not explained in the right way, but the series didn't spend too much time going into the little complexities.

Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, FedEx Toyota Camry (Photo by: Matthew T. Thacker / NKP / Motorsport Images)

The outro of NASCAR Full Speed is a perfect wrap-up to a show. We get emotional scenes with both of the Hendrick drivers who lost out, Ryan Blaney as he is officially crowned champion and is embraced by his father, as well as final thoughts from the other stars of the show.

Full Speed certainly isn't a DTS rip-off, standing on its own two feet and doing exactly what it set out to do. The series could have benefited from additional episodes, as there were so many other stories that it just wasn't able to tell. Among them: Martin Truex Jr, who won the regular season title before an absolutely disastrous playoffs, was not a featured driver. Neither was two-time champion Kyle Busch, who was embarking on his first season with a new team after 15 years with Joe Gibbs Racing. The end of Kevin Harvick's Cup career and RFK Racing's playoff run was left out as well.

While it's five-episode run is to its detriment, that fact proves how much value Full Speed has to offer NASCAR fans and those new to it altogether in its short run.

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