Netflix producing documentary series chronicling Bubba Wallace's 2021 NASCAR season

·3-min read

A NASCAR-based documentary series is coming to Netflix.

The streaming service announced Thursday that a series chronicling Bubba Wallace's 2021 season was in the works. Wallace is currently in his first season at 23XI Racing, a new team started by basketball icon Michael Jordan and NASCAR Cup Series driver Denny Hamlin. 

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Wallace is the only Black driver racing full-time in any of NASCAR's top three national series. He currently sits 20th in the points standings through the first nine races of the 2021 season. A release date for the series was not announced.

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Wallace's profile grew exponentially over 2020 as he used his platform as the most prominent Black person in NASCAR to speak out for racial and social justice. Wallace wore a shirt honoring George Floyd at Atlanta in May of 2020 and drove a Black Lives Matter car at Martinsville in June the same day NASCAR banned fans from flying the Confederate flag at tracks.

Less than two weeks after that Martinsville race, Wallace found himself unwittingly in the middle of a giant mixup at Talladega. The rope on the door of the garage stall at Talladega assigned to Wallace's team had been tied into a noose knot. NASCAR announced that the noose had been found and started investigating it, believing that someone tied the knot as a symbol of hate toward Wallace. The 27-year-old driver never saw the rope or was in the garage that weekend.

Federal investigators were even brought into the garage area to assist with the investigation and NASCAR drivers all walked behind Wallace's car as it was pushed to the front of the grid on pit road ahead of the rain-delayed race. 

NASCAR announced after the Talladega race that the rope had been tied into a noose knot since the fall of 2019, long before the garage stall was randomly assigned to Wallace's Richard Petty Motorsports team.

Later that year, Wallace announced that he would drive for the new team backed by Hamlin and Jordan. 

NASCAR's need for a mainstream documentary series

NASCAR has been hemorrhaging TV viewers for a better part of a decade. And as American consumers turn more and more toward streaming services, the potential of a NASCAR-based documentary series has been a tantalizing one. Especially given the success of Formula 1's docuseries.

The third season of "Drive to Survive" was released just ahead of the start of the 2021 F1 season. The docuseries has hooked non-racing fans and resulted in bigger television audiences for F1 races in the United States. The season-opening race at Bahrain averaged nearly 900,000 viewers on ESPN, the network's biggest TV audience for an F1 race ever. The season-opening race in 2020 averaged just over 750,000 viewers.

While F1 has had "Drive to Survive," the only major NASCAR entry has been a comedy series called "The Crew" starring Kevin James. The series wouldn't look out of place on a TV network in the summer as a replacement show with a cheap laugh track and formulaic casting and jokes. Hopefully Wallace's documentary series shows some originality.

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