A NASCAR race team works best when all the cogs in the engine, so to speak, are working seamlessly together, forming a cohesive bond for the good of the whole to get the job done.
Fictional or not, the Bobby Spencer Racing team crew, comprised of a diverse cast of characters portrayed by a multi-faceted group of actors in Netflix’s The Crew (debuts Feb. 15) learned just that – and so much more about NASCAR.
The Crew stars Kevin James as a NASCAR crew chief for the once-prominent Bobby Spencer Racing team. As the series begins, the organization finds itself in one of the valleys of the up-and-down nature of running a NASCAR Cup Series organization, mired in a mid-pack malaise as it strives to regain its footing. The owner sparks change by stepping down to pass the team off to his daughter Catherine (Jillian Mueller), who attempts to modernize the No. 74 Fake Steak-sponsored car by replacing the team’s driver Jake Martin (Freddie Stroma) with an up-and-coming female driver in Jessie (Paris Berelc).
Through working together as a unit, however, the pieces begin to fall into place and the start of something special happens.
The cast of The Crew carries that spirit, effusing that cohesion and using their divergent backgrounds in comedy and theater to put something on film they feel has that certain something to be significant.
“I think it’s a great show, and it sounds cheesy-like, but there’s something in it for everyone,” Mueller told NASCAR.com. “Truly, with the NASCAR angle, we had (Senior Vice President & Chief Digital Officer) Tim Clark and (Managing Director, Entertainment Marketing and Content Development) Matt Summers who are NASCAR producers. They work for NASCAR, working on our show. They tried to be true and really keep it in the world of NASCAR so that way NASCAR fans are proud of it and happy with the show. And obviously we have the real drivers do cameos on the show, and they were amazing.
“So we have that for the NASCAR fans but then also for somebody that might not have been paying attention to NASCAR but enjoys Netflix like we all do; watching it, it’s not like they’re going to be lost. It’s not something you need to have prior knowledge of to watch the show. If anything, it’ll just make you more interested. It’s definitely something that will bring new fans, that’s for sure.”
The entire cast doted on the authenticity of the true-to-NASCAR aspects of the show, despite its comedic nature as a Kevin James vehicular (no pun intended) sitcom. It’s something NASCAR fans will notice and appreciate, but something that new fans can use as an entry point for the sport.
“That NASCAR name and just the product, there’s legitimacy to the whole thing,” said Gary Anthony Williams (TMNT, Malcolm in the Middle), who plays Chuck. “From the racers to the look of it to us even having our own (stock car) in the show, there’s that legitimacy. It’s fun on so many levels and it’s just funny. It’s kind of the relief that the world needs right now. Just to be able to sit back and laugh and actually learn, too.”
The series’ appreciation for the ins and outs of the sport also got a thumbs-up from those who are closest to the action.
“The racers and the commentators that would come on set would be like whoa, this is legit. This looks real,” said Dan Ahdoot (Cobra Kai, Bajillion Dollar Propertie$), who plays Amir. “It was so great to know that, because there’s nothing worse than when you’re watching a show and it’s like … a lot of my friends are doctors and we’d watch a show together and they’d be like ‘that’s not real, he’s not really dead, he wouldn’t be doing that’ and it’s so annoying. So the fact that people will get to appreciate the details about this is pretty awesome.”
Cup stars Ryan Blaney, Cole Custer and former Daytona 500 champion Austin Dillon all make cameo appearances in the show.
The cast, which displayed genuine rapport over a Zoom interview — no easy feat — during two panels with NASCAR.com, repeatedly pointed to the fact that despite the heavy NASCAR-influence and context of the show, it truly is a comedy for everyone.
Think of it this way: How many people are passionate about the paper industry? Definitely not as many as people who fell in love with The Office.
“You don’t have to know about NASCAR to totally love and enjoy the show. It’s a workplace comedy,” said Sarah Stiles (Broadway, Off-Broadway), who plays Beth. “There’s great characters, great relationships and it’s about changing the old and updating it and new technology coming in, and we can all relate to that.”
The Crew is another example of NASCAR itself continuing to propel itself into the future with more widespread cultural appeal and outreach to all demographics.
“I’ve been really impressed with NASCAR over the last year, banning the confederate flag and things. I think they’re moving into the future in a good way,” said Freddie Stroma (Harry Potter, Bridgerton), who plays Jake. “And that’s why I hope that this show can be part of those good decisions that NASCAR’s been making recently and hopefully, I really want the NASCAR fans to enjoy the show.”
As NASCAR makes its maiden voyage into the deep sea of TV sitcoms, it’s clear that the future of stock car auto racing is unfolding now, and not some nebulous time further down the line. The Crew is one of just many ways the sport is advancing itself and creating progress, taking the green flag on the next era of NASCAR.
“It’s just very cool to suddenly be a part of this world and be a part of history,” said Ahdoot, “to be the first show that’s done based on NASCAR.”
Jeff Lowell (The Ranch, Two and a Half Men, Spin City) will serve as writer, showrunner and executive producer. Andy Fickman (Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, Playing With Fire) directed all episodes and serves as an executive producer. James, Jeff Sussman (The King of Queens, Paul Blart) and Todd Garner (Tag, Isn’t It Romantic, Mortal Kombat) will also serve as executive producers. Clark and Summers will executive produce for NASCAR.