Drivers praise ‘Race for the Championship’ ahead of Thursday premiere

Joey Logano signs memorabilia for a fan
Sean Gardner
Getty Images

Editor’s note: The 2022 NASCAR Cup Series series will be spotlighted in USA Network’s new unscripted series “Race for the Championship” airing this fall. The first episode is Thursday, Sept. 1, at 10 p.m. ET/PT.

A new car, new race tracks and new rivalries reshaped the NASCAR Cup Series this season, fueling on-track action and off-track story lines worthy of their own TV series. Fortunately for fans, that’s exactly what’s in store beginning this week.

USA Network’s new unscripted series “Race for the Championship” premieres Thursday, Sept. 1 at 10 p.m. ET/PT, and drivers have opened up recently on the filming process and what it’s like to have their more private moments captured.

“It’s very entertaining, like highly entertaining,” Joey Logano said at Daytona International Speedway. “And it’s a good mix of preparing for racing, personal lives, and the race itself, which may actually be the smallest part of it because everyone gets to see the race on Sunday anyway. You don’t have to tell that story again because everyone knows how it goes, but at least the preparation side of it and how my competitors do it and those type of things I’m interested in.”

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The 10-episode series will tell the story of the 2022 Cup Series season and NASCAR Playoffs, from the competitive introduction of the Next Gen car at the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum in Los Angeles through the treacherous postseason road that brings four drivers their chance at championship glory in Phoenix.

As “Race for the Championship” documents the lives of NASCAR’s best on and off the track, viewers will get a rare glimpse of what it takes to balance personal relationships with the pressure to perform in the high-stakes world of Cup Series racing.

NASCAR Hall of Famer, NBC analyst and two-time Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. joins the program as its executive producer, eager to help present the stars of today’s racing in more accessible ways to the fan base.

“We need to give everyone a better opportunity to get to know the individuals that are involved in NASCAR,” Earnhardt Jr. said in an interview with Variety. “I think this is a great opportunity to put a very human element into what we do and into our identity. It’s something I think that should have a profound impact on perception of the sport and also to give our fans a deeper dive into each individual.

“I have such a passion and love for the sport that I feel like this type of content is something that our fans are starving for. It’s always a lot of fun to work on a project that is unique and about something you’re passionate about. So that makes it easy to want to dive in, give input and get feedback – and be a part of the process.”

The series will feature a variety of drivers at different points as the drama of the 2022 season unfolds, including past champions like Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch, Logano and Brad Keselowski, along with others eager to write their own NASCAR legacies such as Ryan Blaney, Daniel Suárez, Ross Chastain, Corey LaJoie and others.

Busch, the series’ only active multi-time champion, is hopeful the show ends up “humanizing the villain” spectators may usually see on a Sunday afternoon.

“I’d like to be known by a heck of a lot more than just what is on broadcast television each weekend — or not on broadcast television,” Busch said at Daytona. “But to me, you know, I’m a husband, I’m a father, I’m a racer. And that’s all I’ve really known. I’ve grown up doing that. I’ve come from a blue-collar family from Las Vegas where my dad was a Mac Tool man and didn’t come up from a lot, but obviously trying to instill those same traits into my kids and how we go about what we do each and every week to go to the race track. So, for me, I would like to think that just, you know, again, showing the human side. Humanizing myself and what is important to me, not just at the race track, but away from the race track.”

Logano, winner of the 2018 Cup Series title, voiced his pleasure for the pilot episode and excitement for at-home viewers to get behind-the-scenes looks at what goes into the drivers’ lives when they aren’t piloting a race car at 200 mph.

“It was pretty entertaining, so it’s a step in that direction, for sure, and I think it’s gonna be great,” he said. “I really don’t see it where it’s bad for the sport. It has some drama in it. It’s life. It shows life and it follows different drivers on different weeks, so I think it’s gonna be great for our sport, for sure.”

The premiere episode serves as a perfect primer for the Cup Series Playoffs, which begin three days later at Darlington Raceway on Sunday, Sept. 4. That opening race airs at 6 p.m. ET and will also be broadcast on USA.

“Race for the Championship” is produced by NASCAR Studios with NASCAR’s Tim Clark, Amy Anderson, Matt Summers and Tally Hair, along with production industry veteran Chaz Gray, serving as executive producers.