Documentary series features Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s life behind the scenes in NASCAR return

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CHARLOTTE – NASCAR’s 14-time most popular driver naturally is a top performer in social engagement for his primary sponsor.

But across the million-plus followers that Nationwide Insurance has for its NASCAR-related accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, racing-related posts featuring Dale Earnhardt Jr. aren’t necessarily what draw the largest reactions.

“Some of our best-performing content is Dale and his dog, Gus,” Jim McCoy, Nationwide’s director of strategic sponsorships, told NBC Sports. “It’s things you wouldn’t expect that (fans) just really respond to well.”

With those returns in mind (because Nationwide offers pet insurance, the photos of Gus, Dale and wife Amy for Pet Awareness Month were viewed as valuable), Nationwide has created a new docuseries entitled “Unfinished Business” that will run on the Nationwide 88 Facebook page and make its debut Jan. 24.

McCoy said “Unfinished Business” will focus on the off-track, behind-the-scenes elements of Earnhardt’s life, and Nationwide is expecting Junior Nation to have a voracious appetite after the driver missed the last half of the 2016 season while recovering from concussion symptoms.

The footage will include commercials shoots with Earnhardt and interviews with team owner Rick Hendrick (who will talk teamwork) and crew chief Greg Ives.

“We’re titling it ‘Unfinished Business’ given what’s happened the last six months and Dale out of the car and the quest to be back in the car for Daytona,” McCoy said. “Not only what he’s doing but what (the team is) doing to prepare. We really want to capitalize on the tidal wave of excitement of him getting back in the car.

“We’re doing more in this offseason than we probably typically have because we know the level of the fans’ excitement for him to get back in the car is a level that none of us have ever seen. So we want to make sure we have the content ready, because what we’ve seen at those peak moments when Dale wins a race or Daytona, that’s when the fans are just give me everything you can on Dale.”

Here’s a trailer for the series released Thursday by Nationwide:

The plan is for one or two episodes weekly during the run-up to the season opener on Feb. 26.

“Fans love to see other sides of Dale, and it aligns well with our campaign of trying to show he’s obviously a race car driver, but there’s a lot of things he does and has a passion for,” McCoy said.

While out of the car, it’s still been a busy stretch for Earnhardt, who got married last month and has remained visible making media and sponsor appearances while recovering from his injuries.

Said McCoy: “Dale did everything out of the car that we would expect him to do. Even during the tougher times, he always wanted to make sure he was delivering for his sponsor. First and foremost, it’s about his health and making sure he’s healthy enough to get back in the car. We weren’t there pushing. It was all his timeline but just to keep that communication back and forth.”

There was a “softening” in some of the media impressions measured by Nationwide during Earnhardt’s absence.

“There were some promotions early that were going to launch in the July/August timeframe that we hit the pause button on,” McCoy said. “We’re pretty dialed in with what each quarter (of 2017) is going to look like, and Dale is front and center in all that we’re doing.