The American reality television series, ‘Street Outlaws’, premiered on Discovery Channel in June 2013. Despite initial doubt about the show’s potential, it succeeded in surprising everyone, and received the green light for ten full seasons. The show continues to intrigue viewers, and at the end of the tenth season, Discovery Channel agreed to keep it on air for three more seasons.
With the conclusion of the thirteenth season on 13 May 2019, ‘Street Outlaws’ popularity among petrol heads remain undisputed, and following its success, the show has inspired a video game by the same name, which was released on a variety of platforms in 2019. The show documents the activities of illegal street racers in Oklahoma, who many believe to possess the fastest street rods in the United States.
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The show is filmed in various locations across the state, despite the obvious potential physical dangers, plus those that local laws present, and the actions taken against the show by racing unions. ‘Street Outlaws’ follows both the racers’ on-going competition to achieve top status on a top ten list, as well as their preparations and car modifications before each race.
As can be expected, a show that documents illegal activity has received its fair share of negative attention. However, the very reason why the show stays on the air is a dark secret the producers would rather keep quiet. As such, ‘Street Outlaws’ keeps a horde of secrets quiet, and is packed to the brim with intriguing behind-the-scenes facts that will both interest and entertain its octane addicts.
In fact, when it comes to keeping secrets and creating controversy, ‘Street Outlaws’ can easily be considered among the busiest reality series airing on Discovery Channel.
From run-ins with the law and other organisations to reality manipulation at its finest, ‘Street Outlaws’ is guilty of it all.
Drawing Too Much Attention
When a show becomes popular, it is bound to attract all kinds of attention, but in the case of ‘Street Outlaws’, some of the attention it drew wasn’t all for the better. While fame may have afforded the racers featured on the show numbers of new fans, unfortunately it has also drawn the attention of people who were dissatisfied with the message the show broadcasts.
In 2015, the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) protested against the show, going so far as to threaten the drivers with revoking their racing licenses. Naturally, the racers didn’t take kindly to the actions of the NHRA, replying with plenty of backlash, and despite the threats, they continued to race and appear in the show.
However, NHRA’s standpoint is not unfounded, since they have a legitimate reason to protest against the show.
Their main concern was that legal drivers supported and progressed illegal racing, which is not only against the law, but can be potentially dangerous.
In response to the show’s backlash, the head of NHRA’s PR division, Geno Eiffler, stated that the organisation only wanted to prevent the substantial growth of illegal street racing that the show undoubtedly popularised. He hoped that the drivers would do the right thing, and not take it personally, but their efforts have been met with contempt so far.
It’s a Sting!
Because the show apparently depicts the illegal activities of street rod racing, many of the racers who were approached for the show obviously harboured doubts about the legitimacy of the production at first, believing that the producers were undercover police officers initiating a sting operation.
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One racer, Joe Woods, who competes under the pseudonym ‘Dominator’, was absolutely sceptical of the producers, even refusing to take part in the initial filming, until they eventually convinced him that the show was not a police sting operation. Despite their efforts, Joe remained suspicious of the producers for a long time, but much to his fortune, instead of ending up in jail, ‘Dominator’ and his crew became reality superstars.
Considering the impact Joe made with his fierce competitive attitude, the show could have been the failure it producers expected it to be, had Joe decided not to appear on camera.
However, despite Joe’s concerns, the show does not actually break any laws, and despite what it wants fans to believe, nothing the audience sees can be considered illegal. Thus, ironic as it may be, Joe’s suspicions were as unfounded as most conspiracy theories.
Nothing Illegal Here
The show’s illegal presentation of street rod racing is nothing more than hyped-up showmanship, intended to grab the audience’s attention, and draw in more viewers.
Yet, the question remains, how can the show legalise something still considered illegal in the state of Oklahoma?
Well, it’s simple, really. In order to keep Discovery Channel off the front pages of newspapers and out of trouble with the local law enforcement, the producers had to seek simple ways of making the races legal. While it may detract from both the name of the show and its selling point, at least nobody would get into hot water. Before each race, the producers would apply for the necessary permission to race in each of the cities and towns they wish to film in, and the streets occupied for each race would be closed-off to private use.
During some of the racing events, local police would often attend the show to ensure everything is as legal as it could possibly be, and to keep everybody safe from potential dangers. As a result, many drivers felt that the events lacked the thrill they have come to love about street racing, often forcing them to seek adrenaline at other, more illegal, racing events.
The show’s main focus might be the racing events, but the drivers’ cars gain quite a bit of attention as well, and as a result, some cars have been stolen, either for joy rides or its value.
Many of the cars used by the drivers are vintage models, and although pumped-up for racing, the cars’ worth can reach into triple figures. One such car, James ‘The Reaper’ Goads’ 1955 vintage Chevrolet, valued at an estimated $175,000, became the target of unidentified thieves.
‘The Reaper’ built his car up from scratch, spending the better part of several years to achieve the excellence his reputation and his car affords him. James even believed that no one would strip his Chevy for parts, mostly because all the parts fitted on the muscle car come model-specific, and would not be of any value to anyone with any other vehicle, nor could they sell it since everyone would know to whom the Chevy belonged. After disappearing for two days, police returned James’ car, and despite being in poor condition, it could still operate.
Another racer, David ‘Bird’ Jones, lost property worth an estimated $100,000 to plundering and theft. His vintage 1967 Chevrolet Camaro became the target of crooks, and unfortunately, unlike James, David didn’t get his car back.
Crime On The Side
In 2015, Oklahoma police uncovered the operations of a syndicate specialising in the theft of engines. Among the many charges brought against the syndicate, the theft of two engines worth about $500,000 was of primary concern to the local law enforcement.
Among the men arrested, police implicated occasional racer, Ronnie Pollard, as a small-time member of the syndicate, leading to his arrest alongside three other men. The leader of the syndicate, a man named Michael Moore, was a long-time suspect thought to be part of numerous syndicates operating in the state of Oklahoma, who eluded the police for many years.
Pollard was arrested two weeks before the mastermind behind the syndicate was apprehended, and certainly got off easier than Moore.
However, Ronnie was not the only ‘Street Outlaws’ star implicated in serious crime. Another part-time driver, Pass Christian, was arrested under several drug-related charges, possession of firearms and one count of conspiracy. Christian pleaded guilty to charges of drug trafficking, admitting that he stockpiled methamphetamine with the intent to sell. The law also accused Christian of using his workshop as a front for illegal activities.
It seems that Pass will not return to the show anytime soon!
Murder On The Track
One of the drivers featured on the show, Izzy Valenzuela, once faced two counts of murder, after an unfortunate accident during an illegal race claimed the lives of two bystanders.
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Initially, Izzy denied the accusations, claiming that at the time of the accident he was working in his workshop. However, the sixty witnesses to the race claimed that Izzy drove the car, that caused the accident, now dubbed the ‘Killer Mustang’, giving authorities enough reason to doubt Valenzuela’s alibi.
Then upon further investigation, police discovered that Izzy did not, in fact, drive the car, despite being the owner of the vehicle. The driver implicated in the unfortunate accident, identified as Gary Balyan, happened to borrow the Mustang from Izzy. Because the racing event was declared illegal, Gary received a twelve-year sentence on two charges of murder.
Fortunately for Izzy, at least, the truth surfaced, and he was allowed to go free. Nonetheless, the saying which goes ‘speed kills’ is true, and is the reason why illegal racing events are so dangerous.
Hopefully, those involved in the misfortune learned their lesson, and will not participate in illegal racing events ever again.
Accidents Are Frequent
Racing is one of the most dangerous careers to undertake, and this includes the simplified form of drag racing. While Formula-One is known for the frequent accidents caught on camera, drag racing can be equally as dangerous, and in many cases could result in fatalities.
One driver, affectionately known as ‘Daddy’ Dave Comstock, is among the many who can attest to the dangers involved. During a preparation race, for which no precautions were applied to the road, Dave had an unfortunate accident, flipping his car six times, and eventually crashing into a wall. Although Dave survived the accident, he nonetheless needed emergency care after suffering a bruised lung and concussion. However, his car ended up in far worse condition.
Another accident was even caught on film, this time involving two drivers, namely Brian ‘Chucky’ Davis and frequent star ‘Big Chief’. The Chief’s car accidentally crossed lanes, and the resulting incident sent both cars flipping into the air. Fortunately, both drivers made it out alive, but suffering broken bones, and spinal injuries, both requiring medical attention and being rushed to the hospital.
The Surprising Demise of Two Stars
Sadly, viewers of ‘Street Outlaws’ had to bid their final goodbyes to two stars from the show. However, despite the interest of viewers and fans, the deaths of both Butch DeMoss and Tyler ‘Flip’ Piddy, which were unrelated to racing incidents, remained obscure mysteries. Even to this day, few people know the truth behind their sudden and surprising departures. Butch passed away at the age of 43 quietly at his home, and no known causes for his death have reached the public yet.
Regardless of the cause, close friends and family of Butch, as well as his many fans, were surprised by his untimely passing, since Butch had no underlying diseases and seemed fit.
Tyler, who passed away at the age of 31, also surprised people with his unfortunate demise.
Despite the mystery surrounding his death, some rumours persist that suggest that ‘Flip’ may have taken his own life. Whatever the case, both stars will be dearly missed, by family, friends and fans of ‘Street Outlaws’.
The show most certainly seems plagued by misfortune, and for the crew of Midwest Street Cars, it was no different. One incident in 2015, could have resulted in serious injuries or even death, had the crew not been fortunate enough to dodge a bullet, quite literally.
During the incident in question, an unknown gunman, who for some reason held a vendetta either against the shop or the show, fired off eleven shots at the workshop’s building.
Fortunately the incident happened at night, when no one was present inside. The owner of the shop and chief of the crew, Shawn Ellington, also reported to police that the same apparent suspect approached and stalked his home.
Another incident also took place, possibly related to the shooting, involving a motorcyclist and a member of the Midwest Street Cars crew. During this incident, the motorcyclist told the crew member he knew who he was and flashed a handgun. Fortunately, nobody was hurt, but as of yet police could not locate or identify any suspects.
Due to all the controversy and attention the show has caused, one of the frequent stars and drivers, family man Derek Travis, was let go from his day job. Travis stated in an interview that his employer at the time was not fond of his involvement in the supposed illegal racing, and this eventually led him to fire Derek from his job as a technician.
After a short period of difficult times, and with everyone now aware of the ‘illegal’ activities in which Travis involved himself, Derek eventually got back onto his feet. Derek confirmed that he is now working in a far better position with more pay, and could not be any more satisfied with how things are going in his life. His current employer is completely aware of his after-hour activities, and doesn’t seem to have a problem with it. Now, Derek once again juggles street racing, a 60-hour-a-week day job, and being a full-time dad.
Despite now realising that the show is something of a fraud since the racing events are technically legal, we hope you will continue to enjoy watching ‘Street Outlaws’.
At least the races aren’t rigged, and the competition remains as real as ever, supplying endless action, drama, and suspense.
Not to mention, what other show packs so many sexy muscle cars into forty minutes of high octane action?