Street racing is highly addictive, because of the intense rush of adrenaline that drivers and spectators get from it. Discovery Channel capitalized on this, and launched the reality television series called “Street Outlaws.” The supposedly illegal and unsanctioned form of auto racing is an extremely dangerous motorsport, with the cars souped up and pushed to their limits to cross the finish line first. As such, accidents happen during a race, and many of the cast members have been in one.

Background on the show

Everything started in Oklahoma, where the street racers were somewhat organized with Justin “Big Chief” Shearer as their race master. He set up a website called Midwest Street Cars, in which street racers could talk about cars and racing. One time, a call was made to see who was the fastest among them, with money at stake. Because it was illegal, it was all hush-hush; still, people who were made aware of it came to participate, watch or film it. Footage of the races was uploaded online, soon after which the group was contacted by producers, inviting them to feature in a reality show for Discovery Channel.

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“Street Outlaws” made its TV premiere on 10 June 2013, documenting actual races and what went on behind the scenes. The Pilgrim Studios-produced TV series was a success, as people enjoyed watching these drivers from OKC challenge each other to a race, and earn the top spot on The List of the fastest cars.

Soon after that, they raced against drivers from other cities for money and bragging rights, and the show spawned many spin-off series, including “Street Outlaws: No Prep Kings” and “Street Outlaws: Fastest in America” – they all became huge hits as well.

The National Hot Rod Association (NHRA), the governing body for drag racing, was established mainly for keeping the drivers and spectators safe by setting the rules and organizing racing events; it was a way to dissuade or stop people from participating in illegal races. Despite this, street racing still existed, because for some, doing it in secret on an isolated or abandoned road under the cover of night gave an added thrill. For a time, the NHRA was at odds with the cast members of the show, because they couldn’t condone this dangerous activity. It was believed that they had come to an understanding later on, perhaps because they were assured that the production had taken the necessary steps to keep everyone safe.

Accidents and losses in “Street Outlaws”

Each driver made modifications to their car to make it more powerful, faster, and hopefully unbeatable on the tracks. Controlling such a car was difficult, and one wrong move could cause a driver not just to lose the race but also to crash the car, no matter how highly skilled or experienced he or she was. Here are some of the car crashes that occurred while filming for the show:

Big Chief’s terrifying car crash in 2015

Big Chief was racing against Brian “Chucky” Davis, captain of team Detroit, in November 2015 for the filming of “Street Outlaws”, when the latter’s Fox-Body Mustang crossed the center line and tagged the quarter panel of the 1972 Le mans Pontiac, known as The Crow, sending both cars careening out of control.

Brian Davis aka "Chucky"……so glad he walked away from this accident we had. I was told the first thing I asked for…

Posted by Big Chief 405 on Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Crow got the worst of it, as there was extensive damage to the driver’s side, and the front end was completely ripped away. After witnessing the crash, everyone was worried that Big Chief wasn’t going to make it out alive – his friend, Murder Nova, thought he was dead. Big Chief said that he was tempting fate every time he raced, and he’d been lucky so far, but he knew his luck would run out eventually. As the car kept on rolling rapidly after it was hit, he just closed his eyes, held on to the steering wheel, and said to himself, ‘This is the crash. This is the one that you never want to happen.’

Chucky walked away relatively unharmed; Big Chief had a broken collarbone, dislocated shoulder, bruised lungs, and compression fractures in his lumbar spine, but he recovered well. Both cars were totaled, so their teams worked quickly on their new race cars. Chucky wanted to try something different, and went with a Camaro, calling it the “Seed of Chucky.” While Big Chief mourned the loss of his first love, referring to The Crow, he was grateful to be alive. He unveiled his new ride, the “Crowmod,” at the 2015 PRI, America’s Racing Performance Trade Show.

Daddy Dave wrecked his race car twice

For the filming of the “Street Outlaws: No Prep Kings” at the South Georgia Motorsports Park in July 2021, David “Daddy Dave” Comstock from team OKC raced against Bobby Ducote from team New Orleans (NOLA), in a ‘Race Your Way In’ event. Unfortunately for Daddy Dave, he not only lost the race but also crashed his car, Goliath 2.0. As he crossed the finish line, the car took a hard right and went off-course going at 190 miles per hour, and slammed into the guard rail. Some said it was caused by a slippery road, but Daddy Dave admitted that it was his fault because he wasn’t focused on his driving, instead looking at Bobby; also, he released the parachutes a bit later than he was supposed to. He was unharmed, only pissed off by making such a rookie mistake. The motor was in good condition but the entire right front and side of the car were destroyed. He was out of the game as the car couldn’t be repaired in time for the next race.

This was not the first time that Daddy Dave was involved in a car crash during a race, as he was in another in 2015 at the Amarillo Dragway in Texas. Halfway down the race track, his car nicknamed Goliath, spiraled out of control and somersaulted six times after hitting the concrete barrier – it was an horrific crash, which he miraculously survived. His wife, Cassi, gave an update on his condition via Facebook, and said that he had a bruised lung along with a serious concussion, and had no memory of what happened during the crash. Apparently, a nitrous bottle came loose and struck his head, fortunately protected by his helmet, so there was no further damage.

Doc’s horrific car crash in 2020 that knocked him unconscious

James “Doc” Love went up against Big Chief, and crashed his 1970 Monte Carlo, dubbed the “Street Beast,” while filming a race in Nebraska in 2020. His car had stopped spinning by the time first responders reached him, but he was out for almost 30 minutes, and fans could see how worried his fellow racers were as they waited on the side to know his condition. Doc was still a little out of it after he regained consciousness, as he couldn’t recall who he was racing against. Everyone was a bit relieved, however, when he did remember what car he was driving. It was clear that Big Chief was a bit rattled, as he tried to make sense of what just happened – Ryan Martin talked about how crucial it was to release the parachute at the right moment.

On his Facebook page, Doc gave a shout-out to those who built the chassis of his Street Beast, as it saved his life when his car barrel-rolled five to six times, and then knocked three thick Cedar trees out of the ground. As for his condition, he said, ‘I’m fine if you can call being yellow, black, blue, green, and a wonderful shade of purple from my neck to my calves’, adding that he was still struggling somewhat because of the serious concussion he sustained.

His Street Beast was beyond repair, which devastated him as he had it since 2002 and invested so much in making it run extremely fast on the street. He unveiled his new race car, a blue Firebird he named Stunt Double, in June 2021.

Monza walked away without a scratch after his car crash

Jerry “Monza” Johnston was raring to move up the OKC top 10 List, and at least make it to the top five, as he was No.6 in season 11 of “Street Outlaws” aired in 2018. He kept practicing and modifying his race car, a 1972 Camaro Rally Sport dubbed as the Sinister Split Bumper, to make it more powerful on the track. Tired of playing catch-up, he said that his team built this car with the best parts that money could buy, although they knew they still had to make everything work together for optimum performance.

During race night, Chuck Seitsinger at No.8, won against Doc who was at No.7. Next, he challenged Monza for the 6th spot. Monza lost, but the worst that had happened was he lost control of the car and crashed. After crossing the finish line at a speed of over 270km/h (170 mph), the back of the car started bouncing and with the back brakes locking up, the car went sideways, hit the curb on the opposite side, and barrel-rolled several times until it ended in the bushes. When Chuck saw he was about to hit the passenger side of the Camaro when it went sideways in front of him, he immediately turned to avoid it. Monza was fine but the car was not. He ended up at No.7 on The List.

Shane retired from racing after crashing his car

Shane McAlary stood out from the rest of the 405 club guys, as he was the only one with a companion named Bob beside him at every race. Many found him unusual, having the top half of a mannequin with him, but for Shane, Bob was his ‘co-pilot’ whom he had conversations with.

At the series’ List shake-up in 2019 (aired in 2021), Shane was desperate to go up The List as he had been at the bottom for too long. It was a ‘do or die’ moment for him that race night, when he went against Jeff Lutz, who’s at No.9 with his 1957 Chevy Bel Air. He said that he would be giving his all as he planned to make the fastest pass that his 1974 Chevrolet Vega, nicknamed Blackbird, had ever made. When given the signal to start, he said that he took off like a madman and before he knew it, he was hitting the curb sideways and kept on rolling with car parts being strewn all over. He wasn’t hurt during the crash, but as he was walking away from it, he kept saying he was done with racing, as he was broke and would not be able to rebuild the car.

Apparently, he had wrecked it too many times, and had rebuilt it over and over to make it race-worthy. One time, he was even airlifted to a local hospital after he crashed his car during a race in 2016 at the Sayre No Prep Drag Strip, and it cost him $40,000 just for that alone. He crashed again in Bristol, Tennessee during the $100,000 invitation-only No Prep race semi-final round of eliminations the following year. He was racing Big Chief when his Vega spun around, hit the guard rail on his side, and the car ended up facing the starting line. As for retiring from racing, his fans would just have to wait and see if that was really true, or if Shane just said that out of frustration.

Jeff had trouble breathing after the crash in 2021

Jeff Lutz wanted to prove that he was a serious contender for being the fastest on America’s List. While filming for “Street Outlaws” in 2021, he raced against Damon Merchant, a new addition to the 405 crew, who drove a 1968 Camaro, nicknamed Rogue. That night, Jeff lost control of his 1957 Twin-Turbo Chevy, and crossed over to the next lane until it hit the curb and then flipped several times. Fellow racers rushed to where Jeff was, and saw him roll out of his car.

When the paramedics reached him, Jeff told them that he couldn’t breathe, ande said that he was hurting from the neck down to his butt, and groaned in pain when he was being moved. Big Chief said that no matter how many times they had seen a racer crash his car, it was never something that they could get used to. He got emotional watching his buddy lying on the ground and being lifted to a stretcher by EMS and loaded into an ambulance. After Jeff recovered, he was back on the track, as he wanted to put the crash behind him. Although he lost to Daddy Dave by a car and a half, what was important was that he got behind the wheel again, and made a clean pass with his new race car, a yellow Pontiac GTO.

JJ Da Boss and wife, Tricia, got into an accident during a race

In season two of “Street Outlaws: America’s List,” 25 drivers from across the country competed for the No.1 spot. While filming for the show in January 2022 in South Texas, the leader of team Memphis, Jonathan Day, popularly known as JJ Da Boss, raced against his wife, Tricia, and it ended badly for them. JJ’s car, dubbed the Hummingbird, caught fire and spiraled out of control hitting Tricia’s car and rolling over it.

Her car caught fire as well, as she lost control of it and drove onto parked rental cars that were said to be protecting light towers and camera equipment. The fires were extinguished and both were taken to hospital. It was said that JJ was treated for the burns on his hands while Tricia had hip surgery. The extent of their injuries wasn’t revealed, but she mentioned in a video posted on Facebook in April 2022, that they were doing better than expected, as it took them weeks rather than months to walk again. Soon, JJ was back racing for America’s List after rebuilding his car, and won against Kye Kelley.

Ryan Fellows’ fatal crash in 2022

Car crashes while filming for the TV series had no fatalities, until that of 41-year-old Ryan Fellows during his race in Las Vegas in August 2022, for “Street Outlaws: Fastest in America.” His’ was the 8th out of nine races scheduled that day. According to reports, he almost made it to the finish line when he lost control of his Gold Nissan 240z and it rolled over and then caught fire. Nobody got to him in time, before the car was completely engulfed in flames.

Discovery Channel released a statement: ‘The Street Outlaws family is heartbroken by the accident that led to the tragic death of Ryan Fellows. We extend our deepest sympathy to Ryan’s loved ones as they process this sudden and devastating loss.’ He is survived by his wife and two kids.

Street racers knew what they sign up for every time they made a pass at the track. It had been nearly a decade since “Street Outlaws” first aired, but they had been street racing years prior to that. They invested heavily in ensuring they were protected inside the car should it crash; still, the older they got and the more accidents the cast members got into, the more they realized that the next race they were in might be their last.

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