• "Street Outlaws" is a show about illegal street racing that premiered in 2013 and has run for 14 seasons.
• It features various racers from around the country and is set in Oklahoma City.
• Big Chief, the race master, launched a website in 2002 to gather fellow street racers and organize competitions.
• The show is believed to be real, with some racers engaging in illegal street races not covered by the show.
• Ryan Fellows, a member of the spin-off series “Fastest in America,” recently died in a car crash while filming the latest season of the show.
If you’re into ‘illegal’ street racing, then “Street outlaws” is the show for you! It follows several groups of racers from all over the country, from Texas to Kansas City to California, who compete against each other for a top spot and a hefty prize. “Street Outlaws” is set in Oklahoma City, and since it debuted, the show has amassed enormous popularity, so it doesn’t surprise that it spawned several spin-offs such as “Mega Cash Days” and “Street Outlaws: No Prep Kings.” The show premiered in 2013 and has run for 14 seasons. Similar to many other reality series, since it hit the TV screen, “Street Outlaws” has been under the microscope for allegedly scripted content. On the other hand, many show fans claim that it’s accurate. To learn whether the show is real or not, keep reading!
How was the show created?
Those who watch the show, or Discovery Channel for that matter, are probably familiar with Justin Shearer, better known as ‘Big Chief.’ He’s the race master and one of the original cast members, and arguably the most popular and recognized member of the series. The story of the show’s inception is tied to Big Chief, who had been a passionate racer for several years before the TV show was created. In fact, in 2002, he launched the website for The List, to gather fellow street racers and organize competitions. Initially, approximately 60 people were willing to participate, then talking to Drag Illustrated, Big Chief revealed more information: ‘It was just our buddies, and we thought that we were the saddest street racers in the world, and once we were to the point where we could afford a trailer, we started driving around to figure it out’.
Then, out of the blue, Kyle from 1320 Video got in touch with Big Chief, wanting to come and film his crew racing, the latter saying: ‘We thought that was the craziest thing ever. He’s driving from Omaha, Nebraska, to Oklahoma City to film us racing. I still don’t understand that. We just didn’t get it, and before you know it, those videos turned pretty popular on the Internet’.
After seeing the potential and marketability of such content, Big Chief also began filming the races, and posting them on YouTube. In no time, his videos began attracting wide attention, and this is when Discovery Channel producers reached out to Big Chief, and laid the idea for the show. The producers were amazed by his expertise, knowledge and experience, and given the success of “Fast and Furious” movies, there was a demand for such content. Still in shock, Big Chief agreed to the show, and appeared in the reality series “Midwest Street Cars,” later joined by “Street Outlaws.”
Even though there was a good chance that the show might hit it off, the producers didn’t have too much faith in it, a huge irony considering that the show now has great popularity and a colossal fanbase. Big Chief explained: ‘When the show came out, we really—our producers, everyone thought this was going to be a one-season, eight episodes and done deal. So they were like, no one is going to watch it, but we’re going to try and reap everything we can.’
Big Chief recalled that during the first season, he and his crew focused on making the show attractive, by doing crazy antics, stunts and tricks. When the show aired, there were a couple of other automotive series, but none revolved around illegal street racing, so they thought this was their chance to create a one-of-a-kind automotive-type show with a twist.
Following the first couple of episodes, the show had already done great in terms of the viewership ratings, and in no time, the producer gave Big Chief a phone call, who revealed: ‘Hey, you guys aren’t that bad, and hinted that there might be another season of the show’. Again, the series became number one on Discovery Channel in no time.
The show features numerous cast members, some of whom also appear in the spin-off series’. Besides Big Chief, the series follows JJ Da Boss, the leader of the Memphis family, who handpicks the street racers from South Carolina, St. Louis, Kentucky, Mississippi, Detroit, Louisiana, Texas, and the Northeast. Some of the most popular racers are Jeff Bonnet “AZN,” Sean “Farmtruck” Whitley, David Comstock, Shawn Ellington, Chuck Seitsinger, Joe “Dominator” Woods, and Daddy Dave. The series also has a spin-off, which features an entirely female cast, “Street Outlaws: Gone Girl, “.
Is the show scripted?
Even though the show is top-rated and has a loyal fanbase, it has raised some eyebrows since it started airing, particularly among traditional drag racers who think it glorifies a dangerous sport, and is seemingly fake! Here is what Big Chief said: ‘I understand where they’re coming from, but in my opinion, we’re glorifying heads-up racing on a budget, and instead of putting on the smallest tires we can find and then gluing them to the race track, we’re just finding the shittiest road we can find, putting on the biggest tires, and then talking how cool we are.’
However, the show’s premise has been the most discussed issue, which infers that the show is centered on illegal street racing, but is this true? If a show that promotes and documents illegal activities is airing on Discovery Channel, wouldn’t the authorities take necessary action to end it? One would think so!
Well, the show started with the idea of showcasing illegal street racing, but it never really was unlawful. The media outlet Screen Rant reported: ‘The show itself was not actually illegal. Every race was cleared and permitted by the city the crew happened to be visiting that episode.’ So while some might think that they were engaging in illegal activities, ‘the crew would put in for a permit, which would be denied or approved by local officials,” as the media outlet explained.
Furthermore, if the racers can’t obtain permits, they must relocate the racing. Now, what about the police? This one might surprise you, but the police are in on the race. They regulate the street, and depending on the location, usually close a section of a highway to ensure everyone’s safety and avoid potential accidents, which makes sense. Having a drag race with an open road is an obvious recipe for disaster!
This does not mean there is no illegal racing – there is, but not on Discovery Channel. Regardless, it’s believed that many cast members engage in illegal street races, which are not covered by the show for obvious reasons.
Ultimately, even though the show doesn’t revolve around any illegal racing, it’s based on illicit races that once took place in Oklahoma City. When the network reached out to Big Chief about the series, they wanted him and his crew to race on the closed and monitored streets, to ensure safety and avoid legal issues. It’s inconceivable that the world-known production company would engage in anything illegal.
What do Fans Say?
Many fans agree that the show is real as it can be for a reality/ documentary series, although there are always a few who are hard to please. Given that this is a highly debated issue, someone initiated a discussion on Reddit to exchange opinions with other fans. One of the fans wrote: ‘You can see in the first couple of seasons these guys had more realistic cars and were more concerned with legal issues and paying their bills while upgrading their cars.”
— Street Outlaws Fans (@StOutFans) July 15, 2022
As the show gained more reach and popularity, the guys who raced on the tracks decided that they would challenge the TV guys, since there was no danger of being arrested and losing their licenses. Now, many of them have endorsement deals, and have moved up the ladder since the show began, so it was a natural transition to upgrade the cars themselves.
A different fan wrote: ‘The show is 99 percent real. The 1 percent is the fact that the road is rented out by Discovery/Pilgrim Studios, and blocked by the cops’.
Why did Big Chief leave the series?
Unfortunately, since it aired, several members parted the series, such as Doughboy and later Big Chief, and some prematurely met their doom, either in the show or behind the scenes. Big Chief’s departure is probably the second most asked question and the most controversial issue surrounding the series. It was odd and confusing because Big Chief was the one Discovery Channel contacted for the show, so many would think he was an indispensable character. Filming “Street Outlaws” without Big Chief would be like filming “Fast N’ Loud” without Richard Rawlings! Impossible, right?
Well, it appears that was not the case! And the drama surrounding his exit seems to be a bottomless pit, with new ideas and theories sprouting almost daily. Luckily, Big Chief made a YouTube video in which he disclosed some creative differences with the production team, saying: ‘The point of being the race master I took pride in was handling my sh*t. I just don’t think that I can stand up and defend that anymore. Those guys take it seriously, and while they may know in their heart that this didn’t come from me, everything’s been twisted so much.’
He continued by saying that the producers began changing the terms, and many of those didn’t sit well with him. For example, Big Chief was allegedly asked to participate in scripted scenes and altercations, to which he said ‘no.’ However, not everyone from the series agrees with Big Chief’s version of events. According to James Goad, known as Reaper, who is also a cast member, Big Chief’s story about the problems with the production is ‘bulls*it .’
After receiving many messages asking what happened to Big Chief, he broke his silence and revealed that Big Chief was not the most responsible race master. Actually, he was allegedly far from it, hinting at his disorganization, lack of respect for other racers, and irresponsibility. Reaper said: ‘We’d show up with a call time of 6 or 7 o’clock, and we will race when it turns dark. We might start racing at 10 o’clock or 11 o’clock because the Chief was never there. He wouldn’t roll in until he felt like rolling in. The rest of us would just wait and see the daylight coming up the horizon.’
Who recently died on the show?
On 7 August 2022, Ryan Fellows, a member of the spin-off series “Fastest in America,” died in a car crash aged 41, while filming the latest season. The series, which is currently in its third season, follows eight groups of racers who compete for a $100,000 prize. Ryan joined the crew in the third season, having formerly been featured in “Street Outlaws: Memphis.”
According to TMZ records, Ryan met his doom in Las Vegas. In one of the races scheduled for the show on Sunday morning, Ryan lost control of his Nissan 240z at the finish line, rolling over. The car then caught on fire, and while the other crews and staff rushed to get Ryan out of the car, they ultimately couldn’t get to him in time, and flames engulfed the vehicle.
Discovery and the official account for the series released a statement on Twitter: ‘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.”
Ryan is survived by his wife, Liz, and two children, Josiah and Olivia. Following his premature death, Brad Sparks created a GoFundMe fundraiser to help the family in these difficult times, especially given that Ryan was his family’s heart and soul. The site reads: ‘Ryan was an avid car enthusiast and was a road ‘warrior’ in many ways that extended to love of basketball, cars, and business in sales/advertising. He was admired for his tenacity and a relentless drive to overcome the challenges before him.’
The fundraiser, created a day after Ryan passed away, has already generated over $20,000 from numerous fans expressing their condolences for Liz and Ryan’s children.
The general opinion is that the show isn’t fake, at least not when it comes to the actual races. However, regarding the illegality of it, the show is produced and regulated in such a way that it must remain above board for Discovery to film it, while simultaneously maointain the illusion for the audience.