Street Outlaws introduced us to Oklahoma City’s best street racers, adrenaline junkies who have a slight obsession with vintage cars, roaring engines, and fast, bulky wheels. But filming a show about a group of street racers begs the question, isn’t it illegal? Why would the Discovery Channel endorse such a problematic sport?
Indeed, the guys from Street Outlaws ran into some serious trouble after the show aired. One got fired, another was banned from competing, and most of them were at risk of losing their license at one point or another.
Here’s a look into the crashes, the clashes, and everything that goes on behind the scenes of Street Outlaws.
Joe Woods Assumed That the Producers Were Undercover Cops
Street racer Joe Woods raised an eyebrow when Discovery’s producers reached out to him for a show. “When they first approached us, uh, I was pretty sure we were going to go to jail,” he told Car Illustrated. He genuinely believed that it was an undercover sting and that he and his friends were “walking right into a big trap.”
Luckily, it was all a figment of Joe Wood’s slightly paranoid mind. And while some of the members have faced unfortunate repercussions for starring on the show, none of them have actually gone to jail for being part of the cast. Phew!
The Show Began With a Website
In 2002, Justin “Big Chief” Shearer launched a website meant to connect the best of the best street racers in the country. At the time, there were only 60 people signed to the site, but over the years, the list has grown, and the small group has turned into a full-fledged community.
Big Chief’s website caught the attention of the people over at the Discovery Channel, and they started snooping, questioning, and interviewing the members. They quickly realized that they simply had to make a show about these crazy individuals.
Oklahoma – Home to the Nation’s Fastest Street Racers
The filming of Street Outlaws takes place in Oklahoma City, which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise for those of you who are somewhat involved in the street racing scene. Oklahoma City is known for having the fiercest, most competitive street racers out there.
The drivers holding prestigious racing titles can be found on Big Chief’s website. Their name, Car, and groundbreaking records are all written down in “The List.” The online platform has become an inspiration for many car fanatics all over the U.S.
The First Episode of the Show Was Rickety
You know when you make pancakes and the first one is kind of… eh? A similar thing happened to Street Outlaws when they released their first episode. Overall, it was weak. It was a bit burnt around the edges, lacked flavor, and viewers weren’t sure they wanted to go in for seconds.
Luckily, the show wasn’t judged by its first episode alone. Someone clearly saw potential in the show’s premise, or else they wouldn’t have continued to air it.
The show has gone through a ton of improvement. The filming angles, the dialogues, the storyline – it has all been tweaked and improved.
Some People Doubted Its Success
Street Outlaws seemed like a great idea, but no one was fully convinced that it would actually make it. Street racing is considered illegal, and how many people across the States are interested in watching a bunch of guys speeding off anyway?
As it turns out, a lot. The show is currently on its 13th season. Looks like the Discovery Channel was right to approach the racing community! Even the cast members are still shocked by how well the show has done. It’s excited not only people from the U.S., but for car lovers from all over the world.
It’s Totally Legal
So, while street racing is considered illegal, the show itself isn’t. According to the Discovery Channel, everything aired on the show is 100% law abiding. The guys receive permits from all the cities they race in, and if they don’t have the necessary documentation, they don’t do it.
Cops are often at the scene to ensure that everything is going as planned. They keep an eye on the races and intervene when something doesn’t look too safe. Granted, the sport itself is far from safe, but you know, “safe” in street racing terms.
If you were to hear that one of the stars from Street Outlaws had died, what would be your initial reaction? Likely crashed, right? Well, two skilled racers from the show really did die, but their deaths had nothing to do with their precarious hobby.
Tyler Gene “Flip” Priddy (aged 31) and Butch DeMoss (aged 43) passed away early on in the show. The reasons for both deaths haven’t been discussed publicly. Flip and Big Chief grew up together, and the loss hit him hard. And Butch DeMoss, a fan favorite, never got to enjoy the fruits of his incredible achievements.
JJ Da Boss Once Fell Asleep at the Wheel
Most of the show’s racers have crashed their cars at one point. Some were minor crashes, while others ended in hospitalization.
JJ Da Boss’ crash was, unfortunately, one of the more severe ones. Heading home from a night race, Da Boss fell asleep on the wheel and lost control of his vehicle.
He was towing his racing cars, Ole Heavy (1949 Chevy) and Heifer (1966 Chevy), when his eyes unwillingly shut, and he crashed his pick-up truck into a concrete culvert. Ole Heavy broke free from its straps and smashed into the rear of Heifer. As for Da Boss, he limped away from the crash with several bruises, a broken hand, and a fractured rib.
“Daddy D” Had an Incident With His Car
When Daddy Dave sped across the Amarillo Dragway (a notorious racing track), he suffered a startling, painful accident. Luckily, it wasn’t anything too major. According to Cassi, Dave’s wife, he sustained several injuries but was in an overall good state.
The drag strip’s workers quickly rushed him to the nearest hospital, where he was treated for his wounds and visited by his loved ones. When asked about the incident, Daddy D shook his head and admitted that he doesn’t remember a single thing.
Big Chief and Chucky Collided Once
Even though the show is well supervised, it doesn’t mean it’s free from risk. The racers know fully well that having a cameraperson document their speedy races doesn’t guarantee they won’t collide or fly off the tracks. And in 2015, Big Chief and Brian “Chucky” Davis experienced it firsthand.
As the cameras rolled, the two racers flew side by side when, all of a sudden, Big Chief’s Car slipped and hit the back of Chuck’s Car. The crash resulted in some serious wounds. Big Chief suffered a broken collarbone and a spinal cord injury, and Chucky walked away with debilitating back pain.
NHRA Hated the Show
Street Outlaws is a show that’s as loved as much as it’s hated. The National Hot Rod Association (NHRA), for one, absolutely despise it. They’ve been begging the Discovery Channel to cancel it for years. They believe that the show’s members are giving racing a bad rep.
The NHRA has been public about not letting anyone from the show compete in honorable racing competitions. They’ve sent several letters to racers from the show, threatening to ban them from any future events if they don’t quit.
Derek Got Fired
Some people are wowed by the notion of street racing. It sounds like (and really is) a thrilling activity. But not everyone shares the same love for speedy endeavors. Derek Travis’ employer, for example, doesn’t think too highly of illegal street racers.
After seeing him on the show, Derek’s boss fired him from the company. Times were rough at first, but things eventually turned out all right. Today, he works for a new boss who is 100% fine with his risky hobby. He seems satisfied with his place right now.
Silver Unit Was a Goner
Derek’s precious baby is his ’86 Camaro named Silver Unit. It’s his pride and joy, the eye of his apple, the reason he races in the first place. This impressive vehicle garnered so much attention that Derek had to open a social media page for it.
In 2016, tragedy struck. While racing, Derek’s Car began pulling to one side and ultimately crashed into the barrier. Silver Unit suffered such damage that Derek initially believed it was beyond repair. Luckily, after several long and thorough procedures, Silver Unit has been restored and is now back on the streets once again.
Derek’s Wife Got Him Into Racing
Derek Travis had zero experience in racing, let alone street racing. But when he started dating his wife, Christina, a new world opened up to him. Christina’s father and brother used to race, and the conversations they held with Derek about the exhilarating hobby planted the first inklings of interest in his mind. But it was the race against his wife that encouraged him to really go for it.
When they started dating, Christina drove a 1985 Mustang GT, while Derek had a basic 1982 Camaro. “She always talked about how much faster her car was than mine,” Derek explained. So, one day, the two set out to settle the score once and for all. “My father-in-law and I went out to the street one day and we raced my Camaro against her Mustang… I lost,” he admitted, “I caught so much grief from Christina that I was determined to never let her car beat me again.”
Rhett Peters’ Illegal Business
It’s one thing to be an outlaw on the streets in your fast Car. But it’s another to take that fast living, unhinged, outlaw mentality and apply it to other areas in your life. One New Orleans racer, Rhett Peters, apparently took the word outlaw one step too far.
He was arrested for possession of illegal goodies (with the intent of selling them). He was eventually found guilty of trafficking and using his mechanic business as a cover for his dubious deeds. The racer has been convicted of trafficking three whopping times already. Sheesh…
Ronnie Pollard Was Arrested
Ronnie Pollard is another example of a racer who took his outlaw lifestyle one step further than the rest. He cooked up the theft of two car engines, worth approximately $500,000. To the police, run-ins with Pollard weren’t anything new.
According to the local sheriff, this wasn’t the first time Pollard was charged with crimes. As it turns out, the police had been playing cat-and-mouse with this rowdy racer for 20 years already, long before he ever appeared on the show.
So Was Izzy…
Speed kills. We all know that. Yet we still hit the gas, still get excited when we hear the roaring of our engines, and still enjoy the slightly suffocating breeze of the violent wind that hits our face when we peek out of a fast vehicle. But without care, speeding on the road can end in death.
Street racer Izzy Valenzuela was involved in a fatal car crash that ended up killing two bystanders on the side of the road. Izzy wasn’t actually driving the Car, so he got off relatively easy (one year) compared to the guy behind the wheel, Gary Balyan, who was sentenced to 12 years.
The Reaper’s Car Was Stolen
A black car marked with “The Reaper” in blood-red letters is probably the last vehicle you would want to rob. But apparently, there are some foolish people out there with balls of steel. James Goads’ 1955 Chevy The Reaper was stolen from him in the fall of 2016.
Thankfully, with the help of the public, after only two days, the $175,000 car was found and returned to James. He was tremendously relieved to have his baby back. “When you build a car like that,” he explained, “you put part of yourself in it.”
So Was Bird’s…
When you put your impressive Car out there on TV, you’re likely to stir feelings of jealousy and greediness in some people. It’s no surprise that David “Bird” Jones suffered a similar case as James. His ’67 Chevy Camaro was robbed in broad daylight.
In hopes of tracking the shameless thieves, Bird released the security footage he had of the theft. The tapes showed a man quickly doing his thing and flying off with Bird’s vintage race car. Unfortunately, Bird never retrieved his Car that was worth around $100,000.
Big Chief Isn’t Who You Think He Is
When you’re all grown up and living life on your own, you realize two things: 1. Life is hard. 2. Your mom is a hero. Big Chief knows what we’re talking about. He’s admitted several times that he looks up to his mom and has developed a deep appreciation for her over the years.
“I didn’t realize it at the time, but my mother is my hero,” he shared. “She raised two mean-a** kids by herself and went to school to become a nurse while working full time and dealing with my c**p.” Big Chief went so far as to say that she saved his life and that if he could go back in time, he would have been a way better son.
James Bought His First Car for $75
James Love’s first Car was actually given to him as a gift. However, the first Car he purchased himself was a’72 Monte Carlo for under $100. “My first actual car was a ’77 Monte Carlo given to me by my parents,” he explained. “We were dirt poor — I was given mom’s car to help get my brother and sister to school, and for me to go to work so I could afford gas to get my brother and sister to school.”
When he had enough money to buy his own, he purchased a $75 ’72 Monte Carlo. Proud of his precious vehicle, he put a timing chain on it, fixed some rear brakes, and took it around for daily spins. Today, Love has a large collection of impressive cars, but he says he’ll never forget his first love.
Jerry Bird Lost a Race Because of the Police
Cops once ruined Jerry Bird’s chance at winning. It happened during the last round of a Cash Day race. The light turned green, and Bird raced off towards the finish line when, all of a sudden, he was stopped by a group of police officers.
The other driver, Bird’s competition, pulled off the road to avoid an arrest, and the rest of the crowd scattered off quickly. Bird was arrested for violating basically all traffic codes but DWI. Because there was no winner, Bird and the other guy split the prize money equally.
It looks like people other than those from the NHRA dislike the show. In 2015, a gunman shot 11 bullets into the garage, but luckily, no one was in the shop. The shop’s owner, Shawn Ellington, aka Murder Nova, reported that the suspected gunman had approached his house as well.
Someone clearly had it out for Murder Nova. The outlaw racer is super grateful nothing major happened. But he was pretty intimated by the incident, and it took him a while to bounce back from it. The last thing he wants is for his loved ones to get hurt.
The Guys Are Super Competitive
Street Outlaw’s racers don’t fool around when it comes to winning. They might hang out and crack jokes before a race, but the second they wrap their fingers around the wheel and step on the gas, that’s it, they’re in it to win it.
Each contender wants to finish first, and the quest for victory becomes the only thing that matters. Every competition is a chance to prove their worth, so no matter how friendly they are with their fellow racers, the drivers forget they ever knew each other once the competition takes off.
But They Have Respect for One Another
While street racing is considered illegal for the most part, and the show is called “Street Outlaws,” the racers are actually really polite and have a lot of respect for each other. Yes, they hate losing and are super competitive, but they’re still well-behaved and congratulate each other on their wins.
There’s a certain hierarchy in the street racing community, and often the more experienced or skilled ones at the top will offer help and support to the newbies climbing their way to the top. Despite their questionable reputation, these racers are actually super friendly and have the utmost respect for each other.
Rivalry Between the Original Series and the New Orleans Franchise
Hey, Oklahoma isn’t the only place full of car enthusiasts. Street Outlaw’s New Orleans franchise was launched to ensure that car lovers from other areas can turn their need for speed into something more than a hobby. But the new franchise caused some friction within the racing community.
Kye Kelley, from Street Outlaw’s original series, was transferred to New Orleans to help the new version kick off well. And his relocation resulted in a large number of viewers abandoning the old show for the New Orleans franchise.
Some Are Totally Inexperienced
This might come as a shock, but many racers from New Orleans season have little to no racing experience. The original Oklahoma City version inspired the new racers to get behind the wheel, and now they’re trying their luck for the first time in front of Discovery’s cameras.
The show has brought about a ton of fresh-faced young drivers, and we can only hope that they’re doing their best to keep safe. New Orleans’ keen racers are eagerly on the lookout for new races and more opportunities to show their ever-improving abilities.
Chuck the Champ
The show’s street racers strive to win competitions and prove their worth as the best racer on “The List.” But one driver in particular, Chuck Setisinger, holds a trophy that says it all. Correction, two trophies that say it all. In 2004 and in 2006, he won the national drag racing championship.
He entered the races on a whim, he admitted. He was working as a mechanic when the drag racing scene began to take off. “So, it just made sense that I give it a shot,” he explained. Chuck said that some racers mocked him for being from Oklahoma, asking him questions like “Do you still ride in wagons?”
The mocking didn’t last for very long, though. Because he tore the tracks apart and outshined them all.
The Queen of the Streets Is Also a Godmother
Street racing isn’t the most common hobby with women. It’s considered an aggressive, intimidating, fast, greasy endeavor. One that many women steer clear of. But not Precious. She’s known as the “Queen of the Streets” and is considered one of the best female racers around.
She outraces men and serves as the inspiration to many little girls with daring dreams. Not only that, but Precious is also the godmother of JJ Da Boss’ kids. Precious and Da Boss’ wife, Tricia, grew up together, making her the perfect choice to take care of their kids if anything unfortunate happens.
Chuck’s Proudest Moment Was Building a Car With His Brother
One of Chuck’s fondest childhood memories is buying and repairing a car with his younger brother. “My little brother talked me into building an import drag race car, and we brought the car out in 2004,” he shared.
According to the street racer, a lot of people laughed at their Car. But they drove it anyway and proved everyone wrong. “Not only did I receive [the] Rookie of the Year award, [but] I won the 2004 NDRA National Championship!” he proudly stated.
Kye Kelly Used to Work at a Petroleum Refining Factory
Before Kye Kelly starred on Street Outlaws, he was the manager of a petroleum refining factory. Kye started out as an ordinary worker in the factory and was being paid $10-an-hour for “fire watching.” “You just sit there and watch for a fire. You feel like the most useless person there is,” he explained.
He was far from satisfied with his day job, but he was determined to climb up the ladder and make a name for himself. He ultimately became the factory’s superintendent, and his hard work has shaped the man he is today. “I didn’t want to be average,” he shared, “I wanted to be on top.”
Big Chief Loves Muscle Cars
If you’re a fan of the show, you likely know that Big Chief has a weak spot for muscle cars built in the U.S., particularly the vintage ones. The reason is pretty clear–Justin “Big Chief” Shearer was born at a time where the only well-known Car was the RWD V* muscle car.
His fondness for muscle cars began during his high school days. The vehicles he saw growing up were F-Body Camaros, Monte Carlo G-Bodies, LT-1s, and Fox-Body Mustangs. No wonder he has such an obsession with those specific types.
The Street Racers Are Part of Something Big
The street racers on the show aren’t just a couple of drivers who happen to be on Big Chief’s list of best racers. They’re part of a large community of car lovers and adrenaline junkies. The racers are part of a big machine with its own honor system and unique set of values.
Surely, a lot of us get confused about the way these racers live their lives. But if you follow them on the show, you start to pick up on some of their core values and beliefs. Street Outlaws has done a great job bringing the world of street racing to the mass.
Freakin’ Rican Is Well Connected
Jose Rivera, aka Freakin’ Rican, is one of the racers who works with Ryan Martin and the other B and R folks. He drives a 1991 small tire Ford Mustang that he dubbed “Freak of Nature.” He’s known as the one who can get you anything and everything, and he uses his connections to his advantage.
When Big Chief and Shawn wanted to get their hands on some fireworks, Rican agreed to hook them up only if they let him race. According to the show’s site on Discovery, Freakin’ Rican will get you whatever you need as long as you don’t ask him where he got it from.
Some Still Race Illegally
Apparently, when you legalize something, you strip it from what makes it so thrilling. When it comes to street racing, something about driving fast when you’re not allowed to is what makes the sport so exciting. Even if the show allows the guys to street race in a legal manner, some still prefer to do so illegally.
Big Chief admits that some racers still long for that old school, illegal street racing and decide to do it on the side. Many drivers go out for night races, away from the cameras and the police officers. Those underground drivers really don’t care about rules and regulations.
Cars Aren’t Big Chief’s Only Love
As much as Big Chief loves his cars, fast racing isn’t the only thing on his mind. Another one of his favorite pastimes is hitting the gym and powerlifting. He loves to train and told Discovery that he’s been extremely consistent with his weightlifting, and he’s happy with the results.
Going to the gym is his way of escaping the highly stressful lifestyle of racing. Like many of us, Big Chief needs a place to breathe and sweat out all his worries and thoughts. He’s shared that powering it up in the gym helps him clear his mind. Even more than being in the shop!
Chuck Races Boats Too
Chuck told Discovery that when he isn’t on the tracks, he’s on his boat in the lake. He shared that the rush of adrenaline, whether on the track or on water, is an absolute must in his life and that without the feeling of his heart nearly bursting out of his chest, life feels bland.
Just like on the tracks, Chuck loves racing on water too. He’s willing to go as fast as he needs to win. Car or boat, Chuck is in need of speed! Other than both of those hobbies, Chuck enjoys playing poker with his friends. Which isn’t surprising. Gambling can be just as thrilling as driving a racecar.
Kamikaze and “His” El Camino
Calm, cool, and collected, Kamikaze is another guy with a need for speed. But he’s not as crazy as the others. Kamikaze and Big Chief grew up together and it’s often said that Kamikaze is the guy who gave Big Chief his nickname.
But the cool story is that of his El Camino. The El Camino was a car that he and Chief loved because it used to belong to their friend Flip (who passed away). Kamikaze collected old parts from everyone and put them together into Flip’s Car so they could race El Camino in his honor.
Farmtruck and AZN Love to Go “Fishin'”
Some of the most entertaining parts of the show are when Farmtruck and AZN go fishing. And this isn’t the kind of fishing you have in mind with a rod and a reel. They’re not drawing in fish. They’re drawing in people by complimenting their cars and then challenging them to a race with an ordinary car.
What the people don’t know is that the boys are incredible drivers and even though the cars don’t look like much, they’re incredibly fast. The guys usually race and make easy money off them. It’s pretty funny to watch people get beat in a car race by a farm truck.
Street Outlaws: Memphis
Another other spin-off show that’s been inspired by Oklahoma’s Street Outlaws is the Memphis one. It follows a group of street racers living in Memphis, Tennessee. This group first starred on TV when they came to Oklahoma City to challenge the original gang.
The Memphis boys’ team leader is their race master JJ Da Boss, a sharp-tongued adrenaline junky. He is joined on the show by a group of loved ones, including his wife, son, childhood amigos, and other street racers he has met throughout his life.