The “Street Out­laws” Phe­nom­e­non

Drag Racer - - Bells And Whistles -

IT’S 9:00 on Mon­day night. Do you know where your fam­ily is? Prob­a­bly watch­ing “Street Out­laws” on the Dis­cov­ery Chan­nel.

Some­times dis­dained by mem­bers of the drag rac­ing elite, “Street Out­laws” is gold for Dis­cov­ery Chan­nel’s re­al­ity ca­ble/satel­lite net­work. Dur­ing its prime­time slot, it reg­u­larly tops the charts of ca­ble TV rat­ing’s key 18-49 de­mo­graphic. In early 2017, it helped drive Dis­cov­ery to be­come the num­ber one non-sports ca­ble net­work for men.

Since its first on-air broad­cast in June 2013, “Street Out­laws” has drawn at­ten­tion, some of it not al­ways friendly. A few said that “Street Out­laws” was aw­ful even by Dis­cov­ery stan­dards (re­mem­ber, this is the same net­work that airs “Naked & Afraid” and “Eaten Alive!”). Oth­ers were quick to point out that de­spite the dis­claimer at the be­gin­ning of ev­ery show, “Street Out­laws” di­rectly pro­motes dan­ger­ous and il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity.

Just weeks after the show’s first air­ing, a lo­cal Ok­la­homa City TV sta­tion re­ported that area po­lice were look­ing into the 405’s ac­tiv­i­ties. Sound­ing some­what dis­ap­pointed, the news tele­cast went on to re­port that some of “Street Out­laws’” races were out­side of OKC po­lice ju­ris­dic­tion. They also went on to re­port that some of these races weren’t, in fact, il­le­gal at all be­cause per­mits had been ob­tained from sur­round­ing towns or the events had been held at a closed air­port.

NHRA also got into the act by threat­en­ing to re­voke in­def­i­nitely the com­pe­ti­tion li­censes of some of the show’s stars.

The truth of the mat­ter is that be­cause of pre­vi­ous pro­gram­ming such as “PINKS” and “Pass Time,” drag rac­ing has worked its way into homes that weren’t re­ally fa­mil­iar with it be­fore, which might ex­plain why small-tire and no-prep drag rac­ing and their ilk have been thriv­ing lately.

With drama, con­flict and com­edy writ­ten into ev­ery episode, it’s not nec­es­sar­ily a hard­core show about drag rac­ing, but the com­pe­ti­tion and the egos are real. Re­cent de­vel­op­ments have seen off­shoots such as “Street Out­laws: New Or­leans” as well as film­ing done at le­gal venues such as Bris­tol, Mem­phis and Bowl­ing Green. Do­ing so no doubts helps the crew de­flect crit­i­cism since tak­ing street cars to tracks for am­a­teur track days is a con­cept we can all get be­hind.

Each new show only lasts 41 min­utes, but their ef­fect on rac­ing and the in­dus­try it­self will be felt for a long time.

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