Driving fast cars might be fun and exciting, but it’s dangerous and reckless as well. Even when street or drag racing was done in a controlled environment and with skilled drivers behind the wheel, as featured in the reality television series “Street Outlaws,” the possibility of a car crashing is still high. In wanting to cross the finish line first, racers pushed their hot rods to the limit. Handling all that power isn’t simple or easy and so it doesn’t always end well. From time to time, there would be reports of car mishaps during the filming of the show.

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Street racing as documented in “Street Outlaws”

Street racing is basically a race between two or more cars on a public road. It’s unsanctioned and illegal, so drivers usually do it at night or in the wee hours of the morning on an abandoned road to avoid the authorities. This was how it all began for the stars of Discovery Channel’s “Street Outlaws.” They were regular guys from Oklahoma City (OKC)who loved cars and racing. At first, they raced amongst themselves and made a list of the Top 10 fastest on the street. Later on, people came to challenge them or they went to other cities to do that. To ensure a win, the drivers modified their vehicles as soon as they could afford it, to make them more powerful and so faster.

The reality show became a hit, and several spin-off series made their TV debuts as well, showcasing the street racing scene in various cities. To make things more exciting, the network also launched “Cash Days” and “Street Outlaws: No Prep Kings” in which drivers from all over could race for the prize money and be hailed as the champion.

National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) vs “Street Outlaws”

NHRA, the biggest auto racing organization in the world, was founded in 1951 to promote sportsmanship and fellowship with an emphasis on the safety of hot rodders and spectators. They set the rules and hosted drag-racing events in the US and Canada, as they wanted gearheads and racers to get off public streets, so obviously they wouldn’t condone street racing. When NHRA-licensed drivers participated in “Street Outlaws,” the organization issued each of them a letter, notifying them that they could lose their competition license. Big Chief from OKC was reportedly the first one to share the letter on social media, and others followed suit. This became viral, as people either sided with the show or the NHRA.

Some believed that this was a simple case of the NHRA not wanting to be associated with street racing. There were those who recalled that back in 2007, a Pro Modified racer lost control of his Corvette during a burnout exhibition, which resulted in the death of six spectators and injury to 22 others – since an NHRA decal was on the car, they were included in a civil suit.

Fans defended the reality show, saying that the races were filmed on closed-off streets, with the full co-operation of local law enforcement, and that the necessary precautions were in place.

Car crashes in “Street Outlaws”

Flashed on the screen at the beginning of every episode was a disclaimer informing viewers that street racing was dangerous, and that while the cast of the show had a decade-long experience in the sport, the races that they featured were done with safety measures in place within a controlled environment. That said, anything could still go wrong during a race. Here are some of the car crashes that the cast members had been involved in:

Lizzy Musi crashed her “Bonnie”

NOLA’s (New Orleans Louisiana) Lizzy went up against OKC’s fastest, Ryan Martin, in his Fireball Camaro for season five of No Prep Kings at the Tucson Dragway in Arizona in September 2022. She crashed her 1969 Chevrolet Camaro, dubbed “Bonnie.” Kye Kelley and her father, Pat Musi, an engine builder, and former racer, rushed over to where she was, but it was Ryan who arrived first on the scene to check on her. Lizzy said she was not okay, but her head hurt badly because it slammed back and forth. She walked out of her car assisted by paramedics.

She recalled that as soon as the light turned green, it felt like she had a good start, but at around 330 feet, the car shook a little, got loose, and ran onto the left wall. The parachute was then deployed but the car crossed the center line and hit the concrete barrier on the other side. Lizzy said, ‘Still got the win but not the way I wanted to. This is probably one of the most gnarliest crashes I’ve dealt with in my career racing.’

Back in July 2021, she lost control of “Bonnie” mid-track at the Darlington Dragway in South Carolina for a No Prep Kings race against California’s Brandon James, champion of the 2021 Mega Cash Days event. From a video taken of the incident, her car crossed the center line but went back to her lane only to hit the guard rail, and then a fire ignited. She said the car left hard and shook the tires, and as she pedaled, the wheels lifted. Lizzy was taken to a hospital for a routine evaluation, but returned to the dragway to support her boyfriend Kye. Later that day, he asked her to marry him to which she said, ‘Yes, I want to marry my best friend.’

Kye Kelley’s “Shocker” was wrecked, but he wasn’t behind the wheel

Kye’s 1994 Camaro, nicknamed “Shocker,” was totally destroyed after a crash in 2022. He wasn’t driving when it happened, as apparently he wanted his friend, David Gates, to join team NOLA for season two of America’s List, as there were only five of them, whereas other teams had around 10. The rules at that time allowed the use of any car to get into the race, and so Kye believed that if David drove “Shocker,” the latter could race his way in. They tested it at night outside of filming so it was done illegally, and were in a hurry to avoid getting caught by the police, and didn’t walk the road to check its condition, so didn’t notice that there was a pond beside the road that allowed dew to settle on the area. David made a great pass, but at about 330 feet, the car kicked left, flipped end over end twice, and then rolled sideways four times before stopping. He walked away unharmed, despite the damage that the car sustained.

The “Shocker” had become legendary in its exploits on the street or drag strip. Without meaning to brag, he said it made a lot of people nervous whenever it showed up, because they knew they had a very slim chance of beating it. This third-generation Camaro was why Kye earned a reputation for being one of the baddest on the racing circuit. In the early days of the show, he took home $16,000 for Cash Days, and was hailed the fastest street racer in the Southeast. Kye had the “Shocker” for 10 years and considered it his baby, so he was heartbroken when he realized it couldn’t be rebuilt. His team would take as many pieces as they could from it and incorporate them in the construction of the new car, so they would have the same ‘genetics.’

JJ Da Boss’ “Hummingbird” on fire before it rolled over Tricia’s Ziptie

Husband and wife sharing the same passion for street racing might be a good thing, but when they faced off in January 2022 for season two of “Street Outlaws: America’s List” in South Texas, the race didn’t end well. No one who watched the footage of what happened that night or witnessed it firsthand would have thought that either of the two would come out alive.

Memphis leader, JJ Da Boss, was behind the wheel of the “Hummingbird” when fire suddenly ignited inside. He then lost control of the car, smacked onto Tricia’s Ziptie, and rolled over it. When her car was hit, it also caught on fire, then spiraled out of control and headed toward the production’s parked rental cars – JJ managed to get out of his car and reach her quickly. She was seen crying and panicking because she was stuck inside the car that was on fire, and couldn’t get out on her own. When the fire was extinguished and she was extricated, she said that she was hurting everywhere.

Both were taken to the hospital, but Tricia got the worst of it. While JJ suffered burns to his hands and face, she underwent surgery on both hips. It was a long road of recovery for her, but she surprised even her doctors when she walked earlier than expected.

Precious Cooper and Stevie Croom avoided a collision but still wrecked their cars

In “Street Outlaws: Memphis,” Precious Cooper, dubbed “Queen of the Streets,” faced off with South Carolina’s Stevie Croom. As soon as the two took off, Stevie swerved left onto her lane and almost hit her “Ziptie” Nova, but managed to get back to his lane only to spin around, get off track, and wreck his Mustang. As she tried to avoid a collision, Precious turned left, drove onto the gravel, and ended up flipping seven times. She admitted to being scared as the race turned into a nightmare, but she was madder about the damage to the car. Both drivers were relatively unharmed.

Jeff Lutz crashed his 1957 Chevy

Before Jeff’s race in 2021 against Damon Merchant, also from the 405 crew, he said, ‘I don’t wanna just make America’s List. I wanna go as a serious contender to win it all.’ He already had two wins prior, but needed to make a run for the top, however, that night ended badly for him. His 1957 Twin-Turbo Chevy spiraled out of control and crossed the center line before hitting the curb and flipping multiple times. He got out of the car on his own but told the paramedics when they reached him that he was hurting all over, and had difficulty breathing. Jeff was flown to a hospital in Tulsa.

Once he recovered, he along with his wife went to his garage and was pretty broken up when he saw the extent of the damage to his vehicle; he’d crashed his car before, but nothing like this. He said, ‘I don’t know what we’re gonna do here. I can’t fix this.’ and became emotional as he recalled all the blood, sweat and tears that he and his team put into building it. Jeff was lucky to be alive, to walk away from the accident with ‘just bumps and bruises.’ The car meant a lot to him, but he chose to see it as a tool that he used to do his job, and reminded himself that it could be replaced.

Justin Swanstrom’s car caught fire and then got rear-ended

Justin raced against Dave Adkins at the Maple Grove Raceway in Mohnton, Pennsylvania for the filming of “Street Outlaws: No Prep Kings The Great 8.” Midway through the race, Justin’s car, known as Prenup, caught on fire due to a broken fuel line. Dave, who was in the right lane, lost control of his vehicle and clipped the rear quarter of Justin’s car, which was already on fire, before smacking onto the guard rail. After Justin’s car was hit, it spun and then ran onto the wall in the opposite lane, as the parachute that Dave deployed got tangled up between them. Spectators watched as Justin got out of the car and went over the concrete barrier. He said that his face got a little hot, but other than tha, he was fine.

Footage of the aftermath of the crash showed Justin mad about something, and he later cleared things up as he said that it wasn’t directed at the other driver, because he knew what he signed up for in racing cars. Apparently, what made him lose his temper was that someone from the drag strip told him that ‘they were tired of fixing the walls’ or words to that effect.

Shannon Poole’s car went airborne and fire erupted as it took a nosedive

Shannon, star of “Street Outlaws: New Orleans,” was racing his 1964 C2 Corvette nicknamed “Red Bull,” when it crashed at the Gulfport Dragway during a Fat Tuesday Mardi Gras Blowout in February 2020. As he neared the finish line, the front end of his car began to lift, turned sideways mid-air before it took flight and then took a nosedive. It erupted into flames, likely due to severed fuel lines upon impact, and then barrel-rolled to a stop – it was one of the most harrowing crashes that spectators had ever seen. Reportedly, he was conscious when the paramedics reached him, and there were no obvious signs of injury, but he was brought to a hospital for a medical evaluation.

Ryan Fellows’ tragic death following a fiery crash

Racing in Las Vegas for the filming of “Street Outlaws: Fastest in America” in August 2022 had one fatality. The Nevada Occupational Safety and Health Administration launched a formal investigation over the death of 41-year-old Ryan Fellows, after a car crash that took place in the desert near the Harry Allen Power Plant Road and North Las Vegas Boulevard. According to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, the show had a permit to film in the area, and there were deputies present at that time. It was reported that Ryan was driving a Nissan 240Z when he lost control of it as it neared the finish line, and rolled several times before stopping with the car upside down. Unfortunately, no one reached him in time to extricate him from the vehicle before it was completely engulfed in fire.

A Discovery Channel spokesperson told news outlets, ‘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, Elizabeth, and two kids, 10-year-old Olivia and 18-year-old Josiah. On behalf of them, a longtime friend of Ryan named Brad Sparks created a GoFundMe page, which read, ‘Ryan was an avid car enthusiast and was a road “warrior” in many ways…He was admired for tenacity and a relentless drive to overcome the challenges before him.’

In February 2023, TMZ reported that the Fellows family sued Lions Gate Entertainment and Warner Bros. Discovery for negligence that led to Ryan’s death. Based on the documents obtained, the races were held on a 12 feet wide, rough asphalt 55-mile-per-hour roadway in the desert, which failed to meet the safety standards for drag racing. After the tragic accident, races were moved to a 75-foot wide drag strip.

People who are passionate about cars and racing, live and breathe it. They know what they are getting into when they participate in a street race or a drag race. They’re fully aware of the risks they take each time they make a pass on the track as they had seen it firsthand whenever a fellow racer crashed a car during a race, but it doesn’t stop any of them from getting behind the wheel and doing what they can to cross the finish line first.

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