There’s no such thing as boring or uneventful days for those involved in drag racing, but that isn’t always a good thing. Despite the success and popularity achieved by “Street Outlaws” since its 2013 premiere on Discovery channel, the show is continuously the subject of big controversies due to the dangerous nature of the street racing profession, and the situations which have not only resulted in serious accidents, put lives many lives at risk, and the unfortunate passing of a cast member.
While there’s no question about whether street racing is as extreme as it appears to be, the recent unfortunate events surrounding “Street Outlaws” have been enough to fire up the debate on the show’s future, safety issues, and the risks and consequences of the racing industry.
So how dangerous is street racing and how much has that affected “Street Outlaws”? Stay here to know it!
Ryan Fellows’ Death
While it isn’t rare for racers to put their lives on the line for their passion behind the wheel, in the long history of “Street Outlaws” no , whenaccident has had fatal consequences for many seasons. That is until on 7 August 2022 racer Ryan Fellows was killed in a crash while filming an episode for the show’s spin-off “Fastest in America”.
Reportedly,onellows’ race happened early in the morning, after at least eight other races had taken place at a Las Vegas Boulevard street. Fellows’ Nissan 240z was not far away from the finish line when he unfortunately lost control of it, rolling over the track as the car caught on fire, losing his life in the process despite the emergency team’s efforts to rescue him from the flames.
At the time of his death, Fellows was a 41 years old family man, father to two teen children, and husband to Liz. As described in the funding campaign started by his family, Ryan worked as a sales agent, and was passionate about basketball and cars.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration of Nevada started an investigation regarding the accident which ended Fellows’ life, though the results wouldn’t be ready until early 2023. As well, it was revealed by a Clark County officer that a required permit to film in the place where the accident took place wasn’t acquired by the show.
'Street Outlaws' Driver Ryan Fellows Dies in Crash Filming for Show in Vegas for Discovery Channel. #RyanFellows #StreetOutLaws #DiscoveryChannel. Watch the full story: https://t.co/abJvj60nDc pic.twitter.com/hWdgcp3JmJ
— Sean Musa Carter (@seanmusacarter) August 8, 2022
Problems were soon to come towards “Street Outlaws” following the death of Ryan. As reported by TMZ, Fellows’ family sued “Street Outlaws” networks Discovery and Lions Gate Entertainment for negligence before and after the accident which took Ryan’s life.
As read in the report, some of the strongest accusations by the family include the ‘weather-beaten’ conditions of the road he raced over on the day of his accident, which they argued wasn’t 30 feet wide as required by safety rules, but only 12 feet wide. Other descriptions of the roadway mention broken asphalt, dust, and lack of barriers, all of which they claimed were to blame for Ryan’s loss of control over his car.
The family also claimed the network and people in charge of “Street Outlaws” decided not to take appropriate safety measures, even though several accidents had occurred in races organized by the show before Ryan’s death: ‘(they) sat back, flipped on the lights and cameras, and waited for the next inevitable crash’, they wrote.
It’s unclear how much money Fellows’ family is asking for damages and whether the lawsuit will result in an ongoing case or be settled out-of-court, but it’s clear that the situation is complex.
Tricia Day’s Crash
In the same year that the terrible accident which took Ryan Fellows’ life occurred, another dreadful crash had taken place while filming “Street Outlaws: America’s List”.
Back in April 2022, the Memphis team was filming on a roadway of La Villa, in the south of Texas. Although previous races that day had been going well so far, the team’s leader JJ Da Boss and his wife Tricia Day were about to race each other in their respective blue and red Chevy II Novas. Just a second after both cars left the start line, JJ’s Chevy caught on fire, making him lose control and inevitably crashed against Tricia’s car, sending it to the side of the road while rolling over.
As seen on the show’s screen, the accident was terrible, to say the least, and had everyone rushing over to the scene to help the pair. On his part, JJ was able to get out of the car on his own and rushed to take care of Tricia, whose car was still partially in flames at that point.
JJ was treated for several burns which only slowed him down for a couple of days, while Tricia underwent hip surgery and a months-long recovery process, marking this wreck as one of the most serious in the show’s history.
Robin Roberts’ Crash
Not long after the death of Ryan Fellows, another terrible wreck in the show had a driver’s life at serious risk. Said incident happened in October 2022 while filming “Street Outlaws: No Prep Kings” in a roadway of Rockingham in North Carolina.
Veteran driver Robin Roberts was racing his 1968 Pontiac Firebird against Justin Swanstrom’s Lexus, but not long after the cars crossed the starting line, Roberts’ electric-blue Firebird crashed against a wall.
Though it’s unclear if Roberts’ car caught on fire, the impact was enough to leave him unconscious. He was taken to the nearest hospital in Charlotte, from where he took time to inform his followers about his current situation once he felt better: ‘I have some recovery time for 3 ribs, a big concussion and a collapsed lung’, he wrote on Instagram, adding that he had no recollection of the accident when he awoke in hospital, getting to know about the situation only once his wife Melody told him.
In the next months, Roberts’ photos on social media evidenced that his recovery and the fixing of his car were advancing well. Nonetheless, even if Roberts’ accident wasn’t as serious as others seen in the show, it made clear that wrecks kept occurring, even after the tragedy of Ryan Fellows’ death.
Changes In The Show & Controversy
Following Ryan Fellows’ devastating death, “Street Outlaws” apparently took certain measures to improve the safety of those involved with their spin-off “Fastest in America”.
Amid the lawsuit by the Fellows family towards Discovery, TMZ revealed that after Ryan’s death, the show’s production moved the rest of the season’s races from street locations to a professional, safety-measures-complying raceway. While the importance of this move only pertains to the wrongdoing case against the network, it’s not the first time that “Street Outlaws” has been questioned regarding their decisions.
Back in 2016, then Tulsa’s Mayor Travis Yates warned about the dangers of the show’s choice of race locations and how it could affect citizens in future years, in case a fatal accident took place: ‘I’m going to have to answer for us allowing a show to come into our town, sanctioned, and glorify this activity,’ he told Tulsa World, adding that the number of complaints for illegal races had increased since the show started filming in the city, trying to follow the trend.
Whether these comments had any effect on “Street Outlaws” is unclear, but there’s no doubt that the worries about the show’s safety and its consequences are nothing new.
License Revocation Scandal
The rebellious, law-breaking ways of “Street Outlaws” has not only caused a bit of a backlash from general audiences worried about the dangers of their work, but also gained disapproval from the racing industry itself.
In 2015, a letter sent by the NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) to several “Street Outlaws” stars caused a ruckus to say the least. In the letter, the association rejected the street racing activities in which the show took part, claiming it put people at risk, also emphasizing how the lack of usage of proper and safety measure-approved racing facilities increased the dangers to which those involved with it were exposed.
The letter pointed out how illegal racing broke NHRA’s guidebook of conduct, and warned how the continuity of these activities could result in the suspension or revocation of drivers’ competition licenses.
“Street Outlaws” audiences weren’t very receptive to NHRA’s complaints, and a huge backlash against the organization soon came. Nonetheless, one year later at the NHRA Summer Nationals, “Street Outlaws” main star Justin “Big Chief” Shearer admitted that the organization did a good job of securing drivers’ lives: ‘It really opens your eyes to how much (they), and how much can go wrong’, he said, as reported by Hot Rod News.
Is “Street Outlaws” Getting Canceled?
Saying that street racing is dangerous is an understatement, yet this topic never posed real worry in the show’s audience until the death of Ryan Fellows, and the subsequent lawsuit resulting from it.
That being said, the series franchise hasn’t stopped airing new episodes since his death, even premiering “Fastest In America”s fourth season in March 2023, while taking care to leave any footage of Ryan out of it.
Even though it isn’t rare to question the show’s future, given the nature of the lawsuit faced by Discovery, there are still no signs of it having any negative consequences on “Street Outlaws”. However, while the success of the series is a most likely assurance that the show won’t see its end any time soon, further safety measures will probably be taken to prevent future tragedies.
That being said, whether the consequences of illegal street racing are the suspension of licenses or terrible accidents, or even worse, the loss of lives, one thing for sure is that “Street Outlaws” has been sincere with its audience about these issues since the beginning.