To say that the National Hot Rod Association and the Discovery television show, Street Outlaws, have had a touchy relationship is a bit of an understatement. In February of 2015, the NHRA threated to revoke the competition license of any participant of the TV show. HOT ROD later learned that the NHRA was uneasy with NHRA-stickered vehicles appearing on the show that portrays illegal street racing – a topic that was the catalyst for Wally Parks' formation of the NHRA in 1951.
"It really opens your eyes to how much [the NHRA does], and how much can go wrong,” said Justin Shearer. "You see guys down [the track] that save people's lives, put out fires, drag you outta the car, and you start to realize they're there because they've seen it happen, right?”
Yes, that Justin – Big Chief. The 405's most infamous Pontiac racer, and we say that as a term of endearment. Many racers started on the two-lane black top, but as age and wisdom grew, many began to see the signs. In an interview during the 2016 NHRA Summer Nationals, the NHRA asked Justin, "You're out at an NHRA event, and you see all the control and the safety that's out here for the drivers; what does that do to the way you look at the illegal racing that you do?”
"At some point in time, all things went wrong here or there, so they put people in place to help that – to make sure you stay alive as drag racer, and you get to race the next day.”
Big Chief might seem retrospective these days after his accident with Brian "Chucky” Davis while filming an episode of Street Outlaws. However, when the cameras are off, and the television crew is off-duty, street racing becomes a monumental gamble – as a trio of Street Outlaws participants recently learned when an illegal street race ended with two sideline spectators dead.
"It's crazy that we do what we do on the street with all those risks – so at some point, you have to wonder: Is the risk worth it? Is the juice worth the squeeze when you're going as fast we are on the street?”
What does this mean for the NHRA and Big Chief? Clearly, bridges have been mended, and a new relationship between street racing's biggest face on television and drag racing's biggest sanctioning body has seeded. What will it grow into? That's the million dollar question.