By Anthony Caruso III | Publisher
Derek Travis, a star on the Discovery Channel’s Street Outlaws, got into racing through his wife. Her brothers used to race, as well as her father, who convinced Travis to do the same.
His brother-in-law Mickey helped him get the car that he has now on the show. He traded a ’75 Camaro, a late second-Gen body style, for his current car. He was only able to keep his shifter, engine and transmission from his previous car, and has been slowly building it into the car of today since 2007.
“I got into street racing because of my wife,” he added. “Her brothers – Mickey and Brian and her dad was a racer back then. They always grew up around racing fast cars, so when I met my wife, who I’ve been with for the past 17-years, they talked me into getting a car and they helped me put together a motor.
“I took it to another level when I met up with Dave Comstock (Daddy Dave) and the Wide Open Throttle guys – Justin Shearer (Big Chief), Shawn Ellington (Murder Nova) and all of them,” Travis said. “After that, I had Dave help me with the car a little bit, and I moved out on my own with my wife. Dave has taken me under his wing and helped me out a lot. I’ve been street racing ever since.”
Since appearing on the show, Travis has become well-known around his town in Oklahoma. But in addition, it has cost him his job because they did not like he was illegal street racing.
“The TV show hasn’t changed my life per-say,” Travis added. “Yeah, I’m on TV and I get noticed. The biggest thing was, I never been on an airplane, and I was on an airplane due to the TV show. We went out to California, which was pretty cool. This has helped me go to states that I haven’t been to before.
“It’s also had its downfall, as the job that I had when I first got on the show, they didn’t like the fact that I was doing something illegal, so I actually got fired, because of the show. So, now, I’m at a place now, where it doesn’t bother him that I’m doing that. I work a ton of hours for him – 60 to 68 hours per week – then I have to turnaround and film when they want us to film. I also have to raise my 8-year-old daughter, and be with my wife, while also working on my car and still be competitive with the guys, who have a lot more money and time to work on their cars.”
The Street Outlaws have to fund their operations out of their own pockets. Sponsors do not pay them, but Travis said they get discounts and free products to help their race cars.
“I’ve picked up a few sponsors since I’ve been on the TV show,” Travis mentioned. “As far as anything else, I’m a blue collar guy that works every day. I do what I need to do, then I’ll buy and sell as I’ve worked in a Pawn Shop for a total of 16-years, so I have a little hustle in me. I do what I need to do in order to make the extra money that I need to make.”
Travis is the one who is always asking for the sleeves of the other driver in each race. He said he’s always wearing sleeve-less t-shirts and he gets hot real easy, which is how the idea started once someone said he should ask for their sleeves.
“At first, I laughed it off, and since the TV thing, where I’m not the fastest person out there and I don’t get the most TV time,” Travis acknowledged. “I don’t have a contract with Street Outlaws or Pilgrim Studios, so I wanted to do something to make myself stand out. Everyone has their own little thing that they do – Chuck Seitsinger (Chuck) is hotheaded, Farmtruck (Sean Whitley) & AZN (Jeff Bonnett) are just crazy in the stuff that they do. It’s just one of those things, where everyone has their own niche. I had to find out what my niche was, so I started to cut their sleeves.
“And to cut a grown man’s sleeves, and the amount of butt hurt that’s on their face, whenever I’m doing it, it’s almost priceless,” he stated. “It’s also another way for me to get in their heads. If you’re thinking, ‘He’s going to take my sleeves on National TV, you’re not thinking the race.’ You may forget one or more of your steps to get your car to go down the road. That may give me the edge that I need.”
Street Outlaws is a highly successful TV show, but at the same time, it is controversial since it follows illegal street racers. The show had an 0.4 rating between 18-to-49-year-olds on Monday night, according to TV by the Numbers.
“Our niche is to get the people, who are non-racers,” he stated. “Discovery Channel is trying to produce a TV show, and that’s what most people don’t understand. It is a semi-reality TV show, and we do what we want and it’s not scripted. Yeah, they do block off the streets for us to race, because if not, all you would see would be two tail and head lights. You wouldn’t be able to see anything if that wasn’t happening.
“Therefore, the little stuff that Farmtruck and AZN do, it’s funny and it’s our comedy. If there’s no comedy there, we wouldn’t be able to get the other viewers that normally wouldn’t watch it because of racing. So, they are going to different people to get other people’s attention. If you’re a racer, and you really like cars, you’re going to watch our show. I’m an NHRA fan, because it has fast cars in it. I don’t like NASCAR, because they go round-and-round. It makes me dizzy, but it’s part of racing, so therefore, if there was nothing else on TV, I’m still going to watch it for a few laps. I can’t watch the whole thing, and racers are going to watch other racers – motor stuff, car stuff – period. You have to target the other demographic in what’s going on.”