Saturday, April 17, 2010

Column: History Channel’s Madhouse: It’s scripted, it’s a soap opera, its war, but it’s NOT racing.

Disclaimer: The only way I could write about MadHouse on RaceDriven.com is in a column considering it has nothing to do with racing, motorsports, automobiles or NASCAR, it's a scripted show.

There has been a lot of buzz, talk about this new series on the history channel called Madhouse. The buzz has been more negative than positive especially if you’re a NASCAR fan. So after watching the entire first season of MadHouse, I actually had mixed feelings about this show just like so many viewers have.

The series Madhouse takes place at a short track called Bowman-Gray Stadium which is a NASCAR sanctioned 1/4-mile asphalt flat oval short track and football stadium located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. It is one of stock car racing's most legendary venues, and is referred to as "NASCAR's longest running weekly race track". (From Wikipedia)

The series follows several key drivers around both on and off-track in there every day lives. The key drivers in this series are the 8-time champion and veteran driver Junior Miller. I have to say, age really doesn’t play a factor in racing, it doesn’t matter how old you are, whether you’re 18 or in this case 58, as long as your healthy enough and have the experience, you can race.

But for Miller, it isn’t about his age as much as his history of revenge and its shows. In my opinion, revenge really doesn’t have a place in racing, everybody is trying to get every position they can to get into position win the race, but the only revenge in my book is beating on the track fair and square. That means winning races, beating for position, not wrecking them, especially not to a point of no return in a race.

Along with Junior Miller (who is in a family feud with the Myers) are Burt Myers and his brother Jason Myers. Jason Myers is a racer that breaks through to win every now and then, but isn’t in to the whole retaliation thing.

Burt Myers became the youngest Bowman-Gray Stadium track champion in history called “The golden boy”. As such, Burt Myers and Junior Miller as a result of the family feud have a history of wrecking each other.

In the first episode, it showcased the 2008 Bowman-Gray Stadium final race and that Miller spun out Myers, then Myers returned the favor in a big way by spinning out Miller. After the race, Myers rammed his car into Miller’s passenger side door and right front twice. And Miller and Myers talk about unfinished business, wanting to take the other out and trying to carry it in 2009.

However when you have two of the star drivers feuding with each other including wrecking each other, it opens the door for other drivers to sneak in and steal a victory or two. And that brings me to the third driver is Tim Brown.

Brown seems to be that driver that regularly capitalizes on Miller and Myers feud by waiting for them to wreck each other and then going on to take the victory. But don’t think that that is only way he wins. Brown is 8-time BGS champion, runs in NASCAR's Whelen Southern Modified Tour, has landed a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series ride and works for Michael Waltrip Racing. But despite what Miller and Myers thinks in that Brown winning is a cake walk, in watching the racing, it’s anything but especially beating the rest of the field.

If that wasn’t enough, you have Junior Miller’s second driver “Jon Boy” Brown who is already making his name in racing by wrecking other drivers to win a race. But not to be outdone, you also have Chris Fleming, who is a hard racer on a small budget and that is saying something.

In watching all of the episodes, the series has left me with sort of a bad taste in my mouth and saying is this real. I mean in all of the episodes, the show basically showcases some of these drivers along with a few others that talk all week about unfinished business, namely what they want to do to other drivers including wrecking them and in most cases, they actually go out and do it. What kind of a racer is that?

Now there is a huge difference between real racing and Madhouse in my opinion. In being a huge racing fan that has a huge passion for racing that not only watches on television, but attends races every year including races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway where I watch all three of NASCAR’s national series (Sprint Cup Series, Nationwide Series and Truck Series) as well as the regional series of east series and the NASCAR Modified Tour, Madhouse is anything, but racing.

An example of a product of good racing is; in not only watching the NASCAR Modified Tour at NHMS which always amazing, but back in 2008, my family and I attended Seekonk Speedway to watch weekly series and they had the TrueValue Modified series. That’s what racing is supposed to be all about, but they didn’t go wrecking each.

Racing is also filled with emotions and tempers, and sometimes they get the best of you, but this racing on MadHouse isn’t it, I can’t even call it a Demolition Derby, it’s a war between some drivers on a tight ¼ mile track that they settle on the track and that’s dangerous… These other drivers are there to win too, but they don’t want to wreck people nor wreck their own cars.

Bottom line, I believe that MadHouse is a weekly scripted soup opera about SOME drivers in and among a field of racers that build modified racecars to win races and championships at any cost and if another driver gets in their way, retaliation is the only answer. I’m not surprised that MadHouse has become a hit with some, it’s something that Hollywood would script for an action-packed series, but to racing fans like me, it’s an insult and showcases something that shouldn’t even be called racing…but a MadHouse. At least they got the name right.

I hope that people don’t compare real racing at a weekly, regional or national level like NASCAR to MadHouse, because they have nothing to do with each other. What do you think of MadHouse?