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Speed Revs Up New Shows

4/16/2006 11:00 PM Eastern

Speed Channel is putting its programming pedal to the metal with original series and new episodes of existing shows.

The new programs also bring a celebrity element to the network’s traditional fare for auto enthusiasts.

“In commissioning these series, we are bringing successful elements of the network’s past together with bright new concepts for its future and combining them into a brand-new present,” vice president of programming Robert Ecker said.

Payback will feature car-loving celebrities thanking individuals who have played a meaningful role in their lives by giving them a custom automobile. The show will be “a little more appealing to the emotional side of the car culture,” according to Ecker, who added that Payback would be “more upbeat, feel-good” than some of the network’s edgier shows. It is expected to debut in early July.

Another new show, Jet Set, will put TheTonight Show with Jay Leno host Jay Leno in the driver’s seat. The series will follow car-collector Leno as he sets out to build and test a jet-powered car using advanced technology, alternative fuels and his team at Big Dog Garage. The series is likely to debut in early 2007.

Another original show in the pipeline is Shooting Cars, which will follow a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based company that supplies vehicles to the entertainment industry from how they get the vehicles to how they prep them for use. Ecker described the show as “a new wrinkle on behind the scenes.”

In addition to its series debuts, the network is planning 13 new summer episodes of its successful PINKS series for the show’s third season. The reality show pits contestants against each other in a 1950s-style drag race, with the loser having to hand over the title to his vehicle.

Also on tap are 12 more episodes of American Muscle Car, one of the network’s longest-running franchises. Six of the episodes -- documenting the history and complete restoration of the last authenticated Corvette Stingray to be produced by Chevrolet -- will debut in the fall as a special titled The Last Stingray.

Speed was one of the biggest primetime gainers in first-quarter-2006 ratings from Nielsen Media Research, gaining 33% to a 0.4 -- the network’s best Nielsen quarterly ratings in its history.