Fans of the lighter variety of automotive events — demolition derbies, racing while pulling a trailer, racing while pulling a spark-inducing skid plate — helped to keep the variety show Lucas Oil … On the Edge on Speed’s roster for 10 seasons and more than 250 episodes before Fox Sports converted the channel to FS1 in 2013.
The library has lived on at MAVTV, where series co-creator Steve Grein is the network’s executive producer. Lucas Oil Products, which always sponsored the show, owns MAVTV. Still, it took an observation by company founder Forrest Lucas this summer to restart the franchise.
“He was in the office [in Corona, Calif.] and walked through the halls and said: Why are we only showing reruns of On the Edge? Why aren’t we doing new shows?” Grein recalled.
Grein said he wasn’t sure. Two days later, network president Bob Patison called in Grein and said, “We’re bringing On the Edge back, we need as many shows as you can before the end of this year, and next year we want 26 again.”
So, with network resources, versus the more limited capabilities he had while making the show as an independent producer, Grein and co-creator Ken Stout have gone back out to tracks in Joliet, Ill.; Perris, Calif.; and elsewhere, filming motorsports events that otherwise might not have a home on television. The first new episode, an hour-long special, aired on Saturday, Dec. 5. The plan is for about 15 new episodes this season, followed by a full slate of 26 next time.
New half-hour shows will continue to air on Saturdays from events including Figure 8 races, sand drag racing and even some more conventional races that, according to Grein, are ones that are “right on the cusp of being a national series.”
Mostly, though, it’s the kind of “fun, wacky” event that can fill the stands at a racetrack on the weekend but are too destructive for a track to do on a steady basis. Which is a shame, economically, because the offbeat events draw more of a crowd than the mainstay races.
The former Speed channel recognized there was a place for event-driven shows like On the Edge, former programming executive Robert Ecker, now an independent writer and producer, told The Wire.
“There are people who are rabid car guys and automotive fans, if not necessarily race fans,” he said. “I think we understood that this community is out there, and in some respects they were underserved and, in some respects, unserved.”
The original idea Grein and Stout had — to stitch together a disparate batch of one-off events into a series that you didn’t have to obsessively follow to see who had the most points or won the most — seemed like a natural for Speed, Ecker said. “And it really did take off.”
Grein, given his executive role at MAVTV, had the option of handing the restart off to another producer, but it being his baby, there was no chance of that. Stout, his co-creator, is the host, and the original theme song is still in place. One change, sadly, was needed because color announcer Brian Olson died this past summer, following a motorcycle accident. Rob Klepper, who had been a pit reporter, has stepped into the color role.
Fans have responded enthusiastically to the show’s return, sending in pitches for events they’d like to see covered, Grein said. He expects to cover more of the country geographically than he could before, including venturing to the Northeast. MAVTV is sending more people and equipment to the events, too, including more onboard cameras.
“There’s still a lot of passion out there,” Grein said. “We are definitely a niche market, no question, but there’s room for that and there’s a lot of passion for motor sports and what we do.”
Library episodes of On the Edge (and eventually new ones, too) will be available on the new LucasOilRacing.TV app that Grein and the network have been prepping for a Jan. 1 launch as a streaming pay channel.