We know everyone has heard by now the letters sent by the NHRA to Street Outlaws cast members threatening license suspension for being on the show. The NHRA cited the promotion of street racing as the main cause of the pending punishment, since the organization was founded on the premise of bringing street racing to an end.
We talked to one such person receiving one of the letters, multi-time drag racing champion Mike Murillo, to get this comments on the situation. Murillo is a name everyone in small-tire racing knows, and he has something to lose if the NHRA suspends his license, so he looks at this situation a little different than anyone else involved in the show..
First off, Murillo got his start on the streets, as many heads-up racers did. He had a Trans Am that used to get beat up my Mustangs on the street so he bought his own 5.0L Mustang in 1991. That’s also the same year he went through the gates of a drag strip for the first time. It wouldn’t be until 1993 that Murillo actually became serious about heads-up racing. He went to a race at Dallas in 1993, and when he realized he could compete, that’s when he started getting serious about heads-up racing.
Therefore, he needed an NHRA license. “I’ve had a competition license since 1994, and that was a big shock to me when I had to get a license, because there were a bunch of changes we had to make to the car to be legal,” Murillo says.
He started racing with Fun Ford Weekend,s 5.0 class in 1995, which was ironically renamed Street Outlaw in 1996. Even at this time, Murillo maintained a street presence. “We took all the decals off my car since it had already been in the magazines, but we forgot about the Texas Jam sticker outline on my third brake light,” he adds. Needless to say, no one would race him. Everyone already knew the car.
Alas, after many championships and over time he noticed the excitement was gone. “I didn’t understand why people weren’t in the stands,” Murillo says. Like the fans, he was starting to get bored. He needed some excitement; he needed something different to keep him interested. While doing some testing with Todd Moyer’s car, he got stuck in a track during a grudge event, and there were over 3,000 people in the place. “The scoreboards were shut off — these people didn’t even know what the cars were running, yet there were a ton of people there,” he adds.
That told Murillo there was an underground fight club-type movement that was sick of million dollar budgets, sick of the same old drag racing. He began hanging out with the people from the Street Outlaws show. “It brought excitement back,” Murillo says. Before long, he was getting his famous Fox ready to race on the streets with the Street Outlaws cast.
When we asked Murillo what his first thought was upon opening the letter, he backed us up. An NHRA official was actually at the now-closed San Antonio Dragway while Murillo tested his car back in August or September of 2014, and the official talked with Murillo about what the NHRA thought about the show, and the ramifications of participating in it. Therefore, he already knew something was brewing.
Alas, when he opened the letter Wednesday, his first reaction was, “Oh shit, they weren’t joking.” After that, he began to consider the plight of his friends on the show that had contractual obligations to the Discovery Channel. What were they going to do? “Those people are stuck,” Murillo says. They’re contractually obligated to appear on the show, and even though the NHRA made an effort to send out the letter between seasons, there are still episodes appearing on the show featuring people who could be affected by this letter.
When asked what he thought about the letter, and what it said, Murillo responded: “I think what they’re doing is wrong, but it’s not worth it for me to give up my NHRA license.” Murillo hates to take that stance, because it appears he’s caving in to the NHRA, but there’s too much on the line for him. Murillo has too much invested to risk losing his license.
“I just hope they can come up with a resolution where people don’t lose their competition licenses. It’s not fair to the guys on the show. The racing on the show takes place in a closed environment — there’s no crowd, EMS and fire are on the property; it’s not right to rip these guys’ licenses because of a reality show,” he adds. In other words, it’s not what everyone thinks of when people say street racing.
It does take place on a public road, but the roads are shut down for the night while filming takes place. “If they were truly out street racing, I would 100-percent agree with the NHRA’s stance,” Murillo says. He told us the show even has tech officials who look over every car before being allowed to participate. “The racing is real,” Murillo says, “but it’s TV. It’s way different than what people think of as street racing.”
For several cast members on the show, their situations are different. Murillo says there are several that don’t have NHRA licenses at all, so they aren’t affected. For Murillo, though, he has a lot on the line. He had hoped to do a Texas versus Oklahoma shootout on the show in the future, but with the NHRA letter that’s definitely not happening.
This letter, and the potential fallout, is a huge deal. There’s a lot to consider for those involved. Murillo said there were a few Street Outlaws guys who wanted to get into drag radial racing, and if this goes through, those cast members may not be able to make that jump.
“It has a huge trickle-down effect,” Murillo says. “If these guys lose their NHRA license, the guys who get paid for appearances, they probably won’t be allowed to do so at NHRA-sanctioned tracks. These are just regular guys trying to make money for their families,” Murillo says.
For Murillo, you can tell he’s sitting squarely on the fence, and like we said, he hates being in that position. He sees both sides, but he has to do what is best for his family an his future racing endeavors. As you know, he’s starting a new show called House of Grudge with Ken Herring, and doesn’t want to make enemies with the NHRA, as he’s sure to hold events at NHRA-sanctioned facilities. Plus, his background is in organized racing with the NMRA and NMCA, so he sees what the NHRA is trying to do. But as he says in closing, “this is the wrong way to go about it, though,” Murillo says.