We pride ourselves on the fact that many of our employees are Mustang enthusiasts, just like you. Looking around the parking lot, we’ve got more Ponies than a Texas rodeo. Many AmericanMuscle staffers spend their weekends at the track or local car shows, or in the garage installing their latest purchase, because working here does have its benefits.
Two AmericanMuscle employees that share our taste in performance are Karen Baum and Dave Kaeck. Between the two of them, they have owned a total of 15 Mustangs. These customer service reps are just a couple of AmericanMuscle’s on-the-phone Mustang experts. They’re also drag racers who recently took their AM-prepped ‘Stangs to a filming of SPEED TV’s ultra-popular Pass Time game show at Maryland International Raceway.
Filmed on location at many of America’s favorite grass roots drag strips, Pass Time challenges two contestants to “guess the time, win the cash – it’s that easy,” according to show host Brett Wagner. Playing against famed Texas-based racecar chassis builder Ken “The House” Herring, contestants attempt to predict the 1/4-mile drag times of 10 random cars that pull up to the line in front of them. After each run the player with the closest time wins, and the player winning the most money at the end takes the entire $2,000 pot.
Always ready and willing to do whatever it takes to spend a day at the track, I convinced the boss to let me and a couple of our cameras follow our friends three hours south from our home in Philly to get a behind the scenes look at SPEED TV’s first-ever game show and, of course, the adrenaline-charged acceleration at MIR.
Trackside at MIR
Pulling through the gates at MIR in Dave’s supercharged ’07 GT Vert, with Karen’s ’03 GT Coupe inside the trailer in front of us, it was immediately clear the day would reveal some serious speed. The MIR paddock was packed with turn track-only cars of every make and model rolling off the back of trailers, their owners hoping for a shot to make a run at the strip on the show.
Show producer Ray Iddings oversees the filming of nine episodes in two days every time their crew takes over a track. Sadly, not everyone that shows up for the event gets to run. At MIR, it seemed as though everyone with two thumbs and a throttle preregistered for a shot to be one of the 110 rides selected to appear on the show. Producers looked over the field of 500 cars and carefully picked their favorites to put up their best times on-air. For our guys, it would be a split decision with Karen’s naturally aspirated black ’03 GT picked from the crowd, while Dave was forced to sit and watch. With one in five cars selected, we figured getting 50% of our ground force on the show was doing pretty darn good.
For the rest of the day Karen ushered her car through the mandatory tech inspection and readied herself for her national television debut. Meanwhile, Dave drowned himself in tears as I escaped to get a behind the scenes look at how SPEED can turn drag racing into a game show.
Behind the Scenes
Contrary to what some may think, Pass Time is a genuine game show where contestants are handpicked by the show producer weeks ahead of time, invited to a regional filming, and then sequestered until their episode is filmed. That’s right, sequestered; just like jurors in high-profile court cases. (Think OJ and the late Michael Jackson.) As the morning of the show arrives, contestants receive instructions from the show producer and his staff before traveling to the track where they are confined until their episode begins.
In order to shoot nine episodes in two days, Pass Time organizers show up to the track with a small army. On-air personalities and key members of the crew fly in from destinations across the country, while additional crew members are recruited locally. In all, more than 40 people contribute to the show’s success. With the director, producer and select sound and video crew cramped into the way-cool mobile command headquarters, the team conducts a carefully orchestrated symphony that lasts approximately 45 minutes per 22-minute finished episode.
For our part, after waiting patiently though most of the day and into the night, Karen finally got her turn at the track. Following a round of beauty shots, her Mustang crept into the left lane to show its stuff. And after a brief interview with the host and a round of questions from the contestants, she was 1/4 mile away and going like a bat outta hell. Of course, if you want to know more about Karen’s run, you’ll have to tune in when her episode airs in February, or ask Karen yourself.
For a closer behind the scenes look at AmericanMuscle on Pass Time, check out our photos and video from MIR. And to watch Pass Time on SPEED, go to http://www.speedtv.com/programs/pass-time/ for the latest programming schedule.