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Dirt Knights: Local race car driver creates TV reality series

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news Bemidji, 56619
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

Life on the racing circuit can generate adventures both on and off track.

Mike Spaulding of Bemidji and his partner, Corey Dripps of Waterloo, Iowa, who race under the name Barnyard Nation, have captured both the thrills of the races and the joys, frustrations and, sometimes, silliness, of drivers, pit crews and their families in a new reality docudrama series, 'Dirt Knights," to premiere on the Versus cable channel at 5 p.m. Jan. 2. Versus is carried by Paul Bunyan Television on Channel 68, by Midcontinent on Channel 65, by Direc TV on Channel 603 and by Dish Network on Channel 151.

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Spaulding said they sparked the idea for the reality shows, which portray the 83 races in 13 states of the 2010 United States Modified Touring Series season, during a 2007 trek between dirt tracks.

In the early-morning darkness on Interstate 35 near Des Moines, Iowa, they blew a trailer tire for, maybe, the sixth time that night. As they prepared to mount the spare, it rolled down the bank into the ditch, and they had to spend an hour hunting for it in the dark.

Spaulding recalled that his son and crew member, A.J., a senior at Bemidji High School, said they should be videoing the adventure because it was like a reality show.

Spaulding and Dripps immediately realized the truth of A.J.'s insight and began seeking funding for their reality venture. He said A&E and truTV both wanted the series, but those networks also wanted to control the content. Spaulding said the Dirt Knights wanted to keep control themselves so it would be a true reality show, not something scripted.

"By us controlling it, people can see the drama in our lives," Spaulding said. "The whole show is based around the lives of these six drivers trying to make a living on the USMTS."

Other members of Barnyard Nation are Jon Tesch of South Dakota, Derek Ramirez of Oklahoma, and Ryan Gustin and Al Hejna of Iowa. The team name is a spinoff joke on the racing elite team of Shyrock Nation. The Barnyard Nation members take on the personae of animals; Spaulding's is a razorback hog.

"There's so much diversity amongst the six of us," Spaulding said. "That's one of the things we stressed as we put the show together. Every driver is going to carry his own fan base."

Spaulding said the reality series doesn't just show the excitement and triumph of winning and the rush of wrecks on the dirt tracks. The shows also depict the tragedies and difficulties of the team members' personal lives. For example, Spaulding is up front about his methamphetamine addiction, from which he was saved by an intervention by his family - wife, Sue, daughter Amanda, and son, A.J. - who got him into Hazelden Treatment Center.

"I've been clean for six years," Spaulding said. "Without family support, there's no way a person could not only race but go through what I did and come back again."

Spaulding said he started racing when he was 14, but quit during the years of his addiction.

"When I was on meth, I didn't want to associate with anybody who wasn't into meth," He said.

He hopes telling his story of recovery will help others. Spaulding began racing again in 2009. He now drives a 2010 BC Motor Sports 715 horsepower cart with a 415 cubic-inch engine.

The "Dirt Knights" series consists of 13 one-hour segments condensed from what producer Chad Koel told Spaulding was enough good footage for 36 episodes. The film crew traveled with the Barnyard Nation members filming for 26 nights and living with them 24/7.

"When we packed up and hit the road, they packed up with us," Spaulding said.

He said when the idea for the racing circuit reality series hit him and Dripps, Spaulding began studying other reality shows and making notes on what not to feature.

"We have to keep this real," he said. "People can see through false reality. It's the race to win the national championship."

A trailer for the show and information about the team and series is available at the "Dirt Knights" Facebook site and at dirtknights.com.

Y mmiron@bemidjipioneer.com

Life on the racing circuit can generate adventures both on and off track.

Mike Spaulding of Bemidji and his partner, Corey Dripps of Waterloo, Iowa, who race under the name Barnyard Nation, have captured both the thrills of the races and the joys, frustrations and, sometimes, silliness, of drivers, pit crews and their families in a new reality docudrama series, 'Dirt Knights," to premiere on the Versus cable channel at 5 p.m. Jan. 2. Versus is carried by Paul Bunyan Television on Channel 68, by Midcontinent on Channel 65, by Direc TV on Channel 603 and by Dish Network on Channel 151.

Spaulding said they sparked the idea for the reality shows, which portray the 83 races in 13 states of the 2010 United States Modified Touring Series season, during a 2007 trek between dirt tracks.

In the early-morning darkness on Interstate 35 near Des Moines, Iowa, they blew a trailer tire for, maybe, the sixth time that night. As they prepared to mount the spare, it rolled down the bank into the ditch, and they had to spend an hour hunting for it in the dark.

Spaulding recalled that his son and crew member, A.J., a senior at Bemidji High School, said they should be videoing the adventure because it was like a reality show.

Spaulding and Dripps immediately realized the truth of A.J.'s insight and began seeking funding for their reality venture. He said A&E and truTV both wanted the series, but those networks also wanted to control the content. Spaulding said the Dirt Knights wanted to keep control themselves so it would be a true reality show, not something scripted.

"By us controlling it, people can see the drama in our lives," Spaulding said. "The whole show is based around the lives of these six drivers trying to make a living on the USMTS."

Other members of Barnyard Nation are Jon Tesch of South Dakota, Derek Ramirez of Oklahoma, and Ryan Gustin and Al Hejna of Iowa. The team name is a spinoff joke on the racing elite team of Shyrock Nation. The Barnyard Nation members take on the personae of animals; Spaulding's is a razorback hog.

"There's so much diversity amongst the six of us," Spaulding said. "That's one of the things we stressed as we put the show together. Every driver is going to carry his own fan base."

Spaulding said the reality series doesn't just show the excitement and triumph of winning and the rush of wrecks on the dirt tracks. The shows also depict the tragedies and difficulties of the team members' personal lives. For example, Spaulding is up front about his methamphetamine addiction, from which he was saved by an intervention by his family - wife, Sue, daughter Amanda, and son, A.J. - who got him into Hazelden Treatment Center.

"I've been clean for six years," Spaulding said. "Without family support, there's no way a person could not only race but go through what I did and come back again."

Spaulding said he started racing when he was 14, but quit during the years of his addiction.

"When I was on meth, I didn't want to associate with anybody who wasn't into meth," He said.

He hopes telling his story of recovery will help others. Spaulding began racing again in 2009. He now drives a 2010 BC Motor Sports 715 horsepower cart with a 415 cubic-inch engine.

The "Dirt Knights" series consists of 13 one-hour segments condensed from what producer Chad Koel told Spaulding was enough good footage for 36 episodes. The film crew traveled with the Barnyard Nation members filming for 26 nights and living with them 24/7.

"When we packed up and hit the road, they packed up with us," Spaulding said.

He said when the idea for the racing circuit reality series hit him and Dripps, Spaulding began studying other reality shows and making notes on what not to feature.

"We have to keep this real," he said. "People can see through false reality. It's the race to win the national championship."

A trailer for the show and information about the team and series is available at the "Dirt Knights" Facebook site and at dirtknights.com.

mmiron@bemidjipioneer.com

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