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Truck Night Filmed in Jefferson County


The News and Farmer

Knuckle-busting ingenuity and teeth grinding determination butt heads with Jefferson County’s own slick clay flats, steep sandy ridges and the thick lowland swamps in History’s new truck versus terrain competition series that premiered last week.

Airing on Thursdays at 10 p.m., Truck Night In America, the non-fiction reality show that filmed at Sunnyside ATV Paradise north of Wrens last summer, pits 50 personally customized off-road vehicle owners against each other, five at a time over 10 episodes, on what its creators are calling the toughest truck obstacle course ever built.

“Trucks have a true place in American history, both past and present, and as the most widely sold vehicle with 133 million currently on U.S. roads there is an appetite for this genre of programing,” said Eli Lehrer, Executive Vice President of Programming at the History Channel. “Since 1925 when the first American factory-produced truck rolled off the line, owners have been devising ingenious ways to make them faster, stronger and better and this can be seen with the tough competitors in our new series.”

In each episode, five drivers compete in three challenges designed to test their vehicle’s speed, strength and handling. Between the challenges, they get the help from the show’s four expert coaches as they tinker and weld, reengineering their vehicles for the next round. Two finalists are then given the chance to enter the 3-mile vehicle devouring course called, “The Green Hell,” which challenges them to sail over jumps, scale a mountain of crushed cars and brave a snake-infested swamp. Only one vehicle can take home the $10,000 prize and title of Night Truck Champion.

Executive Producer Patrick Costello explained that at its core, the show celebrates the men and women across the United States who love “wrenching on their trucks and driving them hard.”

“They love their vehicles, they love the life, this is their passion and now this is their time and place to show off their work,” Costello said. “You don’t need an expensive rig to win – just passion for your rig, some knowledge on how to work on it and driving skills.”

The team of expert coaches consists of desert racing champion and truck builder “Pistol” Pete Sohren; extreme sports pioneer and dirt track racer, Glen Plake; truck builder and master fabricator, Abe Wine and rock crawling champion and master fabricator, Rob “Bender” Park.

“These four experts offer tough love and their professional perspective on each contender’s strategy and performance as well as set up each competition,” Costello said. “A few minutes into each episode, after one truck has been eliminated from the competition, the four hosts meet the drivers, assess the trucks and then each host picks the driver they want to coach for the remainder of the episode.”

The experts then use their expertise, giving advice and even slapping on visors to help weld on the competitor’s truck.

“The hosts will do everything they can to help them win, but drive for them,” Costello said.

In addition to the Georgia tax credit that allows producers to invest more into the show, Costello said that his team looked at multiple locations that were being used for recreational 4-wheeling. The Jefferson County location stood out.

“It’s strikingly visual,” Costello said. “The aquamarine water, the kaolin clay and the surrounding, lush green forests look great on camera. The instant you see the location, you know you’re watching Truck Night in America. The variety of terrain at the specific property also helped us create numerous tests for different vehicle attributes. Steep hills, dense forests, thick swamps, ponds, cliffs and the slick kaolin flats all worked together to create great challenges.”

A number of local individuals were involved. Wrens fire fighters and paramedics were on set and were called on to put their skills to use. Local law enforcement worked security and other locals helped to build challenges and served as part of the crew.

“We also used mechanics, caterers, contractors, machine operators and other local vendors,” Costello said. “Some specific shout outs go to the property manager Kurt Warneke. His knowledge of the property, knowledge of the area and skills at operating the machinery were essential for our success. Also, John Bodie and Bo Tyrpin were incredibly helpful in our shop, sourcing off camera vehicles/parts and as the recovery crew. When vehicles were broke down in the middle of challenges or stuck deep in the Green Hell swamp - these are they guys that got them out!”

It took around two months to build the course and challenges and then another month of filming.

“The shoot was book-ended by interesting events,” Costello said. “The first shoot day was the solar eclipse - and we were close to totality - and the last two days of the shoot needed to be extended because of Irma.”

Not only did the crew have to contend with the heat, insects and extreme weather, but the area’s snakes also made an impression.

“During the site build the crew encountered lots of snakes, most of them poisonous,” Costello said. “Me and three other crew were in a Gator on one of the dirt roads on location, going maybe 10-15 mph. As we passed a cottonmouth in the middle of the road it not only struck at the gator but reared up, we thought the damn thing was trying to jump in the vehicle.”

Different aspects of the location are featured in each episode.

“Hopefully the first season will be a great success and we’ll be back for a second season but there aren’t concrete plans at this time,” Costello said.

Truck Night in America is produced for History by 52 Minds and executive producers Costello and Christian Sarabia.

The team’s most recent competition series was Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Challenge on CMT.


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