“The Amazing Race”

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I am not normally one for reality shows. I’ll admit that back around 2005, Susan got me to watching American Idol for a couple of seasons before I found it tiresome. Of course, I committed to watch the two seasons of Dancing With the Stars that had IndyCar stars as contestants, until they were voted off the show. As luck would have it, both drivers stayed around through the finals.

Having a former IndyCar driver was not enough to entice me to watch one second of The Bachelor. The premise just sounds too far-fetched to me. Arie Luyendyk, Jr. is just going to have to find true love by himself, without me watching.

But now we have not one, but two IndyCar drivers competing as a team on The Amazing Race. I had never seen the show before, and really had no idea what was involved with it. But with Alexander Rossi and Conor Daly competing – I thought I would give it a try.

I can’t speak for other seasons of this show, but this season pits athletes from different sports against each other. The term “sports” is used loosely here. Some come from more traditional sorts like the NBA and IndyCar; while other sports represented here are from Goat Yoga, Competitive Eating, Debating and Modeling. Altogether, there were eleven teams of two that began competition which first aired on Jan 3. Unlike Dancing With the Stars or American Idol; this show is not aired live. It was all taped over a five week stretch last October.

Spoiler Alert! If you plan to catch up and watch the first three episodes of The Amazing Race, you might want to skip the next six paragraphs.

I had no idea this was an international competition. The teams left from one central location – Washington Square Park in New York City. Their first destination? Iceland. There one team member from each of the teams had to navigate hanging from a wire suspended high over a gorge in order to get their next clue. For Team IndyCar that person was Alexander Rossi, while Conor Daly got the much less harrowing job of pulling him back in via rope. Next, they had to solve a word puzzle with clues they got from four-wheeling through a stream. Daly was the one charged with solving the puzzle, while Rossi stayed back and watched from a distance, not allowed to yell any help.

The last group to reach their final destination in Iceland – the models – was eliminated from competition. Team IndyCar finished the day in fifth place and that was the end of Episode One.

Episode Two found the remaining teams traveling to Antwerp, Belgium. This time, they climbed rope ladders for their clues. Rossi was again the agile climber, while Daly stayed on the ground and watched. The teams split assignments as Team IndyCar was sent to the Antwerp Diamond District to evaluate three diamonds for clarity and imperfections, following the exact formula the experts would use.

Somehow, they finally got it right and were allowed to proceed to some type of town square, where they had to race while dressed in a ridiculous “frite” costume, which looked like a giant order of McDonald’s fries. Again, Rossi was chosen for the dirty work to race against one of the other teams. Had he lost, Daly would have raced against someone else, but Rossi won his race and the team again finished fifth for the episode for the second straight week.

After two episodes, it seemed that Alexander Rossi was carrying more of the load and that Daly was being used as a form of comic relief. There are the usual jokes of him living on Rossi’s couch, now that he no longer sponges off of James Hinchcliffe. I also had the impression that Team IndyCar was getting very slighted on the air time they were getting compared to the other teams.

Things changed considerably on Episode Three that aired just two nights ago. The race traveled to the city of Tangier in Morocco. Their first "roadblock" involved going to a fishing village and stacking disgusting small slimy fish into bins. It’s apparently tougher than it sounds. Our guys, Daly and Rossi, were the last to complete the task. But when they moved on to the next challenge that involved gnomes, ziplines and belly dancing – Daly was the hero that made up some valuable time. In Episode Three, Team IndyCar went from dead last to finishing second, with Rossi crediting Daly as the one who made the difference. It was worth the entire hour just to see Alexander Rossi belly dancing while looking for clues.

A friend of mine from work that knows nothing about racing, watches the show regularly. After two episodes, she told me that she thought that the bigger guy (Daly) seemed kind of goofy and funny, while she said she thought Rossi was cute. I assured her that she was right about Daly’s sense of humor, but he was a lot sharper than what she thought.

One thing that is not so funny is that Daly’s participation in this show may have cost him his ride. He and Rossi were both interviewed on Trackside a couple of weeks ago. Daly told Kevin Lee that he was not allowed to use his phone or e-mail anyone while the competition was going on. This included his agent. His ride at AJ Foyt Enterprises fell apart while he was filming The Amazing Race. It’s debatable whether or not his stateside presence and ability to communicate would have ultimately made any difference, but Daly’s absence from any bargaining certainly didn’t help.

Also on that interview, Alexander Rossi was asked how many episodes the season will go. First he said five, and after a minute or two he suddenly changed it to twelve. I’m wondering if he inadvertently gave away that they might be eliminated after the fifth leg, or if he was thinking they filmed for five weeks. I guess we’ll know in a couple of more weeks.

But three episodes in and I’m enjoying watching Alexander Rossi and Conor Daly compete on The Amazing Race. One of the best things to come out of it is that we race fans finally get to see that Alexander Rossi actually does have a personality and a sense of humor. He has a dry, understated sense of humor on this show that he doesn’t show much at the track. Is it riveting television? Not exactly, but it’s worth watching in January. Will I watch it beyond this season? Probably not and it’s doubtful I’ll watch it after Team IndyCar is eliminated. But right now, it’s good enough that I would recommend that you check it out – for curiosity, if for no other reason.

The Amazing Race can be seen on Wednesday nights on CBS at 8:00 EST; with next week’s show being a two-hour special episode. Get in on it while you can.

George Phillips

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3 Responses to ““The Amazing Race””

  1. billytheskink Says:

    I think the show can be a little hard to follow with so many teams competing (I keep looking at the top of the screen for a scrolling running order) but Rossi and Daly are acquitting themselves well.

    Also, there was a blue, late 1960s AMC Rambler American in the first episode, which I thought was a pretty interesting artifact to be found in Iceland.

    • One of the most enjoyable features of the 1960s AMC Rambler Americans was that the front seat backs could be pushed back flat to form a large, mmmm……..recreational area.

  2. I just cannot get into this show. I did follow and vote for Hinch when he was on DWTS, even though I thought it very contrived. I won’t be taping and keeping this one.

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