Jessica Brunelli is a fan of "Jersey Shore" and "The Real World," so the 17-year-old race car driver knows just how addictive reality TV can be.
Addictive enough to draw in viewers who don't know Jeff Gordon from Jeff Burton? That's the gamble behind "Changing Lanes," a new show that airs not on a sports network but BET.
Yes, BET. Where better to reach a completely new audience? "Changing Lanes" chronicles 10 young female and minority racers in NASCAR's Drive for Diversity program as they compete for four spots on a team.
"I've got friends here who don't know about racing, and they're going to watch it and I think give it a lot more respect," said 16-year-old driver Darrell Wallace Jr.
It's got all the staples of reality TV: contestants living in a house together and getting eliminated one by one. Well, not all the staples — Brunelli is relieved the show sticks to the drama on the track and in the drivers' back stories.
Rapper/actor Ludacris narrates the eight-episode series, which premieres Wednesday night.
The show is the brainchild of Max Siegel, who spent two seasons running Dale Earnhardt Inc. until the team merged with Chip Ganassi Racing. His sports marketing agency now runs the Drive for Diversity program, which has struggled to produce racers for NASCAR's top series.
Siegel's team, Revolution Racing, fields cars for the contestants on the show.
This is a sport where sponsorship is critical to success and each driver is like his or her mini-corporation. Siegel figures there's nothing like a reality show to introduce companies to the personalities of up-and-coming racers.
"That's a hope," Brunelli said, "that someone takes a liking to you personally."
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