Life in in professional racing’s fast lane might seem like a dream to any avowed racing fan, but as Samantha Busch — wife of famed driver Kyle Bush — said on tonight’s Racing Wives premiere, “You never know what’s going to happen,” especially when drivers top out around 200 miles per hour, and particularly if the next fiery wreck could be just around the corner.
On the very first episode of CMT’s latest original unscripted series, set in the racing-haven area of Lake Norman (near Charlotte, North Carolina), five women — two drivers’ wives (Samantha and Ashley Bush), a retired brand model (Whitney Dillon), a brand model who’s still in the game (Mariel Lane) and one gal who’s a fearless driver, herself (Amber Balcaen) — offered a crash course into life amid checkpoints and checkered flags. And while settling down in and around Lake Norman might seem like a barrage of popped bottles and victory laps, this Fab 5 made it clear that they certainly aren’t settling for lives of leisure — in this crowd, you’d be hard-pressed to find any trophy wives.
Samantha, whose husband, Kyle, has won nearly 200 races, put the point into immediate perspective: Not only do she and Kyle have a two-year-old son, Samantha runs a boutique, a foundation for couples struggling with IVF and is also an executive at Kyle Busch Motorsports. And, perhaps most importantly, she’s managing the tall task — with sister-in-law Ashley’s help — of trying to mend fences between Kyle and his semi-estranged brother, Kurt.
Ashley, a competitor, herself, has been a polo star since she was 11, and joked that she and Kurt were “all about the horsepower.” Ashley quickly admitted that she doesn’t wear her emotions on her sleeve, and that she’s sure some people might think she’s a bitch.
Conversely, Whitney, who’s married to Austin Dillon, is hardly the type to hide, and said she’s never quite played by the rules. Proof? She “kicked the door open” for brand models to marry drivers, something previously unheard of. And her BFF, Mariel, has followed in her footsteps — she’s gearing up to walk down the aisle with Dillon’s pit crew member, Paul Swan. Mariel noted that she, Whitney and their guys have been a Fantastic Four of sorts for five years, and never fail to have fun together. Still, she voiced concern that Whitney’s slowly abandoning her in favor of cozying up to the racing circuit’s more established social circle.
Finally, not content to remain on the sidelines, Canadian driver Amber said that there came a point at which she had to decide if she’d be content as a wife or mother instead of a competitor. Her answer was a barefaced no, and since then, she’s been tearing up dirt roads and speedways. In spite of her talent, though, she said she’s still having trouble securing sponsorships, and the life of a racer ain’t cheap: it can sometimes cost more than $20,000 just to compete in a single race.
Still, Amber had been making such a splash around North Carolina — so much so, in fact, that she caught the eye of Samantha, who said she was eager to sign Amber as the KBM’s first woman racer. But before anything was in writing, she encouraged Amber to get her feet wet at an upcoming industry event — Catwalk for a Cause — where Amber could meet potential sponsors and make a name for herself.
Also on the guest list at the event, which aimed to raise money for children battling cancer? Ashley, Whitney and Mariel, who were all dressed to impress (Ashley after one particularly glaring wardrobe malfunction).
Though many guests seemed at ease at Catwalk for a Cause, Mariel immediately felt out of place. As a brand model, she pointed out that she felt like she was at a social deficit amid a room full of racing wives. And she felt especially alone when her partner-in-crime, Whitney, left her behind to mingle with other drivers’ wives.
“Sometimes there’s a lack of respect when it comes to what I do,” Mariel said. “It puts me in a weird predicament.”
And the next predicament wasn’t far behind. When Mariel and Amber finally met, they hit it off. Still, both admitted they were intimidated by the gravity of the event and its high-profile crowd. So, to ease their nerves and cement their friendship, they took a few shots, and when Samantha caught them partying at an otherwise buttoned-up ceremony, she didn’t mince her words.
“Why would you take shots?” Samantha said incredulously. “I’ve obviously done shots before, but under completely different circumstances. Not only is it a bad look, but I’m here with my husband, Kyle, the owner of Kyle Busch Motorsports where I want her to drive…Not a good first impression. Amber needs to realize that you get one chance.”
Ultimately, Amber seemed to successfully atone for her errors, but was it too little too late, and will Samantha leave her in the dust? See what happens when the next episode of Racing Wives airs Friday at 10/9c!