Ebey’s Reserve races way to hot rod airwaves

A film crew tapes a Lexus IS 350 FSPORT as it races onto Hill Road on Central Whidbey last week.  An episode of “Shut up and Drive” will appear on Fox Sports 1 Sunday, Sept. 29. - Nathan Whalen / The Record
A film crew tapes a Lexus IS 350 FSPORT as it races onto Hill Road on Central Whidbey last week. An episode of “Shut up and Drive” will appear on Fox Sports 1 Sunday, Sept. 29.
— image credit: Nathan Whalen / The Record

Two race car drivers sped through one of the most picturesque parts of Ebey’s Landing in a flash.

Justin Bell and Townsend Bell (no relation) spent a quiet Wednesday afternoon last week racing a Lexus IS 350 FSPORT. They raced down Ebey Road, drifted through a hair-pin turn onto Hill Road near the bluff trail, regained speed as they whizzed by the beach before negotiating a series of curves on the narrow road in the woods before speeding past a historic, red barn located just outside the treeline.

As for who won? Tune in to “Shut up and Drive” to find out. The show featuring Ebey’s Landing airs at noon, Sunday, Sept. 29 on Fox Sports 1.

Justin Bell, who has competed in the 24-hours of Le Mans, and Townsend Bell, who has raced in the Indianapolis 500, are the hosts of the latest driving show to appear on television.

Justin, who is from London, said it’s not just the actual road that is being featured, but the environment. He noted the beauty of the trip to Whidbey Island, which included a ferry ride along with a drive through most of the island before ending up on a remote beach near Coupeville. He was surprised at the weather swings he noticed throughout the day, which included periods of sun, fog and rain.

Townsend said he always enjoys visiting the Pacific Northwest. This week’s visit marked the first time he visited Whidbey Island.

The 1.8 mile-course provided some surprises for Townsend.

“The road was a bit more daunting than I expected,” Townsend said. He described the course as fast and said the moisture in the woods posed some concerns.

“Shut Up and Drive,” which airs on the newly formed Fox Sports 1, seeks to find amazing roads for two drivers to race their vehicles.

“It’s every car guy’s dream to find the perfect stretch of road,” said Bobby Akin, vice president for Fox Sports.

The show has already filmed episodes in the Rowena Loop in Oregon and the Valley of Fire in Nevada.

Akin said Ebey’s Landing was chosen out of 70 possible locations. The coastline, forest lands and the undulating roads made Whidbey a good choice for the television program.

“Half of my crew wants to live here,” Akin said.

The production of “Shut Up and Drive” brought a crew of around 40 people to Whidbey Island. They shot on Wednesday and Thursday after spending the earlier part of the week in Seattle.

To allow for the driving through Ebey’s Landing, Ebey Road at Cook Road and Hill Road were intermittently closed on both days. Island County Sheriff’s deputies oversaw the road closures. A low-flying helicopter was used during the production. It took a month for the production company to go through the permitting process.

Whidbey Island has enjoyed some exposure in print and television.

Sherrye Wyatt, marketing and public relations director for Whidbey Camano Islands Tourism, said she has been hosting travel writers visiting Whidbey Island throughout the summer. In July, King 5’s Evening Magazine featured a Coupeville purse shop and scouting is currently underway for an independent feature film that will be shot on Whidbey.

“We hope the exposure from the production will be positive for Whidbey Island,” Wyatt said.

She said she has been working with Washington Filmworks, which is a nonprofit tasked with attracting film projects to the state. She has provided the agency with a catalogue of film-friendly locations throughout the county and state. She said she works with state agencies to find projects that are both a good fit for film companies and for the Island County community.


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