Joel Garcia tried to keep his cool as he raced his BMW through the compound and the enemy cars edged closer and closer.
That cool didn’t last long, though.
Especially when those cars started crashing into him.
“Definitely, the stress was high, for sure,” Garcia says. “But I tried to stay calm until the moment that they actually touched my vehicle.
“That’s when I was like, ‘OK. It’s real. They’re out for blood.’”
What happened next? TV viewers can see for themselves Monday when Garcia appears on new Discovery Channel series “Getaway Driver.”
The channel describes the eight-episode racing series as “part ‘Baby Driver,’ part ‘Grand Theft Auto.’” It’s hosted by actor Michelle Rodriguez of the “Fast & Furious” movies.
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Garcia, 28, was living in Fort Myers when he filmed the episode about six months ago in Augusta, Georgia. The Miami native now lives in Mims, Florida.
The goal of the show: Navigate barricades, hairpin turns and other obstacles as you try to shake off your pursuers and escape the compound with a roll of cash.
A Discovery Channel news release calls it “the ultimate driving fantasy.”
“The Getaway Drivers will put it all on the line — sacrificing their own cars for the opportunity to be the wheelman in a real-life car chase,” the news release said. “The rules are simple… evade the pursuers and escape the compound to score some cold hard cash.
“These drivers already have the loot — but can they get away to keep it?
Garcia used his own car in the race: A modified 1995 BMW with a turbocharged engine, bucket seats and a special suspension. But unlike most races, he didn’t get to study the nearly 60-acre compound much before getting thrown into the action.
“It’s a very unique situation where you’re in a world that you’ve only seen once,” he says. “They take you for a ride-around one time and then they’re like, ‘OK, that’s it.’
“There’s no studying before. So it’s uncharted territory where you have pursuers who are very well-educated on where everything is and they’re working in tandem.”
He’s one of 24 drivers competing on “Getaway Driver.” TV producers reached out to him on Instagram and asked him to race on the show.
Garcia has been drift racing for about eight years, starting out on the streets before graduating to the Gainesville Raceway, Palm Beach International Raceway and racetracks all over the United States.
“I’ve only done it for fun,” he says. “I’ve never done anything competitive.”
Drift racing offers unique challenges, Garcia says. The idea is to intentionally oversteer around corners and cause the car tires to slide on the road — or drift — while maintaining control and making each turn.
“It’s like driving out of control but fully in control,” Garcia says. “Definitely, I love it. It’s like expression through a vehicle.
“You come around a corner in your own unique way. There’s many different methods and techniques.”
It’s also lots of fun, he says. “There’s a huge adrenaline rush.”
Garcia isn’t the first Southwest Florida resident to appear on one of Discovery Channel’s “motor programming” shows. Chris Libak of Fort Myers races his mega truck Animalistic 2.0 on the ongoing series “Dirty Mudder Truckers.”
“Getaway Driver” airs at 9 p.m. Mondays on Discovery Channel and also streams on discovery+. For more information, visit go.discovery.com/tv-shows/getaway-driver.
Connect with this reporter: Email [email protected] or connect on social media at Charles Runnells (Facebook), @charlesrunnells (Twitter) and @crunnells1 (Instagram).