'Bachelor' controversy: Is the NASCAR date cruelty or closure?

bachelorImage Credit: Isaac Brekken/ABCEver since ABC ran the promo for next week’s episode of The Bachelor in which Brad Womack takes eight women on a group date to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the NASCAR Racing Experience (and an epic let’s-all-walk-in-a-straight-line-holding-our-helmets camera shot), some viewers have been outraged. Emily Maynard, one of the women vying for Brad’s hand, lost her fiancé, NASCAR driver-turned-car owner Ricky Hendrick, in a 2004 plane crash. She was supposed to be on the Hendrick Motorsports plane taking Ricky and a small group of others to a race in Martinsville, VA, but she stayed home that morning because she felt sick. All 10 onboard were killed. Later that week, Emily found out she was pregnant.

On the show, we’ve seen Emily tell Brad a vague version of the story because she wanted him to know she has a daughter. She didn’t name Hendrick (she referred to him as “the absolute love of my life”), or say he was a NASCAR driver, but she did say he “worked in racing.” In the clip embedded below, Brad takes Emily aside because he can see that she’s forcing a smile at the racetrack. “I don’t want you to think that I’m ungrateful, or that I’m not excited to be here at all or anything,” she says. “Honestly, it was like, I just wanted to move on.” She also tells him the track ABC sent them to for this fun-filled date is where Ricky crashed and suffered what ended up being a career-ending shoulder injury in 2002. Brad gets it: “I feel like a jerk,” he tells her.

So why didn’t Bachelor producers feel like jerks? While many fans are disgusted — “It really just makes me sick that the producers would exploit Emily by forcing her into a Nascar date. The show should be making a public apology for their insensitive behavior,” commented Ani on EW.com’s Bachelor recap — an ABC spokesperson tells EW, “The only thing we can say is that viewers need to watch and make up their own minds about the date.” A rep for Las Vegas Motor Speedway tells EW, “This episode was brought to LVMS by representatives of The Bachelor. We were not aware of any of the participants in the show at the time of filming.” And a rep for NASCAR, a notoriously tight-knit organization, tells EW, “NASCAR worked with the show on the integration of NASCAR Racing Experience. It’s important to note that Emily’s fiancé didn’t pass away in a racing accident. She has been to many racetracks since that tragic plane crash. There’s no issue here.” Watch the promo and sneak peek clip below.

In my opinion, ABC has a point: We should watch the full date — not just Emily’s negative reaction, which ABC is choosing to promote — before we judge. Perhaps the experience does end up being cathartic for her in the end. But I also think any time you’re dealing with a tragedy someone has personal ties to, they should have the right to decide if and when they’re exposed to a situation that’s going to trigger memories, so they can emotionally prepare. It’s different obviously, but as someone who was in New York City on 9/11, I despise films that have 9/11-related story lines and don’t advertise it (looking at you, Remember Me).

So what do you think, Bachelor fans? Is this cruelty for the sake of “good TV,” or the best way for Brad to know if Emily is really ready to move on? On Warner Bros.’ Bachelor site, 75 percent of people responding to a poll asking fans for their opinion on Emily being sent on the NASCAR date have answered, “It’s cruel and completely inappropriate.” (Thirteen percent said, “It’s the best thing for her and Brad,” while 12 percent could apparently not care less and voted for “It sounds like a lot of fun.”) In a poll on ABC’s Bachelor site, 55 percent of fans are saying the NASCAR group date is the date they’re most looking forward to in next week’s episode.

Comments (122 total) Add your comment
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  • Hillary

    A bit exploitative on ABC’s part, especially if the date was planned after casting. But Emily and her daughter are part of the Hendrick family so I am sure she is at home at race tracks.

    • Shan

      It seemed even more cruel that they put her on a small plane for her one on one date with Brad. Added together it is quite manipulative, but isn’t that to be expected on these shows?

      • DTS

        Since I don’t watch this show as soon as I heard about this, it reminded me of what CBS did on Amazing Race family edition a few years ago, with a family whose father died at a race track a few years earlier and they had to compete in a task at a race track. People should know by now that if they have a painful memory or story that it will be exploited by the network.

      • Anne

        Exactly, DTS- that was exactly what I was thinking…

    • Bluto

      “It really just makes me sick that the producers would exploit Emily by forcing her into a Nascar date. The show should be making a public apology for their insensitive behavior…”

      We’re talking about a FAKE show here. And someone who can’t let the “love of their life” go and get on with hers probably shouldn’t be on the fake show trying to find fake love. Because YOU KNOW she (and every other contestant) have managed to find some special place in their heart for this douchebag that they “never knew existed.”

      • Julie Cooper-Nichol

        Ricky Hendrick was awesome. I don’t watch the Bachelor (and now I never will) but this is a new low for ABC/Disney. This poor woman.

    • tedsgal

      My daughter pointed out this week that the single dates often involve the woman’s biggest fear: Michelle hates heights, Shantelle was afraid of water, etc. Coincidence? I think not!

    • Pete

      This is what is exploitive? But the concept of women competing to land a man is a-ok?

  • Kat

    I don’t even watch the show; I just read Kristen Baldwin’s fantastic recaps. But even *I* thought this sounded horrible. Nonetheless, I think ABC has a point in asking viewers to wait before passing judgment, and I initially thought NASCAR had a point in bringing up the fact that the woman has since participated in NASCAR events. I was pretty horrified, however, by NASCAR’s last line: “There’s no issue here.” Well thank you, NASCAR, for speaking on behalf of a woman who lost her fiance and father of her child because of his racing career. I’m so glad you’re able to know that there’s no problem taking this woman on a NASCAR-themed date. Her own unhappy comments and behavior must all just be an act, I guess.

    • Hillary

      My guess is NASCAR would never issue a statement without checking with Rick Hendrick first who runs four teams, including the Cup champion for the last five years and Dale Jr. His success makes them a ton of money.

      • Kat

        Are you saying that you believe NASCAR would have checked with the woman’s intended father-in-law before issuing a statement? I wasn’t completely sure what you meant. If so, it doesn’t change anything for me. Rick Hendrick can’t speak for Emily any more than NASCAR can, in my mind. I’m sure they’re all very close, but it makes me uncomfortable to accept information from anywhere other than directly from the source, and unless Emily has explicitly said that someone else can speak for her, I don’t think it’s right for them to speak for her. However, she certainly could have authorized it; as I said before, I don’t watch the show, and (not being a NASCAR fan) I certainly don’t know much about the Hendrick family. So I guess I’m just saying in a very rambling way that if she’s authorized these people/organizations to speak for her, then great. Otherwise, I still think it’s in poor taste.

      • Bev

        as far as I’ve read… Rick Hendrick was the father and he died too along with twin sisters and Ricks brother…. tradgedy all around and ABC should issue an apology to Emily, a very public one

      • Sara

        Bev, Rick Hendrick was Ricky’s father, but I think you’re thinking of John Hendrick. Rick is still alive, John died in the crash.

    • Missy

      NASCAR said they had no issue with it. Nowhere in there statment does it say “Emily has no issue with it.” They rightfully pointed out that she’s been to tracks since the death of her fiance. One should be able to extrapolate from that the fact that she must be OK with being there. If she had a problem with it before, she wouldn’t have been attending. Since RH was not killed on the race track it really shouldn’t matter.

      • kimberly moore

        i want to date b

    • Missy

      “Her own unhappy comments and behavior must all just be an act, I guess.” – Well, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time on The Bachelor.

  • girly girl

    I can see why some people would jump to conclusions about this date, but there is a lot more to it. Like the article said, he didn’t die while driving a car and I am sure Emily has been to race tracks and around racing since he passed. Also, when the date card that comes (assuming they get a date card) couldn’t she probably guess what they may be doing? That would be enough to prepare and if anything decline to participate. I’m sure a producer didn’t force her behind the wheel of the car…she probably could have declined driving but been there for the experience. And not to sound completely insensitive, but it has been 5 years since her fiance died. If she isn’t able to handle reminiscing about him without getting emotionally thrown, should she really be on this show looking for love?

    • pancake

      Seeing as how Emily herself has stated that her fiance was the, “absolute love of her life”, I can understand how certain circumstances would still have an effect on her. Memories would be triggered by places or events and you would once again miss the person who is gone.

    • Sailor


    • Ally

      She might in a general atmosphere but it might be a little different doing it while trying to DATE another man.

      • Bev

        great point!

  • Asher

    I guess we should just wait and see the episode to decide whether or not it is approriate. That being said, The Bachelor as a show is one big inapproriate joke, so I won’t be surprised if this scenario is as well. Also, I find it kind of hard to feel too sorry for someone who goes on reality TV to “find love.”

  • Stacie

    It’s cruel. It’s not the producer’s right to try to give Emily closure. Emily has or will have to continue to try to move on from what happened on her own, it’s not the producer’s job to do this for her. I understand that the producers probably set up the date not knowing that Emily might be on it, but after learning that she would be they could have easily changed the date to something else. This is the 2nd date in a row she has to confront something about the death of her fiancee. First going on the small plane, similar to the one that her fiancee died in, and now to this. I understand last week they had Michelle face her fear of heights, and Chantel’s fear of going underwater, but this is too far, no matter what the producers say.

  • Mike

    They are just making her more likeable so when she finishes runner-up they can let her become the next bachelorette. There is always a plan…

    • Pattie

      I think you are totally correct on this one…

      • allie

        Oh yeah, they are already casting and from what I’ve heard, they are casting with Emily in mind. It’s basically hers if she wants it.

      • lennybubs

        It’s all about the ratings and controversy will get better ratings.
        personal opinion is the network should be more sensitive but when has that ever stopped them? And I hope Emily is gone soon to find a “real” love to continue her life and that of her daughter’s. She deserves better than BRAD….large period at the end of that sentence

  • Khoff

    Not. Cool.

  • cjj

    I agree. while I feel for this girl & cannot imagine her pain & suffering she’s been thru……….she did sign up for this show! that said: IMO..abc is at the track for ratings & clearly not supportive of emily’s feelings.

    • ks

      My thoughts exactly

    • Heidi

      I agree that they totally did this on purpose cause it would make for great tv. Brad looked so mad as soon as he realized what was happening. He knew they’d been manipulated into that scenario too and it was not fair for Emily. Maybe it brings them closer, but I don’t think it was right. I wish Brad would just send Emily home and promise a 1-1 date later that day or the next day and basically TELL ABC that is what is happening. But I know he’ll offer something and she’s going to graciously refuse. I have no respect for Mike Fleiss.

  • Country girl

    Wait a sec… I like Emily she is one of my favorites. But she chose to be on this show and she should have known to some point this would be exploded.. and now we find it, she has been talking about Ricky Henderick. Let’s watch and decide and remember Brad did not have anything to do with choosing or set up these dates.

    • bhs

      I don’t think anyone’s blaming Brad for the date. I think people are disgusted by ABC/the Bachelor producers. I always figured the Bachelor/ette had little to nothing to do with planning these dates.

  • Sia

    Emily has probably been on tracks after but IT’S STILL HARD have some sympathy people.

    • Ally

      EXACTLY, thank you. It is probabaly a lot harder having to be in that world again for the moment especially with someone other than her late husband.

      • girly girl

        she dated dale jr after ricky died. i don’t think being with brad at a race track would make it hard for her if she was able to date another race car driver and im sure support him at a race track.

  • Brock

    Seems a bit insensitive to me. I mean, that’s like if Christopher Reeve were the Bachelor, the producers setting him up on a horse riding date. Just not a fantastic idea.

    • Denise

      Ridiculous comparison – Emily herself was not in an accident, and her fiance died in a plane crash, not a car crash. Your comparison is more like Christopher Reeve’s widow being the Bachelorette, and the producers setting up a date to…drive to a ranch.

  • Satan

    Come on, the producers of this show are jackals. People are just now figuring this out? And I don’t mean jackals figuratively, they are literally jackals. The conference room stinks to high Heaven (not that I’ve ever been there…)

  • Blah Blah

    She is working for a living, she has chosen the entertainment business to be in, I think she is well aware of the situation, and is using it to make a carrer for herself, so let the chips fall where they will, any one else in the entertainment business faces the same thing…. especially realtity TV

    • Bev

      you idiot! she’s an Event Planner for a Children’s Hospital who raises much needed funds!

      • PrincessBride

        And she also did a stint as a host for “Three wide life”, which is a show about the race car world.

      • Blah Blah

        @ Bev
        Temper Temper now, everyone has a right to their opinion, if you noticed I never called anyone a name, nor will I stoop to your intellectual level which is so obvious to all reading this… get a grip why don’t ya… public life is public life and TV is TV, it’s a ploy to get a response, seems to have been most effective in your case…

  • Jon

    I don’t watch “The Bachelor,” but it’s pretty obvious (since they’re promoting her reaction and have polls about it on their website) that they set up this date in the anticipation of this reaction. That, to me, is the disgusting part.

    • SaraS

      I don’t watch the show either, and this kind of story reminds me why. Gross.

  • K

    Ugh. Ditto on “Remember Me”!

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