The American, The Grand Tour racing driver from the first season, recently broke his silence of what he really thinks of The Grand Tour when talking to Grand Tour Nation saying, “I don’t know what I was thinking.” The retired NASCAR driver had a brief stint with The Grand Tour when he was asked to be the new team racing driver replacing the beloved Stig from Top Gear.
We asked The American how a retired NASCAR driver ended up as the racing driver for The Grand Tour. He said, “I don’t know what I was thinking. I got a call from Andy [Wilman] and he wanted to come up and sit down and talk to Angie and I.
“So Andy Flew in and drove up here and we sat right here and met. We had a conversation and he said we’re interested in doing a screen test with you if you’re interested.”
Skinner told us that Executive Producer Wilman wanted the character to be a grumpy old NASCAR driver that hated everything British.
The American, AKA Mike Skinner, has had quite an exciting career; from being teammates with NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt to dominating the Truck Series, Skinner has mastered all American motorsport types. This is why NASCAR fans were surprised to see him on The Grand Tour, driving cars like the Aston Martin Vulcan, which is quite the change of pace from a stock car. Like many aspects of the first season, fans were very critical of this strange choice in a driver that seemed a bit different from the host’s very European manner.
Skinner says that he was promised his character would get developed by Producer Andy Wilman, but everything seemed too scripted.
He said, “some of the stuff was my own material; a lot of it was scripted. It seemed like they didn’t have time to do our segments the way I felt they should be done, and they kind of rushed things.”
Fans highly criticized the first season because it appeared too scripted and lacked the natural feel that the hosts had on Top Gear. Skinner went on to say “Some of those manufacturers over there have got to hate me, because my job was to bad-mouth the product.”
Skinner seems to agree that the show was much too scripted and lost focus a bit. He said, “they were more focused on dropping people out of the sky and hokey pokey stuff than what I thought the show should be about and what it is.”
What’s more, unlike the Stig, this racing driver could talk and comment on the cars he was driving. We found out wasn’t always honest. Due to the scripted nature of the first season, The American was told to hate on all the cars that were not American.
“I had to act like I hated it,” Mike said. “The only regrets I have… my Job was to badmouth the product.
“There were some of those cars that were so amazing, my God, that Vulcan was just an animal. There was some Porsches and a little Ford Focus that I drove that was just a rocket ship, that little RS.
“Some really high tech stuff and I had to act like I hated it, and that was kind of hard on me, but I said that’s acting. I can do it, and we did.”
This biased nature of The American’s character was hardly transparent, being that the whole premise of this segment of the show was to review the cars.
These creative differences eventually led to The American leaving the show for good.
He said, “We all mutually decided that I was not gonna come back for the next year.” Mike Skinner is now semi-retired and hosts a radio show with his wife Angie called Skinner Round-Up. You can tune Tune in to SiriusXM NASCAR Radio any Sunday there isn’t a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race to get up to date on everything NASCAR.