Jason Jacobson’s title is executive producer, but one of his major duties as the Torque Show prepares to present livestream coverage of the 70th Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance this coming Sunday afternoon is that of cat herder.
Jacobson, formerly a digital media producer for NASCAR, is something of a livestream superstar, creating an amazingly compact and efficient television broadcast-style control room within an Airstream trailer. This weekend, the trailer is tucked behind The Lodge at Pebble Beach and is from where Jacobson will be coordinating live coverage from noon (Pacific) until 5 p.m. of the famed concours d’elegance.
That is, of course, provided he can roundup his wandering co-hosts, racers-turned-Torque Show co-hosts Tommy Kendall and Justin Bell.
Thus, at some point late Sunday morning, Jacobson will start blasting the Rolling Stones’ Give Me Shelter into the earpieces being worn by the co-hosts. He’s tried talking to them — even raising his voice! — and has used a variety of other music to alert the hosts that it’s time to return to the trailer. But for whatever reason, Kendall and Bell have come to recognize that Give Me Shelter means interrupt that conversion in which you’ve become so involved you have forgotten the time and, instead, head immediately to the big silver tube.
Being selected to host the livestream coverage of such a prestigious event as Pebble Beach is a huge deal for the Torque Show team, which seems to have emerged because Bell and Kendall each was retiring from the race track but was not quite ready to leave.
Bell is the son of five-time Le Mans-winning driver Derek Bell and is himself the 1997 GT2 world champion and Le Mans GT2 class winner in 1998. He admits, however, that he talks faster than he drove and has made a career in television and web show hosting.
Kendall jokes that he’s “the epitome of a fading legend.” In 1987 he was the youngest IMSA season champion and added three more such titles and a quartet of Trans Am championships as well. And yet, what people want to know from him is about his Chicken Car, a 1973 Oldsmobile 98 outfitted to look like a gigantic yellow rooster driving down the road; Kendall has owned and cherished “El Gallo” since 1997.
Bell and Kendall each realized that becoming commentators at the races was a way to stick around and even get paid. So they somehow convinced Jacobson to join them, and the Torque Show was born. Its specially equipped Airstream travels from race to race and provides a base camp for webcast talk shows.
At least that was the way it started. The team likely would have hosted from Pebble Beach in 2020 had there been a concours instead of a pandemic. Instead, it was invited to provide livestream coverage from the inaugural Audrain Newport concours and motor week in Rhode Island (and with a much-expanded staff also produced a 1-hour, 18-minute documentary, Best In Class).
At last, it finds itself setting up at Pebble Beach, just steps from the 18th Fairway of the Pebble Beach Links golf course, where it will livestream from noon until 5 p.m. (Pacific) on Sunday.
It also has been recruited to provide coverage the previous day of the Ferrari parade and car show that will use the 1st Fairway of the Pebble Beach Links golf course.
Each of the partners brings special skills and connections to the Torque Show, and the gig at Pebble Beach brings both new pressure, but also, they hope, new opportunities.
“The Airstream isn’t just set dressing,” Kendall noted. “It’s the nerve center. Jason cut his teeth at NASCAR Productions. He’s created a high-tech livestream mobile unit and can do broadcast-quality shows from there. Everyone in the TV world wants to see what we’re doing, and with so few people. It really is fun, like a startup with a small team.”
“Of course we want to keep growing,” Bell added. “Racing drivers like Tommy and I, by definition, that’s who we are, we like to think we can win every race, so why not try this?”
Actually, before this Kendall hosted Test Drive and Bell had a show, Shut Up and Drive.
“They were popular on Speed and Fox,” Bell said, “so why wouldn’t we have our own car show?”
The key was recruiting Jacobson. Kendall even joked that while he and Bell usually are the attraction, for those putting on the Ferrari event, it was Jacobson’s expertise that brought in the business.
“People see the trailer and it’s a sweet setup,” Kendall said. “It looks like big-time television.”
Jacobson entered college to do pre-law but switched to film school and found he liked the technical side of the industry. He had experience producing in big TV trucks but thought he could do the same thing in a smaller trailer as technology was shrinking equipment. If needed, from his control panel he can do the jobs of six people, though for Pebble Beach, he’s hired a couple dozen specialists, several, like Jacobson, young but with Emmys, to supplement the three-person Torque team.
“To be a source that people trust, you have to have high quality,” Jacobson said. “People need to tune in and say, wow, this looks pretty good. It’s polished, refined. There’s storytelling.”
Well, at least there is, once he herds the cats back to the Airstream.