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USA Insider Race to Survive: Alaska

Hunter And Jeff Get Candid About Their Fighting On 'Race to Survive: Alaska'

Father and son duo Hunter and Jeff believe their fights gave them an advantage on "Race to Survive: Alaska." 

By Tyler McCarthy
Rtf Alaska Jeff And Hunter.2jpg

The tension between the father and son team Jeff and Hunter Leininger reached a boiling point in Episode 5 of "Race to Survive: Alaska" when a tiff over navigation brought their team to a standstill. However, speaking to USA Insider, the duo claimed that, although it didn’t look like it on-screen, they got along better than most other teams because of their fights. 

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The episode saw Jeff yell at Hunter for second-guessing his navigation skills in front of their allied team, Bella and Cason Crane. The two exchanged some heated words and Hunter noted privately that he needed to get to a point where his dad would listen to him and acknowledge that he may have some superior skills at this point in his adventure racing career.

RELATED: Why Max Djenohan Thinks 'Race to Survive: Alaska' Is Harder Than 'Naked and Afraid'

“Dad and I raced 15 years together. He knew me as that kid that just followed along and didn’t question anything, didn’t know anything more than him. All the information I ever learned about adventure racing was because he taught me,” Hunter told USAInsider in an interview. “Since he’s retired the past three years, I’ve gone on to race in the top teams in the country and learned how to actually race at the top level. We were always a middle-pack team. Now, I know how to race at the top level and know a lot more strategies, and other people are teaching me things, but coming into this race, Dad still saw me as that little kid that he needed to protect, that didn’t know what he was doing, that he had to look out for constantly.”

Hunter made sure to note that, although he may be able to teach his dad a thing or two, he still considers him the best of the best. 

“He’s the top racer in the country,” he said. “Like, he can bring a lot to the table.”

Jeff admitted that he may have been harsh on Hunter, but explained their experience together has taught them to blow off steam and then immediately get back to the task at hand. 

“There’s always going to be a tense moment when you’re under that kinda stress,” he said. “But Hunter and I have always learned to immediately forget what was said and just get to work.”

He added: “In the beginning, I was there to protect Hunter, and I knew that the elements that we were going to be in, the decisions that I made, I had to protect Hunter. We’ve been in some very dangerous situations where I had to make decisions to go around something or bypass something because it was just too dangerous for myself and Hunter and I didn’t want to put Hunter in that situation. Hunter questioned those decisions, and ultimately, I’m sorry, it’s Dad’s decision. That’s just the way it is."

Hunter joked that his father still hadn’t learned his lesson from the show, but Jeff countered by noting that, in his 20s, Hunter has learned to give appropriate pushback in the field. Regardless, the duo posited that, despite what viewers see on the show, they got along better than almost every other team.

“As much as my Dad and I argued and bickered, we got along a lot more than we argued,” he said. “At the end of the day, I don’t know what they show on camera, but my dad and I got along better than most of the other teams there.”

They believe that their fights must have seemed pretty explosive to viewers and their other teammates, but believed their ability to vent their frustrations honestly and move on quickly actually provided an advantage some other teams didn’t have.

“On camera, we just came across as we were arguing more,” Hunter said. “We know each other so well that we have an argument and we blow up at each other and it’s like, we don’t hold grudges. Three minutes later, we’re back to racing. We’re not like, ‘oh, he said that. He said, oh, he’s gonna throw down the map. He doesn’t wanna hear me.’ We don’t do any of that, but other teams like Hakim [Isler] and Justice [Norman], they were holding grudges for weeks. They had an argument and they would hold a grudge."

Jeff noted that he believes all the families on the show shared a similar advantage, signaling out Alaska brothers Oliver and Wilson Hoogendorn.

“Oliver and Wilson had a definite advantage. They never argued,” Jeff revealed. “They’re always cracking jokes with each other and having a good time because they understood and they knew each other and they’ve been around and so Hunter and I had an advantage as well that we were father and son. We’ve been doing this for a long, long time. Everyone else was having major issues and it weighed on their performance.”

Although he was sometimes the target of his dad’s blow-ups, Hunter has no regrets about his adventure partner for “Race to Survive: Alaska.” 

“My dad, at the end of the day, was the perfect choice for a race like this. There’s nobody else I’d rather have out there for this race,” he said. “The amount of time we spent in the tent, in the tarp, laying there just like, talking about stories and being so grateful for each other was worth the entire experience.”

Tune into “Race To Survive: Alaska” every Monday at 11/10c on USA Network and catch more survival shows on Peacock now. 

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