Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Street Racing

John Marine | 10/20/2010 05:28:00 PM | | | |
(UPDATED: March 12, 2012)

A persistent issue has been that of street racing. This is where people take their love of performance driving and racing on city streets. Many video games and movies have played a role in glorifying or highlighting on illegal street racing. For many people, though, this is their only way to enjoy performance driving. Not as many people have any interest or desire going to proper racing facilities (including city-sanctioned events) to go racing. So instead (or with no regard), they choose to do their racing on streets and highways. It is that sort of adrenaline rush that many feel can't be magnified or bettered at a proper racing facility. This even applies to various motorcycle riders. So I will provide this blog entry to discuss illegal street racing from a few different perspectives.

LATEST UPDATE(S)/REVISION(S):

MAR 12 2012 - this old post needed to be updated. It just needed to. Most of it in due part to people who still read this post.





--- Illegal Street Racing at a Glance ---

illegal street racing
^ from: www.guide2.co.nz - Illegal street racing. It can be fun, until (look below) happens...

street racing accident
^ from: cartuningcentral.com - a wrecked 1992 Mitsubishi 3000GT as a result of street racing.

In its simplest sense, illegal street racing involve unnecessary exhibitions of speed and illegal racing in cities. The dangers that lurk involve hitting other cars or other people. Someone else's rush of speed can end up causing damage to life and property. People get injured (and even get killed), other people see their own cars become scrap metal because of one street racer's disregard for public safety and strictly-enforced laws by the city.

The stereotype most people make about illegal street racing is that it involves hopped-up sport compacts and imports by mostly high school or college students. Fact is- anyone can street race ANY car or truck. I hate how people make it sound like it's only for fans of import cars and sport compacts. I've heard of people drive like jackasses in pickup trucks, SUVs, muscle cars... I mean, stop making sound like only "ricers" in sport compacts and imports are doing street racing. Some people literally treat illegal street racing like anyone who drives really fast in an American car has nowhere near the magnitude of a sport compact or import doing illegal street racing.

Back then, there wasn't access to too many race tracks. So some people basically raced on city streets. As a way to curb street racing, many race tracks opened up. The most common style of racing in the United States is drag racing. Even here in Houston, we have a drag strip up at Houston Motorsports Park in northeast Houston. I love fast cars and high speed as much as any fan of racing, but I know that like many things in life, there is a time and a place for all things.

Now to look at illegal street racing from different perspectives...



--- Street Racing: "I Don't Need No Race Track!" ---

You are too good to race at a proper race track or at a certain racing event? So... racing on city streets and highways with the possibility of hurting yourself and others is better than going to a track? I think we are coming along better in most places with race tracks available. You are better suited to go race without much consequence by going to racing venues rather than risk life and limb on the streets.

Another reason why you should consider racing at tracks is because there are facilities for you if you get hurt. Just about every track has some kind of in-field care center or access to a nearby hospital. Race tracks care about all athletes that compete on the track. If they didn't care about your health, they wouldn't go so far as to offer facilities to help you if you get injured. Race tracks offer controlled environments and want to service you like a member of their family. You don't get that in street racing. Sure, you can access hospitals and stuff, but what about getting hurt or damaged on the track with a fine medical staff helping you? Race tracks are for performance lovers who want to enjoy racing the right way.

Now for this next portion, allow me to draw some inspiration from a popular Speed Channel program.

Influence from Pinks.

Pinks drag racing
^ from: stangtv.com - a 1980s or 1990s Ford Mustang racing on Pinks - All Out.

The hit Speed Channel series, "Pinks" and "Pinks - All Out" feature Rich Christensen communicating with grassroots drag racers by taking their cars to the track and not on the streets. The very first episode aired on Speed Channel back in 2005 featured two street race teams in a Best-of-3 competition. The respective cars were a 1990s Chevrolet Camaro and a 1990s Pontiac Firebird/Trans-Am. To show that Pinks is NOT about street racing, Rich Christensen got very upset after the two racers did some street racing on the first pass. Rich would later say to the two teams, "this is not, not, NOT street racing!...Hey, you know what? I'm sick of this nitrous s***, this hits, if you street race again, this episode's over. Come here RIGHT NOW, and get it done!"

Pinks was a show that celebrated old-school drag racing. However, a problem would arise as more people became rather passive and sandbag in racing action. This would call for a series called "Pinks - All Out." The rules: run your car all-out. You sandbag, you lose. You don't run your car all out, you lose. You jump on the start, you lose. You go too fast, you lose. The main point is that this competition is all about separating the fastest cars out of a set field. You go through a tournament setup to determine who wins the grand prize of $10K USD.

The Pinks series provides a ground and an arena for grassroots drag racers to enjoy drag racing on proper racing tracks and not on the streets. The ones who compete on Pinks show that you CAN enjoy racing while not having to do it on the streets all the time. What happens, however, if there aren't any facilities or events you can attend to enjoy performance driving of any kind? Enter my next section!



--- Street Racing: "This is All We Got" ---

If you live in the Los Angeles area, you have a number of places you can go to. You can go to California Superspeedway. You can go race at Willow Springs. You can check out Irwindale. You can go further up the California coastline and go to Laguna Seca. You have options! You have options even if you live in Long Beach. And of course, Long Beach plays host to the Long Beach Grand Prix, where the streets of Long Beach are closed off to allow for a weekend of great racing. Trouble is, the Long Beach Grand Prix circuit is not a permanent race track where you can almost freely race at for performance driving. When it isn't Grand Prix weekend, Long Beach is... Long Beach.

I make two notions on street courses. Either these are the best possible venues for motorsport competition available for a certain local market, or perhaps it is a temporary fix for racing in a certain city or area until a proper race track comes along for that city and its people. At least there is racing for these places. However, what if you live in a place where there isn't much in the way of racing venues? Many people don't mind traveling long distances to certain race tracks. At least you know there is a race track that you can go to and race at. And unless it is a race track that doesn't allow for many performance driving events (like the Indianapolis Motor Speedway), you have to find alternatives.

Some people would even complain about fees for using a racing facility. Would you rather pay a fee to use a certain track or race illegally on city streets where you could possibly face driving up your insurance rates or causing lots of money in damages? You are better off paying fees to race at a racing facility than do it for free on city streets. Much credit if you don't mind traveling to certain race tracks while having to pay a fee (of some kind) just to go race.


Track Days.

track day racing
^ from: dipity.com - Track days can be so much cooler than hitting the streets. Plus, you may get to match yourself against various cars of various kinds.

Like with Motorsport Ranch Houston, MSR Houston offers up track days and other events, such as performance driving school, teen driving safety school, and even Law Enforcement Driving school programs. Some tracks will allow you to enjoy performance driving without doing any serious racing. That is the point behind track days. It is your machine (granted you are into performance driving with automobiles or performance riding with motorcycles) sharing the track with others who enjoy performance driving/riding. You will need to visit certain websites to know what certain tracks and events require for all participants of track days to have. These are some mostly simple requirements that still go a long way in helping you to go race proper.


Legal Street Racing.

Racelegal.com is one company devoted to helping offer legal street racing. This website is based in San Diego, California, USA. San Diego saw 16 drivers get killed and 31 people injured because of street racing in 2002. One of the best years for racelegal.com was in 2006 when only one person was killed from illegal street racing. This San Diego-based program helped to curb illegal street racing by giving drivers the opportunity to race on city streets without the risk of getting into trouble. So you want to race on the streets? You can with this program if in San Diego!

Check to see if there may be any legal racing events you can take part in if you don't want to travel out of town to go to a true racing facility. Street racing is huge in Southern California, so the efforts to curb illegal street racing is much more magnified in SoCal than in most other places around America. I'm not sure about many other places and if they have their own methods of suppressing street racing and if they have programs like racelegal.com.

A program set by the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) is called "NHRA Drags: Street Legal Style." This allows drag racing fans the chance to race at drag strips to enjoy legal drag racing on tracks.

Many tracks have options. I don't know how much a problem street racing is in other countries, so I am not sure how I can help any of my non-American viewers and readers. You'll need to check certain websites for help.


More efforts are being made to offer more kinds of racing to performance types. You DON'T have to take your love of performance driving out on the streets where you run the risk of hurting yourself or others! I think we're better off now than we've been in the past with more tracks and programs for street racing. Then too, I haven't been around long enough to actually say we're much better these days than in past times.



--- Street Racing: Can More Be Done? ---

The only answer I can provide is that more programs or better awareness will help curb street racing, especially street racing that involves fatalities and/or injuries. You can't stop all street racers. Some are able to do street racing and get away with it. Many others probably don't care about the risk of injury, death, having a driver's license suspended (or revoked), or anything like that. Maybe certain other cities and regions can establish certain programs and leagues to help give performance racers a chance to enjoy performance driving without having to leave town (or leave far from town). This section really depends on the city, the problems with street racing in that city or region, and perhaps even the state of the economy in certain cities. Such programs can cost money to establish and maintain. This doesn't come cheap. It's really the first time I mention money in regards to this topic.



--- Message for Street Racing Victims and Former Street Racers ---

This section is only for those of you reading this who have been victims or know someone who have been victims of street racing. It also pertains to other people in other situations.

For Street Racing Victims...

I send my deepest thoughts and prayers to all of you dealing with injury or death as a result of illegal street racing. I hope more can be done to curb these incidents before any more lives are taken. Any losses of life or injuries as a result of street racing are things I sympathize with all victims and respective friends and family.

For Former Street Racers Against Current Street Racers...

You all are the ones who should be ambassadors to real racing telling current street racers to take their love of racing to the track and not the streets. Street racing was something you've done back in your time, and you have to show that you can enjoy racing without having to do it on the street. Try to serve as role models and inspiration for others.





And for street racers themselves... there are other ways you can enjoy racing. Find a race track or some kind of performance driving event rather than risk the lives of others (including yourself) on the streets. You're better off damaging your car (or yourself) at a track rather than on the road. So please be careful out there and use your head!

Here are some online resources you can check out in helping you to take your racing to the track and not the streets:

Stop-Street-Racing.org
Racelegal.com (San Diego folk only, since I don't think something similar is offered elsewhere in the US.

More resources could be added in future edits.


Thank you for reading!

(ADDED: March 12, 2012) This is a very old blog post, but I'm glad you all have found something to enjoy from this blog post. I do all I can to continue to make "John's Blog Space" the kind of blog you'll come back to at least once. Have I done enough to win your respect? If so, show your support by getting in touch with me and commenting. Here are some ways to do so:

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