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Irwindale Speedway's Drag Strip Gives Racers A Good Option for Safe Racing

  • By Chuck Lyons

 Irwindale Speedway hosts drags at its 1/8th mile drag strip on many Thursday nights during the year and many people say they hope it gets street racers off the streets and onto the drag strip.

  Too frequently there are news media reports of street racing that turned deadly when racers hit innocent people simply driving somewhere unaware of the high rate of speed of the cars on the street barreling towards them. There was a horrific deadly crash on the 5 freeway recently which involved apparent racing by two cars.

  At Irwindale Speedway's drag strip, the racer of stock cars or modified cars and motorcycles can pay $20 a night to race as many times as possible, depending upon the number of entries, which sometimes reaches the maximum of 250 cars or motorcycles or even an ice cream truck, said Hugh Schenkel, vice president of personnel and hospitality for Irwindale Speedway.

    Doug Stokes, vice president of communications for Irwindale Speedway, says the people who make the trip to Irwindale Speedway for the drag racing, "really have a good time. And spectators are welcome, and their fee is only $10 and that includes parking. Recently we had people who bought a brand new car only a few hours before and brought their new car to try it out. Then there are some people who bring cars that appear that they can barely make it down the drag strip. They all have fun."

  Some owners have cars that are stock like the few that were brand new recently, and others bring their cars in enclosed trailers with a "pit crew" of mechanics and helpers who enjoy the speed in a safe place, said one visitor from Gardena.  They said the drivers enjoy racing and then after the race they drive back right past the grand stands and enjoy the fans waving and making noise for them since when they are racing they're focused on driving only for safety reasons. One person said they enjoy being able to be a part of the racing action as a fan and not have the expense of preparing the car or buying gas for the races. When the races end for the night, the spectators simply go home after a fun and safe night. Some racers have to pack up their cars before they leave.

 Based upon crowd reaction sometimes the most surprising entries are the simple and colorful. The ice cream truck appeared to get lots of fan support when it raced with the driver saluting the fans on the drive back from the end of the drag race with the truck's popular ice cream truck music blaring from it.

  Some drivers have lots of tools and equipment and a trailer for their car or cars, and some drivers simply drive their car there they drive on the street to have fun and be safe to themself and others since they are on a National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) approved professional drag strip where safety is the main focus. And the announcer seems to know about every car that races that makes it fun, said one race fan.

  Motorcycles race too, with Rupen Dajee saying, "it's the cheap thrills, spending a couple of thousand on a bike and beating people who spend $10,000."

  One motorcycle racer said a benefit of going to a track like Irwindale Speedway drags gives a rider a chance to learn how to handle the bike. The rider said there has been a massive increase of cars on the popular Mulholland Highway which was popular for bikers although now they look for other safe places to ride since cars sometimes cross the yellow center line from the other direction. They added there are alternative places to ride like motorcycle road racing tracks in Fontana, Perris and Riverside for safe riding.

  Daniel Howard said he was visiting Irwindale Speedway for the first time and will be back because "it's super affordable." Howard also said some police in cities are giving free passes to the drags as a motivation to get people to race at places like Irwindale Speedway and not on the streets.

  Mizziel Serra rides for Red Line Ravens, and says the group promotes motorcycle safety. "Drag strips and road race courses are a lot more safe and affordable. It's free to ride in the canyons, yet it's safer at the tracks. Also, racing at the tracks gives you more motivation to put on a good race for the fans."

  It has been said Irwindale Speedway will be closing in a year for the building of an outlet shopping center. Racers said the speedway and other people are looking for a new place to have the race oval and drag strip, complaining Fontana and Riverside and Perris are too far for the average greater Los Angeles area racer to go. A phone call to County of Los Angeles asking if the county had land or if someone from the county knew a place to build another safe speedway resulted in not much  information. A visitor said maybe the State of California might have some place available because it would be a shame to have these 250 plus racers and many fans a week with no place to go to races on a safe track in the greater Los Angeles area. They said It would definitely help with keeping the racers off the streets if they knew more about Irwindale Speedway and the many events it does to keep racing safe. On March 31, Irwindale Raceway also hosted a drift night for people doing drift racing with their cars, which is a very popular event according to Schenkel.

  The statistics of deadly street racing is well known throughout Southern California and people interviewed at Irwindale Speedway all said they hope another safe speedway can be built that's not an hour or two drive to get there from the central Los Angeles area to help keep racing at a safe track and not on the streets.

  More information about racing for drivers and spectators at Irwindale Speedway is available online at irwindaleeventcenter.com and telephone at 626-358-1100.

 

 

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