CALEXICO: Drag racer hopes fuss will lead to legal drag strip

April 24, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — One of the more than 30 drag racers from Calexico who illegally speed down public streets in "American Graffiti" exhibitions of machismo and driving skill welcomes any attempts by the Calexico City Council or Police Department to shut him down.

He hopes recent publicity giving illegal drag racing a "bad rap" can lead to public support for a legal drag racing strip near the airports in Calexico, Holtville or Imperial.

"Even a bad rap would be a good rap for me if they can get us off the street," said the local racer who declined to be identified.

"Give 100 kids a playground and it's a good thing. Where is our playground?"

He said there should be a lot of support for a legal drag strip.

"You got the people that want the track and the people that don't want the people on the streets," he said.


Some of the people who said they don't want racers on their streets are residents of the Rainbow Park subdivision in northwest Calexico.

They complained to the City Council and the Police Department after racers squealing through their neighborhood woke them up.

The 23-year-old local racer said 16- to 18-year-olds are to blame for racing on residential streets.

He said "fast cars" race on country roads in El Centro and Imperial or are taken to Yuma on weekends to stoke interstate rivalries.

"We stay out of residential areas. The troublemakers are the youngsters," he said.

"I don't hang out with the Calexico kids. They're just kicking up smoke. That's what that is. "

He added it's the "kids" who have made it dangerous for more-experienced drivers because they are unable to handle their horsepower.

"I would hate for it to get to the point where someone is hit or killed," he said.

Racing, inherently dangerous for participants, is even more dangerous, he said, for the "tag-alongs" who come to watch.

"There was a guy in Imperial about a year ago who was hit and put in a coma."

Despite the danger, he said, racing is addictive.

"I would say that it is my drug," the drag racer said.

"What makes it exciting is when you come up on the line. You have to know when to shift, when you are going to hit the next gear."

He said his cars can reach speeds of 75 mph in 10 seconds.

At the legal racing strip in Mexicali, he said, his car was timed at 8 seconds on an eighth of a mile stretch.

On Thursday nights racers from all over the Imperial Valley travel to the legal racing strip near the Mexicali airport.

"We pay $7 and spectators have to pay $2. There are usually around 500 people, including racers and tag-alongs."

The racer said such a setup would be perfect for the Imperial Valley and could make a promoter some money as well.

"All we would need is a ‘Christmas tree' and a few barricades," he said. "If you factor in a minimum of 50 cars, I'm sure it would make money."

A "Christmas tree" is an array of signal lights in descending red-yellow-green order placed between two racers to signal when to start. (A woman dropping a scarf must have fallen from fashion.)

The racer, an owner of two cars souped up for racing, said his unofficial group from Heber, Calexico and El Centro usually races in El Centro.

If they race in Calexico it is only occasionally on First Street near the international border on the southwest side of town.

Sometimes they travel to Brawley.

There they cruise along Main Street, sometimes encountering locals at stop lights wanting to test their mettle.

"I've seen older gentlemen with their Novas revving up on us. In those races we're the underdogs with our four cylinders."

Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419.

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