Drag race fans want to build strip in Northend

April 29, 2002|By MARIO RENTERÍA

Staff Writer

CALIPATRIA — Two Imperial Valley drag race enthusiasts are working on a project that would bring a drag racing strip here and be affiliated with the National Hot Rod Association.

Imperial Valley racers would no longer have to race down streets, avenues and highways if the project is built.

Carlos Escalera, 44, of El Centro and Richard Hernandez, 43, of Calexico are working with the city of Calipatria to have a drag racing track built at the city's airport.

"The race track will be a good thing for residents. There are a lot of drag racers and I know where they race. Building this track will help get them off the streets," said Hernandez.


Hernandez works for Elms Equipment Rentals and owns his own company, Hernandez Trucking. Hernandez has been a racing enthusiast since he was 18 and has been racing off and on since that time.

Escalera works for the Imperial Irrigation District. He has been racing for about 16 years.

Both men are working to have the taxiing section of the airport paved so it can be used for drag racing.

Hernandez said, "We decided to do this in the Valley for the youths to give them something else besides going out to the desert."

Hernandez and Escalera organized drag races in Holtville last year but were thwarted after some problems with area residents.

They both agreed building the race track in Calipatria would not only benefit residents but the city itself by bringing visitors.

Hernandez said the two have already received calls from racers in Yuma, Coachella Valley and San Diego asking when the strip would be built.

The problem both men face is funding. The taxiing section of the airport is in poor condition and would not be suitable for drag racing, so they are trying to have it paved. Hernandez said it would cost about $45,000 for the paving and the two are looking at ways of raising funds.

Both already have big plans for the track if it is paved. Escalera said they would like to associate themselves with the NHRA. The affiliation with the association would allow national events to be staged at the race track.

He said they would like to form a racing season based on a point system. Those who would finish at the top would have the opportunity to compete at other NHRA events and represent the Valley.

"Brawley is known for Cattle Call, why not Calipatria for racing?" he said.

Calipatria Fire Chief Chris Hall said the track would be a big boost for the city's economy. Hall is the liaison between the two men and the city.

"It'll be a real shot in the arm for the city," said Hall.

City leaders have heard the plans of Hernandez and Escalera during council meetings and seem receptive to the idea of the drag strip.

Calipatria Police Chief Reggie Gomez said the city doesn't have a problem with street racers but he has noticed a lot of support toward the race track project from young race enthusiasts in the city.

"We are hoping that these people doing the unlawful drag racing would come over here and do it legally and sanctioned. If their was a place where you could legally drag, they should take advantage of it," he said.

Calexico police Sgt. Armando Marquez said such a race track sounds like a good idea.

"There should be a place for people to let off steam who can afford it, and it would keep some of them off the streets," said Marquez.

Calexico has had a history of racing on streets. Marquez said most would probably keep racing on the streets because they probably wouldn't be able to afford the insurance and fees associated with drag racing.

"It's a lot easier for them to race on a quarter-mile section of a street and then drive off after a minute if they don't hit a pedestrian, car or drive into a house," he said.

Brawley police Lt. John Myers said Brawley doesn't really have a big problem with street racing but he sees no problem in the drag strip being built it Calipatria.

"If it's controlled and regulated I don't see any problem with it. It might even bring in some funds into the city of Calipatria," said Myers.

For more information or to help in fund raising contact Escalera at 335-4409.

>>Staff Writer Mario Rentería can be reached at 337-3441.

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