The Death of Street Racing (or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love The Fast & The Furious) Pt. 2
Posted by brodiemashApril 17, 2009 - 1:56pm
A scene from my citation last weekend.
(This is the second part of a series. Click here to read the first part)
Once the film went nuclear, the scene exploded. On a summer night after the films release, we headed out to The Track and saw a whole other identity had taken over. The Honda Civics & Acura Integras were replaced by Dodge Vipers & other high end cars. We struggled to find a place to park and ended up parking next to a couple in their mid-30′s in a Chrysler minivan, eating popcorn & watching the free show. It was at this moment I knew that the spirit of The Track had been compromised. But it was too late for the flashing lights from the line of police cars & light from the helicopter’s Nightsun had already crept up on us from all directions. This wasn’t something that hadn’t been commonplace or anything, the police always had a presence out at The Track but they usually only went after those who happened to have the bad luck of racing at that very moment. Everyone else would simply drive away. But not this time. “Aiding & Abetting In A Speed Contest” was the ticket I received that night. Me along with the hundreds of people who were corralled that night. Fittingly, it was like a scene straight out of Hollywood. The Track was dead and I never went out after that.
Many things have happened since I last went out. Of course, the population out there caused a spike in police crackdowns and rightfully so. The sheer amount of people only meant that there would be less knowledgeable people out there trying to get in on the ground floor of the scene. Hence, more & more accidents began happening, people started getting hurt & even dying out there. During the entire time we were out there, we never saw a single accident and everyone went home at the end of a night full of racing. But those days were over. Every once in a while, I head out o the old stomping grounds to relive the memories and drive down the former arenas where the good stuff happened. I never had the chance to race as I didn’t own a car and now it was too late and it bums me out. Would I do it if it were still around? No. But I like having the option to do it.
I became sad that I had seen first hand the effect something as commercial & artificial as The Fast & The Furious had on real life. How often is it that you see a movie make an impact on an entire faction the likes of which this did? Sure, you can argue that films like Fahrenheit 9/11 and An Inconvenient Truth had a similar impact but those are such a broader scale. This one was was like a scalpel and it’s impact was felt almost immediately. I began to think about how I could make an impact right back and try to help save the spirit of The Track. Upon doing some research, I stumbled across Jerry Turner.
Mr. Turner had long fought to get a legal drag strip built here in Fresno but always encountered hang ups from local communities and authorities. After trying for years and years, Turner finally gave up. In doing research for this post, I can across this response from police chief Jerry Dyer for a question I asked in 2007 for a Fresno Bee piece regarding his position on the building of a drag strip. Fast forward 2 years and we’re still in the same position. So the question is now: Would the building of a drag strip be a viable thing for Fresno at this point?
Last weekend, the day after I posted the first part of this story, I was pulled over for my loud exhaust. After the nice police man gave me my ticket, I started asking him questions regarding the current state of the street racing scene here in town. In regards to the increase of reported incidents after the release of Fast & Furious this month, he said that he hadn’t heard of an increase which I found shocking. Also, I asked if street racing operations like those I got caught up in still happened, he indeed said they did. Part of me smiled knowing that there are still some people out there keeping the spirit of The Track alive.
My history with The Fast & The Furious is a strained one. I still very much enjoy the movie and find it very entertaining, nostalgia aside but it directly killed this little pocket of automobile purity, the artistry of homebrewing your own creation with the sole purpose to beat the next guy with no regard to flashy graphics, loud stereos or the promise of sex at the finish line as motivation. But you have to look at the other side of the coin. The film not only helped turn the aftermarket industry into a multi-billion dollar industry, it also brought the spotlight of how much fun motorsports can be to the mainstream. Sure, the purist in me would say that it wasn’t worth it (just like those purist Shelby GT500 fans react when normal people attribute their knowledge on the subject to Eleanor from Gone In 60 Seconds) but now I do realize that the same growing up I did from Hot Wheels to Gran Turismo had to happen again and that’s exactly how I view this now.
Would I rather the movie never been released? Nope, I’m glad it exists. Sure, would of been nice if it could of waited another year or so as to enjoy the scene a little longer but all good things must come to and end. Except for this film franchise. With the über success of Fast & Furious a few weeks back, the studio has already green lit the fifth entry. Yup, we’re getting more and I can only look forward to seeing more cars go fast, crash and other crazy going-ons. Will we ever get a serious street racing movie? Probably not from Hollywood. Which is why I’ve taken it upon myself to produce one. Keep an eye out for Blur because it’s coming…eventually.
I may not know the future of motorsports here in the valley but here are some options out there. Autocrossing with the SCCA up in Atwater is where I get my racing blood pumping and offers a safe, legal & fun filled environment for everyone. Sure it’s not the same as the old school days but hey, things change right? If you’re interested in reading about the movement to help former street racers make the transition to legal motorsports as well as a wonderful resource on the subject matter, head on to Evo Street Racers.