The Death of Street Racing (or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love The Fast & The Furious) Pt. 1

Posted by brodiemashApril 10, 2009 - 1:47pm

A still from "An Inch or A Mile"

I drive a Rice Burner. Or at least how most people refer to my car when they see me driving by and hear the delicious serenade my exhaust sings and catch the lowered stance on my WRX. It’s not for everyone, but I love my baby. It’s the car I’ve always wanted. This admiration doesn’t come from the awesomeness that was The Fast & The Furious but rather the Playstation game  Gran Turismo which I first experienced in the form of a Japanese bootleg copy back in college. I’ve always been a fan of cars in general (many a Hot Wheels have met their demise in my hands) but with this introduction, my car lust blossomed from puberty to adulthood and has carried over ever since. And I wasn’t alone. In 1999, after college, I came back to Fresno and was thrust into the burgeoning illegal street racing scene here in town. The Track is what we called it and it was a source of entertainment every weekend late night for a few years.

For most these late teenage times were made for drinking, partying, and girls. Sure we did a little of that, but for me there was something more enticing. The Track was like nothing I had ever seen and the sense of community was something I can only imagine what the hippies at Woodstock must of felt. The crowds were large, but never overwhelming. The cars, well… they weren’t pretty, for the most part. Style wasn’t the intention of these artists. It was something that could be easily overlooked if it meant a slight advantage was to be had. Hence, when you drive around Fresno, even today, and see what one would call a “beater,” just know there’s a reason for that look: beating the next guy and nothing more. The cars were pieces of art that these wrench artists would spend every hour after work to bring the chariot to peak mechanical performance. To shave milliseconds off their times, the insides of the cars would be bare of anything non-essential and that meant seats, side panels, stereo systems, even the sound deafening material in the panels would provide you with a few pounds of less dead weight. It was pure. No thumping bass, no girls in bikinis, no neon kits. It was your contraption versus my contraption. And if you lost, you’d go home and work all week to squeeze more out of your D16 Civic for next Saturday night.

Now I know some people might not like the picture of an romanticized illegal street racing scene, but honestly there were rarely any occurrences of trouble happening out there back in the days. Never saw any fights, drivers doing insane stunts, drugs or drinking (who knows what people did before heading out), never saw anything more than a slight fender bender when everyone scattered like cockroaches when the police came. The cars were mostly beaters so no one cared about a dented fender. Maybe I was simply too entrenched in the realm of paradise to recognize any bad stuff, who knows? As cliché as it might sound, there was nothing like the smell of exhaust & burnt rubber out in the middle of nowhere as all the glory of the moon and stars shining above provided us with only a hint of our surroundings. It was a paradise outside of Suck City and it was glorious.

And then in 2001 The Fast & The Furious was released and the entropy would quickly destroy the scene. Suddenly, everyone was heading out to the other side of 99, searching around Jensen & Cherry for the cloud of primered cars as they migrated from site to site like roaming buffalo searching for the next meal. The explosion of people heading out increased so much that the cops, who would previosly do no more than come by and shine their lights to scare off the vermin, started to come after everyone and come out hard. And rightfully so. The sheer amount of jackasses and n00bs out there trying to perform feats mimicking what they had just seen on the big screen had not only endangered their own lives, but everyone else who was out there. It was only matter of time before some got hurt or worse.

(Part 2 of this series will be posted here next week)



  • Johnny says:

    good times….i miss the midnight runs we had around my parts.


  • Ana4ian says:

    Ah, the mammaries of those special times…

  • Fast Eddie says:

    We had a few spots like that here in Chicago that kept the old ways going long after fast and the furious. We just kept it real quiet only invited serious racers and never had a problem until about last November. Now I’m stuck going to those big venues I have to admit I get some good runs in but it has lost the quaint and simple satisfaction it had before 2001. I have a feeling that the old way isn’t lost forever but the new strict street racing laws are unfortunately here to stay.

  • dohc vtec powered says:

    man i love street racing and we still be street raing around fresno and the han ford area every weekend and gets hella packed of hella turbo hondas and acuras! lovin my sstreet racing life…

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