Drag racing could soon return to Long Island.
Suffolk County Legislature’s Presiding Officer, DuWayne Gregory, announced the establishment of an ad hoc committee to investigate potential spots for a drag racing strip at a news conference Tuesday in Hauppauge.
The committee, which includes legislators, members of the drag racing community and members of the county department of planning, will look at the economic benefits of creating a strip and the impact illegal drag racing has had on public roads and public safety. Although the county is facilitating the research, the racing strip would be privately owned, Mr. Gregory said.
“Long Island has thousand and thousands of families that are passionate about racing as a sport ,” said Mr. Gregory, who was surrounded by other county legislators, including Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue). A drag strip would limit the number of Long Islanders who travel out of state to participate at other tracks and keep roads clear of unsafe racing, he said.
Estimates indicate a drag racing strip would generate more than $100 million in new revenue, bringing jobs and tourism to the island, while keeping professional teams around, he said.
John Cazzoli of Mastic started the Facebook group “L.I. Needs a Dragstrip,” which has accumulated 14,000 followers in about eight months.
“It’s long overdue,” Mr. Cazzoli said. The last of three drag strips that were once on the island — the Westhampton Drag Strip — closed in 2004.
The legislature room was full of drag racers and supporters, donning white T-shirts and sweatshirts that said “L.I. needs dragsters.” Some were waving American flags. Mr. Cazzoli pointed to the group, calling them all racers who do no want spend their money in other states.
“This is where we live,” he said. “This is where we need a racetrack. This is where we want to race.”
Mickey Madden, 72, of Manorville, who still races in a 1941 Wilys, was among that crowd of supporters.
Mr. Madden said he’d like to see a space closer to home; traveling out of state is costly in gas and tolls, as well as time-consuming.
“There’s a lot of camaraderie, too,” he said of racing. When the Westhampton Drag Strip was still around, he would spend most weekends during the racing season there and found a sense of community, he said.
Mr. Krupski, who is part of the committee, said he remembers a tradition of friends and neighbors who were always working on cars and raced at Riverhead Raceway.
“I know there’s a lot of people in my community that are very interested in racing,” he said. He said coordination with the town’s supervisors will be key in exploring possible racing spots.
The idea for two locations close to the North Fork had previously been floated, but Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter dismissed the idea of a drag strip on the runway at Enterprise Park at Calverton this past summer. The American Gold Star Mothers chapter in Suffolk County has in recent years spoken against that idea because of its proximity to Calverton National Cemetery.
Riverhead Raceway owner Ed Patridge has said as recently as August that he has no interest in adding drag racing to his track on Route 58.
Mr. Gregory said the committee will start work “right away” and hopes to have recommendations on locations within the next nine months.
Photo caption: North Fork Legislator Al Krupski will be a member of the committee. (Credit: Kelly Zegers)