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Scrambul Runway Challenge proposed as street racing event in Calverton

Street racers may soon peel down the runways at Enterprise Park at Calverton for the first legally sanctioned event at the massive property formerly home to Navy jets.

The Riverhead Town Board discussed a special event application at Thursday’s work session for the Scrambul Runway Challenge, a two-day competition that would be held in June and open to amateur racers. Andre Baxter of Hempstead, who submitted the application in February, discussed safety measures for what he described as an “epic event.”

“The best part is not only will it be fun, but it will be safe,” said Mr. Baxter, president and CEO of Scrambul Inc. “When putting together plans for this event, we started with safety and then worked our way backwards. With every idea we came up with for this event, we asked one simple question: What could go wrong?”

The event would feature racing on tracks of three lengths: 1/8-mile, 1/4-mile and 1/2-mile. Mr. Baxter, who spoke virtually at the work session, said the airport runway provides the ideal space to set up a drag racing event.

The Scrambul Runway Challenge is a different proposal than what was discussed by the Town Board a few weeks earlier for a series of 14 special events over seven weeks. Officials said the dates for the Scrambul would not conflict with that proposal, which has not yet been finalized.

Mr. Baxter’s event would be held the weekend of June 19-20 if the special event is approved. He said he’s already gotten interest from racers and expects anywhere from 100-200 participants with as many as 1,000 spectators, although he expects it to be a “rolling audience” with people coming and going throughout the day. He said when filing the initial application, he was unsure how COVID protocols would affect the number of spectators, but he said he’s hopeful with the loosening restrictions that hosting fans would not be a problem.

Racers would pay $150 per day or $250 for the weekend and that would entitle them to as many races as they can get in. Drivers could potentially get around 10-15 races, he said. Spectators would pay a $15 entry fee and children under 12 would admitted for free.

Mr. Baxter said he sees it as a family event. No alcohol would be served and everyone — participants and spectators — would be given free bottled water, he said. Vendors would be onsite selling food.

The minimum age to participate is 18. The 1/2-mile race on the 7,000-foot runway would require racers to be 21 or older.

Drivers would be required to wear a helmet.

“We haven’t gotten any pushback from any of the drivers who are interested in this event,” Mr. Baxter said. “The fact is, most people who are into street racing and motorsports already own helmets. Whether or not they wear them is a different story. For this event, they will be required to wear them.”

A map outlining the setup of the event for the 1/4-mile and 1/8-mile tracks.

Drivers would be required to attend a morning meeting where safety procedures are outlined. Cars are also required to have a fire extinguisher mounted in plain sight. Cars that are expected to exceed a certain speed would also be required to have a roll cage and seatbelt with four-point harness.

“Most drivers will have a five-point harness,” Mr. Baxter said.

No spectators would be at the 1/2-mile track, Mr. Baxter said, so spectators are not venturing back and forth between the two runways. A jumbotron would be set up so spectators seated at the 10,000-foot runway with the 1/8-mile and 1/4-mile races could still see the action.

Mr. Baxter said cars could reach up to 115-120 mph.

The application seeks to use local fire and ambulance services as standby and the applicant would cover those costs. Mr. Baxter said emergency crews would be setup at each of the three tracks.

Town attorney Bob Kozakiewicz said he would be interested to speak with anyone who has worked with Mr. Baxter who can attest to how he runs events. He noted how Mr. Baxter said he and his crews have over 30 years combined experience.

Town Board members spoke positively about the proposal.

“People in Riverhead love racing,” Councilwoman Catherine Kent said.

Councilman Tim Hubbard said as long as the fire marshal and police chief approve of the safety measures, he’s “all in favor of it.”

Councilman Ken Rothwell introduced Mr. Baxter at the start of the work session and noted some updates need to be made to application, such as where it lists spectators. The current application said zero, due to the COVID restrictions at the time.

“I think it’s an exciting event,” Mr. Rothwell said.

A resolution approving the special event is not expected in time for Tuesday’s Town Board meeting. The next meeting after that is May 19.