The organizer of a proposed drag racing series at the Enterprise Park at Calverton addressed a number of concerns related to safety, noise and the environment during Thursday’s Town Board work session.
Pete Scalzo, who has a pending special event application for an multi-series event called Race Track Not Street at EPCAL, said all vehicles racing on the temporary 1/8-mile track on the 7,000-foot EPCAL runway will be required to have a muffler. Vehicles will be inspected prior to racing, he said. Motorcycles would not be permitted to race as well.
Several residents spoke out against two pending racing proposals, including a separate event called the Scrambul Runway Challenge, during the May 19 Town Board meeting.
“Everything will comply with strict safety protocols,” Mr. Scalzo said of his event, citing his experience with promoting more than 170 drag racing events that have been successfully completed without incident as well as running four race tracks. “I’m proud to say I have never ever had a claim paid out to a racer or spectator.”
Racing will be limited to the 1/8-mile track with a speed limit set at 115 mph or no faster than six seconds, he said. He said those limits are not common at drag racing events and he’s received some negative feedback from racers, but has agreed to those limitations to ease safety concerns.
Racers will also be required to wear a helmet, a change from his original presentation before the Town Board in April. He said the helmets will be required even thought the insurance company does not mandate it. The event would be sanctioned by the National Hot Rod Association, Mr. Scalzo said.
Councilman Ken Rothwell, who has worked with Mr. Scalzo on the special event application, said Mr. Scazlo has “proven himself in this industry” and said he has “great confidence in him.”
Mr. Scalzo agreed to push back the date for the event, which will be held over four weekends starting in late August if approved, due to concerns about nesting birds.
“I did speak to the [Department of Environmental Conservation] and the nesting dates conclude around Aug. 16 so we’re not going to start until the following weekend,” Mr. Rothwell said. “We’re working together between man and nature.”
The Town Board is expected to vote on resolutions for the special event applications for both Mr. Scalzo’s event and the Scrambul Runway Challenge at its next meeting Wednesday. The Scrambul event, which would feature three tracks using both runways, was originally proposed for June but will now be Sept. 25-26.
Mr. Rothwell said he’s been talking to Andre Baxter of Scrambul and he has agreed to change the dates to not interfere with the bird nesting. Mr. Baxter also has decreased the size of his half-mile track so there won’t be the high speeds that officials were concerned about. The application shows a maximum of 1,000 people, including drivers. The resolution on the Scrambul event would amend a prior resolution the Town Board approved for the special event application.
“They are committed to providing a safe venture here,” Mr. Rothwell said.
The Race Track Not Street events would run on Saturday and Sunday and would be held during daytime for the first weekend. Three subsequent Saturdays would be night events, with gates opening at 1 p.m. and competition from 4-10:45 p.m., the latest time allowed under the town code. Mr. Scalzo said the series of multiple events is necessary to make it cost effective to host. Mr. Scalzo estimated needing about 30 staff members to run the event.
There would be a $35 entry fee for racers and spectators would pay $15 in advance or $20 at the gate.
Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said Mr. Scalzo agreed to give Riverhead Town residents priority in attending the event.
“There’s a big interest here in Riverhead,” she said.
In terms of safety, Mr. Scalzo said there will be over 2,000 feet of highway concrete barriers and additional 1,600 feet of crowd control metal barrier fencing.
Mr. Scalzo said the racing surface where he envisions the 660 feet of racing taking place is “better than probably most of the other race tracks that I’ve been at.”
Spectator viewing, parking and pit areas will be on concrete or asphalt and not on grass areas, he said.
Speaking to concerns about noise, Mr. Scalzo said he can’t blame nearby residents for bringing up the issue. He said in years past, other proposals centered around true drag racing where the vehicles would have been quite loud. But this proposal, he said, is street racing.
“We are so concerned about issues that the public has with noise that we will be on top of that,” he said. “Again, what we’re asking for is this permit to be able to operate to show you the merits of what drag racing is all about. I’m not saying I’m personally looking for a change in zoning or something that should continue forever at EPCAL. No, that’s not what this is all about.”
The Town Board is still waiting for reports from the fire marshal and Planning Department. Jefferson Murphree, the planning administrator, said there are no outstanding concerns.
He said a traffic safety plan has to be approved by the police department as is always required with the special event application.
Mr. Scalzo, 76, who lives in Sarasota, Fla., said he plans to attend Wednesday’s Town Board meeting.
WITH TIM GANNON