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Top Stories 2021: Drag racing makes long awaited return to Long Island

In early April, Pete Scalzo, a motor sports enthusiast whose promoted events for 35 years, appeared before the Riverhead Town Board with a proposal to bring back drag racing to Long Island.

From that day, the plans for what would become known as the Race Track, Not Street series began to take shape for a series of drag racing events that brought fans from across the region to the runways at the Enterprise Park at Calverton. On Aug. 21, Supervisor Yvette Aguiar declared the day as Drag Racing Day in Riverhead as the first event kicked off, which was sanctioned by the National Hot Rod Association.

John Cozzali, president of Long Island Needs a Drag Strip, said that afternoon that bringing back drag racing was a joint effort between volunteers and the thousands of people on their Facebook page.

“We’re here. Everyone’s proud,” he said.

The series faced its share of skepticism from community members who raised concerns about noise and traffic. Police Chief David Hegermiller would later say that no town code violations were found related to the series and police had monitored each event.

Shortly after Mr. Scalzo first pitched his drag racing series, another promoter made a similar application for an event called Scrambul Runway Challenge. Despite some last-minute concerns related to safety barriers, the event was held in September and provided another way for drag racing enthusiasts to test their skills. 

The event ended up being scaled back to what had originally been proposed and racing was held strictly on the 10,000-foot runway as opposed to both.

Mr. Scalzo has hopes of making drag racing permanent at EPCAL and has already begun the process of securing special event applications for next summer. He said he believes he showed drag racing can be successful.

At the first Race Track, Not Street event, Tom Pisciotta Jr. of Mastic took his 1969 Oldsmobile 442 out to Calverton. Asked what is it about the sport that captivates him, he said: “It’s a rush, that’s all I can say.”